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Getting a Handle on AIOps And Learning What These Platforms and Solutions Can Do for You

Getting a Handle on AIOps
And Learning What These Platforms and Solutions Can Do for You

By Enzo Signore & Bishnu Nayak

As the headline suggests, we wrote this blog to inform readers like you about AIOps. The first question many of you probably have is: What the heck is AIOps?

Excellent question.

The simple answer is that AIOps stands for Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations. It’s the next generation of IT operations analytics or ITOA. And its value is in helping organizations address IT challenges on a number of fronts.

These challenges include:

  • The increasing complexity and dynamic nature of IT architectures
  • Digital business transformation
  • Siloed IT operations
  • Exponential data growth

All of the above render traditional, domain-centric monitoring and IT operations management inadequate. Such systems can’t correlate the onslaught of data various IT domains create. What’s more, they’re unable to provide insights IT operations teams need to proactively manage their environments. And that just won’t cut it.

AIOps solutions, however, can address these challenges. They enable enterprises to unify and modernize IT operations. And they allow enterprises to make the most of their existing network investments.

Let’s confront the above-noted IT challenges one at a time. Then we’ll explain how AIOps can help your business conquer them.


The Increasing Complexity and Dynamic Nature of IT Architectures

To increase business agility, IT organizations are deploying dynamic, modern IT architectures enabled by virtualization technologies. That includes containers, elastic clouds, microservices, and virtual machines.

At least a quarter of businesses had adopted containers by late 2017. The application container market was worth $762 million in 2016. By 2022 it will balloon to $2.7 billion. The use of cloud platforms is on the rise, as more businesses migrate more applications. By July 2018, 80 percent of all IT budgets will be committed to cloud solutions.

The dynamism these architectures and technologies enables is important for businesses. It helps them adjust to the fluctuating demands of millions of digital customers around the globe.

However, that often comes at the cost of decreased visibility. That’s because application workloads and flows are now abstracted from their physical infrastructure. And that creates new challenges in pinpointing potential issues.

So without end-to-end correlated data, adoption of these key technologies can be risky and cumbersome. Because IT staff will unable to effectively map current workloads to these new environments. And they’ll struggle to manage their performance and uptime.  Plus, purchasing these new technologies can be extremely expensive, and AIOps can serve as insurance that organizations get maximum ROI from those investments.

By July 2018, 80 percent of all IT budgets will be committed to cloud solutions.


Digital Business Transformation

Enterprises across the globe are leveraging digital technology to transform their businesses. Such efforts aim to provide better experiences to their prospects, customers, suppliers, and internal stakeholders.

To succeed as digital companies, businesses need to rethink their entire IT stack and operational strategy. And they need to ground these efforts with business-first considerations.

That should include how they think about application and network uptime.

Enterprises incur an average cost of $300,000 per outage. That’s if no revenue is at stake. If the outage impacts revenues, organizations lose an average of $72,000 per minute. That means companies lose a whopping $5.6 million per outage.

You can see why modern enterprises must make applications assurance and uptime their No. 1 objective. Those that don’t could face catastrophic damage to their revenues and reputation.

Companies lose a whopping $5.6 million per outage.


The Problem with Siloed IT

Research suggests 41 percent of enterprises use 10 or more tools for IT performance monitoring. Seventy percent use more than six. And you need even more tools to manage a hybrid cloud environment. That will include solutions to monitor workloads running in AWS, Azure, or multi-cloud environments. 

Domain-centric tools provide a deep view into a specific domain. But they lack the ability to provide a correlated and end-to-end view across domains.

That’s a problem because cross-domain data collection, correlation, and visibility are key. They can enable you to track transaction problems like failed eCommerce orders to infrastructure issues like database timeout errors, for example.

But siloed management tools prevent most organizations from making these important connections. As a result, most enterprises suffer from very longer Mean Time To Repair intervals and unhappy customers.

MTTR averages 4.2 hours and wastes precious resources. Businesses employ an average of 5.8 full-time equivalent employees to address each incident. That FTE figure is as high as 11 in 15 percent of cases.

