Infrastructure Monitoring, at the heart of the CIO’s new challenges

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Founded in 2006, Coservit is an innovative software vendor. ServiceNav, our fully customisable IT monitoring software, delivers fast and accurate insight to support proactive management and preventative maintenance of the IT environment. François Mateo, co-founder of Coservit, has witnessed the evolution of infrastructure monitoring since the advent of the cloud. Here, he breaks down the new issues and policy implications brought about by these changes.

 

Hello, François. What inspired you to develop ServiceNav IT monitoring software?

We have to go back to the creation of Coservit in 2006. My partners and I were working at HP. The cloud was beginning to find its position in production environments and we realized that we could bring to the SME market, the monitoring capability of the major services players.

Many companies were still used to the traditional “buy-license” way of purchasing applications -but there was no commodity tool for monitoring. We wanted to produce an offering that service companies could, in turn, offer to their own managed services customers. They needed the benefits of dashboards and the capability to monitor the infrastructure of their customers, but also provide them with information.

We quickly conducted a market survey, with one question in mind: should we develop a new tool or build upon an existing one? The survey results were interesting. We found that many companies were using Nagios, reliable open source software. This would then be linked to a single site at a single company. As service companies manage multiple clients, Nagios would not fully meet their needs.


So, you have taken Nagios as the basis to develop your own solution. What attracted you to using an open source base?

Nagios had already built customer trust and loyalty over a number of years, so we avoided the risks related to the creation of a new technology. Furthermore, by building our own software from an existing base, we became aware of its limitations, its bugs, which prompted us to perform numerous fixes and ultimately to rewrite much of the software.

The resulting product, ServiceNav, has the advantage of being suitable for multi-client customers.

The challenge, of course, lies in the ensuring we “add-value” to our customers.

The challenge: responding to the developments in IT infrastructure monitoring

 

When you created Coservit in 2006, what problems were the companies facing regarding monitoring their infrastructure?

In my opinion, there are two types of companies:

  • On one hand, the SOHO/SMEs: they were not too advanced in terms of the Internet, with relatively low quantities of hardware. Therefore, SLAs were not as imperative, and mission critical support was almost non-existent. Service companies watching over the proper operation of computers in their SMEs played a much more corrective than preventive role: when a problem was found, we would inform the technician who would step in and repair it.
  • On the other hand, the big companies would leave it up to market leaders (HPE, IBM, etc.) who would offer more complex solutions. This caused other problems, particularly that of maintenance and TCO (total cost of ownership). The complexity of such systems requires in-house expertise. But what happens when the expert leaves the company? How do you ensure the sustainability of the system independent of individuals in the company?

What developments have you seen over the years?

The needs of small enterprises have increased: they now expect a significant and a rapid response to the problems they encounter.

As a result, service companies are under significant pressure from their clients: the contracts increasingly involve SLAs (service level agreements), that levy penalties if a certain quality of service is not delivered. It is therefore critical for technicians to receive qualitative alerts and be able to prioritize them according to severity. This includes minimising the “false positives” that do not correspond to an actual failure.

Moreover, we have seen an increase in cloud adoption amongst our customers, such that their needs today are totally different. They use multiple providers and CIOs must ensure compliance. They also use a variety of products, combining open source solutions like Nagios with product vendor tools: sometimes these products have the same goals, but do not integrate with each other.

CIOs are therefore looking for a clear and effective dashboard to monitor their information systems, but also communicate upwards to their own management.


How can ServiceNav respond to this communication requirement?

Actually, there are several communication requirements.

Some are for the users: ServiceNav works alongside other products, which allows end-customers to display the status of an application or the availability of a service to their users. This can help prevent multiple tickets being raised for the same fault. Through the e-mailing feature, you can also distribute information to only the interested parties (e.g. to prevent a maintenance operation).

We have developed IT weather, a unique view of IT service or business application health using a familiar weather analogy, which helps to make service level monitoring and reporting simple and efficient.

Moreover, the CIO must also be able to share data with their management team: ServiceNav has a mobile application that makes it easy to share information with other people. In a management meeting, for instance, the CIO can show current performance with the help of an easy to understand dashboard. Not only does this let users see what is happening in real time, it also allows them to share it with others.

Finally, ServiceNav promotes connection between the CIO and the business: imagine, for instance, a store network that communicates with a data center for information on stock status, etc. For management, what is important is that this connection is optimised and that every problem is detected and treated promptly. An ergonomic interface, allows CIOs to report the status of the network in real time.


Does this type of software further the collaboration within the company?

Absolutely … this is also true with CIOs. Roles are often well defined: some are involved in the network, others manage the system or applications. Each team works with different products and often are not able to solve the problems solely using their own areas of expertise. Each team therefore needs to have dashboards of their own.

This is an effective way to solve problems quickly because each team receives only the alerts that directly concern them. However, we can have, at all times, an overview of service availability for management purposes.


