Is IT monitoring for large businesses only?

This blog was first published on Service Management 360 on 13-Aug-2013.

http://www.servicemanagement360.com/2013/08/13/is-it-monitoring-for-large-businesses-only/

Could you imagine any large company leaving their IT systems unmanaged? I can’t.

These major companies have dedicated departments in place, responsible for monitoring IT system availability and performance. They are in charge of detecting issues before the business processes are affected. They also have to measure the fulfillment of service level agreements and deliver input for capacity planning on IT resources. Often they have to provide metrics to bill delivered services to the different business units.

Repeatable processes are in place to deliver these services:

  1. Sense
    First you must sense the user experience or the service quality (like sending email). If problems are detected go to phase 2.

  2. Isolate
    In multiple tier architecture application environments the isolation of the problem source is the key factor for a quick problem resolution. By having all resources under control and having transaction tracking mechanisms in place, you can quickly identify the failing resource.

  3. Diagnose
    After you identified the bottleneck, you need to perform a detailed diagnosis. You must investigate the system and its applications and make the right conclusions.

  4. Take action
    With the results from the previous step, you can then take the required actions.

  5. Evaluate
    By doing a re-evaluation you go back to step 1 and make sure that the alerted situation no longer exists and the applied action was successful.

The frequent measurement of key metrics is also used to earn data for historical analysis. Service-level measurement and capacity planning become actionable with this data.

And what about small and medium businesses?

Here I often see very limited attention given to system monitoring. In small and medium businesses often a kind of system availability monitoring with a very limited scope is performed. In some cases, the sensibility for that IT discipline doesn’t exist at all.

But what does it mean if IT systems are not available? Today, most kinds of businesses rely on IT services somehow. Any production facility, medical service, office, modern garage and so on is almost incapacitated when the IT systems are down. That means that staff can’t perform their core business roles, can’t earn money, can’t provide the services to their customers. This leads to a massive loss of revenue and reputation.

Additionally, a lot of these small and medium businesses are suppliers in a just-in-time supply chain for the large businesses (for example, a car manufacturer) and penalties apply if the delivery and production process is interrupted.

So the need for enterprise class monitoring systems exists. But why don’t they do it?

  1. It is too expensive!

  2. It is too complex!

  3. It is too time consuming!

These are the three favorite reasons I often hear. And all of them are partially true. Monitoring is a very special subject matter expert discipline. It requires detailed understanding of the monitored systems, applications and services as well as knowledge of the monitoring product used.

The purchase of an enterprise-class monitoring system might require a huge amount of money and a remarkable education effort. And it requires a kind of sustainability small IT departments can’t dedicate to monitoring. Monitoring requires repeated reviews to enhance quality, but it is not possible to keep two or three persons focused on monitoring questions because the workload for this discipline is not high enough in a small IT department and they have responsibility for lot of other things. In consequence, the skill level for this discipline declines and the results no longer justify the investment in enterprise-class monitoring.

So what now?

Is the answer “yes” on my initial question? No, it isn’t. A new delivery model is required. Enterprise-class monitoring is needed in all businesses relying on stable IT services.

The answer might be a Monitoring as a Service model. A trusted service provider could deliver such a monitoring service and overcome the above inhibitors. Because he delivers this service to multiple clients he can lower the ramp up costs for the software purchase, offer the required sustainability and bring in the expertise for monitoring systems, applications and services.

In my blog series “Monitoring as a Service” (see parts 1, 2, 3 and 4) I described a business model for using IBM monitoring solutions to set up such a service.

IBM SmartCloud Application Performance Management offers a suite of products to cover the above described five-step monitoring process, including reporting features for historical reviews and projections to the future.

So what is your impression? Are we covering the right markets? How could we enhance? Please share your thoughts below.

Monitoring as a Service, Part 4: Running the Business

This blog was first published on Service Management 360 on 07-Aug-2013.

http://www.servicemanagement360.com/2013/08/07/monitoring-as-a-service-part-4-running-the-business/

In this four-part blog series I have been developing my idea of a Monitoring as a Service business. First, in part 1, I argued for the value of this business idea. In part 2, I defined the service catalog and in part 3 decided on the implementation architecture . Now the final question to answer is how to efficiently run the business.

The service catalog

For different customer requirements we have to have dedicated service catalogs with a special focus on their interests. I believe that two categories should be good enough in a Monitoring as a Service business, one offering for very small customers sharing one monitoring environment, and another offering for customers with a dedicated monitoring infrastructure. Both offerings will be composed of the same deliverables and will be handled similarly, but they will be differentiated by access to the monitoring data. The shared environment will not be accessible for the customer by default.

Infrastructure installation and maintenance

The SmartCloud Application Performance Management Entry Edition is available as a VMware image install and can be deployed into supported VMware environments. If we expect customers who have non-VMware environments we should have an automated install procedure for the IBM Tivoli Monitoring (ITM) and IBM Tivoli Common Reporting (TCR) infrastructure, so that all customer environments look similar after deployment. These routines are part of a Tivoli service engagement package in Germany and might be made available in your region on request. The routines are on an as is basis and do not include any warranty.

The solution packages

Monitoring is about having the correct monitoring rules, the correct analysis, the specialist views and so on in place. These assets will evolve over time, and the service provider has to have procedures in place to maintain these solution packages across many ITM environments. A monitoring solution package might consist the following components:

  • Agent builder solutions

  • Historical data collections

  • Navigators

  • Situations

  • Workspaces

These solution packages should be developed on the kind of reference system and procedures that have to be in place to unload these packages and load them into any target customer ITM environment. These procedures are also part of a Tivoli service engagement package in Germany.

The invoice procedure

The billing system is closely attached to the service catalog. The service items have to be easily countable and measurable. I have the following selling points in mind:

  • Tivoli Monitoring infrastructure countable services

    • Operating agents registered: This gives us the number of operating systems images we monitor.

    • Any application agents registered: This gives us the number of managed databases, Microsoft Server components and so on.

    In ITM, we call these the managed systems. The bright red circles in the picture above highlight these selling points. This data is a good reference by which to measure the delivered services. Services in this category are easy to deliver on a flat rate basis.

  • Event engine based

    • Number of handled events/incidents

    Events forwarded and handled by the service provider are also good to measure. In this area, a lot differentiation between customers could be introduced. Different quality of services could be implemented targeting the customer requirements. The dark red circles highlight these selling points.

  • Report delivery

    • Operating system reports

    • Application component reports

    • Response time reports

    • Availability reports

    The number of reports delivered to the customer is easily countable. Reports could be delivered on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or even yearly basis. The yellow circles highlight these selling points.

As a result of the monitoring services delivered to your customer, additional customer specific services might be introduced, such as:

  • Additional support for hardware and software problem resolution

  • Capacity planningand hardware sizing

    • Disks

    • Memory

    • CPU

These services should be counted on a time and material basis, because the effort might differ tremendously among different customers.

Conclusion

So what do you think about this business model? Is it worth discussing? What are your ideas? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below. I’m looking forward hearing from you.

P.S. Do you remember the last question in my first post of this series, about this business idea? What’s the role of my wife now? Well, she is working as a financial auditor, and in that role she is a great help in verifying my business ideas. She pushes me to frequently review my ideas not only from a technical point of view, but also from an economical perspective. I’m lucky to have a partner supporting me in all areas of my life, including my business.

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