This drain of resources and finger pointing occurs as IT staff members struggle to manually correlate data. And often a whole lot of data is involved. Solving a critical business problem often entails using hundreds of data points – imagine how complex it becomes when IT is required to use thousands or millions of data points. That’s a lot.

Mean time to repair averages 4.2 hours and wastes precious resources.


The Challenge of Exponential Data Growth

Indeed, millions of data points are now flowing to the IT operations team in real time. This data deluge will only accelerate as adoption of containers, microservices, and virtualization grows.

And it’s growing big time. In the last 12 months, enterprises collected 88 percent more data than the prior year. Containers alone generate 18 times more data than traditional IT environments.

There are automated ways to collect and process this massive amount of data from an individual domain, but domain specific teams then need to manually correlate it. (And 79 percent of organizations report adding more IT staff to address this problem is not an effective strategy.) This is not only time consuming but also prone to incorrect interpretation and results, requiring skilled resources from different domains, thus leading to a very long diagnostic process for root cause identification.

Containers alone generate 18 times more data than traditional IT environments.

To address these challenges, organizations need a new class of technology to modernize the IT operations process. This technology needs to be able to correlate millions of data points across all IT domains. It should have the smarts to apply machine learning to detect patterns. And it should present that information so organizations can easily see what’s happening and gain insights.

This technology is what we mean when we talk about AIOps.


AIOps Defined

Gartner recognizes AIOps as a new strategic IT segment.

Artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) platforms are software systems that combine big data and AI or machine learning functionality to enhance and partially replace a broad range of IT operations processes and tasks, including availability and performance monitoring, event correlation and analysis, IT service management, and automation,” (Gartner – “Market Guide for AIOps Platforms” – Will Cappelli, Colin Fletcher, Pankaj Prasad. Published: 3 August 2017)

AIOps Platform Enabling Continuous Insights Across IT Operations Management

The general process by which AIOps platforms and solutions operate includes three basic steps.

Observe 

An AIOps platform first needs to observe the nature of data and its behavior. That involves collecting information through data discovery.

AIOps data discovery needs to support big data scale. That way it can address the volume of data from different IT domains and sources. Those sources may include legacy infrastructure or new container, hybrid cloud, or virtualized environment elements.

Whatever the data or source, speed is key to the observation part of the process. So the data must be collected in near real time to detect patterns. Performance- and health-related information is collected from hundreds of sources – using an agentless or agent model. Successful AIOps platforms leverage a combination of mechanisms to collect data from a multi-domain and multi-vendor environment. That environment may include an array of containers, hypervisors, network and storage solutions, public cloud, and other technologies and architectures.

A successful AIOps platform also combines the power of big data and machine learning with domain knowledge to identify data relationships and history to solve this complex problem.

Engage 

An AIOps platform provides orchestration across key IT operations domains – most importantly IT Service Management.

ITSM activities such as change management and incident management have traditionally been manual. And they’re typically heavily dependent upon the Configuration Management Database. The problem with legacy CMDBs is they are highly unreliable for environments involving frequent change.

The AIOps platform provides analytics and input to make ITSM tasks more automated and reliable. For example, AIOps can update CMDBs using its knowledge of the environment, state, and changes. The AIOps platform’s ability to observe hybrid environments on an end-to-end basis provides this power. That ensures CMDB data is relevant and reliable. That allows for automation and faster and more accurate incident management. The automation also minimizes risks that might otherwise happen due to human error. And pattern recognition allows businesses to see and address problems before they affect end-user experiences.

Act

Automation or closed loop functions is the nirvana of AIOps platform.

Of course, automating critical IT operations using machine learning is new territory for most organizations. And IT leadership will need to get comfortable with it before they fully embrace automation. But new state-of-the-art automation – which uses advanced human inputs and machine learning – is maturing. And organizations can employ it today to do both simple and more complex jobs.

For example, they can employ it to clean log files to free up space. And they can use it to restart an application. Automation also can change application traffic policy on a router if AIOps sees the need.


How and Where AIOps Delivers Value

Enterprises that have deployed AIOps solutions have experienced transformational benefits. They include revenue growth, better customer retention, improved customer experience, lower costs, and enhanced performance.

