I’ve been working on the IBM portfolio of IT service management software since 1999, which means I’ve been at it for close to 20 years. In my time, I’ve seen the industry shift in ways that have made the things we thought would be the future of IT into side pieces of the real story.
Overshadowed by the Cloud
Possibly the biggest change over almost 20 years has relied on what IBM and its customers want to do with the Cloud. Many organizations these days are in the running to move their on-premise environments into the Cloud to make the most of its many advantages. When we look at the shape of the landscape and what customers are doing with their monitoring tools, the trend toward Cloud is an easy one to notice.
At one point, monitoring was being talked about as the “next big thing.” We thought organizations would be shifting to monitoring strategies that would let them manage the hundreds and thousands of nodes in their environments. But emphasis has landed on giving clients, customers, and users total access to a business anytime and from anywhere in the world, and on the back of that, the Cloud has risen to prominence.
The same goes for the user experience (UX). Once, it was a compelling, future-shaping initiative. Now it’s fallen to the wayside as artifact of Cloud deployment rather than its own separate activity. When we talk to a customer about deploying a Cloud solution, UX is just one part of that, not an issue that stands on its own two feet. It wasn’t the way we were expecting things to shake out as we looked ahead five or ten years ago.
Assuring Cloud Security
Businesses have been embracing the Cloud at high speed. Today, the Hybrid Cloud ecosystem has come to the forefront. But that brings its own challenges—the biggest of which is security.
When the Cloud was first introduced, we had to take into account the fact that we were taking customer data from the backend and exposing it to the dangers of the outside world. I was a participant in several Cloud betas back then, and in those, one of the points I held to was making sure that we provided a consistent and reliable authentication mechanism that would make the Cloud as safe as possible. We had to give the client the best possible guarantee that the transactions that they and their customers were executing would be secure.
Security is still a significant issue when it comes to Cloud. Gartner predicts that by 2020, one third of attacks will come from a company’s shadow IT. Although it introduces an element of risk that must be controlled, Cloud remains a powerful tool.
Understanding the Environment and the Data
A successful implementation is about more than just the tools. Many customers have all the monitoring tools and point solutions they could possibly need to monitor their operating systems and networks, handle asset and change management, and oversee ticketing and alerting. But what’s equally important is a thorough understanding of those processes. At Prolifics, we walk a client down the path from A to Z to make sure it understands what it has, how it can use it, how to get the largest ROI out of it, and the ways in which it can be used as a foundation for future improvements. It doesn’t require expertise; it requires the right knowledge. The last thing you want to do is go back and have to reinvent the wheel.
The Cognitive capabilities offered by the Cloud add another element to it. When you have an operations manager who’s new to the company and might not know the landscape, they can use Cognitive to answer their questions and get on their feet. In the past, I might have implemented a tool like IBM Business Service Manager and put a dashboard on that manager’s desk to set them up with a high-level macro view of everything that was happening in that environment. With Cognitive, I can put an operations manager, line of business owner, or application developer in a position to ask their questions without having to call on other resources. On top of that, if the data is moving through Watson or through tools like IBM’s Predictive Insights or Log Analysis, it adds an additional management layer that opens the door to more kinds of questions about the data without needing an expert on hand.
Cognitive analytics reduces the amount of time IT professionals need to spend producing actionable insights. Back in 2006, I got a phone call from a contact at one of my projects. He had questions about his resource usage and wanted to get a report on all of the data his monitoring tools were collecting so he could know when the resources in his environment would be exhausted. In those days, a request like that would have to go through the long process of being submitted, retrieving the data, and producing the report. If Cognitive tools like Watson are ingesting that data, all an IT professional has to do is point him toward the Cloud-based analytics interface. He can pose that question himself from his own living room.
Cognitive saves time and effort on both ends. Now that IT professional can focus on other more innovating things with that time rather than being bogged down by analytics tasks.
Michael Elleby III is the IT Service Management Technology Manager at Prolifics. He has almost 20 years’ experience in distributed systems administration, including hardware and software installation and maintenance, training and instruction, and technical support for IBM Tivoli APM, ITM, ITCAM, and Netcool products and solutions. He is the 2017 IBM Champion for Middleware.