Game Changing ITOA Use Cases

Shed Light on CCM Blind Spots

By Sasha Gilenson
CEO and Co-founder, Evolven

In today's continuously expanding data centers, change and configuration data is an essential input for the decisions made by the modern IT department. It not only provides valuable controls for the overall system, but it can be a powerful enablement tool for initiatives like DevOps, data center consolidation, transition to the cloud, outsourcing etc. Yet with systems becoming increasingly heterogeneous, customizable, and distributed, IT management technologies capture much larger volumes of configuration data, while lacking the ability to make sense of it.

Traditional Tools Fall Short in Dealing With Change and Configuration Management Challenges
Traditional tools for managing and monitoring IT environments are out of step with the constant change happening in today's datacenters. These systems are inflexible, and are not architected for the complexity and dynamics of today's environments, especially when problems arise, lacking the ability to drill down and provide granular analysis of IT data, and not having been automated to collect data down to granular details. Linking the various causes of performance and availability issues is extremely challenging because traditional tools are siloed and can't access and analyze all the relevant changes across the IT landscape. Traditional change and configuration management tools are also unable to connect environment issues to their source, monitoring the wrong things and failing to provide sufficient levels of granularity out of the sea of raw change and configuration data.

For change and configuration management, IT still has a lot of older tools that focus on how the IT landscape looked ten years ago. Just consider the following:

  • Configuration management databases (CMDB) don't go deep enough: Lacking the capability to efficiently collect detailed, extensive configuration information for environment assets, CMDBs operate more like inventory systems, and only providing a robust look at a birds-eye view.
  • Service desk doesn't see problems: Focused on processes, the service desk provides an effective platform for enablement, automation, and management of pre-defined process workflows. However, the service desk lacks the ability to see final deliverables of these workflows.
  • Deployment automation tools: While significantly reducing the risk of deployment errors due to human errors, automated deployment assets become pretty complex and prone to "programming" errors. As with any software system, a certain percentage of manual deployment activities take place. Environments need to be validated for consistency prior to deployment as well as post-deployment, making sure that no mistakes and errors impact the deployment process and resulting change.
How ITOA Technology Helps To Overcome These Challenges
IT operations must understand the configuration, and changes connected to the systems across the environment at all times in order to address risk and prevent, detect, and respond to incidents. Unfortunately, many organizations don't have this level of endpoint visibility today, creating blind spots and vulnerabilities in their operations. By applying IT Operations Analytics to change and configuration data, however, organizations can avoid these blind spots.

With a multitude of tools, the IT operations analytics market offers organizations a wide choice for harnessing a wealth of information for intelligent IT operations. Analytics-based tools have the ability to aggregate literally terabytes of dynamic information coming from multiple sources. Solutions are now available that can provide visibility over large systems and still communicate data in a meaningful way.

Incorrect application and infrastructure changes can cripple an organization's business systems. IT Operations Analytics enhances change detection, guaranteeing system integrity by ensuring that all changes (unauthorized or not) are discovered and risky or undesired changes are highlighted.

There have been many examples where configuration errors or undesired changes have caused expensive problems at major organizations. For example:
  • On January 24th, 2014 a broad outage knocked out Gmail and a slew of other Google Web applications. According to Google, this was attributed to "An internal system that generates configurations — essentially, information that tells other systems how to behave — encountered a software bug and generated an incorrect configuration. The incorrect configuration was sent to live services over the next 15 minutes, caused users' requests for their data to be ignored, and those services, in turn, generated errors."
  • On October 21st, 2013, Facebook was down. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the problem and said that the outage occurred due to the unfortunate handling of an error condition. The spokesperson added that an automated system verification configuration caused this trouble and so the outage became inevitable.
  • April 29th 2011, the partial outage of its cloud services platform last week and identified the culprit: A configuration error made during a network upgrade. During this configuration change, a traffic shift "was executed incorrectly," The outage sent a number of prominent Web sites offline, including Quora, Foursquare and Reddit.
When organizations have complete visibility into changes and the state of configurations, they know what to expect, and can discover the unexpected. By monitoring all configuration changes down to the most granular level, IT Operations Analytics tools offer the visibility to know what changed for Change Management, proactively identifying undesired changes and differences, before they turn into environment incidents as well detecting risky changes, including unauthorized or unplanned changes, as well as environment drift.

By applying analytics to ensure the consistency of environment configuration, IT Analytics Operations tools improve IT operations management, automatically detect inconsistencies across environments. IT teams can investigate environment incidents and quickly identify configuration changes and differences that are an incident's root-cause, resolving issues before they spiral out of control and impact the organization.

ITOA Empowers IT Operations
By combining IT big data and high-powered analytics in the change and configuration management space, ITOA can provide actionable information for:
  • Determining root causes of failure, issues, and defects in near-real time
  • Analyzing configuration data to determine consistency between environments
  • Calculating risk and taking proactive measures to ensure stability
  • Determining and ranking the relative impact of multiple root causes
  • Directing the results to the most appropriate individuals or communities in the enterprise for problem resolution
When organizations have complete visibility into changes and that state of configurations, they know what to expect, and can discover the unexpected, able to quickly remediate, either by rolling back the environment to a stable configuration, or moving it forward to its next desired state.

Your Turn:
Will ITOA make that much of a difference for change and configuration management?

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About Sasha Gilenson
Sasha Gilenson is the CEO and Co-founder at Evolven. Sasha Gilenson enjoyed a long and successful career at Mercury Interactive (acquired by HP), having led the company's QA organization, participating in establishing Mercury's Software as a Service (SaaS), as well as leading a Business Unit in Europe and Asia.

Sasha played a key role in the development of Mercury's worldwide Business Technology Optimization (BTO) strategy and drove field operations of the Wireless Business Unit, all while taking on the duties as the Mercury's top "guru" in quality processes and IT practices domain. In this capacity, Sasha has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies on technology and process optimization, and in turn, acquired a comprehensive and rare knowledge of the market and industry practices.

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