Showing posts with label HPDiscover. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HPDiscover. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

How HTC Centralizes Storage Management to Gain Visibility, Reduce Costs and Implement IT Disaster Avoidance

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on why bringing a common management view into play improves problem resolution and automates resource allocation.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP Enterprise.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the HP Discover Podcast Series. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing discussion on IT innovation and how it’s making an impact on people’s lives.

Gardner
Our next storage management innovation case study highlights how communications cooperative HTC centralizes storage management to gain powerful visibility, reduce storage costs, and implement IT disaster avoidance capabilities.

We’ll learn more about how HTC has lowered total storage utilization cost while bringing in a common management view to improve problem resolution, automate resources allocation, and more fully gain compliance -- as well as set the stage for broader virtualization benefits.

To learn how HTC gains better total storage management, please join me now in welcoming Philip Sellers, Senior System Administrator at HTC in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Welcome, Philip.
Storage Operations Manager
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Philip Sellers: Good morning, Dana, thanks for having me. 

Gardner: Tell us about HTC.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/psellers
Sellers
Sellers: HTC is the largest telephone cooperative in the nation. We serve the Myrtle Beach and surrounding South Carolina area. We started out as a telephone company, but at this point, we're a full-line telecommunications company, doing cable TV, internet security, home automation, and through our partnership with AT and T, we also do wireless service. 

Gardner: Now, you are not HTC, the handset maker from Asia; you are an entirely different company.

Sellers: A completely different company, although we do sell a few of those handsets with our wireless division.

Gardner: You told me when we talked earlier that you are a reluctant storage administrator. You started out as a VMware in virtualization admin. How did you get from one to the other, and why is it important for your organization?

Common story

Sellers: It’s probably a common story in a lot of shops. As VMware became more prolific in our environment, the line started to blur between networking and VMware, and storage and VMware. So I was pulled more into those directions as the primary VMware admin for our company. That gave me the opportunity to dig in and start to learn an area of IT that was new to me.

Gardner: Philip, tell us a little bit about the scale: how many virtual machines (VMs), how many employees, what sort of a size organization are you?

Sellers: We have 700 or so employees at this point, and almost that number of VMs that we're managing. We have a couple of different storage platforms today with the HP EVA and HP 3PAR StoreServ in-house.

We also use lots of other things. We have HP StoreOnce for backup and HP StoreVirtual for some of our smaller needs, such as remote offices. 

Gardner: What kind of storage workloads are we dealing with here? Is this all of the apps across the company? What set of IT workloads are you addressing? 
One of the great benefits we've realized with VMware is the ability to have a good test and development platform to mirror what we have in production.

Sellers: The group that I'm a part of is actually the internal IT group. So we're running line-of-business applications, not the things that our customers are delivered service across, but the things that run our business to take orders, support financial operations, and those sorts of things.

And we're running a mixture of test and dev and production. One of the great benefits we've realized with VMware is the ability to have a good test and development platform to mirror what we have in production. So it runs the gamut for internal IT.

Gardner: When you start to think about progressing to a better utilization and the rationalization of storage, rather than have overlapping or disjointed storage capabilities, what sort of philosophy do you have about storage? How do you think that you can make the whole greater than sum of the parts and get those utilization benefits over time?

Deeper insight

Sellers: It’s something that I learned back in my virtualization days. For me, it’s huge to have visibility into what’s going to in your storage. One of the benefits of our transition to HP 3PAR storage is that we've been able to realize much deeper levels of insight into what’s going on inside of the arrays.

You know, as we were making that switch, we evaluated other third parties, ultimately deciding on the mid-range 7000 3PAR series for our environment and for our needs. That visibility has been key for us.

But it’s also come with a set of challenges, because we now have multiple storage consoles that we need to manage from. We have different places that we need to check. One of the keys for us is having somewhere where we can see it all, or get a better idea of the entire environment from an end-to-end perspective.

One of the other huge benefits that we've realized is some level of disaster avoidance.
That’s one of the things we learned from our VMware days. We were flying blind early on, and that caused us problems and potential problems, because we didn’t know something was going on. One of our main goals is establishing good visibility into our storage environment.

Gardner: So, it’s not just enough to modernize your storage and improve your storage capabilities, but at the same time you really need to address the management issues and consolidate management. In doing so, what have been some of the payoffs that you can recall? How has this helped your organization better provide IT services internally?

Sellers: From a performance standpoint, our former primary storage platform was not great at telling us how close we were to the edge of our performance capabilities. We never knew exactly what was going to cause a problem or the unpredictability of virtual workloads in particular. We never knew where we were going to have issues.

Being able to see into that has allowed us to prevent help desk cost for slow services, for problems that maybe we didn’t even know were going on initially. One of the other huge benefits that we've realized is new levels of disaster avoidance.

Gardner: And what do you mean by that, rather than disaster recovery (DR), which is taking care of business after we have had some terrible thing happen? How do you head that off?

Disaster avoidance

Sellers: I know that’s not an industry term, but that’s what I like to call it, because in our environment, we have two data centers that are fairly close together. What we've implemented is the HP 3PAR StoreServ metro storage clustering feature, which they call peer persistence, but it's VMware’s metro storage clustering. We've also done that with Windows clustering as well.

