James Thew - Fotolia
Every company wants to understand what's going on in its IT infrastructure and fix problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. The problem is the amount of infrastructure data coming in from a multitude of sources, and the information doesn't always point to the most business-critical systems. To solve this problem, many companies are beginning to use IT operations analytics tools that help them monitor and analyze IT systems.
GDT, an IT services firm, found the right answer to this problem with SAP IT Operations Analytics (SAP ITOA), an SAP HANA-based tool that helps businesses analyze and understand the business aspects of data center problems like systems outages.
GDT (General Datatech) is a Dallas-based technology integrator that designs, deploys and manages IT infrastructures, either on premises or in cloud. The 20-year-old firm began with Cisco systems and has expanded its services to include technology from SAP, HPE, Dell, EMC and more, according to Allen Sulgrove, GDT digital business unit director. This includes appliances and storage for data centers, network devices like switches and routers, and managed services.
GDT has used SAP applications for several years, including Business Suite on HANA, S/4HANA Finance, Concur and SuccessFactors. The company recently became interested in SAP ITOA, which Sulgrove said was just the IT operations analytics tool that it needed to help manage their customers' infrastructures.
"This was an interesting thing for us because that's what we do in our managed services group -- monitoring and managing our customers' data centers and networks," he said.
One immediate benefit for GDT was that the company was able to reduce the number of monitoring tools as it pulls data from a number of disparate systems and brings it into one place. SAP ITOA takes advantage of HANA's ability to handle voluminous amounts of data from all the different data sources in real time.
"With ITOA and the HANA platform there are multiple ways to ingest that data. You can ingest it through smart data streaming, you can pull information from APIs, from databases, then you have the ITOA's own listener built into it where you can send log file type information to it," Sulgrove said. "This allows us to aggregate all this information from the disparate sources and create a common information model to give us the ability to do visualizations."
Understanding the business impact of IT events
SAP ITOA helps to determine what's happening in a system in real time, but also uses HANA-based analytics to determine the business impact of the events because you can enrich the syslog data with business master data, according to John Schitka, SAP solution marketing manager.
"Master data can be everything from knowing the name of the server rather than just an IP address, but you can also figure out who the business user and what the business use is and you can assign a revenue number to a particular device," Schitka said. "You can see what your anticipated cost per hour is, your anticipated revenue per hour, and you can track things based on that."
This means that if a group of servers go down, you can get an idea of the business impact from each and determine which is the most cost effective to fix first. In addition to handling data from a variety of sources, ITOA provides a "one single pane of glass" view of a system, Schitka said, allowing all teams to see the same problems at the same time. If, for example, a network switch goes out, the network team starts to work on the issue, but backup teams and application teams might work on it as well.
"All of the sudden you have a number of teams all opening tickets and working on the very same issue, and it takes about 20 minutes before somebody realizes who actually owns the problem and hands it over to them," he said. "You've wasted time and cycle and you've opened a number of tickets that have to be closed out, so it's far more efficient to have that single pane of glass view that can see when there's an issue and be able to assign it to the right team immediately without having to worry about three teams trying to figure out who actually owns it and where the problem is."
Faster and more efficient IT services
Using SAP ITOA has helped GDT provide much faster and more efficient services for its clients, according to Sulgrove. GDT can now process issues in the network and data centers that they monitor, allowing them to run more effectively and more profitably, and relieving IT administrators of some of the worries of receiving late night calls about downed networks. SAP ITOA allows GDT to get in front of issues as they happen, and because the master data includes business information, they can determine which systems are the most important to get back up and running first.
"For example, we can know that this is IT infrastructure for the sales group, this is for the manufacturing group, and the HR group," Sulgrove said. "Clearly the sales group and manufacturing group need to be kept up -- as long as it's not payday -- so you need to prioritize your resources to the sales and manufacturing groups."
The ability of SAP ITOA to handle large amounts of data in near real time has helped GDT prepare the quarterly business reviews that it delivers to all clients. Prior to ITOA, it took GDT two to three weeks to get all the data together from disparate systems and put it into a presentation format for the clients.
"There was a group dedicated just on this with lots of people and a lot of man hours, and there was a constant churn because we're constantly doing all of these reviews for our customers," Sulgrove explained. "We have to connect to all kinds of different systems, some via database, some via API, some via a download from a portal, with multiple sources and it was a headache."
Predicting future usage
GDT uses SAP ITOA to help clients manage their IT infrastructures now, but Sulgrove said they are looking forward to using SAP HANA's predictive analytics capabilities to help provide insights into the issues that clients will face in the future.
"We can use the predictive analysis to show a client that their storage utilization is currently at 60%, but it will be at 85% in three months' time, so they need to start making some storage plans now," he said. "In the longer term we can start getting really intricate with the predictive analytics and start weighting the variables, so we can not only forecast a month or two out, but we can maybe start looking even further than that with a high level of accuracy."
The predictive analytics capabilities will be eventually integrated with automation platforms, meaning that the predictive analytics will be able to uncover failures in advance and the automation tools can correct them before they even happen.
"Currently our automation platform has an extensive library of rules that does corrections based on predefined variables," Sulgrove said. "But when we start getting further along with the technology and the different cognitive platforms, we'll be able to use AI to see the issues that are happening, predict how that's going to be fixed and notify the right personnel to do that. Then the next step is for it to just start doing it on its own."
Read how SAP HANA SPS11 adds high-availability and security supports for critical systems.
Discover how process automation, machine learning and AI in IT can revolutionize operations.
Find out how IT operations analytics tools offer unprecedented insights into network behavior.