Their operational teams have been able to:

  • Increase end-to-end business application assurance and uptime
    • Manage an integrated set of business and operational metrics
    • Predict and prevent outages
    • Dramatically reduce Mean Time to Detect and Mean Time to Repair
    • Lower the number of IT FTEs dedicated to troubleshooting
    • Decrease operational noise and alerts
  • Optimize IT and reduce IT costs
    • Replace older, silo-focused IT monitoring tools
    • Auto-discover complex, heterogeneous topologies
    • Gain visibility into the hybrid IT environment
    • Accelerate migration to the hybrid cloud
    • Expedite the adoption of hyper-convergence and microservices architecture
    • Reduce risk in consolidating and migrating data centers
  • Free up resources to enable IT operations to become a proactive source of innovation
    • Automate and reduce the cost of audits and compliance
    • Simplify IT processes
    • Break down silos across their IT teams
    • Enable less experienced staff to become more productive, faster


What the AIOps Architecture Looks Like

An AIOps solution includes the following functional blocks:

 

We’ll address these building blocks from the bottom up because that’s how AIOps itself works.

 

 Open Data Ingestion     

An AIOps platform collects data of all types from various sources. That may include data on faults, logs, performance alerts, and tickets. The ability to ingest data from the most diverse data sources is critical. It allows for an accurate, real-time view of all the moving parts across hybrid IT environments.

Data ingestion should be possible via data collectors, connectors to third-party tools, and an open API. The data collection needs to span business transactions, application services, and infrastructure.

 Auto-discovery

Given the very dynamic nature of modern IT environments, businesses need an auto-discovery process. That automatically collects data across all infrastructure and application domains – including on-premises, virtualized, and cloud deployments. And it identifies all infrastructure devices, the running applications, and the resulting business transactions.

  Correlation

Then it’s time for the AIOps platform to correlate this data in a contextual form. So it needs to determine the relationships between infrastructure elements, between an application and its infrastructure, and between the business transactions and the applications.

To learn more about the importance of correlation, check out this blog.

 Visualization

Once the end-to-end correlation process is completed, data need to be presented in an easy-to-use format. And that’s what visualization is all about.

Visualization is important because allows IT operations to quickly pinpoint issues and take corrective actions.

Of course, visualization in IT operations has become a commodity. Every solution includes a dashboard of some type. Yet an estimated 71 percent of organizations say data is not actionable. That’s why AIOps is important. It provides is a new generation of visualization that makes data actionable.

Because visualization is key, we’ve also put together a blog on this topic. You can find it here.

 Machine learning

Finding the root cause of a problem is key. But it’s even more critical to determine recurring patterns and predict likely future events.

AIOps solutions use supervised and unsupervised machine learning to determine patterns of events in a time-series. They also detect anomalies from expected behaviors and thresholds and predict outages and performance issues.

  Automation

Automation is a key component of AIOps as it delivers the end ROI to the customer. It does so by automating human IT ops tasks, reducing significant OPEX, and expediting innovation. And it reduces MTTR and can improve customer satisfaction.

AIOps enables IT operations to modernize existing processes. It allows IT Operations to make progress vs traditional ITOA strategies, abandon old, reactive processes, and become proactive, by predicting issues and preventing outages.

By providing an end-to-end correlated view of the entire IT environment, AIOps allows enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation strategies, adopt new technologies faster, and increase business productivity.

To learn more about FixStream, check out our AIOps solution whitepaper.

What’s the Difference Between AIOps and ITOA? 

AIOps is a big shift from traditional ITOA platforms. ITOA, being the pre-cursor to AIOps evolution, was focused on data collection and unification for historical data analysis across domains and resolves problems with observational data. AIOps leverages big data and machine learning techniques to deliver proactive and predictive insights into problems and recommends as well as automates remedial actions. This will help business with proactive planning as well as identification of business-impacting issues before they occur.

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.

AIOps Platform
AIOps Platform for Oracle ERP


AIOps PlatformBishnu Nayak, CTO

“The cloud is the only way to leapfrog from where you are to where you have to be and do it at a compelling [total cost of ownership; TCO] that’s both secure and drives the level of innovation,” said Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, sharing one of the five cloud predictions to come true by 2025.