We have two sets of 3PARs in different data centers, and they act as one. So, they replicate synchronously between the two locations and they fail-over "automagically." I don’t know how else to say it. It just seamlessly fails-over between the two sites.

For our environment, we were at a particularly vulnerable state if we lost a data array, because so many things were pointing at it. Now if we lose a single data array it’s not a big deal. It fails-over and it continues running.

Gardner: And when you say vulnerable, I think you're talking about hurricanes?

Sellers: A lot of times we plan for those large natural disasters, but sometimes it’s the small ones that get us like UPS maintenance or something as simple as a power outage. Maybe your generator doesn’t kick in in time. Sometimes, that can be a disaster of almost the same scale as a hurricane to your business operations -- just from something simple.
Storage Operations Manager
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Gardner: So the storage management capability has provided "automagically," as you say, this disaster avoidance. That’s a pretty important metric. Do you have any idea of the value of that to your business, and maybe start to put that in dollar terms? It seems a pretty profound difference.

Sellers: I can’t necessarily put it into dollar terms. That’s not the world that I work in, but I know that anytime there is downtime to our customer relationship advisers, and the people in the field, that’s bad for business.

So we're avoiding those kinds of situations as best we can. We could lose an entire data center site and, with technology built into the VMware layer and into the HP 3PAR layer, it will come back up. It may be reboot of a server, but we try to do everything we can to avoid disaster situations today, rather than just plan for needing to fail a data center over to "site B," and go through all of that testing.

Gardner: Let’s get down to some more brass tacks on actual storage utilization benefits. Any thoughts or recollections about what this means in terms of utilization, so  no more worries about running out of storage base or capacity?

Seeing benefits

Sellers: Yeah, the HP 3PAR platform has been really great inside of our environment because we realize the marketing term of the "two-to-one thin provisioning." We're seeing that benefit.

When I looked at the console before I came here, we were seeing around a 2.3 to 1 compaction, and that’s without deduplication and some of the other newer technologies that are capable in the 3PAR platform. We may be able to realize better than that in the future.

Gardner: We've talked about disaster avoidance. We've recognized some significant savings in the provisioning and utilization. Let’s go back to management. What sort of benefits are you getting now with a more holistic approach and how does that help, perhaps on a data lifecycle basis?

Sellers: One of the ways that we're approaching that set of problems is with storage resource management software. We've traditionally used a piece of software called Storage Essentials, which HP makes. It’s heterogeneous storage-management software, so it can look at all of our different arrays and looks at our backup arrays and our primary storage arrays, as well as our back-up environment, and pulls all that information together.
We've been able to leverage that from a reporting standpoint to be able to view and pinpoint growth to see how see things are running from a dashboard view.

We've been able to leverage that from a reporting standpoint to be able to view and pinpoint growth to see how see things are running from a dashboard view. Over the last six months or so, I've been working in an early-release program for a product called HP Storage Operations Management.

This software is the next iteration of Storage Essentials. It’s got a much more approachable and modern user interface, which brings up and aggregates our total environment so that we can get a full picture of what’s going on there. Then, we can drill down and see at specific levels how things are performing, what our utilization trend is, or how much time we have until a device or a storage pool is full.

Those are things that keep us out of the really dangerous situations in getting down to a time where you're in a mission critical season, maybe the holidays or something where it’s heavy sales, and you run out of disk space and you can’t get your procurement cycle to get storage quickly enough.

Those things are just as dangerous as the hurricane that we were talking about earlier from a business operations perspective. Tools like this help us to manage and see what’s going on in the environment and help us plan and act proactively.

Gardner: I could really see why your philosophy is visibility and management oversight. It comes back again and again as a huge force multiplier benefit. 

Room to grow

Sellers: Absolutely. There's a saying that ignorance is bliss. When you're flying blind, that’s true, until it catches up with you, and it eventually overtakes you. We have lots and lots of room to grow and capabilities where we're at today. This new version of management storage resource management product has lots of great potential, too.

It’s an initial release. So, it’s got somewhat limited support for different storage families and that kind of thing, but they're working to bring in additional support and make it all that the previous product was, and much more -- and that’s visible from the initial release.

So we're excited about seeing where that can help us, particularly because one of the switches in this new product is that it’s not just a collect, an analytics reporting system. It’s a dashboard system where it takes that analytics and brings it back to a dashboard to let you drill down in to it and see it real clearly in near-real-time. I won’t say in real-time, but within whatever amount of time you configure.

Gardner: How about your future business activities? How well you can support them? I know that media is a fast-changing business. Do you feel confident now that when your superiors in your organization come to you and say, "We need this," that you're in a better position to hop-to quickly? Is there a sense of confidence that you can take on market change better?
We feel confident that we have room to grow and that we can do so in shorter terms.

Sellers: I certainly believe so. We've been able to adapt and change more quickly because of changes that we've made with VMware, with HP 3PAR. We feel confident that we have room to grow and that we can do so in shorter terms. We've been able to try and look at new things like VDI deployments to help us with compliance-type issues, where we're under regulations and have to patch and have to ensure that our systems are secure.

