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Monthly Archives : January 2018

Visualize This – Presenting Data to Allow Faster Troubleshooting & Trendspotting

Visualize This – Presenting Data to Allow Faster Troubleshooting & Trendspotting

By Sameer Padhye

In my last blog, I wrote about the value of data correlation. As I noted, correlation is important because it makes connections between different data. And correlating data about applications and underlying infrastructure makes predictive analysis and more efficient root cause analysis possible.

Now the question becomes: What’s the best way to present that data?

If you provide it in spreadsheet form, it can be difficult and time-consuming to understand what stories the data can tell. But presenting data visually makes it easy and intuitive to see what’s happening with complex cloud and data center environments – and the applications they support.

With visualization, you can see in a minute what would otherwise take hours or days to discern. That’s really important when your team is scrambling to fix an issue that’s preventing customers from making purchases on your website, for example. And it can be a real lifesaver when managers, C-level executives, and/or customers are pushing you to find a solution – and quickly – to their application problems.

In fact, a recent survey of 1,000 workers at U.K. and U.S. businesses indicates that 86 percent of companies benefit from faster decision making through data visualization. The same study showed that 80 percent of organizations report more accurate decision making with visualization. Another study suggests that companies that adopted data visualization saw a 77 percent improvement in decision making as a result.

Here’s an example of data visualization at work that I presented during a keynote speech. It looks at Napoleon’s invasion of Russia – specifically, data on soldiers he lost along the way.

First I provided the audience with battle loss details in Excel spreadsheet form. I then asked audience members for their conclusions on the likely results of Napoleon’s efforts. (I heard crickets.)

Then I displayed a map of Napoleon’s battle path, illustrating how many men he had lost. It then became clear to the audience what Napoleon and his army were up against.

My point during the presentation, and in this blog, is that visualization helps tells a story. Visualization means you don’t have to do a lot of analysis and interpretation. Instead, you can simply see what’s happening, decide what to do about it, and act.

Research illustrates the importance of visuals in understanding. That makes sense considering how we’re built. Seventy percent of all our sensory receptors are in our eyes. Fifty percent of our brain is dedicated to visual processing. And 90 percent of information transmitted by the brain is visual.

The Social Science Research Network reports 65 percent of people are visual learners. 3M research indicates people process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. And visual aids can improve learning by up to 400 percent.

Visuals are so central to understanding that there’s a phrase to describe the phenomenon. It’s called the picture superiority effect.

A recent WIRED story notes that leading organizations, such as the World Economic Forum, are leveraging data visualization to better understand relationships between a wide variety of people and things.

“Businesses deal with data that is highly complex, with multidimensional relationships across many different, massive data sets,” says T-Sciences. “Human beings are visual creatures. As such, the time is right for organizations to implement new solutions for leveraging data visualization and unlock their true potential to meet mission and business goals.”

And Fast Company emphasizes that “visuals add a component to storytelling that text cannot: speed.”

So, how does our visualization work? It’s somewhat akin to Google Maps.

You know how Google Maps works, right? It lets you select your view of the world. You can zoom in and out, and maneuver around. And it provides you with all possible paths to your destination – as well as related data such as accidents, gas stations, and traffic jams along the way.

FixStream visualization is a lot like that. But rather than roads and gas stations, we show the topology of data centers. And we include their network, storage, and compute resources, and the applications they support.

Our platform provides a real-time view of the connections between public and/or private data centers and the resources within them. It shows applications related operational data (like events, tickets, etc.), and which resources applications are using. And – like the Google Maps real-time accident location feature – it highlights trouble spots with red dots. That way you can pinpoint problems very quickly.

Importantly, FixStream doesn’t just show data, our platform presents it in a contextual view. That way you only see what’s relevant to the application or business process you’re managing.

Google Maps visualizes only the accidents and bottlenecks along a particular journey – like Denver to Detroit. FixStream likewise presents data in an application-centric way so you can pinpoint what you want to see for that specific application. That way, you won’t be inundated with irrelevant data that slows analysis and delays decision-making.

For example, our platform can present only the data applicable to eCommerce so you can focus on fixing a problem that could lead to lost revenue. That way you won’t be distracted by alerts that may be impacting another application – like HR – which are probably also important, but likely not as time-critical.

