Since 2006, Coservit has been offering companies a software dedicated to IT supervision: ServiceNav. It allows to ensure an efficient monitoring of heterogeneous information systems, while offering ergonomic and readable dashboards for an efficient management. François Mateo, co-founder of Coservit, has witnessed the evolution of IT monitoring since the advent of the cloud. He deciphers for you the new challenges and their strategic implications.
Hello François, what inspired you to create an IT monitoring software like ServiceNav?
You have to go back to the creation of Coservit, in 2006. My partners and I were working at HP at the time. The cloud was beginning to find its place in the world of IT production and we realized that we could industrialize in small and medium-sized businesses the supervision methods used by large accounts.
Many companies were using the classic license mode but there was no tool adapted to supervision. We wanted to industrialize an offer that service companies could propose to their own customers in outsourcing. They needed to benefit from dashboards, to monitor their customers' infrastructures but also to provide them with information.
We quickly conducted a market study, with one question in mind: should we develop a new tool or build on the existing one? We found that many companies were using Nagios, a powerful open source software but linked to a single site, a single company. However, service companies have to manage several clients, so Nagios did not fully meet their needs.
So you used Nagios to develop your own monitoring solution. What is the interest for you to use an open source base?
Nagios already had a high level of trust, so we avoided the fears associated with the introduction of a new technology. Moreover, by building our own software from an existing base, we became aware of its limitations and bugs, which led us to make numerous corrections and, ultimately, to rewrite a large part of the software.
The resulting product, ServiceNav, has the advantage of being adapted to a multi-client problematic.
The challenge, of course, lies in the added value we can provide. Companies have become much more mature: for them to accept to move from open source to paid software, we need to offer them a solution that provides a return on investment and a real time saving.Request a demonstration of the ServiceNav software
A challenge: to respond to changes in IT supervision
When you created Coservit in 2006, what issues were companies facing in terms of IT monitoring?
In my opinion, a distinction must be made between two types of companies:
- On the one hand, the VSEs/SMEs: they were still not very advanced in terms of the Internet, with a relatively low equipment rate. As a result, the criticality was not very important and the need was almost non-existent. The service companies that ensured the proper functioning of IT within these SMEs played a corrective rather than a preventive role: when a problem was detected, the technician was notified and asked to repair it.
- On the other hand, large companies relied heavily on market leaders (HP, IBM, etc.) who offer much more complex systems. This posed other problems, in particular that of maintainability and TCO (total cost of ownership). The complexity of these systems requires the presence of experts. But what happens when the expert leaves the company? How can we ensure the system's sustainability independently of the human resources present in the company? Who manages the system when the expert leaves?
What developments have you witnessed over the years?
Small businesses have become much more demanding: they now expect a high response rate and a rapid response to the problems they encounter.
As a result, service companies are under significant pressure from their customers: contracts increasingly involve SLAs (service-level agreements), which provide for penalties if a certain quality of service is not provided. It is therefore crucial for these professionals to receive qualitative alerts and to be able to prioritize them according to their more or less critical nature. In particular, it is necessary to limit "false positives" which do not correspond to a real breakdown.
In addition, the cloud has become well established in organizations, and dematerialization has gained ground so that needs are now totally different. Many suppliers are used, and the CIO must ensure that they are compliant: do they respect the contract that has been signed and the commitments they have made in terms of availability rates? Companies use a multitude of products, mixing open source solutions such as Nagios with products from manufacturers: sometimes these products serve the same purpose but do not communicate with each other.
CIOs are therefore increasingly looking for a clear and efficient dashboard to manage the information system and to communicate with their management.
How does ServiceNav respond to this need for communication?
In reality, there is not one but several communication imperatives.
Some of them concern users: ServiceNav integrates with other products, allowing for example to display the status of an application or the availability of a service to its users. This way, you avoid the multiplication of tickets sent to the technical support, and you also avoid that the user wastes time trying to connect when an application is unavailable. Thanks to the e-mailing functionality, you can also distribute information only to the users concerned (for example to warn of a maintenance operation).
We have developed a service weatherIt allows you to instantly identify the availability of a service thanks to familiar pictograms reminiscent of the weather.
In addition, the CIO must also be able to discuss with his management ServiceNav has a mobile application which allows you to easily show your dashboard to other people: during a board meeting for example, the CIO can communicate on his activity using an interface that is easy to understand for a non-expert user. This allows not only to follow what is happening in real time but also to share it with others. This is an effective way to answer questions about system availability, for example.
Finally, software like ServiceNav promotes links between the IT department and the business lines For example, let's imagine a network of stores that communicates with a datacenter to obtain information on the state of stocks, etc. For the boss, it is important that this connection is optimal and that any problems are detected and dealt with without delay. With a user-friendly interface, the CIO can report on the network situation in real time.
So this type of software promotes collaboration within the company?
Absolutely... This is also true within the IT department. Roles are often well defined: some take care of the network, others manage the system or the applications... Each team works with different products and often can only solve problems directly related to its area of expertise. Each team therefore needs to have its own dashboards, which is what ServiceNav allows.
It is an efficient way to solve problems quickly because each person receives only the alerts that concern them directly. However, it is possible to keep an overview of the system's availability at all times for efficient management.