And I imagine an efficient management translates into a more successful business…

Yes, infrastructure monitoring software like ServiceNav can also be valuable in helping the CIO to negotiate budgets as it provides quantitative indicators that can anticipate trends. For example, if you find that the bandwidth is constantly growing, you can anticipate future needs and therefore include it into your budget estimate. Similarly, if you notice that a server often encounters failures, you can more easily justify the importance of anticipating its replacement. In this way, the tool can play a role in budget planning.


We mention the CIOs… but is ServiceNav aimed at other user profiles?

Indeed, take the case of the operations manager, who uses the solution daily and has three key areas of interest.

  1. The monitoring scope: ServiceNav features over 1,000 monitoring checks, that concern devices (servers, switches, routers, and connected objects), the virtualization layer, applications or databases. We will be able to define precisely the scope of what we wish to monitor. For example, if it is to test the performance of mail delivery, we will send an e-mail every day to check if email is functional or if it returns an error. We can design sets of tests tailored to the specific needs of each organization.
  2. Operational dashboard: it allows users to identify mission critical issues and to prioritise and allocate resource accordingly.
  3. Productivity: ServiceNav also aims to improve team productivity. For example, a technician who is on duty can receive an alert on his phone and directly see which part of the system is affected by a problem. It allows him to quickly restart the service. In 90% of the cases it is possible to solve problems remotely without the need to return to the offices of the company… a real time saver for professionals!

We can also create templates that simplify implementation and configuration of the solution and save time. For example, we can create a server template where we measure the CPU use, RAM, etc. We define the metrics that we want to monitor and set alerts that warn us if they deviate from the thresholds.

SaaS and infrastructure monitoring: profit through agility

 

ServiceNav works in SaaS mode. How does this benefit the client compared to a traditional license mode?

Coservit works in an agile way, with a new release every month. Of course, there are major releases and minor releases but all customers on the SaaS platform instantly benefit from these new features or fixes. It allows us to offer software that evolves, integrates, innovates, develops and is maintained. We have a dedicated internal R&D team, and we make commitments on ServiceNav SaaS platform availability rates, in order to deliver service of optimal quality.


Does this mean the infrastructure estate is very diverse?

That’s the whole point of this software. Most organizations use the products of several vendors. Requiring a different dashboard to monitor each of them would be completely unworkable. ServiceNav allows for a “single pane of glass” To give an overview of all devices in an environment.


Today, a user who is dissatisfied with the tools offered by their company will often look for their own solutions; this is the great problem of “shadow IT” which is out of the CIO’s control. Infrastructure monitoring allows you to be more proactive, is it also an advantage against” shadow IT”?

It allows CIOs to regain control of their information systems. Imagine that the HR department demands an expensive management application. The CIO will include this request in his budget and project plans but, often, it will take several months before the application is actually implemented in the company. These long delays are often source of frustration for users and particularly for business managers, who feel that their needs are not being taken into account.

A good infrastructure monitoring tool will enable CIOs to say: “Do what you want, because on my side, I will be able to check through ServiceNav that the contract commitments of availability are being maintained.” This is an effective way to maintain control over the system while allowing some freedom to users.


Is it one of the new challenges the CIOs face?

The role of the CIO has evolved. They are now fully prepared to outsource but want to have better control of what they outsource. Moreover, their role also refocuses around business issues, a thorough examination of digital transformation and on how technology is a key enabler for the development of business and services.

Today, the network is as important as electricity for many companies: with no network, activity can stop, unlike the days when we worked on paper. It therefore becomes a critical issue.


Does the advent of the cloud result in new challenges for the CIOs as well?

In the past, organizations often had their servers on their own premises; they are now in a data center so it is essential for the connection to work between the company and the data center. It also raises the question of remote monitoring,- necessary to ensure the proper functioning of the off-premise systems.


Some professionals will tell you that they can develop their own in-house infrastructure monitoring tools, what would you answer?

Everyone knows that these businesses could choose to develop their own in-house platform. It all comes down to resource and how that should be allocated. At a time when companies are looking for productivity gains, resorting to already developed software is a profitable investment.

Moreover, since the creation of Coservit, we have had the opportunity to work with many professionals, a large variety of systems and a broad range of issues. We use all customer feedback and these feed into software development to make it a better product with wide appeal.

When developing in-house, you rarely have dedicated teams and this is hardly surprising since software development is not your main business, your staff cannot devote themselves full-time to it. The concept of continuous improvement does lend itself so readily in such circumstances.

And of course, the issue of technical support is also crucial: when you use a specialized service provider, they are by your side to assist you in the development and use of the solution.


How do you imagine the future of infrastructure monitoring to be?

I think there will be many developments related to the Internet of Things. Monitoring of connected objects will become a critical issue and the multiplication of incidents by a factor of 1000 will be a challenge. Today, we estimate there are 10 million people involved in infrastructure monitoring worldwide. It is easy to see that, if the number of incidents to be processed is multiplied by 1000, the current monitoring staff will not be able to absorb this enormous volume of alerts and data from all these objects.

So we have to process this information in order to decrease the number of incidents and false positives (estimated at 50%) and prioritise relevant alerts. It will also become critical for companies to be equipped with intuitive tools, in order to reduce the time to support.

 

You can find all the Features of ServiceNav and make a demonstration request to our team.

 

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