Analytics-Powered IT Operations for Taking on the Cloud

The ability to change and evolve in the world of IT operations is mandatory for survival. Cloud storage and other related processes are one of the areas that offer new opportunities for growth, if companies know how to use them to their advantage.

Today’s business environment demands that most organizations need to change and rapidly adapt according to market dynamics while still remaining in control. Businesses have approached this challenge using business intelligence (BI) analytics tools to sift through enormous collections of data and catch what could have been missed opportunities. This gives business the power to strain and cull through mountains of data, using effective data collection tools and applications for mining this information and applying intelligent analytics. This way, business can unearth new trends, using this otherwise hidden information to make proactive and knowledge-driven decisions.

Similarly to the business side’s experience, the IT landscape has grown in complexity supporting the wider and growing range of technology environments running on virtualized or cloud platforms as well as accelerated application release schedules. Out of this, IT now faces near-overwhelming quantities of information.

Applications, application infrastructure, hypervisors, and other parts of the virtual and cloud stacks all create troves of performance, events, and availability data. The challenge isn’t finding data; it’s finding a way to make it useful.

Ironically, IT operations, the organization-supporting infrastructure, adheres to a static-process-driven paradigm. While the market is all excited about new technologies like provisioning and automated deployment, the reality is that IT operations still heavily relies on CMDB systems and manual workflows to serve as its “nerve center” for supporting day-to-day internal and external services.

Information-enabled Decisions
Information-enabled decisions is a philosophy that has been discussed and promoted widely in recent times. Yet information-enabled decisions have not yet been fully realized by IT operations in the cloud era. What should be a relatively simple report can take a team of reporting “experts” days to assemble and analyze.

A New Approach Is Needed
By its design, the cloud is abstracted. This abstraction is viewed as one of the cloud’s main benefits, providing the ability to set up components that will meet demand without understanding the technology’s details needed for supporting that component. Yet the limited visibility into the content of virtual machines comprising a business system and dynamism of virtual machines allocation, make monitoring of changes and configuration very difficult. This very state of abstraction creates a complete lack of visibility into the stack. This puts system stability in jeopardy and exposes organizations to incidents that can proliferate into outages and costly lost opportunities.

A new approach is clearly needed handle the complexity and dynamics introduced by today's virtualization and cloud entities. The new approach should handle the constantly changing, overwhelming amount of configuration data and deliver actionable information.

Driven by Static Processes
IT operations has been accustomed to running on static processes and well-defined workflows, with activities carried out according to defined processes. The steps involved in the ITIL process for change management is but one example.  There is a step for proposing a change, requesting approval etc. A set of metrics measure performance, like the amount of changes that successfully went through. 

The Cloud Is not Static
The problem with taking this static approach to managing IT operations in the cloud is that cloud-based operations are not static. IT Ops can plan as much as possible, but it won’t ensure that everything will occur as planned.

From an operations management standpoint, the cloud is a complex beast to tame. In contrast to traditional IT architectures, where each silo can be controlled by IT operations, the cloud comprises many layers of interconnected resources, part of which can be controlled by external providers or users themselves. Additionally, changes are happening too quickly to maintain a fully documented, detailed configuration database. A golden image of the environment can quickly fade away from reality as “live” configuration updates are made without updating an offline golden image. 

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