And so we are looking at things like that now that we were afraid to put on to primary storage in the past. It's something where we think we have a good mix today for the future.

Gardner: What advice might you might provide others who would be approaching a disparate storage environment? And maybe share your philosophy about visibility and anticipation being better than reaction. Maybe they are also seeking disaster avoidance, rather than disaster recovery. For those folks that are not quite as far along in this journey as you are, what might you suggest for them to be thinking about -- or that you wish you knew about earlier?

Sellers: There is definitely some low hanging fruit, and that’s what visibility will bring to you -- the ability to handle some of that low-hanging fruit. If you have a situation where your storage team is siloed away from your server team, bringing something in that can see both of those sides and map together that whole environment is a real easy way to identify inefficiency.

Those are LUNs that maybe are provisioned -- but not in use. There is no I/O on them. That’s a dollar amount immediately reclaimed. Finding VMs and things with visibility. These tools can look in to the VMware environment where you can see that you have lots and lots of VMs that are shut down.

There are easy things that you can do to start that process, no matter what your storage platform is. I think that’s a universal thing. If you have something that can gain you visibility in to the environment there are some easy things and easy wins that you can bring back.

Further improvements

Gardner: And those of course provide grist for the mill of further improvements and further budget to accomplish even more.

Sellers: Absolutely. If you want to make a storage platform switch or if you want to do other improvements and gain more efficiency, this gives you a little bit of extra room, some wiggle room, to make those things reality. We spent an awful lot of our budget just in keeping the lights on, keeping things up and running. Anytime you can gain some wiggle room from that budget, it certainly allows you the ability to look at innovation.

Gardner: Great. I'm afraid we'll have to leave it there. We've been learning about how HTC centralizes storage management to gain powerful visibility, reduce storage costs, and implement a disaster avoidance capability.

And we have heard why bringing a common management view in to play improves problem resolution and automates resource allocation more fully -- and therefore gains better compliance and sets the stage for broader virtualization benefits.

So join me in thanking our guest, Philip Sellers, senior systems administrator at HTC in Myrtle Beach, South California. Thank you, Philip. 

Sellers: Thank you, Dana.
Storage Operations Manager
Reduce Total Costs -- Increase Productivity

Try It Now
Gardner: And I would like to thank our audience as well for joining us for this data and information governance innovation case study discussion. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of HP-sponsored discussions. Thanks again for listening, and come back next time. 

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP Enterprise.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on why bringing a common management view into play improves problem resolution and automates resource allocation. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2015. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

How Localytics Uses Big Data to Improve Mobile App Development and Marketing

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on how big data helps an analytics company improve data-driven marketing on a variety of platforms.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the HP Discover Podcast Series. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing discussion on IT innovation and how it’s making an impact on people’s lives.

Gardner
Our next big data case study interview highlights how Localytics uses data and associated analytics to help providers of mobile applications improve their applications -- and also allow them to better understand the uses for their apps and dynamic customer demands.
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To learn more about how big data helps mobile application developers better their products and services, please join me in welcoming our guest, Andrew Rollins, Founder and Chief Software Architect at Localytics, based in Boston. Welcome, Andrew.

Andrew Rollins: Thank you for having me.

Gardner: Tell us about your organization. You founded it to do what?

Rollins: We founded in 2008, two other guys and I. We set out initially to make mobile apps. If you remember back in 2008, this is when the iPhone App Store launched. So there was a lot of excitement around mobile apps at that time.

Rollins
We initially started looking at different concepts for apps, but then, over a period of a couple months, discovered that there really weren't a whole lot of services out there for mobile apps. It was basically a very bare ecosystem, kind of like the Wild, Wild West. [Register for the upcoming HP Big Data Conference in Boston on Aug. 10-13.]

We ended up focusing on whether there was a services play in this industry and we settled on analytics, which we then called Localytics. The analogy we like to use is, at the time it was a little bit of a gold rush, and we want to sell the pickaxes. So that’s what we did.

Gardner: That makes a great deal of sense, and it has certainly turned into a gold rush. For those folks who do the mining, creating applications, what is it that they need to know?

Analytics and marketing

Rollins: That’s a good question. Here's a little back story on what we do. We do analytics, but we also do marketing. We're a full-service solution, where you can measure how your application is performing out in the wild. You can see what your users are doing. You can do anything from funnel analysis to engagement analysis, things like that.

From there, we also transition into the marketing side of things, where you can manage your push notifications, your in/out messaging.

For people who are making mobile apps, often they want to look at key metrics and then how to drive those metrics. That means a lot of A/B testing, funnel analysis, and engagement analysis.

It means not only analyzing these things, but making meaningful interactions, reaching out to customers via push notifications, getting them back in the app when they are not using the app, identifying points of drop-off, and messaging them at the right time to get them back in.

An example would be an e-commerce app. You've abandoned the shopping cart. Let’s get you back in the application via some sort of messaging. Doing all of that, measuring the return on investment (ROI) on that, measuring your acquisition channels, measuring what your users are doing, and creating that feedback loop is what we advocate mobile app developers do.

