Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Remote Support Offers Enterprises Avenue to Cut Operations Costs While Improving IT Systems Reliability

Transcript of BriefingsDirect podcast with HP’s Dionne Morgan and Claudia Ulrich on remote support services and value.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect. Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on the need to better monitor, resolve, and automate the ongoing performance of IT systems in enterprises.

The trend around using remote support for monitoring, remediation, and maintenance automation is gaining steam in the global IT market. We expect that as these companies become even more cost conscious, they will seek to reduce their total cost of IT operations, and that remote support, best practices, and effective use cases will become even more prominent.

The goal is to free up on-premises IT personnel to focus on what they do best and to offload routine and potentially unproductive chores to organizations that specialize in these tasks, and can do them at high efficiency. We are going to hear from executives of Hewlett-Packard (HP) on how remote support works and how current users benefit from improved systems analytics and higher productivity through remote support IT services.

Here to provide the inside story on remote support is Dionne Morgan, worldwide
marketing manager in HP Technology Services. Welcome to the show, Dionne.

Dionne Morgan: Thank you.

Gardner: We're also joined by Claudia Ulrich, communications manager in Delivery Engineering at HP. Welcome, Claudia.

Claudia Ulrich: Thank you.

Gardner: Let's start by taking a look at why remote support software and services makes sense, now perhaps more than in the recent past, especially due to economic pressures. Dionne, what's the reason that remote support makes more sense now?

Morgan: As we know, IT organizations are under tremendous pressure today to help the business achieve three key business outcomes. Those include accelerating business growth, reducing cost, and mitigating risk to the business. What we've found in our research, as well as in our discussions with customers, is that IT is spending approximately 65 percent of its budget on maintenance.

For example, at many companies IT managers are discovering that simply maintaining and administrating their existing infrastructure is now one of their major expenses, and we believe there's several reasons why this is the case.

One reason is that far too much time has been spent by their staff on managing, monitoring, and troubleshooting their IT infrastructure. Obviously, this can be very expensive in both time and money. Too often, there's increased risk and unplanned downtime, which lead to an inability to meet those business objectives and achieve those business outcomes. We're also finding that system complexity is adding to the problem.

In today’s IT environment there is an abundant infrastructure, be it hardware or software, and keeping track of all this infrastructure is a daunting task. When a problem occurs in the infrastructure, finding the source and the nature of the problem, and then coming up with the resolution, can also be a daunting task.

Gardner: What is the problem set? We're seeing this all from a technology standpoint. It's clear to me how the economics work, but what are the technology issues that remote support is addressing?

Morgan: It could be anything from actual hardware failure and trying to detect exactly where within the system the failure has occurred to a need for additional memory or additional hard drive space. Those are some of the typical problems that our customers are facing, and those are the problems where you can automate the process of identifying the nature of that problem and coming up with the solution.

Gardner: I suppose we're looking, in a sense, for needles in haystacks, as well as for elephants in the room. It's a contextual set of problems.

Morgan: That's right.

Gardner: Let's go to Claudia. Claudia, tell us what the analysis and remote monitoring requirements are? How do companies start taking advantage of remote support and what do they need to do? What do they need to put in place to get started?

Ulrich: Our remote support solution is offered to customers free of charge as part of their warranty, HP Care Pack Service, or contract obligation.

They're moving from traditional phone-in support and on site delivery to automated event reporting. This is also called "phone home" capabilities. Adding to customers' manageability solution the ability to monitor the complete enterprise environment by automatically submitting incidents to the support provider increases the level of services, which in return improves availability and reduce service cost for the customer.

On one side, we have HP Systems Insight Manager (HP SIM), which is a unified management platform to manage server and storage environment. By adding our solution, which is called Remote Service Pack (RSP), we can enhance HP SIM with remote-event diagnosis and automatic submission of hardware-event modification, which is securely sent to HP.

At the same time, the customer already knows what's going on with this environment, so that we can also report back the case status, as well as the case ID.

Gardner: Just to be clear. This is not necessarily just HP hardware, right? This is a panoply of different products that are supported?

Ulrich: That's correct. We're looking at the complete, heterogeneous IT environment. This includes servers, storage, network, not only from HP, but also from selected vendors like IBM and Dell servers, as well as Brocade and Cisco switches.

Gardner: Are we talking about labor costs or we are talking about scale in terms of why this makes sense from an economic standpoint. It seems to me that when I speak to operators, they have to pick and choose quite carefully where they put their personnel. They always seem to be behind the eight ball in terms of having enough people to manage all of the issues that they're confronted with. How would something like remote support help them better manage their personnel? Let's go to Dionne for that one.