Oracle strongly predicts and also executes on the strategy of digital disruption that will motivate companies to replace last year’s IT systems, including ERP, with an emerging cloud-based ERP solution. In 2016, a major transformation began that allowed CIOs to modernize their more than 20-years-old financial, supply chain and other core applications using cloud technologies. The maturity of cloud technologies in the last few years has offered IT executives a low-risk and agile platform to transform their business processes.

Though there is a strong push and incentive to run Oracle ERP as a public cloud, it’s likely that a significant number of enterprises will run their Order to Cash (O2C) or Procure to Pay (P2P) business processes in a hybrid environment where proprietary core applications will still continue to stay in customers’ on-premise private data centers.

Enterprise will consider one of three deployment options to run their O2C business flow:

  • Entirely in a public cloud. This is typically the case for medium-scale businesses.
  • Entirely on-prem (or on a private cloud). This is typical of very customized, complex or highly critical processes.
  • In a hybrid environment. This will likely be the case for most large-scale customers.

Oracle cloud deployment models

Fig:1 Three deployment models of Oracle ERP

As excited as I am thinking of the possibilities for innovation from cloud enablement of critical business process such as O2C and P2P, I see the challenges CIOs and infrastructure and application operations team will face during this transformation.

Some of these challenges include:

  • Business risk with migration to a hybrid cloud.
  • Complexity with troubleshooting business issues within the entire O2C process stack.
  • Management of capacity to deliver the quality of service.
  • IT compliance, auditing and reporting becomes cumbersome, requiring FTEs.

In addition to these operational challenges, CIOs will have to ensure lower TCO to run the business processes with required business SLAs, drive innovation and support business units to drive revenue.

I strongly believe an Artificial Intelligence platform for IT Operations (AIOps) platform, embedded with insights powered by big data analytics and machine learning algorithms with visibility into the moving pieces across business process, application and infrastructure entities, is the solution IT executives are looking for.

We at FixStream follow this trend very closely and have partnered with Oracle to address this issue for Oracle ERP customers. FixStream’s industry-recognized, emerging AIOps platform provides the correlation, analytics and visualization for the ERP environment deployed in a hybrid cloud. It correlates across three very important layers: business processes such as O2C and P2P; application components such as Oracle ERP, Fusion Middleware and other legacy environments; and compute, network and storage supporting these application entities.

Although the FixStream platform is extensible for all enterprise applications and business processes, I am going to focus on the O2C process to explain its capabilities and business value proposition.

business process hierarchy for O2C

1) Discovery

FixStream smart discovery is agentless. With just two user inputs – read-only user account credentials (we call it “service account”) and an IP address range – FixStream discovery scans through each IP and auto-discovers physical and virtual compute, storage and network entities, including configuration data, interface and links, and services running in them.  

2) Topology Mapping

FixStream discovery delivers the end-to-end topology of hybrid environment out-of-box which shows connections between network, storage, and compute entities across hypervisors, VMs, VNFs, physical server, network and storage entities.

3) Application Discovery and Dependency Mapping

FixStream auto-discovers the logical groups of interconnected service flows that represent critical applications such as ERP, tax applications, and credit and collection applications. The group entities are then automatically associated with the underlying physical and virtual compute, storage and network entities to build the application dependency maps. These become the foundation for operational use cases.

4) Business Process Hierarchy Mapping

FixStream’s platform provides an intuitive drag and drop UI interface for users to create the business process hierarchy. For example, O2C business processes can be quickly created by simply grouping Oracle ERP and Tax Service where the Oracle ERP application is running in the cloud and Tax Service is running on-prem, accessing external services. The application dependency map is auto-computed for the business process once the user completes the grouping.

5) Operational Analytics and Event Correlation

Operational data such as server performance metrics (CPU, memory, IO, disk), network performance (bandwidth, interface I/O, CPU, memory), storage (IOPS, latency, throughput etc.), log events, network faults thru SNMP and other alerts and metrics are fed to the FixStream platform from various sources using its open API ingestion layer.

The events are stored in a time series and correlated and analyzed via machine learning algorithms for patterns and anomalies to conduct root cause analysis.