Gardner: You're able to do data-driven marketing in a way that may not have been very accessible before, because everything that’s done with the app is digital and measurable. There are logs, servers -- and so somewhere there's going to be a trail. It’s not so much marketing as it is science. We've always thought of marketing as perhaps an art and less of a science. How do you see this changing the very nature of marketing?

Everything ultimately that you are doing really does need to be data-driven. It's very hard to work off just intuition alone.
Rollins: Everything ultimately that you are doing really does need to be data-driven. It's very hard to work off of just intuition alone. So that's the art and science. You come out with your initial hypothesis, and that’s a little bit more on the craft or art side, where you're using your intuition to guide you on where to start.

From there, you have to use the data to iterate. I'm going to try this, this, and this, and then see which works out. That would be like a typical multivariate kind of testing.

Determine what works out of all these concepts that you're trying, and then you iterate on that. That's where measuring anything you do, any kind of interaction you have with your user, and then using that as feedback to then inform the next interaction is what you have to be doing.

Gardner: And this is also a bit revolutionary when it comes to software development. It wasn't that long ago that the waterfall approach to development might leave years between iterations. Now, we're thinking about constantly updating, iterating, getting a feedback loop, and condensing the latency of that feedback loop so that we really can react as close to real-time as possible.

What is it about mobile apps that's allowed for a whole different approach to this notion of connectedness and feedback loops to an app audience?

Mobile apps are different

Rollins: This brings up a good point. A lot of people ask why we have a mobile app analytics company. Why did we do that? Why is typical web analytics not good enough? It kind of speaks to something that you're talking about. Mobile apps are a little bit different than the regular web, in the sense that you do have a cycle that you can push apps out on.

You release to, let’s say, the iPhone App Store. It might take a couple of weeks before your app goes out there. So you have to be really careful about what you're publishing, because your turnaround time is not that of the web. [Register for the upcoming HP Big Data Conference in Boston on Aug. 10-13.]

However, there are certain interactions you can have, like on the messaging side, where you have an ability to instantly go back and forth. Mobile apps are a different kind of market. It requires a little different understanding than the traditional approach.

... We consume the data in a real-time pipeline. We're not doing background batch processing that you might see in something like Hadoop. We're doing a lot of real-time pipeline stuff, such that you can see results within a minute or two of it being uploaded from a device. That's largely where HP Vertica comes in, and why we ended up using Vertica, because of its real-time nature. It’s about the scale.
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Gardner: If I understand correctly, you have access to the data from all these devices, you are crunching that, and you're offering reports and services back to your customers. Do they look to you as also a platform provider or just a data-service provider? How do the actual hosting and support services for these marketing capabilities come about?

Rollins: We tend to cater more toward the high end. A lot of our customers are large app publishers that have an ongoing application, let’s say a shopping application or news application.

In that sense, when we bring people on board, oftentimes they tend to be larger companies that aren’t necessarily technically savvy yet about mobile, because it's still new for some people. We do offer a lot of onboarding services to make sure they integrate their application correctly, measure it correctly, and are looking at the right metrics for their industry, as compared to other apps in that industry.

Then, we keep that relationship open as they go along and as they see data. We iterate on that with them. Because of the newness of the industry it does require education.

Gardner: And where is HP Vertica running for you? Do you run it on your own data center? Are you using cloud? Is there a hybrid? Do you have some other model?

Running in the cloud

Rollins: We run it in the cloud. We are running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). We've thought a lot about whether we should run it in a separate data center, so that we can dictate the hardware, but presently we are running it in AWS.

Gardner: Let’s talk about what you can do when you do this correctly. Because you have a capacity to handle scale, you've developed speed, and you understand the requirements in the market, what are your customers getting from the ability to do all this?

Rollins: It really depends on the customer. Something like an e-commerce app is going to look heavily at things like where users are dropping off and what's preventing them from making that purchase.

Another application, like news, which I mentioned, will look at something different, usually something more along the lines of engagement. How long are they reading an article for? That matters to them, so that they can give those numbers to advertisers.

So the answer to that largely depends on who you are and what your app is. Something like an e-commerce app is going to look heavily at things like where users are dropping off and what's preventing them from making that purchase.
Something like an e-commerce app is going to look heavily at things like where users are dropping off and what's preventing them from making that purchase.

Gardner: I suppose another benefit of developing these insights, as specific and germane as they might be to each client, is the ability to draw different types of data in. Clearly, there's the data from the App Store and from the app itself, but if we could join that data with some other external datasets, we might be able to determine something more about why they drop-off or why they are spending more, or time doing certain things.

So is there an opportunity, and do you have any examples of where you've been able to go after more datasets and then be able to scale to that?

Rollins: This is something that's come up a lot recently. In the past year, we have our own products that we're launching in this space, but the idea of integrating different data types is really big right now.

You have all these different silos -- mobile, web, and even your internal server infrastructure. If you're a retail company that has a mobile app, you might even have physical stores. So you're trying to get all this data in some collective view of your customer.

