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Making IT Problems Solve Themselves

Making IT Problems Solve Themselves

Data centers are being tasked with supporting huge and fast-growing amounts of data and doing it all with utmost efficiency. Enterprises must move now toward proactive types of support in order to continue ongoing improvement and to maintain systems. This calls for new approaches to data center support, remote support and support automation.

By Dana Gardner
07/09/12 5:00 AM PT

IT must do whatever it takes to make businesses lean, agile and intelligent. Modern support services, then, also need to be able to empower workers and IT personnel to maintain peak control of systems and to keep the applications, data and processes performing reliably at lowest cost.

Not only are data centers supporting many types of converged infrastructure, and now increasingly virtualized technical workloads, too. They're also supporting big data requirements -- as data continues to explode -- but they must do this all efficiently, with increased automation as a key component of that efficiency.

To accomplish this high efficiency and to exploit the best in performance management and operational governance, enterprises must move now toward proactive types of support -- to continue the ongoing improvement and to maintain systems with high expectations met.

In a special sponsored HP Expert Chat discussion on new approaches to data center support, remote support and support automation, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, recently moderated an in-depth session with Tommaso Esmanech, director of automation strategies at HP Technology Services.

Esmanech, with more than 16 years of HP IT support design experience, explained the latest on how HP is revolutionizing support to offer new innovations in support automation and efficiency. HP is redefining modern data-center support, enabling far more insights into performance and operation by placing a proactive edge on service and support capabilities.

Download the podcast to hear more contributions from two other HP support experts: Andy Claiborne, usability lead for HP Insight Remote Support; and Paddy Medley, director of enterprise business IT for HP Technology Services.


Listen to the podcast (48:53 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Tommaso Esmanech: Our intent is to automate entire support processes, eliminate minor work, and improve production and activities for the entire enterprise. This involves finding solutions for software and hardware, and making hardware and software work seamlessly together by providing a best-in-class customer experience.

What we need to understand is that the world is changing. Customers are using devices that now are providing a new, innovative experience. Their front end is becoming easier. Customers demand integrated capabilities and are requesting a seamless experience, though the back end, the data center, is still complex, articulated, and provided by multiple vendors.

You have network storage and management software that needs to start working together. We began a the journey about 18 months ago in HP to make that change, and we've called it "Converged Infrastructure." HP took on the journey, mostly because we're the only provider in the industry that provides all the components to make the data center run seamlessly. We're the only provider for data-center network solutions, storage, servers, and management software.

Let's put this in context of support automation. When you have hardware and software working together and you're supplying services within that chemistry, you achieve a powerful position for customers. Furthermore, if you're able to automate the entire support and service process, you provide a win-win situation for you, our customers, our HP partners, and for HP, of course.

Support used to be very manual. A lot of the activities used to reside on site where a very qualified workforce, customer engineers and system engineers, would interact to resolve and manage situations.

In the early '90s, we saw a change with infrastructure support moving from decentralized to centralized global and regional centers, moving routine activities into those centers and providing a new role for the customer engineers by focusing on value-added infrastructure and capabilities.

In the '90s, we saw the explosion of the Internet. The basic task was to move to the Web sales, service, our system knowledge base, chat, support cases and case management. A lot of these activities were still manual, relying on human factor activities, to determine the root cause of a problem.

In 2000, we saw more growth of machine-to-machine diagnostics. Now, imagine that we can completely revolutionize that experience. We can integrate the entire delivery support processes, leveraging the machine experience, incorporating that with customer options of all the information with the customer in control, and really blending a remote support, onsite, phone, Web and machine-to-machine into a new automated experience. We believe that unimaginable efficiency can be achieved.

Gardner: As we talk about support automation, how is this actually reaching the customer? How do these technologies get into the sites where they're needed, and what are some of the proof points that this is making an impact?

Esmanech: It starts with how we build intelligence and connectivity into the devices. You probably followed the announcement in February of our new ProLiant servers, our Gen8 Servers.