6) Dashboard

Dashboards are personalized views keeping the users’ needs in mind. There are two categories of dashboards the FixStream platform provides: business and operations. Business dashboards are tailored for CIOs and VPs of Business Ops to derive insights into business process health and associated infrastructure health. Operations dashboards, on the other hand, use widgets to provide deep visibility into infrastructure.

Let’s walk through a real customer scenario and how the FixStream platform helped provide the solution to a problem.

Customer Oracle ERP is deployed in Oracle Cloud and is interacting with enterprise services for tax calculation, authentication and identity service and tax services hosted on-prem in the customer’s data center. The number of pending orders increased beyond the expected threshold during a specific time period because of a system failure while performing a credit check. Upon investigation, the root cause was a CPU starvation issue in the VMs in customer premise where Oracle DB was deployed for applications doing credit checks.

The FixStream platform automates identification of the root cause and visually pinpoints the issue in close to real-time, reducing the time required to detect the root cause from hours to minutes.

The dashboard widget for O2C business process will not only show the business metrics, but further organize them into legitimate business problem categories such as inadequate credit score or system errors. System errors include performance and health issues in compute, storage, network, application server and DB log files. The analysis of the business metrics is done in a time series to quickly pinpoint the exact window where there are system failures.

The system will then navigate the user to the event correlation window and provides visibility into the system components for the selected time. Event correlation algorithm analyzes server performance alerts, application service alerts, log events, network fault and performance alerts in time-series. It not only identifies patterns for root cause analysis but also provides recommendations for resolution and predicts issues before they impact business.

This clarity and specificity helps operations team to quickly identify the root cause of problems impacting the health of O2C business process flow and reduces MTTR from hours to minutes.

Oracle O2C business process flow

In summary, the FixStream platform can help businesses realize ROI in a number of key ways:

  • Reduce TCO of O2C Business Process
    The TCO of O2C business processes comprises many different factors, including: cost of infrastructure and software; operations costs/FTEs dedicated to the business process; cost of downtime; and MTTR to fix the problem. FixStream provides insights to reduce MTTR of O2C process from hours to minutes, and provides analytics for resource optimization and auditing and compliance across a hybrid environment. Discovery and mapping is automated by the platform across cross-vendor, cross-technology domains, drastically reducing the need for domain-specific operations teams. With the cost of an hour of service downtime ranging several hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the average MTTR around 4.2 hours (DEJ), the FixStream platform is positioned to reduce the TCO of O2C processes by millions of dollars.
  • Increase Revenue
    The FixStream platform provides the needed visibility into the O2C business process, improving the assurance of the service, increasing the brand reputation, and lowering business risks that are the key recipes for revenue growth.
  • Improve Innovation
    Enterprises can now automate the operations process via the FixStream platform and divert operations resources to the development of innovative services. The FixStream platform removes the barriers and business risk of rapidily deploying new innovative solutions.

Check out our AIOps platform for Oracle ERP for more information, as well as the 5 Steps to Successful Digital Transformation webinar, to watch a demo of FixStream 6.0 in action!

 

FixStream AIOps Platform Increases the Operational Efficiency of Your Virtualized Environment


Bishnu Nayak, CTO

In my previous job as an executive architect for a Tier 1 telco, I was spearheading the IT modernization and legacy transformation program. Virtualization and cloud enablement were two key ingredients of the transformation strategy, in addition to refactoring enterprise applications to make them cloud-ready. During the migration from legacy to virtualization, we had to assemble a big, cross-functional team to manually extract significant amounts of data from various systems to understand existing applications’ footprints, dependencies across the infrastructure stack to determine business impact, plan for migration, and ensure that performance of mission critical applications wouldn’t be impacted post-migration to virtualization. The IT infrastructure team had an equally tough task on their hands: workload allocation and placement and making sure there were adequate data points and visibility that would help them properly manage the multi-tenant virtualized environment. We successfully migrated a massive number of business applications from legacy to virtualization on VMWare technologies, but it took a huge number of man hours as we were lacking a platform that could automate the planning, execution, and validation activities.

