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AIOps Platform for Oracle ERP


Bishnu 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.

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.

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.

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 http://fixstream.com/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, 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.

Mr Spock for IT Operations?

It’s fascinating to see that the topic of data science is becoming a matter of public debate. I heard on NPR last night that the White House has appointed a Chief Data Scientist. His name is DJ Patil. He did a short interview with Kai Ryssdal, the host of Marketplace.  Kai points out that “we’ve been collecting data for years and years and years but it seems like we’re only now recently absorbing the lessons and what we can do with it.” He asks DJ: ”What took us so long?” DJ responds with, “The most important thing we can learn in life is through watching Star Trek. There’s Spock on the bridge. He’s not in some way back office. In the modern board room or in policy conversations why isn’t there a Spock on the bridge?” Interesting question.

Converged Visibility for IT Operations Requires A New Platform

How many of you depend on your favorite navigation app like Waze or Google Maps? I do. Because it gives me everything that I need in real time, from traffic jams or accidents. It will even show you other kinds of hazards like police cars. It does this by correlating and visualizing lots of disconnected data from lots of end points. There is a pressing need for a “Waze-like” platform in the cloud operations domain.

Whiskey and Ops

The best startup ideas come through distilling input from early advisors, partners and customers. It’s like making fine bourbon or whiskey where the best flavor comes from the hops and the oak barrels they’re aged in. We’ve been refining FixStream Meridian 1.0 through hundreds of feedback sessions.  I want to build on a few things Sameer and Bishnu mentioned in their recent blogs about what we’re hearing.

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