Infrastructure Management Software Blog

OH, IL, WI, IN, MI Operations Center Technical Roadshow - April 20th to April 29th - Don't miss it!

Ever wish you could talk face-to-face with more technical people about Operations Center and Network Management Center products? Don’t really have the time or budget to travel very far to do so?  Well, here is a great opportunity to meet and talk with technical experts on products like Operations Manager and NNMi – right in your background.


Vivit will be hosting a series of six (6) one-day sessions, where there will be a nice mix between presentations and Q&A sessions around these products.  The sessions will be held in the following states on the following days:


- (Columbus) Ohio – April 20, 2010


- (Orrville) Ohio – April 21, 2010


- (Dearborn) Michigan – April 22, 2010


- Wisconsin – April 27, 2010


- (Chicago) Illinois – April 28, 2010


 - (Fishers) Indiana – April 29, 2010


Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about this roadshow at asksonja@hp.com.

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Automated Infrastructure Discovery - Extreme Makeover

Good Discovery Can Uncover Hidden Secrets
Infrastructure discovery has something of a bad reputation in some quarters. We've done some recent surveys of companies utilizing a variety of vendors’ IT operations products. What's interesting is that, in our survey results, automated infrastructure discovery fared pretty badly in terms of the support that it received within organizations - and also in terms of the success that they believed they had achieved.
 
There are a number of reasons underlying these survey results. Technology issues and organizational challenges were highlighted in our survey. But I believe that one of the main 'issues' that discovery has is that people have lost sight of its basic values and the benefits that they can bring. Organizations see 'wide reaching' discovery initiatives as complex to implement and maintain - and they do not see compelling short term benefits.
 
I got to thinking about discovery and the path that it has taken over the last 15 or 20 years. I remember the excitement when HP released its first cut of Network Node Manager. It included discovery that showed people things about their networks that they just did not know. There were always surprises when we took NNM into new sites to demonstrate it. Apart from showing folks what was actually connected to the network, NNM also showed how the network was structured, the topology.
 
Visualization --> Association --> Correlation
And once people can see and visualize those two sets of information they start to make associations about how events detected in the network relate to each other - they use the discovery information to optimize their ability to operate the network infrastructure.
 
So the next logical evolution for tools like NNM was to start building some of the analysis into the software as 'correlation'. For example the ability to determine that the 51 "node down" events you just received are actually just one "router down' event and 50 symptoms generated by the nodes that are 'behind' the router in the network topology. Network operators could ignore the 'noise' and focus on the events that were likely causes of outages. Pretty simple stuff (in principle) but very effective at optimizing operational activities.
 
Scroll forward 15 years. Discovery technologies now extend across most aspects of infrastructure and the use cases are much more varied. Certainly inventory maintenance is a key motivator for many organizations - both software and hardware discovery play important roles in supporting asset tracking and license compliance activities. Not hugely exciting for most Operational Management teams.
 
Moving Towards Service Impact Analysis
Service impact analysis is a more significant capability for Operations Management teams and is a goal that many organizations are chasing. Use discovery to find all my infrastructure components - network devices, servers, application and database instances - and tie them together so I can see how my Business Services are using the infrastructure. Then, when I detect an event on a network device or database I can understand which Business Services might be impacted and I can prioritize my operational resources and activities. Some organizations are doing this quite successfully and getting significant benefits in streamlining their operational management activities and aligning them with the priorities of the business.
 
But there is one benefit of discovery which seems to have been left by the side of the road. The network discovery example I started with provides a good reference. Once you know what is 'out there' and how it is connected together then you can use that topology information to understand how failures in one part of the infrastructure can cause 'ghost events' - symptom events' - to be generated by infrastructure components which rely in some way on the errant component. When you get 5 events from a variety of components - storage, database, email server, network devices - then if you know how those components are 'connected' you can relate the events together and determine which are symptoms and which is the likely cause.
 
Optimizing the Operations Bridge
Now, to be fair, many organizations understand that this is important in optimizing their operational management activities. In our survey, we found that many companies deploy skilled people with extensive knowledge of the infrastructure into the first level operations bridge to help make sense of the event stream - try to work out which events to work on and which are dead ends. But it's expensive to do this - and not entirely effective. Operations still end up wasting effort by chasing symptoms before they deal with the actual cause event. Inevitably this increases mean time to repair, increases operational costs and degrades the quality of service delivered to the business.
 
So where is the automation? We added correlation to network monitoring solutions years ago to help do exactly this stuff, why not do 'infrastructure wide' correlation'?
 
Well, it's a more complex problem to solve of course. And there is also the problem that many (most?) organizations just do not have comprehensive discovery across all of their infrastructure. Or if they do have good coverage it's from a variety of tools so it's not in one place where all of the inter-component relationships can be analyzed.
 
Topology Based Event Correlation - Automate Human Judgment
This is exactly the problem which we've been solving with our Topology Based Event Correlation (TBEC)  technology. Back to basics - although the developers would not thank me for saying that, as it's a complex technology. Take events from a variety of sources, do some clever stuff to map them to the discovered components in the discovery database (discovered using a number of discrete tools) and then use the relationships between the discovered components to automatically do what human operators are trying to do manually - indicate the cause event.
 
Doing this stuff automatically for network events made sense 15 years ago, doing it across the complexity of an entire infrastructure makes even more sense today. It eliminates false starts and wasted effort.
 
This is a 'quick win' for Operational Management teams. Improved efficiency, reduced operational costs, free up senior staff to work on other activities… better value delivered to the business (and of course huge pay raises for the Operations Manager).
 
So what do you need to enable TBEC to help streamline your operations. Well, you need events from infrastructure monitoring tools - and most organizations have more than enough of those. But you also need infrastructure discovery information - the more the better.
 
Maybe infrastructure discovery needs a makeover.

 

For HP Operations Center, Jon Haworth


 

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