Increasingly, an extended level of visibility, management, and performance will apply to those serving up applications as services, regardless of their hosting origins or models. The more the apps and services fulfill a need, the more the users will expect even better results and performance.
In other words, the more these organizations succeed, the more they need to scale, leverage virtualization and cloud infrastructure methods, embark of service oriented architecture (SOA) and then keep all the trains running fast and on time. Using the latest tools and analytics -- the equivalent of business intelligence (BI) for IT -- on the systems and across the gathering complexity becomes essential.
To learn more about how systems log tools and analysis are aiding providers of cloud and SaaS, I recently spoke with fellow blogger Phil Wainewright, an independent analyst and director at Procullux Ventures, and SaaS blogger at ZDNet and ebizQ, as well as with Jian Zhen, senior director of product management at LogLogic.
Here are some excerpts:
One thing that's happening is that the SaaS infrastructure is getting more complicated, because more choice is emerging. In the past people might have gone to one or two SaaS vendors in very isolated environments or isolated use cases. What we're now finding is that people are aggregating different SaaS services. ... We're actually looking at different layers of not just SaaS, but also platform as a service (PaaS), which are customizable applications, rather than the more packaged applications that we saw in the first generation of SaaS. We're seeing more utility and cloud platforms and a whole range of options in between.
That means people are really using different resources and having to keep tabs on all those different resources. Where in the past, all of an IT organizations' resources were under their own control, they now have to operate in this more open environment, where trust and visibility as to what's going on are major factors.
If you're going to take advantage of SaaS properly, then you need to move to more of a SOA internally. That makes it easier to start to aggregate or integrate these different mashups, these different services. At the end of the day, the end users aren't going to be bothered whether the application is delivered from the enhanced data center or from a third-party provider outside the firewall, as long as it works and gives them the business results they're looking for.
You have to worry not only about who is accessing the information within your company firewall, but now you have all this data that's sitting outside of the firewall in another environment. That could be a PaaS, as Phil said, it could be a SaaS, an application that's sitting out there. How do you control that access? How do you monitor that access. That's one of the key issues that IT has to worry about.
Obviously, there are data governance issues and activity monitoring issues. Now, from a performance and operational perspective, you have to worry about, are my systems performing, are these applications that I am renting, or platforms or utilities I am renting, are they performing to my spec? How do I ensure that the service providers can give me the SLAs that I need.
... What SaaS providers have been learning is that they need to get better at giving more information to their customers about what is going wrong when the service is not up or the service is not performing as expected. The SaaS industry is still learning about that. So, there is that element on that side.
On the IT side, the IT people have spent too much time worrying about reasons why they didn't want to deal with SaaS or cloud providers. They've been dealing with issues like what if does go down, or how can I trust the security? Yes, it does go down sometimes, but it's up 99.7 percent of the time or 99.9 percent of the time, which is better than most organizations can afford to do with their own services.
Let's shift the emphasis from, "It's broken, so I won't use it," to a more mature attitude, which says, "It will be up most of the time, but when it does break, how do I make sure that I remain accountable, as the IT manager, the IT Director, or the CIO. How do I remain accountable for those services to my organization, and how do I make sure that I can pinpoint the cause of the problem, and get it rectified as quickly as possible?"
One of the great quotes that we recently got from a customer is, "You can outsource responsibility, but not accountability." So, it fits right into what Phil what was saying about being accountable and about your own environment.
The requirement to comply with government regulations and industry mandates really doesn't change all that much, just because of SaaS or because a company is going into the cloud. What it means is that the end users are still responsible for complying with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), payment cared industry (PCI) standards, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other regulations. It also means that these customers will also expect the same type of reports that they get out of their own systems.
BI for IT, or IT intelligence, as I have used the term before, is really about getting more information out of the IT infrastructure; whether it's internal IT infrastructure or external IT infrastructure, such as the cloud.
Traditionally, administrators have always used logs as one of the tools to help them analyze and understand the infrastructure, both from a security and operational perspective. For example, one of the recent reports from Price Waterhouse, I believe, says that the number one method for identifying security incidents and operational problems is through logs.
We can provide them that information, both from an internal and external perspective. We work with a lot of service providers, as you know, companies like SAVVIS, VeriSign, Verizon Business Services, to provide the tools for them to analyze service provider infrastructures as well.
A lot of that information can be gathered into a central location, correlated, and presented as business intelligence or business activity monitoring for the IT infrastructure.
Increasingly, it comes back to IT accountability. If your service provider does go down, and if the logs show that the performance was degrading gradually over a period of time, then you should have known that. You should have been doing the analysis over time, so that you were ahead of that curve and were able to challenge the provider before the system went down.
If it's a good provider, which comes back to the question you asked, then the provider should be on top of that before the customer finds out. Increasingly, we'll see the quality of reporting that providers are doing to customers go up dramatically. The best providers will understand that the more visibility and transparency they provide the customers about the quality of service they are delivering, the more confidence and trust their customers will have in that service.