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Knowing is Half the Battle
Utilizing IT Data to Answer Business-critical Questions

by Bill Roth, CMO, www.loglogic.comWednesday, May 4, 2011

Intro

Let’s face it. Most IT people fly blind. What I mean is that most IT people have no real idea of what is going on across their information technology investments. Networks hum along, systems provide basic serves, and applications provide for basic business needs.  IT data management enables businesses to gain operational intelligence from business data.

What is IT Data?

The data needed to provide business intelligence is all around us. Everything with digital heart beat leaves footprints in the sand: servers, applications, cell phones, PCs, tablets, network devices and more. This is what we call IT Data.

IT Data is everywhere and it comes in many forms. It can show itself in traditional forms, like log files from sources like web server logs, Unix/Linux system logs It can also come from network devices like switches, routers and firewalls. It can also come from mainframe data like the RACF subsystem on IBM mainframes. Several surveys by industry groups have confirmed that about 30% of an enterprise’s storage is taken up with this kind of data. The only problem is that no one looks at it until too late.

IT Data appears in a wide array of sources that one does not typically think of when the common phrase “log management” is thought of. This includes the data that comes from anything with a chip in it, like from smart meters in a smart grid.

Why is IT Data Important?

Bad things happen all the time. We’re in the middle of two economic recessions, healthcare costs are soaring and computer security breaches occur constantly. Each of these calamities has given rise to some kind of new set of regulations. The recessions produced Sarbanes-Oxley, and the recent recessions lead to the Financial Reform Act. Problems with the healthcare in the US lead to HIPAA and HITECH acts. Computer Security breaches have lead credit card providers to band together to create the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).

It is important to realize that all these regulatory regimes have some form of data protection or records retention requirement which mandates the collection and storage of IT Data. And enforcement is being stepped up in a way that demands attention.

How can IT Data help you?

Because of the onslaught of new regulations, it is clear that managing your IT Data can keep you from getting fined, and even keep you out of jail. The HITECH Act of 2009 is the first real piece of legislation that adds teeth to the enforcement provisions. People have going to jail, and companies has been assessed fines in the 10’s of millions of dollars.

While this is a very trenchant example of why IT Data should be collected, it is not the only reason. Recent advancements in IT Data Management technology allow datacenters to not only alert on certain key events in their IT Data, but also allows alert on changes in behavior. For example, the elite modern IT Data management systems can “learn” patterns of network and system behavior, and then alert the datacenter when the behavior diverges from the baseline. This is useful for detecting network storms, or sudden surges in online business. The sooner the datacenter sees these events, the sooner they can work on preventing an outage.

How can IT Data help you answer business critical questions

Collecting and storing IT Data is useless unless you can get meaningful business intelligence, and action out of it. It is important to have a reporting system attached to an IT Data Management system that can provide structured, human-readable reports on the business-meaningful aspects of IT Data Management systems.

But reports by themselves are insufficient. There must be a system in place to circulate the report to ensure that its’ contents are recognized, but also, in the event of a problem, that some form of remediation takes place as well. This “workflow” component is a critical part of any modern IT Data Management system. This kind of reporting is becoming especially important since some regulatory regimes mandate that a log is kept of report reviews.

The key insight is that once properly collected, IT Data can deliver you powerful insight. For example, if you see a login attempt in Seattle and a Key Card use in Stockholm for the same person, a datacenter manager should be alerted that there is a security problem. Moreover, if you are tracking logs from a web content management system, you could use IT Data to indicate what content is most popular with readers. It could also be used to track internet web crawlers, like Google, and check on their frequency.

Conclusion

Information Technology professionals need to stop flying blind. The information they need to get a more complete picture of what is happening across their information technology is all around them. The good news is that there are products and technologies that can help the datacenter collect, store and analyze IT Data are evolving to be powerful sources of Business Information that can be used to improve an organization’s quality of decisions, and manage the new spate of regulations that will inevitable fall on them.

About the author

Bill Roth joined LogLogic as CMO in 2009 from BEA, where he served as Vice President of the BEA Workshop Business Unit. Prior to BEA, Roth was Chief Technical Evangelist at Epiphany. Roth has more than 20 years in this industry at companies like Sun Microsystems, Morgan Stanley, and GSI Commerce. Roth was recently named to the “Top 30 Cloud Computing Bloggers” list. Roth earned an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin.

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