You want to know that Sally came to your store and purchased a particular kind of item. Then, you want to be able to know that in your mobile app. Maybe you have a loyalty card that you can tie across the media and then use that to engage with her meaningfully about stuff that might interest her in the mobile app as well.

"We noticed that you bought this a month ago. Maybe you need another one. Here is a coupon for it."

Other datasets

That's a big thing, and we're looking at a lot of different ways of doing that by bringing in other datasets that might not be from just a mobile app itself.

We're not even focused on mobile apps any more. We're really just an app analytics company, and that means the web and desktop. We ship in Windows, for example. We deal with a lot of Microsoft applications. Tying together all of that stuff is kind of the future. [Register for the upcoming HP Big Data Conference in Boston on Aug. 10-13.]

Gardner: For those organizations that are embarking on more of a data-driven business model, that are looking for analytics and platforms and requirements, is there anything that you could offer in hindsight having traveled this path and worked with HP Vertica. What should they keep in mind when they're looking to move into a capability, maybe it's on-prem, maybe it's cloud. What advice could you offer them?

At scale, you have to know what each technology is good at, and how you bring together multiple technologies to accomplish what you want.
Rollins: The journey that we went through was with various platforms. At the end of day, be aware of what the vendor of the big-data platform is pitching, versus the reality of it.

A lot of times, prototyping is very easy, but actually going to large scale is fairly difficult. At scale, you have to know what each technology is good at, and how you bring together multiple technologies to accomplish what you want.

That means a lot of prototyping, a lot of stress testing and benchmarking. You really don’t know until you try it with a lot of these things. There are a lot of promises, but the reality might be different.

Gardner: Any thoughts about Vertica’s track record, given your length of experience?

Rollins: They're really good. I'm both impressed with the speed of it as compared to other things we have looked at, as well as the features that they release. Vertica 7 has a bunch of great stuff in it. Vertica 6, when it came out, had a bunch of great stuff in it. I'm pretty happy with it.
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Gardner: I'm afraid we will have to leave it there. We've been learning about how Localytics uses big data to improve data-driven marketing for a variety of mobile application creators and distributors.

I'd like to thank our guest, Andrew Rollins, Founder and Chief Software Architect at Localytics, based in Boston. Thank you, Andrew.

Rollins: Thank you very much for having me.

Gardner: And thanks to you, our audience, for joining as well. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of HP-sponsored discussions. Thanks again for joining, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on how big data helps an analytics company improve data-driven marketing on a variety of platforms. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2015. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Zynga Builds Big Data Innovation Culture by Making Analytics Open to All

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on how data-driven companies can gain a competitive advantage in making as much analysis available to as many people in their organizations as possible.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the HP Discover Podcast Series. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing discussion on IT innovation and how it’s making an impact on people’s lives.

Gardner
Our next big data case study interview highlights how Zynga in San Francisco depends on big-data analytics to improve its business via a culture of pervasive analytics and experimentation.

To learn more about how big data impacts Zynga in the fast-changing and highly competitive mobile gaming industry, please welcome Joanne Ho, a Senior Engineering Manager at Zynga. Welcome, Joanne.

Joanne Ho: Hi.

Gardner: And also, Yuko Yamazaki, Head of Analytics at Zynga. Welcome, Yuko.
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Yuko Yamazaki: Thank you.

Gardner: How important is big data analytics to you as an organization?

Ho
Ho: To Zynga, big data is very important. It's a main piece of the company and as a part of the analytics department, big data is serving the entire company as a source of understanding our users' behavior, our players, what they like, and what they don’t like about games. We are using this data to analyze the user’s behavior and we also will personalize a lot of different game models that fit the user’s player pattern.

Gardner: What’s interesting to me about games is the people will not only download them but that they're upgradable, changeable. People can easily move. So the feedback loop between the inferences, information, and analysis you gain by your users' actions is rather compressed, compared to many other industries.

What is it that you're able to do in this rapid-fire development-and-release process? How is that responsiveness important to you?

Real-time analysis

Ho: Real-time analysis, of course, is critical, and we have our streaming system that can do it. We have our monitoring and alerting system that can alert us whenever we see any drops in user’s install rating, or any daily active users (DAU). The game studio will be alerted and they will take appropriate action on that.

Gardner: Yuko, what sort of datasets we are talking about? If we're going to the social realm, we can get some very large datasets. What's the volume and scale we're talking about here?

Yamazaki: We get data of everything that happens in our games. Almost every single play gets tracked into our system. We're talking about 40 billion to 60 billion rows a day, and that's the data that our game product managers and development engineers decide what they want to analyze later. So it’s already being structured and compressed as it comes into our database.

Gardner: That’s very impressive scale. It’s one thing to have a lot of data, but it’s another to be able to make that actionable. What do you do once that data is assembled?

Yamazaki: The biggest success story that I will normally tell about Zynga is that we make data available to all employees. From day one, as soon as you join Zynga, you get to see all the data through our visualization to whatever we have. Even if you're FarmVille product manager, you get to see what Poker is doing, making it more transparent. There is an account report that you can just click and see how many people have done this particular game action, for example. That’s how we were able to create this data-driven culture for Zynga.

