Recession = Managed Infrastructure Services

Hopefully the recession has bottomed out and we experience a relatively short period of “flat lining” before we ultimately begin to climb back to normalcy of a fully functioning economy. However, don’t think now is not an opportunistic time to sell IT services because it very much is! In particular, in this time of cost cutting, Managed Infrastructure  services makes a lot of sense to a lot of organizations.

Out- or in-sourcing entire support and development teams brings many advantages and benefits over and above mere cost savings. Often, service levels are improved, management overhead is reduced so they’re freed up to focus on higher value activities (e.g., quality improvement), and performance and productivity generally increases.

Here’s one example of how LiquidHub’s Managed Infrastructure group was enaged by a key client to design and operate an Operational Control Center (OCC) to monitor and measure (via SLAs)  the client’s entire infrastructure.

PROBLEM:

A regional Insurance Services (IS) company has a multitude of complex high-transaction business systems including client/server, a growing SOA-based architecture, and one of the largest throughput IBM mainframes installed in the US. One of its key interfaces to its Group and individual Members is its Web Portal. Over the past 3 years, the Web environment, as well as other core technology areas, experienced serious outages and unscheduled downtime due to a multitude of Root Causes. In essence, many of the environments were just not stable in their current state let alone stable enough of a foundation for IBC to extend functionality and services.

In an attempt to remedy the above issues, the IS organization adopted the UK government-born ITIL Framework to govern software development, Release and Configuration Management, Service Level Management, and Problem Management.

It soon became apparent that while ITIL was improving and stabilizing the technology environment from development, through release phases to production maintenance the IT organization was still very much in a reactive stance only knowing about core-system/service outages once they had occurred. Often, it was the Consumer (end user) who via the Service Desk first notified the IT organization of a Service outage or below par performance.

While IT owned and used, to some degree, best-of-breed monitoring and alerting tools it was apparent the tools were either not correctly implemented or configured, were not providing the right people the right information at the right time so they could be proactive and mitigate or stop Service interruptions before they happened, or in the worst case all of those negative characteristics were evident.

IT began to concept a new oversight and performance monitoring organization that would have the tools, expertise, and enterprise view to monitor and measure, in real-time, and report on enterprise Services from the Consumer’s perspective.

SOLUTION:

The new concepted organization was to be called the Operational Control Center (OCC).

STRATEGY: We developed a totally new framework to monitor Services as they are viewed, experienced, and used by the Consumer. We decided against the more traditional (and constrained view) of monitoring server and network hardware because it merely states whether the hardware has a heartbeat, not whether or not the hosted applications/Services are actually available to the Consumer.

Our strategy also included designing a new organizational reporting model, personnel evaluation and recommendations, communications and escalation plans, integration with existing ITIL procedures, existing tool evaluation and optimization, and a multitude of new standardized documentation, such as SLAs, SOPs, and reports.

BUILD OUT: The project included the design and physical build out of the OCC space where previously disparate teams (enterprise monitoring, Problem Management, Architecture, Service Desk, etc.) could now be co-located for improved team work and communications. This process included site selection, floorplan design, telecom, computer, and audio/video requirements planning. LiquidHub also had oversight of IS company’s facilities management responsible for installing all needed equipment and physical refurbishment of the selected site.

Furthermore, LiquidHub was given direct access to budgets in order to directly coordinate the build out of the OCC space including the selection and procurement of office equipment, network connectivity, telecom, computer, and A/V needs. LiquidHub was also the lead in designing the new OCC space so that it would be fully secured from other IS company areas by constructing permanent wall partitions and installing security card-readers allocated to OCC staff members.

So the multitude of monitoring tools could be used to their best value and seen in any configuration by any role within OCC, an array of six large plasma screens were installed and configured to a touchpanel switch allowing OCC staff to view any monitoring tool screen on any of the plasma screens.

OPERATIONS: As part of making OCC operational, LiquidHub needed to evaluate IS company’s existing monitoring tools and alternative tool sets available in the marketplace. This resulted in a comprehensive vendor review including solution demonstrations addressing OCC’s functional requirements. The process resulting in the recommendation of HP’s BTO suite which drove the development of a 6-month migration plan away from existing tools to the newly selected HP suite.

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