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Unified supervision links IT performance to service levels

06 December 2013 by Patrice Laigo, consultant, Advisory Services, Bull and Nicolas Ducor, architect, High Availability Solutions, Bull

Overall monitoring of IT services rather than of individual technical components means the infrastructure can be managed to align with users’ needs. At the heart of this service that Bull offers are responsiveness, cost savings, dialogue and innovation.

When a user performs a transaction via an ERP system, what matters to him or her is the speed at which the information is checked, recorded and processed, then how fast he or she will be able to regain control for the following operation. Because that transaction moves through all the layers of the infrastructure: the Web interface, then the network (potentially provided by an external supplier), a hosting site (potentially outsourced), the application server, databases… all interspersed with various different security mechanisms. If response and display times are unexceptional, every link in the chain could be responsible for this and, more often than not, no-one is capable of rapidly identifying why this is happening and remedying it. So, while the environment is becoming more and more complex and, in parallel, the need to align with business needs is growing incessantly, the IT Department sadly lacks a global vision of the infrastructure and its performance.

The various different components of the information system, both hardware and software, generally come with the own supervision tools. Each one monitors its own components, with its own performance criteria. Nowadays there are just too many heterogeneous dashboards that are impossible to consolidate and there seems to be no means of carrying out a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and getting right down to the real cause of a particular problem. In short, it’s difficult to manage the whole set-up, and even harder to do so on the basis of the only indicators that the business is really interested in: service levels and how well the IT Department is meeting its commitments.

Bull has an innovative response to this fundamental issue – which is at the heart of the IT Department’s role and its relationship with its customers in the business: a unified supervision solution in the form of managed services. Rather than monitoring infrastructure components one by one, from a technical standpoint, this involves supervising business services by taking a view of the entire chain and all the links within it, from end to end, and generating consolidated, accurate, instantaneously usable and user-oriented dashboards.


Dashboards at the heart of the solution
These dashboards are the key to the solution, and the approach starts by defining them: what indicators do you want to capture, and for which actions? To enable effective control, raw KPIs for each component (CPU, middleware, databases… right through to Data Center facilities) effectively need to be converted into intelligible and actionable information. Different dashboards are aimed at different recipients – more technical ones for the Capacity Manager, more global ones for the CIO… – but unified presentation and integration of the various components means it’s always possible to go from identifying a performance issue to its technical explanation. Bull’s approach to unified supervision offers a real-time portal, an open window onto how well the system is running from the point of view of the business. This boosts responsiveness to exceptional situations and, over the long term, it helps to ensure that the infrastructure remains well aligned to users’ needs. For example, a service desk infrastructure would be managed as a function of the availability of the ticket management application (differentiated for different support levels) or the properly quantified and tested user experience; while messaging would be managed according to distribution times and a Cloud infrastructure by verifying the resources used.

A powerful tool for control and dialogue
This means that the IT Department can compare technical performance levels with its service delivery commitments to its customers. It can see whether it is hitting its targets, identify trends, take preventive measures… It can even carry out simulations, utilizing historical data, by modifying the management rules. In short, the IT Department has a genuine management tool that also doubles as a great means of exchanging information with the business and even with its external suppliers. Once it has objective measures for its service delivery commitments, the IT Department no longer needs to get embroiled in technical explanations, but it can defend its actions, clearly identify responsibilities and become a positive force for new ideas and a catalyst for innovation.

This approach does not mean that investments in existing supervision tools have been wasted. On the contrary, it enables organizations to make further savings. It effectively utilizes and complements existing capabilities (packaged sensors and specific supervision mechanisms), as well as the supervision teams already in place. It can boost the skills of these teams so they can make much better use of the information that they already have, whether for corrective or proactive purposes. By directly correlating performance levels and business needs, the solution identifies overcapacity (in the CPU, disk space…but above all, in licenses!) and drives out waste in an informed and rational way. Finally, offered as a subscription service and depending on the infrastructure being monitored (the number of components or indicators involved…), with unified supervision ‘as a service’ you no longer have to find the often very high capital cost of off-the-shelf monitoring tools.

As a resource optimization tool that boosts collaboration and encourages more transparency with the business, unified supervision aligns perfectly with the fundamental transformations that IT Departments are currently undergoing.

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