Morgan: One reason this helps to manage personnel is because it's going to be constantly monitoring the environment 24/7. Even at the end of the day, when the staff goes home, the system is still monitoring and it helps to filter the actual events that are coming through, so that the IT organization can prioritize which of those events they need to take action on.

It's actually removing some of the mundane task of troubleshooting and prioritizing the events or the incidents. It also helps, because it reduces the amount of time they have to spend on the phone. When an event is detected, that event is sent back to the HP Support Center, so that the troubleshooting can begin. So, gone are the days when they would have to make a frantic phone calls to the support center. That process is being automated for them.

Gardner: It seems as if a quite of bit of the triage, the leg work, the background preparation, and maybe some context or automated processes have already kicked off, long before that phone calls or message goes out to the on-site person and gives him a head start on the problems solution process.

Morgan: That's right. If they think that our service technicians need to come on site, we’ve automated the process as well, where they don't have to pickup the phone and request an engineer. We can do an automatic dispatch, as needed.

Gardner: In that case, you might have someone already on premises who's been sent there and is working on the problem, and in some instances no local intervention might be necessary at all?

Morgan: That's right.

Gardner: How does this match up against the larger IT support trends and issues? We're talking about next-generation data centers, using more blades, and increasing utilization through the use of virtualization. How does this IT services and remote support approach align with, support, or augment this notion of the modernization of the data center? Let's go to Claudia on that, please.

Ulrich: Remote support is a critical piece of establishing the next-generation data center. HP has defined six enablers to build this next generation data center, and RSP can definitely contribute to these enablers. Just to mention two of them, automation as well as management of the complete data infrastructure. It also plays a critical role in establishing and operating this next-generation data center by capturing the attention of the IT industry, requiring a stable environment, and accommodating the changes as needed.

It's important to customers that they can monitor and manage all of their IT equipment, not just on a particular service, but also across the whole holistic environment. They have really one thing or solution that integrates with their business processes, and not the other way around, where they have to adjust the remote support processes.

We're really looking at this one foundation to enable consolidation and modernization of data centers, and also to be able to transition between the two, using a common management system, which we have with HP SIM. This also includes industry trends toward virtualization, as well as blade, and cloud computing, as they evolve. The RSP is already designed to accommodate those business needs.

Gardner: You mentioned cloud, and that's been a hot topic lately. It certainly seems that, at some level, organizations are going to be having more hybrid types of acceptance and utilization of services coming from a variety of cloud, host, or partner infrastructures.

It seems to me that not only solving a problem becomes important, but also identifying whose problem it is becomes more and more important over time. Is there something in the way that remote support and HP's methods work that could help in this hybridized environment, where we need to find out whose problem it is, before we can even get into the solution? How do you feel about that?

Morgan: With RSP, because we are able to monitor and troubleshoot not only the HP infrastructure, but also some other third party infrastructure, that can actually help with the troubleshooting.

For example, what we have found with customers is that, when they are using these remote support tools, they're actually able to reduce the amount of time they spend in troubleshooting by 20 percent and they're also able to increase the accuracy of the diagnosis by over 99 percent. So, with these remote support tools, if they're monitoring the heterogeneous environment that Claudia talked about, that will actually speed up the process of troubleshooting and isolating the problem.

Gardner: Let's get into a little detail about the actual view into these issues. Is there a management console? Does this align with some of the existing IT management tools, the dashboards and consoles that might be in use? This is an integration question. How does remote support integrate into existing IT management functions and tools? How about to you, Claudia?

Ulrich: RSP is offered as a plug-in to HP SIM, so it serves as the central console of managing the complete customer’s IT environment. It's offered to customers during HP SIM installation, and it's centrally hosted on the same dedicated servers and fully integrates into the view of HP SIM. This means the customer can use HP SIM, but he can also access the service attributes and the remote support functionality, as introduced by the RSP plug-in.

Gardner: How are these outputs then delivered? Do you have a choice among a Web service, an RSS feed, or communications? What are the various ways in which end user organizations can be on the receiving end of what remote support offers?

Ulrich: In the HP SIM view, the customer will have access to his complete IT infrastructure. They can already see what kind of servers, storage devices, and network devices that they have in their environment. In addition to this, they can see all the event information, including information about failing parts, the corrective actions, as well as the replace number, including their location, and even access to streaming videos.

They can also configure HP SIM to receive corrective notification, when an event is detected, and automatically submitted to HP, so that they can always understand what is happening in their IT infrastructure, and they keep control, because this is really important for customers. They like the benefits and they appreciate the benefit, but, at the same time, they always want to understand what is happening in their IT infrastructure.

