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.