IT Monitoring Paradox: Let's Step Outside the Bubble!
March 26, 2014

David Hayward
CA Technologies

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The world is full of paradoxes. To solve them, you have to look at the facts in a different, even nonconventional way. You have to step outside your bubble.

One of the earliest paradoxes is from the ancient Greek thinker Heraclitus. It goes like this: "You cannot step into the same river twice." As Roy Sorenson says in A Brief History of the Paradox, "[Heraclitus] means that you cannot step twice into the same water of a river. There is one river, but many distinct bodies of water flow through it. Heraclitus urges a balance between experience and reason."

Paradoxes are fun to solve, but real-life they can be serious. IT Operations faces paradoxes too, and one in particular day in and day out. Recently, an IT Manager in a FORTUNE 1000 company — let's call him "Joe" — told me that he was called into the distribution center VP's office. The center was at a standstill. Joe showed him that the IT systems supporting the center were meeting all their Service Level Agreements: servers, applications, databases, storage, routers, switches — the whole lot. And the VP's response? "So what. I can’t ship anything."

That's when the light bulb went off in Joe's head. All the IT technologies that underlie the distribution center were running fine, but not the center itself. IT Operations needed another way to look at things, so he could understand the IT environment's status in terms of its impact on the business, not just in terms of how this or that technology silo was behaving.

Like Heraclitus and the river, Joe needed to strike a balance between experience and reason. Joe had plenty of experience — reams of performance monitoring data and proof of SLA compliance for each technology domain — but no way to reason, or monitor, the distribution center business process itself.

Joe started thinking of ITIL — the framework for orienting IT with services, not technologies, in mind. The trouble is, IT operates in a bubble. In fact, lots of bubbles: silo’d teams, silo’d tools, each separately monitoring servers, applications, storage, databases, routers, switches, etc.. No one was monitoring the big picture outside the bubbles. IT Operations Level 1 (the “first line of defense”) was looking at a sea of monitoring screens, events and alerts about technology devices and circuits, and had little or no understanding about how those events and alerts impacted specific business processes.

So even when IT was meeting SLA objectives in each silo, little degradations (i.e., incidents) across silos were adding up and impacting different services (i.e., processes and user experience) in different ways. This was undetectable because there wasn't any way to way to associate all those incidents with specific business services: no operational view and real-time IT operational analytics of business processes across silos.

This is typical. As an analyst from a leading IT research firm recently told me: "The Industry has been trying to solve this problem for decades. It sounds old, but we keep coming back to the same paradox over and over again."

Joe and others like him have embarked on a mission to transform IT Operations from a purely technology monitoring team to a business service reliability monitoring team. They are transforming operations because either they’ll crack the paradox of managing services that they deliver to their business, or the business will outsource operations to someone who can.

Transformation doesn't happen overnight. As the ITIL mantra teaches us, it takes "people, processes and technology" to get IT properly focused on the business and its services. To start, you need to step outside your bubble.

David Hayward is Senior Principal Manager, Solutions Marketing at CA Technologies.

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