Gardner: Let's look at some examples of how this works, and perhaps some metrics about how companies have saved money or increased their performance and the quality. Let's go to Dionne on that. Do you have some case studies or enterprise use-case scenarios where this has been used, and what kind of paybacks are they getting?

Morgan: Yes, RSP is being used by many HP enterprise customers. These customers represent some of the world's leading companies across many business sectors, including retail, banking, manufacturing, healthcare, and so on. All of these customers have been demanding solutions to help them increase their return on investment (ROI).

RSP is helping them to reduce their operational cost. As I mentioned before, based on customer experience and research we have done with many of these enterprise accounts, they actually have been able to reduce the amount of troubleshooting time by 28 percent, and increase the accuracy of their diagnosis by over 99 percent.

This has allowed them to get to a resolution faster, which means that it's going to help the end users get back to accessing the business services that they need. So, yes, we have thousands of enterprise customers who are using remote support today, and they are across all of the industry.

Gardner: How does this help on a compliance level? Are there some companies out there that are using this to help them with their compliance, regulatory issues, reporting issues, or audits? Then, what does this bring to the table for those organizations that themselves are acting like service bureaus, perhaps they have adopted Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and need to have certain service-level agreement (SLA) requirements met. So, how about compliance and service-level agreements? Back to you, Dionne.

Morgan: In regard to compliance, the way that this can help customers is by having that single view of their environment. If they have to keep track of what's included in their environment and infrastructure, this is going to help them, because they do have a full view and they are able to better manage that. That really helps in terms of compliance.

From a security perspective, this gives customers the flexibility to integrate these remote support processes into whatever security policies and procedures they actually have in place. So, this will comply with the security practices that they need in order to achieve their compliance.

Gardner: That's right, because this involves access to some sensitive systems.

Morgan: That's right, and it's highly secured. It's using industry-standard security protocols. In regard to service management, remote support and especially RSP, supplies some critical pieces to a company's service management model. Incident management, asset management, and continual service improvement are some of the key examples.

If you think about ITIL and the fact that we have a lifecycle that includes strategy, design, transition, operation, and continued service improvement, this is going to help to automate many of those support processes that you need on an ongoing operational basis and incident management. They can assist with help desk management and asset management. Our solution is designed to help customers in the phases of service management, especially focused on operations and continued service improvement.

Gardner: Back to you, Claudia. How should companies know if they're good candidates for this? Are there certain costs that they're incurring or downtime levels that they're suffering? Who are the people who should be saying, “Wow! I've got these key indicators. I should be looking for outside remote support for that sort of assistance?”

Ulrich: As Dionne indicated earlier, all IT organizations are under tremendous pressure to help the business achieve the business outcomes, and this is to accelerate business growth, meaning making better use of people and resources. This is enabled by using automated support processes to operate 24X7, so that the customer's IT staff can really focus on their core business activities, but, at the same time, control how remote support is integrated to enhance support processes.

Another business driver is reducing costs. For example, at many companies, IT managers understand that ongoing administration and maintenance of their existing infrastructure consumes most of the IT budget. There are several reasons why this is true. Much staff is needed in order to manage and monitor the whole infrastructure, as well as troubleshooting IT issues. This can be definitely expensive, in both time and money. Remote support can definitely contribute to this. Last, but not least, it also mitigates the risk to the business. This means to invest in solutions that help reduce unplanned downtime, which leads to an inability to meet business objective.

Gardner: Well, I think we have a much better much understanding of what remote support means, do you have any sense of the future direction? Are there other IT function sets that will fall under this umbrella? Is there an expanding trend toward the inclusion of technologies and infrastructure?

Morgan: I believe that down the road we'll see an expansion of the products that are covered by remote support. We'll begin to look at the total environment, in addition to the infrastructure. We'll also see organizations looking at how to automate processes, how to help with monitoring and troubleshooting applications. So, yes, we do believe that down the road there will be an expansion of the coverage.

Gardner: We've been talking about how to better monitor, and resolve, and automate ongoing performance of IT systems in enterprises. I want to thank out panelists, we have been talking with Dionne Morgan, worldwide marketing manager in HP Technology Services. Thank you so much, Dionne.

Morgan: You're welcome.

Gardner: And also, Claudia Ulrich, communications manager on the Delivering Engineering Team at HP. Thank you so much, Claudia.

Ulrich: Thank you.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. You've been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast. Thanks for listening, and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast with HP’s Dionne Morgan and Claudia Ulrich on HP remote support services. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2008. All rights reserved.