In addition to application type, our platform lets you see data within the context of a hybrid IT infrastructure, inclusive of compute, network element, network element type or supplier, storage, virtual machine, and much more. We present you with alerts, faults, logs, tickets, and other important information.

You can explore by clicking through the various drop-down menus and topology levels. Or you can use our search tool to get where you want to go.

This provides a very different experience than what most organizations are used to today.

Legacy tools present only isolated aspects of the larger application, cloud, and data center picture. FixStream’s visualization removes the blinders that have blocked organizations like yours from having full visibility. Our platform offers a complete and real-time view of what’s happening with your applications and environments.

Let’s look at a couple examples of how this might come into play.

Consider a situation in which you notice a lot of abandoned website transactions. Or perhaps you’re just doing a regular check of your eCommerce applications. In any case, you might go into a drop-down menu called Business Groups to see what’s happening with your ecommerce-related network elements, connections, and applications.

FixStream’s visualization could highlight the fact that memory utilized has crossed a critical threshold. Because you are able to quickly see that, you don’t have to spend hours looking for the problem. Instead, you can take immediate action to address it, and you’ll be back in business. That’s important because every minute a problem persists adds up to lost revenue.

Indeed, the Digital Enterprise Journal indicates that on average companies lose $72,000 per minute during service outages. And, DEJ says, organizations spend an average of more than 60 minutes per incident repairing performance issues.

The FixStream platform can help expedite your troubleshooting and repair. We can even help you get in front of it.

Let me explain.

Perhaps you have a problem that seems to be happening every Monday morning. We enable you to review data over several weeks to see what happened every Monday morning. Our platform can present the sequence of events, since they are captured in a time series. And by visualizing data over a period of time you can detect patterns. Without visualization, determining patterns from a bunch of data is extremely difficult.

Our solution highlights every time there was a change and what happened following it. It lets you replay, pause, and analyze what happened so you can identify patterns. What’s more, our visualization capabilities illustrate the sequence of events in graph form. And our platform can predict when the next series of events of this type is likely to occur.

That can enable you to recognize and correct recurring problems. As a result, your applications will be available, your business will function more efficiently, and your technical team will be spared some of the work and stress related to troubleshooting. Less pain, more gain.

Air traffic controllers use RADAR to see what’s happening in the sky. Doctors use X-rays to see inside the human body. And with FixStream, you can get real-time visibility into your applications and your cloud and data center environments.

That means you can fix problems faster; use your resources more wisely; and better serve your customers, co-workers, supervisors, and stakeholders.

Get the picture?

(In my next blog, I’ll discuss machine learning.)

Sameer Padhye is founder and CEO of FixStream.

Making Connections – The Value of Data Correlation By Sameer Padhye

Making Connections – The Value of Data Correlation
By Sameer Padhye

Sameer Padhye avatar

The app economy is upon us, and businesses of all stripes are moving to address it. In this age of digital transformation, businesses rely on applications to serve customers and improve operations.

So, in many ways, things are really coming together with digital transformation. At the same time, however, things are really starting to come apart.

In saying that, I’m not casting aspersions on digital transformation. In fact, I’m a big believer in it.

Businesses need to introduce applications and adopt new technologies to become more agile, efficient, and responsive. And they’re doing that.

As part of those efforts, they’re employing cloud-based solutions, software-centric and microservices architectures, virtualization and containers. But these new architectures and technologies are creating challenges of their own.

In the past, each application lived on its own dedicated server. So ensuring the desired performance level was relatively simple.

In today’s highly distributed world, however, that’s simply no longer the case. Here’s why.

Some business applications today live in public clouds. And enterprises tend to have no, or very limited, visibility into those clouds. Other businesses take advantage of more distributed hybrid cloud models consisting of on-premise, public, and private clouds.

Applications run on virtual machines, rather than physical, fixed servers. So that adds another level of complexity.

As if that wasn’t enough, containers often exist alongside, or within, VMs. And the use of containers – and number of containers themselves – is quickly proliferating.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 50 percent of global organizations will be running containerized applications in production. That’s up from less than 20 percent today.