And I imagine that efficient management also means a more efficient business...
Yes, an IT monitoring software like ServiceNav can be an excellent support for help the IT department negotiate its budget because it provides numerical indicators and therefore allows you to anticipate trends. For example, if you notice that bandwidth is constantly increasing, you can already anticipate future needs and therefore integrate it into your forecasted budget. Similarly, if you notice that a server is often down, you can more easily justify the importance of planning its replacement. The tool can therefore play a role in budget planning.
We talk about CIOs... but does ServiceNav address other user profiles?
There is the case of the operations manager who operates the solution on a daily basis. Often, he will be interested in three major aspects.
- First, the scope of supervision ServiceNav offers more than 1,000 possible control points, which concern equipment (servers, switches, routers, connected objects) as well as the virtualization layer, applications or even databases. You can precisely define the scope of what you want to monitor. For example, if you want to test the operation of a messaging system, you can send an e-mail every day to see if the messaging system is working or is returning an error. We can design test sets adapted to the specific needs of each organization.
- Then, we have an operational dashboard It allows you to easily identify the aspects on which the team must work in priority.
- Productivity ServiceNav is also intended to enhance team productivity. For example, a professional who is on call can receive an alert on his phone and see directly which part of the system is affected by a problem. This allows them to restart the service quickly. In 90% of cases, it is thus possible to solve problems remotely without having to return to the company's premises, a real time-saver for professionals!
You can also create templates to simplify the implementation of the solution and save time. For example, we will create a server model where we measure the CPU, RAM, etc. We define the standards we want to monitor and we set alerts that warn you if we deviate from these standards.
SaaS and IT supervision: a gain in agility
ServiceNav works in SaaS mode. What is the advantage for the customer compared to a traditional license mode?
We work in Agile mode, with a new release every month. Of course, we distinguish between major and minor releases, but all SaaS customers benefit instantly from these new features or patches. This allows us to offer software that evolves, integrates new features, develops and is maintained. We have a dedicated internal R&D team and we make commitments on the availability rate of ServiceNav in order to offer an optimal quality of service.
Including when the computer park is very heterogeneous?
That's the whole point of this software. Most organizations use products from multiple vendors. Having a different dashboard to monitor each of them would be totally unusable. ServiceNav allows you to federate different tools to offer a synthetic view.
Today, a user who is dissatisfied with the tools offered by the company will often go and find his own solutions, this is the big problem of "shadow IT" which escapes the control of IT departments. IT monitoring software allows you to be more proactive, is this an advantage in the face of shadow IT?
Above all, it allows the IT department to regain control of the information system. Let's imagine that the human resources department asks for an expense management application... the IT department will integrate this request into its budget and planning, but very often it will take several months before the application is actually installed in the company. These long delays are often a source of frustration for users and in particular for business departments, who feel that their needs are not being taken into account.
A good IT monitoring tool will allow the CIO to say: "Do what you want because I will be able to check through the tool that the contract's availability commitments are being met". This is an effective way of keep control of the system while allowing users some freedom.
Is this one of the new challenges facing CIOs?
The role of the CIO is undeniably evolving and the function is becoming more and more transverse. Today's CIOs are quite prepared to outsource, but they want to have better control over what they outsource. On the other hand, his role is also refocusing on business issues, on a fundamental reflection on digital transformation and on the way in which IT enables the development of business and services.
Today, the network has the same importance for many companies as electricity: without a network, the business can stop, unlike the days when we worked on paper. So it becomes a critical issue.
Does the advent of the cloud also bring new challenges for IT departments?
Before, organizations often had their servers on their own premises, but now they are in a datacenter, so it is essential that the connection works between the company and the datacenter. This also raises the question of outsourcing and the controls that are put in place to ensure that the system is working properly.
Some professionals may tell you that they can develop their own IT monitoring tools in-house, what would you say to them?
You can do things yourself... but it takes a lot of time! You could decide to build a car yourself... but it's likely to take much more time than buying one from a dealer! At a time when companies are looking for productivity gains, using pre-developed software is a worthwhile investment.
Moreover, since the creation of Coservit, we have had the opportunity to work with a large number of professionals, on a large number of systems and problems. We share all the remarks of our customers and this experience feeds the software because it allows us to constantly make corrections and improvements.
When you develop in-house, you rarely have dedicated teams and this is hardly surprising since software development is not your core business, so your teams cannot devote themselves to it full-time. The notion of continuous improvement does not exist to the same extent.
And of course, the question of technical support is also of crucial importance: when you call on a specialized service provider, they are there to accompany you in the implementation and use of the solution.
How do you see the future of IT monitoring?
I think that there will be many developments related to the Internet of Things. The supervision of connected objects is going to become a crucial issue and with their multiplication, the number of incidents will also be multiplied by 1000. Today, an estimated 10 million people worldwide are involved in IT supervision. It is easy to see that if the number of incidents to be dealt with is multiplied by 1000, the staff in charge of supervision will not be able to absorb this huge volume of alerts and data coming from all these objects.
This information will need to be processed to reduce the number of incidents and false positives (estimated at 50%) and target relevant alerts. It will also become crucial for companies to equip themselves with intuitive tools to offer a much shorter support time.