Yamazaki
Gardner: And Zynga is not all that old. Is this data capability something that you’ve had right from the start, or did you come into it over time? 

Yamazaki: Since we began Poker and Words With Friends, our cluster scaled 70 times.

Ho: It started off with three nodes, and we've grown to 230 node clusters.

Gardner: So you're performing the gathering of the data and analysis in your own data centers?

Yamazaki: Yes.

Gardner: When you realized the scale and the nature of your task, what were some of the top requirements you had for your cluster, your database, and your analytics engine? How did you make some technology choices?

Biggest points

Yamazaki: When Zynga was growing, our main focus was to build something that was going to be able to scale and provide the data as fast as possible. Those were the two biggest points that we had in mind when we decided to create our analytics infrastructure.

Gardner: And any other more detailed requirements in terms of the type of database or the type of analytics engine?
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Yamazaki: Those are two big ones. As I mentioned, we wanted to have everyone be able to access the data. So SQL would have been a great technology to have. It’s easy to train PMs instead of engineering sites, for example, MapReduce for Hadoop. Those were the three key points as we selected our database.

Gardner: What are the future directions and requirements that you have? Are there things that you’d like to see from HP, for example, in order to continue to be able do what you do at increasing scale?

Ho: We're interested in real-time analytics. There's a function aggregated projection that we're interested in trying. Also Flex Tables [in HP Vertica] sounds like a very interesting feature that we also will attempt to try. And cloud analytics is the third one that we're also interested in. We hope HP will get it matured, so that we can also test it out in the future.
We we have 2,000 employees, and  at least 1,000 are using our visualization tool on a daily basis.

Gardner: While your analytics has been with you right from the start, you were early in using Vertica?

Ho: Yes.

Gardner: So now we've determined how important it is, do you have any metrics of what this is able to do for you? Other organizations might be saying they we don't have as much of a data-driven culture as Zynga, but would like to and they realize that the technology can now ramp-up to such incredible volume and velocity, What do you get back? How do you measure the success when you do big-data analytics correctly?

Yamazaki: Internally, we look at adoption of systems. We we have 2,000 employees, and  at least 1,000 are using our visualization tool on a daily basis. This is the way to measure adoption of our systems internally.

Externally, the biggest metric is retention. Are players coming back and, if so, was that through the data that we collect? Were we able to do personalization so that they're coming back because of the experience they've had?

Gardner: These are very important to your business, obviously, and it’s curious about that buy-in. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. You can provide data analysis and visualization to the employees, but if they don’t find it useful and impactful, they won’t use it. So that’s interesting with that as a key performance indicator for you.

Any words of advice for other organizations who are trying to become more data-driven, to use analytics more strategically? Is this about people, process, culture, technology, all the above? What advice might you have for those seeking to better avail themselves of big data analytics?

Visualization

Yamazaki: A couple of things. One is to provide end-to-end. So not just data storage, but also visualization. We also have an experimentation system, where I think we have about 400-600 experiments running as we speak. We have a report that shows you run this experiment, all these metrics have been moved because of your experiment, and A is better than B.

We run this other experiment, and there's a visualization you can use to see that data. So providing that end-to-end data and analytics to all employees is one of the biggest pieces of advice I would provide to any companies.

One more thing is try to get one good win. If you focus too much on technology or scalability, you might be building a battleship, when you actually don’t need it yet. It's incremental. Improvement is probably going to take you to a place that you need to get to. Just try to get a good big win of increasing installs or active users in one particular game or product and see where it goes.

Gardner: And just to revisit the idea that you've got so many employees and so many innovations going on, how do you encourage your employees to interact with the data? Do you give them total flexibility in terms of experiments? How do they start the process of some of those proof-of-concept type of activities?

Yamazaki: It's all freestyle. They can log whatever they want. They can see whatever they want, except revenue type of data, and they can create any experiments they want. Her team owns this part, but we also make the data available. Some of the games can hit real time. We can do that real-time personalization using that data that you logged. It’s almost 360-degree of the data availability to our product teams.
If you focus too much on technology or scalability, you might be building a battleship, when you actually don’t need it yet.

Gardner: It’s really impressive that there's so much of this data mentality ingrained in the company, from the start and also across all the employees, so that’s very interesting. How do you see that in terms of your competitive edge? Do you think the other gaming companies are doing the same thing? Do you have an advantage that you've created a data culture?

Yamazaki: Definitely, in online gaming you have to have big data to succeed. A lot of companies, though, are just getting whatever they can, then structure it, and make it analyzable. One of the things that we've done that do well was to make a structure to start with. So the data is already structured.

Product managers are already thinking about what they want to analyze before hand. It's not like they just get everything in and then see what happens. They think right away about, "Is this analyzable? is this something we want to store?" We're a lot smarter about what we want to store. Cost-wise, it's a lot more optimized.

