Information Technology Operations Analytics (ITOA) is the application of Big Data Analytic techniques, best practices and technology to the Dark and Unknown World of Information Technology (IT). I refer to IT as the “Dark and Unknown World of Information Technology” because most users of computers in all of it’s various incarnations have no idea what happens nor do they care to know what happens “down in IT” to ensure quick delivery of the right data and an overall “amazing” user experience 100% of the time. As Facebook went up and down earlier this month, the ranting of unhappy users and snide comments about Facebook were trending on Twitter and other social media sites. No one but the conspiracy nuts were talking about the “root cause” of the Facebook outage. Users were just pissed off that Facebook was down and they could have cared less what was happening in the “Dark and Unknown World of Facebook’s IT Infrastructure” that was causing the outage. However, this outage was a huge public relations disaster for Facebook, Facebook shares went down almost 4% and the outage probably cost the world economy billions in lost productivity. Therefore world leaders and captains of industry should have been concerned about finding the “root cause” of the outage and ensuring that it never happens again. I would suspect given all of the other issues that these leaders deal with on a daily basis, they weren’t even aware of that Facebook was down, had no idea of the financial implications and therefore finding the “root cause” of the outage didn’t even register on their priority list.
Unfortunately, Facebook was not alone in suffering well known IT “hiccups” as Twitter seems to have some type of “system crash” on a weekly basis, Southwest Airlines had a critical system failure earlier this month that left thousands of travelers stranded and even the Department of Homeland Security’s Terror Watch List System went down at airports across the US this month causing widespread rumors and also stranding thousands of travelers.
This article is not about the Facebook, Twitter, Southwest Airlines or DHS outages. However, these are all outstanding macro examples of the impact that “hiccups” within IT can cause. At a more micro level, there are literally thousand of these IT “hiccups” that occur every day within every corporation throughout the world that are causing financial problems of varying magnitude for each of those corporations and, in total, also costing the world economy billions each year. The purpose of this article is to investigate what these corporations are currently doing to address these IT “hiccups” and, more importantly, how they could be employing predictive analytics and IT Automation to dramatically increase the speed, accuracy and actions required to correct of the identification of the “root causes” of these IT “hiccups”.
Current State of Affairs
Currently most corporations employ an army of technical experts that monitor IT health all the way from whether or not the corporate website is up and running to whether or not the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system or other “mission critical” system is doing what it is supposed to do. As indicated earlier, very few business and operations managers really understand what goes on within the “Dark and Unknown World of Information Technology”. IT infrastructures are in a constant state of flux with updates to hardware and software and much more delicate and prone to failure than most realize. Further, with the increasing practice of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) over the past 20 years along with the introduction of Cloud Computing, SaaS applications and mobile devices and the dramatic increase in the amount of data, IT infrastructure has become “stressed” and much more distributed and disconnected requiring nightly batch jobs (yes batch jobs) to move data around and “clean up” all the “issues”.
This reality has put a tremendous strain on corporate IT departments. In fact, this strain is so great that in many cases, IT departments, under the same budget restraints as the rest of the corporation, are in pure “reactive” mode and aren’t even aware that there are any IT failures or problems until users contact the help desk with a complaint. Given the lack of human resources and the pressure to “keep the IT systems running”, the IT departments more often than not, identifies and implements the quickest fix (aka band-aide) and then submits yet another request to the operations research team to someday track down the “root cause”. Obviously, this is not even close to operations ‘best practices”. However, it is the best that many corporations can do under the circumstances. The reality is that until the C level executives and the Board of Directors understand the enormous financial impact these IT “hiccups” and associated lack of proper “best practices” and use of available technology are having and make ITOA a priority, the dramatic financial impact will continue.
I am not the first casual observer to identify this problem. IBM, HP, BMC and a long list of startups have been providing solutions to address this problem for over 25 years. Starting with Job Scheduling and moving to IT Management, IT Automation and Workflow Management, these software vendors have made millions in revenues and their founders and investors have made hundreds of millions in Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and M&A transactions. However, I am going to contend that, although they have provided some adequate solutions that have provide IT with some interesting options, the legacy vendors have fallen short and have not kept up with the “current crisis” within IT.
Startups and Restarts
In my opinion, the real solutions to critical IT system failures are going to come from startups and restarts. With the emergence of Big Data Analytics sitting on top of new database structures such as Hadoop and Spark and utilizing applied mathematics with machine learning and predictive analytics, there is a whole new generation of Information Technology Operational Analytics (ITOA) vendors such a Evolver that will change the landscape of IT Management. In addition, there are several more mature IT and Workflow Automation software vendors such as Stonebranch that have “quietly kept pace with the Cloud”, continued to grow their of supported platforms, reworked their user interfaces and are well positioned for a big play in the coming paradigm shift.
As stated in my article, “Update on Progress of Information Technology Operations Analytics (ITOA) and Automation Projects,” over the past 12 months I have been engaged in several projects with Global 2000 clients that have asked me to assist with defining “Next Generation IT Automation”, choosing the appropriate technology, implementation and “On Boarding / Cultural Issues”. The vendors that my initial set of clients chose to evaluate, test and integrate included Evolen, BMC Software, Mulesoft, ServiceNow, Box, Alfresco, OpenText and Elastic.
Over the next couple of weeks I will be publishing how these organizations view the use of Predictive Analytics and which technologies they have chosen to utilize.
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