The upside of containers is that they offer portability and greater scalability. However, containers move around a lot. And they appear and disappear in the blink of any eye. So that multiplies the number of moving pieces exponentially.

All that makes for a very dynamic – and complex – environment. And that’s good. And bad.

Because this environment is very different than what came before, the application performance tools created a decade or so ago no longer apply. And tools that consider only the application – and not the underlying infrastructure – fall short.

So organizations need new solutions that can address what’s happening with applications and networks today. These tools must collect and correlate information about the application itself and about the underlying infrastructure.

That should include data about application server performance, events, logs, transactions, and more. The compute, network, and storage resources involved in application delivery also need to be figured into the equation.

Only with this full complement – and correlation – of data can organizations understand what’s happening with their applications. That’s important to ensure applications perform as expected to yield the desired business results.

Intelligent data correlation data puts new insight at the fingertips of businesses like yours. And that allows you to do a lot of really amazing, time-saving, and income-impacting things.

For example, you can trim application troubleshooting efforts from weeks, months, or days down to minutes.

That’s really valuable when you consider that a business can lose millions in lost revenue from just a few minutes of app downtime. (That’s not to mention the potential loss of reputation, and losses from diverting IT resources to troubleshoot and fix such problems.)

The recent crash of Amadeus IT Group’s flight booking system shows the widespread impacts that can result from just one business application going down. As Bloomberg reported in September, several major airlines and their passengers were affected by the outage.

When applications go down or don’t perform as required, enterprise IT folks, their technology suppliers, and network service providers often spend a lot of time and energy arguing over the source of the problem. That’s before they even settle on its cause, and identify and implement a solution. Meanwhile, the business functions that rely on the app remain at a standstill.

The good news here is that FixStream has a solution.

Our platform correlates application and infrastructure resources data to identify root problems in real time. And it addresses the distributed nature of applications and related resources.

Here’s one example of how we help do that.

Containers have a short shelf life. So our platform collects data on both active containers and those that existed in the past. That way, when problems arise, businesses like yours have the evidence they need to figure out what happened.

But troubleshooting is just one way the FixStream platform can help your business survive and thrive.

The FixStream platform also employs artificial intelligence to correlate data and uncover patterns. Those patterns can allow your organization to discern what problems are likely to appear downstream from trouble spots.

Such predictive analytics enable companies like yours to address potential problems before they impact applications and business operations. Our data correlation capabilities also can reduce your compliance risk and audit costs.

Plus, we can help you optimize cloud resources and understand application dependencies. That way, you can implement more informed cloud migration strategies.

That’s important because it can help you realize the cost-saving benefits that cloud migration can deliver.

Ninety percent of companies expect savings from their move to the cloud, reports Gartner’s Ron Blair. Yet only 13 percent of them actually reduce their capital expenditures from moving to the cloud. And just 26 percent lower their operational expenditures via cloud migration, Blair said in a December presentation.

One key reason for this disparity is that many organizations carry their complexity into the cloud.

Simplifying that complexity is what FixStream is all about.

Our platform provides intelligence on application performance so businesses can better allocate resources. Our data correlation capabilities reveal what specific resources each application requires. That way businesses like yours can purchase only those cloud resources their cloud-based applications require.

So, to review, the FixStream platform:

• enables you to get more value out of your cloud migration,

• provides visibility into what’s happening with your apps and related resources,

• delivers insights on application performance, resource utilization, and what to expect next, and

• keeps your apps – and your business itself – up and running.

That adds up to a whole lot of value.

Applications are lifeblood of every enterprise. Your financial health depends upon these applications.

And more – and more mission-critical – apps are moving to the cloud everyday. So you need to know how your business apps are performing. And when they’re not performing as needed, you have to be able to move quickly to figure out why and implement a fix.

FixStream’s data correlation capabilities can go a long way toward helping you with that – and a whole lot more. For our customers that translates into dollars and cents, significant time savings, and greater business agility.

To learn more about what FixStream can do for you, click here.

Also, keep an eye out for my next blog. In that piece, I’ll discuss the importance of mapping and visualization.

Sameer Padhye is founder and CEO of FixStream.

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