Cisco Live EMEA in Barcelona was held on the last week of January. It’s always a great show to take the pulse of the industry. While the show used to be very much about networking concerns, these days there is a much broader base of attendees and topics under discussion. Of course in recent years many of the same trends have affected the previously separate domains of computer and network, most notably virtualization and the move to software-defined architectures, so there are many more common topics for the two groups to discuss.
To underline the overall move away from a purely network-centric event, much of the keynote address was actually focused on enterprise data center concerns. Ultimately, three main trends emerged which were also featured topics of the show.
Today’s systems are architected to enable fluid changes, directly at the intersection of users, devices, data, and apps. New operational models are required to support them.
Enterprise Expansion to the Cloud
This is perhaps the most obvious of the three trends, but one aspect worth pointing out is that we are talking about expansion to the cloud, not the wholesale move to the cloud that some of the more excitable projections from a few years ago predicted. New startups can operate their business on a wholly cloud-native infrastructure – including Moogsoft, full disclosure. The only actual physical hardware that Moogsoft owns is a bunch of MacBooks covered in cow stickers (mooooo!) However most larger enterprises either already owned a data center or found themselves in a position where it made sense to start one. These enterprises are still taking advantage of the cloud, but as an expansion or extension of their existing efforts.
The reasoning behind operating both environments side by side in this way is stability. If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Meanwhile, build new things with state-of-the-art tools. Yet the unintended result is unavoidable complexity. New tools and processes are required that understand both worlds. Attempts to treat the ephemeral, fast-changing world of the cloud the same way as the rigid, predictable world of the in-house data center is a recipe for disaster, at worst. At best, it’s guaranteed to miss out on most of the benefits of these new technologies.
One session track was subtitled “any information, any device, any time”, which is a great way to describe end users’ expectations. To take one obvious example, I booked my travel to Barcelona on my laptop, trusting implicitly that the relevant information would show up wherever I needed it, whenever I needed it. The boarding passes showed up on my phone. The time blocks showed up on my shared calendar so everyone knows when I’m flying. The airline’s backend systems that do all this scheduling so I’m confident they’re expecting me. All this travel data is seamlessly distributed, not only to my own devices but also via web services to any number of people: work colleagues who need to know when I’m available, family who need to know when I’ll be home, and so on.
This is a substantially different set of expectations than even one generation ago. The traveler would have to go to specific physical locations to sign on to particular services or access specific data. Think the travel agent, the ticket counter, the office workstation. Problems arise when outdated assumptions don’t match the new reality – notably, that these systems can no longer be operated in isolation. When a fault arises in the modern, interconnected, amorphous service cloud, it isn’t always quick and easy to determine whether an alert is the cause – or the symptom of a larger problem in some entirely different system. The second trend is that IT operations teams need to map their response procedures to this “anywhere, any time” world.
Complexity & Change
These first two trends culminate in new challenges for IT in the enterprise: mainly the complexity of these new technical architectures and the accelerating rate of change. Increasing complexity and accelerating change are both driven by technological evolution and higher user expectations. A holistic response is required to address all of these challenges – right from the initial architectural design straight through to long-term production operations.
Cisco Live speakers made some very interesting points about IT architectures being reinvented to be intent-based. Previously a small number of tasks were defined, and an architecture was constructed to enable those discrete tasks – and to implicitly exclude others. Requests from users to enable new actions required significant effort. Today’s systems are architected to enable fluid changes, directly at the intersection of users, devices, data, and apps. Systems and their relationships are no longer static but rather constantly changing, and mostly through automated actions in response to detected situations. No more manual changes by human engineers.
New Operational Models
New fluid architectures require new operational models. As they are intrinsically dynamic and changeable in the extreme, it is increasingly evident that static models of systems and the engineers responsible for them are no longer fit for purpose.
This search for new operational models drove intense interest in Moogsoft AIOps all week. Besides our own exhibit, traffic jammed at our demo pod in the Cisco area, where Moogsoft technology integrated with Cisco Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) and Netrounds was being showcased by Cisco engineers. The algorithmic and collaborative approach behind AIOps – and its Cisco-branded manifestation, Crosswork Situation Manager – is the only way to understand what requires attention and who needs to work on quick resolution.
What was particularly gratifying throughout the week was the stream of people exposed to this new way of working by one of Moogsoft’s partners. Managed service providers using Moogsoft AIOps have begun inviting engineers from end user customers into our collaborative Situation Room. That’s where all parties involved in a particular issue meet to accelerate resolution times (while minimizing unproductive finger-pointing). After a few choice situations where they directly experienced the power of our approach, those suppliers are now interested in adopting Moogsoft for themselves.
This really validated Cisco Live’s show theme, Imagine Intuitive. Instead of forcing users to conform to how IT systems are designed, let’s instead design solutions that support and enable users to get the job done.
If you are interested in finding out more about AIOps and what it means for IT Operations, a great starting point would be this recorded webinar about the potential of this new approach.
About the author Dominic Wellington
Dominic Wellington is the Director of Strategic Architecture at Moogsoft. He has been involved in IT operations for a number of years, working in fields as diverse as SecOps, cloud computing, and data center automation.