For the last 20 years one of the most common requests that I have received at Orb Data is to perform an integration of the IBM monitoring tools with the customer’s service desk. When we first started the company in 1998 this was almost uniquely Remedy Action Request System (ARS) however at some point in the last 5 years this switched to ServiceNow and over the last 2 years we have performed this integration over 10 times to various levels of complexity.
This may be circumstantial evidence but if you look at the following graph from Google this also shows the same trend in searches.
For me the answer is simple. The product was a cloud based application just as customers started to realise that this was the future. I spoke to several clients who told me that they could never use Cloud software but within 6 months they too were moving to ServiceNow. There used to be a saying that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM and now this has become true for ServiceNow too. Company after company made the switch and now it is rare to find somebody who has bucked this trend. ServiceNow had disrupted the service desk market to such an extent that from about 2013 there was not much choice when companies came to look at their service desk.
Event Management in the cloud?
However, the same companies have stuck resolutely with on-premise tools when it came to their monitoring products (and specifically their event management tool). Why is this? If you can look at incidents in a cloud based service desk then why not events in a cloud event management tool?
Put simply it is because there has not been a choice or a compelling reason to move this function to the cloud. Most serious vendors have concentrated on updating the products to include new features such as Analytics and have not yet fully embraced the cloud model. A few years ago, we had a look at the then current Tivoli monitoring products (IBM Tivoli Monitoring and Netcool/OMNIbus) and created a fledgling service we called YourTivoli however at the time we had several issues with the Java GUIs (the products needed different versions) and with the scalability/cost of the cloud provider. This attempt was put on hold and we decided that we would not do this again until the technology had caught up with our aspirations. In short what we wanted was:
- A best of breed Event management tool
- A product that the customer could rent monthly or annually
- A dashboard without a reliance on JAVA
- And a scalable global cloud service provider that we could flex with ours and our customer’s needs
These have now been met and last year we launched OpsAlerts.
A few years ago IBM launched IBM Netcool Operations Insight (NOI). Not only did this product add analytics to the core market leading Netcool/OMNIbus product but it also simplified the licensing immeasurably. NOI took the best parts of Netcool/OMNIbus (fast database, large numbers of probes, in-built correlation) and added analytical functions to analyse seasonal (repeatable) alerts, grouped alerts (for Root Cause Analysis) and a Splunk like event search. These features and the fact that high availability was now part of the standard product meant IBM had a market leading offering for anyone considering an event management tool. It also meant that we could use this for the basis of OpsAlerts.
As I mentioned previously one of the real advantages of NOI was the simplification of the licensing. We could directly map this in to OpsAlerts and license the offering simply on the number of connections and the number of integrations. Connections are one of a Managed Virtual Server (essentially is a server that sends alerts) or a Network Device such as a switch or a Client Device such as a laptop or an ATM. Integrations are things like service desk or CMDB connections. Once you have that number we can put it into a calculator and you will get a monthly or annual price depending on how likely you are to use the product. At the end of this time you can continue to pay or simply stop. Not only does this give great flexibility to grow or shrink your estate but also for some customers to create test or development environments for shorter periods where before you would need a perpetual Netcool license.
The dashboards in NOI came with a new modern dash boarding framework and an updated user interface. Dashboard Application Service Hub (DASH) provides a single console for administering IBM products and related applications. At long last the dependency on Java plug-ins was removed. One large North American bank who are leveraging the NOI Event Viewer for their operators instead of the previous client estimated that they will save up to $120,000 annually just by not having to update and manage the large number of Oracle Java vulnerabilities that come out.
In 2013 IBM bought Softlayer and with this acquisition came the opportunity for us to move all our cloud based services to the IBM platform. We decided immediately that this was the best platform for OpsAlerts and now all our infrastructure is built in the recently renamed IBM Bluemix cloud. As they have a global data centre network we can build OpsAlerts at the location of your choice.
The other advantage is that Bluemix builds each data centre to the same spec and equip it to provide the full Bluemix catalogue of services. Each data centre is staffed 24×7 with experts to troubleshoot and address the rare issues that can’t be directly resolved through our automated management system. Lastly in terms of security IBM have passed several security certifications such as ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27018 and HIPAA.
Best Practices and Enhancements
Using Orb Data’s experience with our customers we have built best practices into the core product and the maintenance of the solution so many of the things you would normally have to spend time integrating or setup are there from the start. For example, each event received can be linked to the Message Catalogue (a database of actions to take to resolve the issue) and the event can be selected to be raised as an incident manually or automatically based on certain criteria such as severity. We’ve also added things like maintenance management out of the box.
We’ve enhanced the dashboards so that you can see the alerts on an Orb Data created network health dashboard that will allow you to view your events either individually or in views segmented by region, network service or customer on a mobile device so that you can truly benefit from the fact the service is in the cloud.
Lastly OpsAlerts has several in-built integrations into well-known monitoring tools such as Nagios, Microsoft SCOM and IBM Tivoli Monitoring. These integrations will immediately allow you to consolidate events from your on premises monitoring tools into a modern, easy to use event management and analytics solution in the cloud and if you have Service Now then that integration is of course out of the box.