Gardner: We'll have to leave it there. We have been hearing about how Zynga in San Francisco has, right from its inception, created a very strong culture around big data as it grabs as much data as they can from the massive volumes created by its games. It then goes further, using HP Vertica, to make the results of that data acquisition available to its employees.
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I'd like to thank our guests, Joanne Ho, Senior Engineering Manager at Zynga, and Yuko Yamazaki, Head of Analytics at Zynga. And a big thank you to our audience as well, for joining us for this special new style of IT discussion.

I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of HP-sponsored discussions. Thanks again for listening, and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on how data-driven companies can gain a competitive advantage in making as much analysis available to as many people in their organizations as possible. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2015. All rights reserved.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Redcentric Uses Advanced Configuration Database to Focus Massive Merger Across Multiple Networks

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on the necessity of planning in attempting to merge data and systems across disparate operations.

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Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the HP Discover Podcast Series. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing sponsored discussion on IT innovation and how it’s making an impact on people's lives.

Gardner
Once again, we're focusing on how companies are adapting to the new style of IT to improve IT performance, gain new insights and deliver better user experiences, as well as better overall business results.

Our next innovation case study interview explores how Redcentric PLC in the UK has tackled a major network management project due to a business merger. We'll hear how Redcentric used advanced configuration database approaches from HP to scale some 10,000 devices across two disparate companies and managed them into a single system.

To learn more about how two major networks became merged successfully, we're joined by Edward Jackson, Operational System Support Manager at Redcentric in Harrogate, UK. Welcome to BriefingsDirect, Edward.

Edward Jackson: Hello.

Gardner: Tell us a little bit about your company and this merger. What two companies came together, and how did that prove to be a complicated matter when it comes to network management?
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Jackson: The two companies coming together were InTechnology and Redcentric. Redcentric bought InTechnology in 2013. Effectively, they were reasonably separate in terms of their setup. Redcentric had three separate organizations, they had already acquired Maxima and Hot Chilli. And the requirement was to move their network devices and ITSM platform base onto the HP monitoring and ITSM platforms in InTechnology.

It’s an ongoing process, but it’s well on the way and we've been pretty successful so far in doing that.

Gardner: And what kind of companies are these? Tell us about your organization, the business, rather than just the IT?

Jackson
Jackson: We're a managed service providers (MSPs), voice, data, storage, networks, and cloud. You name it, and we pretty much deliver it and sell it as part of our managed portfolio..

Gardner: So being good at IT is not just good for you internally; it's really part and parcel of your business.

Jackson: It's critical. We have to deliver it and we have to manage it as well. So it's 100 percent critical to the business.

Gardner: Tell us how you go about something like this, Edward, when you have a big merger, when you have all these different, disparate devices that support networks. How do you tackle that? How do you start the process?

Data cleansing

Jackson: The first phase is to look at the data and see what we've got and then start to do some data cleansing. We had to migrate data from three service desks to the InTechnology network, and to the InTechnology ITSM system. You need to look at all the service contracts. You need to also look at all the individual components that make up those contracts, and effectively all the configuration items (CIs), and then your looking at a rather large migration project.

Initially, we started to migrate the customer and the contact information. Then, slowly, we started to re-provision devices from the Redcentric side to the InTechnology Managed Services (IMS) network and load it into our HP management platforms.

We currently manage over 11,000 devices. They are from multiple types of vendors and technologies. InTechnology was pretty much a Cisco shop, whereas at Redcentric, we're looking at things like Palo Alto, Brocade, Citrix load balancers and other different types of solutions. So it's everything from session border controllers down to access points.

It was a relatively challenging time in terms of being able to look at the different types of technology and then be able to manage those. Also, we've automated incidents from Operations Manager to Service Manager and then notifying customers directly that there is a potential issue ontheir service. So it's been a rather large piece of work.

Gardner: Was there anything in hindsight that you did at InTechnology vis-à-vis the data about your network and devices that made this easier? Did Redcentric have that same benefit of that solid database, the configuration information? In doing this, what did you wish you had done, or someone else had done, better before that would have made it easier to accomplish?
It was a relatively challenging time in terms of being able to look at the different types of technology and then be able to manage those.

Jackson: Unfortunately, the data on the Redcentric side of the business wasn’t quite as clean as it was on the InTechnology side. It was held in lots of differnet sources, from network shared drives to Wiki pages. It all had to be collated. Redcentric had another three service desks. We had to extract all the data out of them as well. The service desks didn’t really contain any CI information either. So we had to collate together the CI information along with the contacts and customers.

It was a rather mammoth task. Then, we had to load it into our CRM tool, which then has a direct connection automatically using Web Services and into Service Manager. So it initially creates organizations and contacts.

We had a template for our CIs. If they were a server CI or a network CI, it would be added to a spreadsheet, and would use HP Connect-IT to load into Service Manager. It basically automatically created CIs against the customer and the contacts that were already loaded by our CRM tool.

Gardner: Is there anything now moving forward as a combined company, or in the process of becoming increasingly combined, that these due diligence efforts around network management and configuration management will allow you to do?

Perhaps you're able to drive more services into your marketplace for your customers or make modernization moves towards perhaps software-defined networking or other trends that are afoot. So now that you are into this, you are doing your due diligence, how does that set you up to move forward?

