Welcome to part six in our Observability and Maturity Series, Automation and Integration. Earlier segments of this series introduced the Five Phases of Maturity and the first four areas of the Assessment and Planning topics.
In part six, we build on the earlier posts and introduce the concept of Automation and Integration.
In 2018, when we at Loop1 began developing L1M3, AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) were hot topics across the high-tech industry. At the time, I and other Loopsters weren’t convinced that the promise of AI was enough of a reality to be a core component of L1M3. Over the last four years, we have witnessed progress in machine learning and anomaly detection. However, AI still does not influence most IT operations teams much.
Both then and now, in terms of improving IT operations, we put a different twist on “AI,” specifically, we focus on Automation and Integration. The problem that automation and integration aim to solve is primarily large-scale data correlation. The intention is “we can buy different tools from different vendors, and still correlate the data easily after deployment.” Unfortunately, that milestone is rarely reached.
Let’s begin with integration, which, on the surface, is perhaps the less complex of the two concepts. For many tools, the most basic form of integration is sending data from the tool into a ticketing solution. A texting or paging solution for on-call staff is also commonly integrated. In terms of integrations, this is a pretty low bar based on alerts and notifications. Data can be shared between systems but doesn’t necessarily help with correlation. That leaves an unsolved challenge for the operations teams attempting to reconcile alerts from multiple tools.
A higher level of integration moves beyond the manual data relay and allows direct communication between the monitoring tool and the service desk platform. SolarWinds Orion’s native integration with ServiceNow and SolarWinds Service Desk product are good examples of this direct integration between tools.
More mature forms of integration involve data visualization that automatically correlates data between products regardless of triggered alerts or notifications. A powerful version of this more valuable level of integration comes in both the AppStack and PerfStack features of the Orion platform. In both examples, Orion automatically detects and displays pertinent relationships between entities. No special scripting, custom extraction, or vendor-specific XML-based interface is necessary. We at Loop1 have begun referring to this capability as ‘native correlation’. Even better, countless other forms of native correlation exist between the broad range of entities monitored in Orion and allow administrators to leverage that correlated data in groups, dashboards, maps, alerts, and reports.
Within the Orion platform, native correlation combines data from API-based polling, storage arrays, virtualization, databases, servers, web transactions, containers, HCI chassis, groups, applications, and even SD-WAN. The benefit of using a single vendor drives this native correlation, making manual integrations between multiple products largely unnecessary.
In a more advanced context, we can explore integrations via the SolarWinds Orion SDK, powered by the Orion API and SolarWinds Query Language (SWQL). Within the Orion API exists the ability to consider even more complex integrations between products, and of course, automation of the Orion platform itself.
Automation via the Orion API leverages PowerShell (among other languages) to perform everything from the creation of nodes to a wide variety of custom configurations and entity manipulations.
In our experience, few organizations have reached a level of operational maturity that truly leverages the automation and integration available in their tools, despite having those features available to them for years. Typically, automation and integration features require development skills that not all administrators possess. Frequently this is due to a lack of time, budget, training, or all three. And that is despite the fact that IT buyers have routinely checked the ‘integration capabilities’ box during the tools procurement process.
The SolarWinds Orion platform, with comprehensive native correlation, helps to accelerate IT operations maturity while eliminating the need for cumbersome, expensive manual correlation efforts between disparate tools and tools vendors. In the final part of our Observability and Maturity Series, we cover the last area in our Assessment and Planning topics, Data Analytics and Outcomes. Learn the importance of having intelligent dashboards and integrated solutions to drive data-driven business decisions that enable improved forecasting and business predictability.