Simplifying IT with AIOps

How intelligence can tame the complexities of today’s technology landscape

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Data is the lifeblood of today’s organizations, giving leaders insights that help them solve problems faster and make better decisions. But as information pours in from marketing, sales, contact centers, finance, and other business units, IT departments are becoming overwhelmed with the task of managing it.

“The amount of data collected from infrastructure, apps, connecting APIs, mobile devices – and increasingly, IoT devices – is massive. In some cases, it’s in the terabytes,” says Biren Fondekar, Head of Customer Experience Office at NetApp. “It has become extremely difficult to sift through all this data to identify patterns and issues.”

The growing tide of information is raising IT expenses and causing important systems to slow down. In a Statista survey, more than half of businesses said application performance and latency have become major challenges because of exponential data growth at their organizations. Forty-one percent are having trouble keeping up with data storage needs.

“At NetApp, we receive 250 billion data points a day from our products around the globe,” Fondekar says. “The IT environment has simply become too large and complex for humans to control.”

This is happening at a time when digital-native workers and customers show little tolerance for broken or lagging systems, putting more pressure on IT. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation, rapidly expanding the use of digital technology for remote work while limiting the ability of IT experts to do troubleshooting at the data center.

An AI Solution

Organizations can conquer these problems by using AIOps – the implementation of machine learning and AI algorithms to streamline IT operations. By taking over mundane tasks, organizing the flood of incoming information into a manageable flow, expanding remote capabilities, and providing actionable insights from aggregated data, AIOps is poised to revolutionize the way IT functions.

Sixty-two percent of IT executives say that among all technologies, AI has the greatest potential to significantly alter the way their business is conducted, according to the IDG/CIO Tech Priorities 2020 poll. Fifty-six percent of enterprises and nearly half of smaller businesses expect it to see AI have a sizeable impact in the next three to five years.

“With AIOps, organizations can proactively look at the health of their entire technology environment and optimize operations,” explains Sheila Rohra, NetApp Senior Vice President of Customer Success. “IT administrators no longer have to worry about the underlying infrastructure and can focus on strategic outcomes.”

AIOps in Action

AIOPs runs the gamut from eliminating time-consuming drudge work to performing predictive maintenance and serving as a pilot light for future planning decisions. As with all AI, the more data a system ingests, the more capable it becomes. Here are some of the key solutions today’s IT teams are deploying:

  • Robotic Process Automation

Many organizations begin their AIOps journey with robotic process automation (RPA), or configuring software to automate routine IT processes. RPA eliminates the human errors inherent in manual data entry and accomplishes hundreds or thousands of tasks in a fraction of the time it would take humans to complete them. It can be used to manage data entry and data migration and to handle help desk tasks such as password resets.

By taking over drudgework, RPA lowers costs and frees staff to use their knowledge and experience for higher-level work.

“In a study we did, 90% of our customers said they saved a couple of hours a week with our AIOps system, NetApp Active IQ. They can now spend that time on higher-level tasks,” Fondekar says.

A new update to the automation framework allows companies to deploy the solution in minutes.

  • Anomaly Detection and Alerts

AIOps cuts all the infrastructure data streaming into IT down to size with analytics that distinguish real threats from noise. Whether it’s a configuration error causing an application to malfunction or a security gap, AI algorithms find it.

“If a customer notices something is not running right and calls IT support, the support engineers have the telemetry data in front of them and can engage quickly to address the problem,” Fondekar says.

Accurate anomaly detection also prevents alert fatigue, which often obscures real problems until they are discovered by angry users demanding an immediate solution.

  • Diagnostics, Predictive Maintenance, and Remediation

By combining and analyzing data from disparate IT systems, AIOps can discover dangerous trends, predict looming failures, and suggest or even implement remedies.

“With NetApp Active IQ, we pride ourselves on identifying problems before they occur. For example, if a disk is going bad, it will send signals back to NetApp and a new disk will be shipped to the customer. The entire process is automated.”

NetApp also passes along valuable insights from anonymized, aggregated customer data, a process it calls “community wisdom.”

“We might tell a banking customer that others in this sector are getting better performance and lower latency with certain configuration tweaks – would you like to try them?’” Fondekar says.

Long-term diagnostic analysis also reveals recurring problems, making IT aware of areas it needs to improve.

  • Remote Capabilities

Cloud-based AIOps allows IT technicians to solve many problems remotely. “That became really important during pandemic lockdowns, when we couldn’t send people to customer sites to analyze configurations and see their data,” Rohra says.

One NetApp support engineer created an augmented and virtual reality solution that lets support engineers see machinery and connections as though they were sitting next to workers in the data center.

As remote work, including IT operations, becomes a standard practice post-pandemic, the ability to solve technology problems off-site will become increasingly valuable.

  • Capacity Planning

By making sense of data for compute, storage, memory, bandwidth, and other infrastructure parameters, AIOps helps IT leaders create better plans.

“AIOps gives our customers a heads-up for capacity planning and guides them to decisions for improving performance before systems start to fail,” Rohra says. 

For example, does the company really need to purchase more storage, or would better data management software do the trick? Should workloads that keep bursting to the cloud be moved there permanently? Would some cloud operations be more economical if they were shifted back to the data center?

AIOps does the heavy lifting behind these calculations and presents leaders with a clear set of options for making informed, data-based decisions. Active IQ provides a comprehensive view of operational data on a single dashboard, with a graphical interface that leaders can customize to prioritize their needs and goals.  

A Digital Advisor

In an age when IT has become too overwhelmed with data to function under traditional management, AIOps opens the door to a brighter future. With swift cross-silo data gathering and analytics, it saves time, lowers costs, foresees problems, and solves many of them before you even know to ask.

“One customer told us it’s like having an additional engineer they don’t have to pay for,” Fondekar says.

By adding remote diagnostics and pay-as-you-go options to the mix, AIOps gives IT leaders all the flexibility they need to make sound decisions in a fast-changing world.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.