One of the primary reasons I decided to join FixStream was to be a part of the vision to solve similar industry-recognized problems that challenge enterprise IT with new technology adoption as the underlying IT stack becomes more hybrid and distributed. FixStream’s emerging AIOps platform provides the much needed “single-pane-of-glass” view into the complex IT infrastructure that encompasses fragmented and distributed multi-vendor, multi-domain technologies – legacy, virtualization, hybrid cloud, containers, etc.

Per Gartner, AIOps platforms are software systems that combine big data and AI or machine learning functionality to enhance and partially replace a broad range of IT operations processes and tasks, including availability and performance monitoring, event correlation and analysis, IT service management, and automation.

Enterprises use artificial intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) platforms to enhance and, occasionally, replace classical application performance monitoring (APM) and network performance monitoring and diagnostics (NPMD) tools.

In today’s environment, there are many vendors providing enterprise virtualization solutions, including VMWare, Microsoft, Xen, Oracle, and Openstack. VMWare has been the predominant leader for quite some time. Most enterprises are in a place today where multiple vendor solutions are in use, requiring expertise in different technologies to support day-to-day operations to ensure critical business functions run with the needed SLA.

FixStream’s AIOps platform built on big data technologies solves this problem by correlating cross-domain, cross-vendor entities in context with business application, device group and other operational contexts specific to enterprises. AIOps is intended to benefit infrastructure, application, as well as business operations teams, with a single converged platform built from the ground up, unlike legacy solutions built using various tools.

FixStream’s solution for the virtualization environment demonstrates the following capabilities:

  1. Auto-discovery – “Know what you don’t know in timely manner.” One of the biggest challenges in the virtualized environment is the difficulty of knowing/understanding the application and infrastructure resources due to dynamic design concepts such as vMotion and workload auto-scaling. FixStream auto-discovers the virtual infrastructure (VMs, hypervisors, vswitches, vLANs etc.) as well as application service entities deployed and dependent on those entities and keeps them up to date. Thus, you get a reliable, dynamic inventory which becomes the foundational building block for operations activities.
  2. Topology – “Know how things are connected and the dependencies and relationships between them.” Think of the days when people used to use paper maps to navigate their way from point A to B, and how technology has evolved to the point where Google Maps reliably navigates you across your points of interests, reducing noise and getting you to your destination faster and more reliably. The traditional way of managing your network topology via Visio diagram simply doesn’t work in virtualized environment, as things change quite often – a few times a day, sometimes in minutes. FixStream topology in the virtualized environment shows the dynamic view of how VMs connect with virtual networks such as vswitch, VLAN and to the physical hypervisor, network, and storage layers.  It does so by collecting data from vCenter, directly from VMs, the physical layer in a VMWare environment.
  3. Application Discovery and Mapping (FixStream iMAN) – “Know the locality of your critical business services.” Dependency mapping between application services and VMs and virtual network requires you to keep up with the frequent changes and compute dynamic mapping. The FixStream platform accomplishes this by periodically discovering application service instances, flows and mapping those to VMs, vSwitches, and VLANs they are associated with and keeps the dependency up to date. This is like Google Maps for your application which is then further correlated with real-time health and performance information for all entities in the map.
  4. Performance HeatMap – “Know where your available capacities are without manual effort. FixStream creates a performance HeatMap across all entities in a virtualized environment to represent their relative utilization in color coding using various parameters such as CPU, memory and disk. The HeatMap can be recalculated based on specific requirements with workload placement and resource allocation.
  5. Data Explorer/Analytics – “Know the hierarchical relationship between cross-domain entities and automate the compliance reporting.” FixStream provides an intuitive data explorer view for the users to pull auditing and compliance reports just with two to three clicks. For example – you want to create a report to know compute, network, storage vendors, platform, and version number for critical business applications. The output is up to date and reflects the state of the environment, which is extremely reliable for auditing and compliance needs.

