Finding the Needle in the (Data) Stack: Three Tips for Using Analytics to Improve your IT Operations

By Bill Talbot, VP, Solution and Product Marketing, CA Technologies

If you are like most folks in IT Operations, your job never seems to get easier. With an endless supply of new apps, mobile devices and an IT environment that spans networks you don’t control, combined with a deluge of data, complexity is sky rocketing. With that complexity, there is a lot that can go wrong and you know that you will be the first to hear about it. The status quo keeps changing, keeping you on the hunt for new and better solutions.

With all the talk about Big Data and the insight it can give you into your IT environment, it sounds like you will finally have all the information you need to make your job easier. But the problem is that Big Data is only beneficial when it is mined effectively and correlated with other data to generate real insight, like finding out what went wrong, where and why, and what needs to be done to fix it, fast. Until then, “Big Data” is just additional noise and hype adding to the complexity of your job.

The bottom line is that today’s IT environments are simply too much for an IT operations team to over see without using intelligent analytics.

Analytics to the Rescue

The promise of IT analytics is that it makes your IT operations tools across the board - infrastructure, network, apps,websites, endpoints and so on -smarter and more secure. Analytics can make sense of your Big Data and help you find the answers to questions such as: What went wrong? Do I really need another server or is this app causing the problem? If use of this app doubles, will I have enough capacity? How long will it take for me to be alerted of a DDoS attack? Having those answers when you need them would no doubt make your users, your management and you much happier.

There is excitement about future analytics solutions that will fore warn you before things go wrong and even suggest actions to circumvent issues altogether. In fact, these products are starting to emerge but there is no need to wait. There is a lot that you can do, right now, to make your IT environment more manageable and more efficient by leveraging IT analytics:

Tip #1: Use Monitoring & Management Tools with Embedded Analytics

Deploying a stand-alone analytics tool for a single purpose, such as monitoring your key business apps, will be of limited value. You may be alerted of poor app performance so you will know what is happening but it won’t show you why performance is poor. Is it the  result of a poorly written app, network congestion or a lack of infrastructure capacity? Analytics needs to be embedded within your IT monitoring and management tools to be of real value.

Tip #2: Aggregate and Correlate Data from Multiple Sources

Most IT Ops teams are drowning in data and making sense of this data is the primary value of IT analytics. But analyzing data from a single source perpetuates the same problem as deploying IT analytics in a single domain. Make sure you select an IT analytics solution that has the ability to synchronize data from multiple sources. This correlated data can then be analyzed to establish baseline metrics that will lead to better anomaly detection, decreased false alarms, significantly faster root cause analysis and MTTR, more accurate capacity planning, and an overall more optimized IT environment

Tip #3: Focus, Set Expectations and Measure Value

Don’t wait for the rest of the organization to realize the value analytics are generating. Focus your analytics on specific tasks, set expectations, measure and promote your success.

IT issues that have been suspected, but not proven, can now be measured. For example, a lack of capacity that is suspected of causing poor performance in an order entry application can now be measured against busy shopping days or seasonal spikes. You can determine if the timing of the increased orders coincides with server saturations,or if it’s something else entirely. Gaining and sharing this insight will not only help improve your customers’ perception of IT, but can also help improve your business’ bottom line.

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