Tech Talk 2 by Dustin McNabb and Tom Smart
Find and Fix Problems Faster
A Novell Business Service Management Dashboard Walkthrough
In last month's Novell Connection, we looked at the technical and business case for Novell Business Service Management (BSM) Dashboard-the first and only management solution that aggregates information from all your existing management platforms to provide role-based, single-pane-of-glass visibility into IT, operations and business management information.
In IT, Skepticism Is a Primary Job Requirement
To learn more about the benefits of a system that bridges information silos across your physical and virtual infrastructure, see last month's article. Because we know you IT types are a skeptical bunch, this month we're going to take you through a screen-by-screen scenario showing BSM Dashboard in action. These actual screenshots should give you a sense of how the solution works, so you can gauge for yourself how a BSM Dashboard might affect your management style, not to mention your business.
In this example, BSM Dashboard is pulling data about the physical infrastructure from physical and virtual IT management data sources including HP Openview, Tivoli Netcool and BMC Remedy. For the virtual infrastructure, BSM Dashboard is pulling data from PlateSpin Recon and VMWare V-Sphere IT. Custom adapters, running on the BSM Server, are used to gather this data from your existing management platforms.
In this way, BSM Dashboard serves as an enhancement and extension of your current management environment-not a replacement. It makes the data you collect more useful and actionable than ever before. (See Figure 1.)
All the information that feeds into BSM Dashboard is integrated, normalized and organized into a state-based logical model of the IT infrastructure and the applications and services it supports. This allows BSM Dashboard to pinpoint the status of any managed IT asset and, based on dynamic rules, analyze how each asset affects other assets as well as the applications and services they support. Key business metrics are also integrated into the solution to provide a better understanding of the financial impact of outages when they arise.
This aggregated information is then presented in role-based views to serve specific executive and managerial functions, with the unmatched ability to drill down from a high-level view to the specific assets, relationships, dependencies and performance characteristics that exist anywhere in your IT environment, across physical and virtual systems. Just a few mouse clicks, and you have the specific information you need to find and fix technical problems before they become business problems.
The Business Executive's View
Let's take a look at how the information gathered and organized by BSM Dashboard can be presented to people depending on their specific roles and responsibilities. In our example, here's the top-level view a business executive might see. (See Figure 2.)
This particular view shows a number of business and technology metrics that can instantly help an IT or business executive understand the health and availability of this mission-critical business service. Center stage on the BSM Dashboard is a birds-eye view of availability of the e-commerce application, with instances running at three data centers spread across the U.S. The color-coding makes it obvious at a glance that something is wrong at the New York data center.
The right panel shows the emerging problem in IT and business impact terms, flagging trouble in the areas of system availability, transaction time and response time—as well as showing how specific business metrics such as login rate, cart abandonment and order conversion are being adversely affected. And as fewer customers are able to log in and complete their orders, we can expect that customer satisfaction metrics will also be significantly affected. Looking at the map, we can even see a running total of how much this problem is potentially costing the business.
Obviously, we need to find and fix the problem as fast as possible. But the main thing an IT or business executive wants to know is that the problem is being given high priority-especially since it is impacting a critical business service. The bottom pane of this view provides the executive with easy access to the most recent trouble tickets issued for the troubled service. This pane also shows whether the problem has been logged with an incident ticket, and displays the "last" and "next" activities planned to address the problem.
Ownership and contact details are listed in the lower right-hand pane, giving the executive easy access to the IT service manager responsible for the fix. If necessary, the executive can call the IT service manager, inquire about the status of the fix and emphasize the business need to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible.
The problem may be solved before the executive can even pick up the phone, however. Thanks to role-based views customized for IT users, chances are the Trouble Ticket owner is already well on the way to pinpointing the source cause and implementing a solution.
The IT Service Manager's View
An IT service manager has different problems to solve than a business executive, requiring a different style of analysis. BSM Dashboard automatically provides the customized view that each type of user needs. For example, clicking on the Service Manager View tab presents the view shown in (See Figure 3.)
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In this view, a Process Portlet shows the high-level IT processes and their interrelationships, showing the service manager more precisely where the problem exists within the IT infrastructure.
Color-coding shows how each process is performing. In this case, BSM Dashboard shows the problem at the New York data center originates in the Web Server East. By clicking on the red icon, the user can drill down to the actual physical and virtual servers in order to pinpoint the exact problem. (See Figure 4.)
Now we have a view of the virtual hosts and the physical hosts they're running on. To provide this view, BSM Dashboard is pulling information from both Platespin Recon and VMware vSphere, saving the time, effort and potential confusion of working with both management platforms independently.
The red icons in the left pane show the problem is occurring on the virtual host, not the physical server. The right pane shows a further drill-down into the actual virtual application itself, which is the source of the offending problem-not the ESX host itself.
By clicking on the icon for the broken virtual application, the IT manager can drill down once more to get to a detailed view of the alarms and actual root cause analysis for this problem-a specific process in the application that has gone on the blink. (See Figure 5.)
All this information is available through your existing portals, but BSM Dashboard adds the ability to see the relationships between all IT components on a single screen, making it far easier and faster to track down and resolve a problem no matter where it's occurring or whatever systems it's affecting. There's no need to sort through different siloed databases or to manually compile and analyze disparate data. Just a few mouse clicks and you're at the root cause—no matter whether it's a virtual or physical system, no matter which applications are affected and no matter which IT management systems own the data.
The Operations Manager's View
Now let's briefly turn to the operations manager's view of the same problem. This view is quite similar to the IT service manager's view, with alarms and incidents occupying the majority of real estate on the operations view home page. (See Figure 6.)
From here, we can drill down to the alarms from each alarm source-for example, Netcool, V-Sphere and so on-to understand each element of the faulty e-commerce application. (See Figure 7.)
The operations manager can also view the hierarchy of physical and virtual elements in the environment. This makes it easy to see how alarms are percolating up the relationship chain, analyze how operations may be affected and drill down with a click to see performance details for any application or service. (See Figure 8.)
Create Your Own Pathways to Faster Problem Resolution
Keep in mind that we've only shown three possible paths through Novell Business Service Management Dashboard, each showing just one path that might be taken by three different types of users analyzing the same issue. There are a lot of other paths each user could take, and there could be other types of users. All of this can be customized to meet your needs, based on your data, business rules and user roles.
In other words, we can give you a sense of how flexible, powerful and easy-to-use BSM Dashboard is, but we can't tell you in this article exactly how you'll be using it in your specific environment. For that, you need to schedule some face time with your Novell sales representative. BSM Dashboard can be customized out of the box to meet your exact needs in a matter of days-not months. So there's no excuse for waiting. Make the call today and in almost no time you can have centralized, task-specific views that span all your IT data sources to help you find and fix problems faster.