With the above technical capabilities, FixStream’s operational analytics platform ensures the delivery of following ROI benefits for enterprises who are looking for a single platform to manage their virtualized environment:

  • Reduce the MTTR from hours to minutes – With topology analysis, flow2path analytics, historic event correlation, and anomaly detection, customers using FixStream have reportedly reduced MTTR from multiple hours to minutes.
  • Optimize resource allocation in virtualized environment – FixStream’s performance heatmap provides required insight for operations teams to optimally allocate application workload while reducing CAPEX by repurposing unused capacity to services that need them.
  • Reduce business risk in moving to virtualized infrastructure – FixStream’s discovery and dependency mapping across legacy and virtualized infrastructure provides you with reliable data to automate migration planning and significantly reduce the number of FTEs required for the task as well as business risk.
  • Reduce FTE for IT Compliance and Auditing – Compliance reporting and auditing activities are more cumbersome and require more man hours than the legacy environment due to the dynamic nature of the data required to be aggregated. The FixStream analytics/data explorer view provides an automated way to pull these reports while keeping the data up to date, significantly reducing the FTEs needed for the task.

Reflecting back to my previous job and challenges, I am convinced that if we had a platform like FixStream, it would have helped tremendously with not only cutting down the duration of migration to virtualization, but also optimizing resources, resulting in significant savings for the enterprise as well as the creation of efficient workload placement for new business services.

I am happy to announce that we will be participating in the VMworld Conference in Las Vegas from Aug. 27 through 30. If you would like to see the industry recognized FixStream platform in action and how it can help you gain control of your virtualized environment, stop by our booth 700 O, in the New Innovator Area. For more information, check out the details of our solution.

I worked at Cisco for 20 years, calling on some of the largest Service Provider and Enterprise organizations in the world…

I worked at Cisco for 20 years, calling on some of the largest Service Provider and Enterprise organizations in the world, delivering complex IT and telecom solutions to thousands of customers. One of the biggest challenges they faced was understanding the relationship between applications and infrastructure. In the past few years, this is even more difficult as application environments are shared, distributed, multi-tiered, virtualized, containerized and now run in a hybrid cloud.

IT organizations spend millions for full end-to-end visibility but most find solutions lacking because each vendor defines its own “end-to-end”. One tool might show only the entire network, another tool might produce only service performance metrics, other tools might show servers, database, and application services but not the network or the end-user transactions processed by the applications. Some are domain-specific and others are vendor-specific. As a result, determining the root cause of an application performance problem can take hours, sometimes days; migration and changes may affect unexpected applications because of some unknown dependency, and compliance reporting is a nightmare.

Seeing customers face these challenges, and wanting to help them, I started FixStream.

With our Meridian product, data is ingested by Data Collector Modules (DCM) and a Normalization Correlation Engine (NCE), resulting in an Algorithmic IT Operations (AIOps)
Platform that correlates, analyzes and visualizes multi-domain, multi-vendor hybrid IT environments.

With Meridian, you have visibility you can’t get anywhere else. From a converged view of the health of your entire application environment, to business transactions, applications, and infrastructure entities, we’ve helped customers reduce MTTR from hours/days to minutes, as well as de-risk migration and automate compliance.

Sounds too good to be true? We get that comment a lot–but you can find out for yourself–visit our site, read this EMA interview with a customer, or request a demo.

And stay tuned–over the next few weeks we will dive deeper into our patented Flow2PathTM Analytics, our ITOA ecosystem connectors and much more.

Sameer Padhye
FixStream
CEO & Founder

Full Speed Ahead in 2016

When I was having my morning coffee in Times square NYC during the 2015 holiday break, I was reflecting on the tremendous progress we made with Meridian last year and all the things we have planned for 2016. I could only see and feel positive signs and excitement. 2015 was a very successful year for us as we positioned the technology, architecture and product features to create a true converged analytics and visualization platform for IT operations in Meridian.

Hundreds of IT “Stars” Join FixStream and Partners for Star Wars World Premiere

What a night! For weeks, we’ve been working on our Star Wars event to coordinate all the details.  We had over two hundred tickets to distribute and expected chaos at the theater. And it was pretty crazy in a fun way. The line for general admissions stretched a quarter mile around the theatre with people in camping chairs and sleeping bags and dressed as Wookies and Ewoks and Sith Lords. I even saw a Stormtrooper in full gear. So I’m thankful we got our own dedicated line.  We had a star-studded cast of guests with many CXO’s, CIOs and senior IT leaders from companies all over Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. It was really an honor for us to share time with such a group and share our vision for the future of IT Operations.

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