New opportunity

Jackson: It opens up a new sphere of opportunity. We were pretty much a Cisco shop, but now we have obviously opened up to a lot more elements and technologies that we actively manage.

We have a lot of software-based type of firewalls and load balancers that we didn’t previously have -- session border controllers, etc and voice products that we didn’t deliver previously -- that we can deliver now due to the fact that we've opened up the network to be able to monitor and manage pretty much anything.

Gardner: Any words of advice for other organizations that may have been resisting making these moves. You were forced to do it across the board with the merger. Do you have any advice that you would offer in terms of doing network management and modernization sooner rather than later, other than the fact that people might just think good enough is good enough, or if it's not broken, don’t fix it?

Jackson: When you're looking at a challenge like this, you have to make sure you do your due diligence first. It’s down to planning, an "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" kind of thing, and it’s very true.
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You need to get all the information. You need to make sure that you normalize it and sanitize it before you load it. The clich√© is garbage in, garbage out, so there’s no point in putting bad information into a system once again.

We have a good set of clean data now across the board. We literally have 150,000 CIs in our CMDB. So it’s not an insignificant CMDB by any stretch of the imagination. And we know that the data from the Redcentric side of the business is now clean and accurate.

Gardner: How about proving this to the business? For MSPs it might not be as critical, but for other enterprises, this might be a bit more of a challenge to translate these technical benefits into financial or economic benefits to their leadership. Any thoughts about metrics of success that you've been able to define that would fit into a return on investment (ROI) or more of an economic model? How do you translate network management proficiency into dollars and cents or pounds or euros?

Jackson: It’s pretty difficult to quantify in a monetary sense. Probably the best way of quantifying the success of the project has been the actual level of support that customers have been given and the level of satisfaction that the customers now have. They're very, very happy with the level of support that we have now achieving due to Redcentrics ITSM and business service management (BSM) systems. I think, going forward, it will only increase the level of support that we can provide our customers.

As I said, It's quite difficult to quantify in a monetary sense. However, when churn rates are now as low as 4 percent, you can basically say that you're doing something good.

Fundamental to the business

In terms of things like the CIs themselves, the CI is fundamental to the business, because it describes the whole of the service, all the services that we offer our customers. If that’s not right, then the support that we give the customer can’t be right either.

You need to give the guys on support the kind of information they need to be able to support the service. Customer satisfaction is ever increasing in terms of what we are able to offer the migrated customers.

Gardner: How about feedback from your help desk, your support, and remediation of people. Do they find that with this data in place, with it cleansed, and with it complete that they're able to identify where problems exist perhaps better, faster, and easier. Do they recognize whether there is a network problem or a workload support problem, the whole help desk benefit. Anything to offer there?
The CI is fundamental to the business, because it describes the whole of the service, all the services that we offer our customers. If that’s not right, then the support that we give the customer can’t be right either.

Jackson: About 80 percent of the tickets raised in the organization are raised through our management platform, monitoring and performance capacity monitoring. We can pretty much identify within a couple of minutes where the network error is. This all translates into tickets being auto raised in our service management platform.

Additionally, within a few minutes of an outage or incident we can have an affected customer list prepared. We have fields that are defined in Service Manager CI’s that will actually give us information regarding what devices are affected and what they are connected to in terms of an end to end service.

We run a customer report against this, and it will give you a list of customers, a list of key contacts and primary contacts. You can convert this into an email. So for a network outage, within a few minutes we can email the customer, create an incident, create related interactions to that incident, and the customer is notified that there is an issue.

Gardner: That’s the sort of brand reinforcement and service quality that many organizations are seeking. So that's enviable, I'm sure.

Is there any products or updates that could make your job even easier going forward?

Jackson: We're looking at a couple of things. One of them is HP Propel, which is a piece of software that you can hook into pretty much anything you really want. For example, if you have a few disparate service desks, you can have a veneer over the top. They'll look all the same to the customers. They'll have like an identical GUI, but the technology behind it could be very different.
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It gives you the ability then to hook into anything, such as HP Operations Orchestration, Service Manager, Knowledge Management, or even Smart Analytics, which is another area that we are quite keen on looking at. I think that’s going to revolutionize the service desk. It would be very, very beneficial forRedcentric..

There are also things like data mining. This would be beneficial and also help the auto creation of knowledge articles going forward and giving remedial action to incidents and interactions.

Gardner: Very good. I'm afraid we will have to leave it there. We've been learning about how Redcentric has used advanced configuration database approaches from HP to scale thousands of devices across two disparate networks and create a single entity due to a merger and an acquisition.

I'd like to thank our guest, Edward Jackson, Operational System Support Manager at Redcentric in the UK. Thanks so much, Edward.

Jackson: Thank you.

Gardner: And thank you to our audience for joining this special new style of IT discussion. We've explored and discovered solid evidence from early enterprise adopters of how big data changes everything, for IT, for businesses, for governments, and as well as for you and me, and we've seen how even in the realm of network management big data and analytics is a huge topic.

I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of HP-sponsored discussions. Thanks again for listening and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on the necessity of planning in attempting to merge data and systems across disparate operations. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2015. All rights reserved.

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