We have basically embedded more support capabilities into the DNA. We call it "Insight Online." As of December 2012, we will be able to support in a similar fashion the existing installed base. This provides the customer a truly one-stop-shop experience for the entire IT data center.

Now that it is easier to utilize and take advantage of an automated support infrastructure, what are the key points? You don't have to make, or necessarily have to make, a phone call. You don't have to wait for a document provide a description. All those activities are automated, because the machine tells us how it's feeling and what is its health status.

Furthermore, if we compare our support infrastructure to standard human interaction and technical support, we've seen a 66 percent improvement in problem resolution. All these numbers are great for your business.

How much does it cost in downtime? What if your individual servers are impacting your factory? For us, it's about keeping your systems up and running, making sure that you meet the customer commitments, and delivering your products on time.

With Insight Online, accessible through the Web, we now provide secure, personalized anytime/anywhere access to the information. We're totally changing the dynamics from few who had access to those who need to have access to the information. That reduces high learning times that were necessary before, and moves to the user-friendly, innovative, and integrated content that our customers are requesting.

Furthermore, Insight Online is integrated in real-time with a back end. It's not just a report or dashboard of information that is routinely updated. It truly becomes a management tool, when you can view the infrastructure.

One of the other key aspects with Insight Online, this new Web experience, is that we didn't want to create a new portal. We had made a conscious decision in integrating it with the existing capabilities that you're using to do basic support tasks like accessing a knowledge base, downloading drivers and patches, downloading documentation, and making the infrastructure run seamlessly. The access to the information has to be seamless.

We've also leveraged HP Passport, the identification methodology that you use within your HP experience, providing one infrastructure and not multiple access points.

Gardner: Tommaso, can you give us a bit more detail about how it all comes together, the server management and the support experience?

Esmanech: It starts with the connectivity on the customer side. We have a new Gen8 with embedded DNA that directly connects to the HP back end through Insight Remote Support. Through Insight Remote Support, we're able to collect information and provide alerts about events, warranty, case-management status, and collect all the information necessary for us to deliver on the customer commitments.

In this new version, we've embedded new functions. For example, we allow you to provide identification on the HP service partner that is working on managing your environment. It could be HP, or it could be a certified HP service partner. We have authentication through HP Passport that allows and permits access to the information on Insight Online. Last but not least, we've been able to achieve a faster installation process, eliminating a lot of those hurdles that made it more difficult. It's now significantly easier to adopt Insight Online.

What's important to recognize is that as we collected the bulk of knowledge and information on how these patches are performing, Insight Remote Support does role matching and event correlation.

It not only provides, as we say, traffic-light alerts. You're able to correlate an event with other events to propose a multipurpose action and, in the end, trigger the appropriate delivery and support processes. For example, we can automatically send the right part to you in case you need to manage the device. We link with the standard support processes.

When information is flowing from the customer side into HP support, they have access to the customer in Insight Online. We have access to a customer through our dashboard. This provides alerts and information about how the devices are performing and automatically links warranties. It informs the staff of when they're going to expire, so you can take more proactive actions about renewing it. They also automatically link support cases to events, and with one click, you can navigate to the website.

One new feature of Insight Online is access for our HP partners. I talked about having to identify a partner that is actually working on the device? What we have is now a new partner view, again, through HP servers and Insight Online. This uses a new tab called "My Customers," and now others can be part of the entire interaction by being able to manage devices on behalf of the customer.

You don't have to install any of your own software. You don't have to develop it. We are providing the tools to be more productive, right from the start, by installing the HP server, HP infrastructure, data network storage, and giving you new tools to give you more efficiency.

HP Support Center with Insight Online also provides access to multiple users. You could be an account manager, managing infrastructure, who is going to meet the customer and you want to talk about that infrastructure, how it's performing. You log onto Insight Online and review the information.

Your HP partner can automatically view the information before even going on site and taking actions on a customer device. You will have everything accessible. If users complain that the infrastructure is not performing, you will view the management software and know what is actually going on.

You can actually gain that without having to be in the environment. It is kind of giving the life back, that is the way I would like you to see.


Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: HP sponsored this podcast.


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