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3 ways that context-aware IT can increase your organization’s agility and security


mark_potts.jpgBy Mark Potts, CTO of management software at HP


Today’s IT departments are becoming less centralized and more like service brokers; they’re working with lines of business that are going out to third-party providers, whether for infrastructure or SaaS. One result of this change is increasing complexity in a hybrid world. Now when issues arise, simply pinpointing the nature of the problem can be the critical factor in increasing your agility and resolving issues before they negatively impact the business.


What capability can help you do that? We’re calling it context-aware IT. In a recent article, “4 IT trends that will help you remain competitive in 2012,” my fellow CTO Russ Daniels (CTO of HP Enterprise Services) calls out context-aware IT as a trend to watch in 2012. I want to expand on that idea a bit to talk about how essential context awareness is and offer three ways that context-aware IT can benefit your organization. If you’re looking to improve any aspect of your IT performance, context-awareness is a must.


1. Solve problems more rapidly

Context awareness is essential to resolving problems quickly. Let’s say we have a call center application where we’re looking up people’s customer information and their order history. In this scenario, we might use for the customer information and an internal SAP system for order history. So what we have is really a composite, hybrid application.


Now, if there’s a problem in the call center, is it a problem with, and we can’t see the customers? Is the SAP system is down? Or is it a problem with the integration of data between the two? If we can understand the context in which that problem has occurred then we can deal with problem isolation much faster.


Bringing context to a problem allows you to identify the right people to solve it–a key aspect of resolving problems faster. The issue of getting critical people together is related to other key trends: mobility and the consumerization of IT, which are changing how we solve problems. (For more on this, check out the post my colleague, HP Software VP Paul Muller, has written on mobile IT management). So now you can bring in the right information–from social networking, blogs, knowledge management, etc.–in combination with the right people and you’re able to solve problems in a collaborative way.


In addition, context awareness enables you to use IT monitoring and measuring capabilities (such as those offered by the HP Executive Scorecard and HP IT Performance Suite) to optimize IT performance. So, for example, if one of your problems is that you can’t get applications into production fast enough for the line of business, is the problem that you’re not building the application fast enough? Or is it due to all the barriers to get it into production? Putting the metrics and measurements on end-to-end processes in context lets you understand what you need to optimize.


2. Understand vulnerabilities

Another key area in context awareness is vulnerability management. At HP, we’re looking at bringing information from security and operations together to identify threats and vulnerabilities. An SAP system, for example, is made of up of infrastructure, the software itself and the processes that are defined across the modules.


When we see a threat coming in against a particular application, it would be great if we understood everything that’s available on that service. Context awareness allows us to pinpoint where that vulnerability exists. It’s not the entire SAP system that’s vulnerable; it’s some aspect of the system. To get this understanding requires threat analysis (from a security product like ArcSight, for example), combined with a definition of what an IT service actually is from our UCMDB (HP Universal Configuration Management Database).


3. Predict, prioritize and remediate to solve future problems

Beyond simply helping to resolve problems, context awareness can actually predict problems that are going to happen in the future. One example of this is HP Service Health Analyzer (a part of the HP Business Service Management portfolio). By bringing context information together, SHA can predict when failures will occur, based on monitoring. So, for example, it can tell us, when this pattern occurs what usually happens is that this service’s performance starts to degrade. And the resolution to that is normally to reboot this server. Context awareness gives you a way to predict what’s going to happen with a particular service, prioritize the issue and remediate the problem.


With HP CloudSystem and HP Cloud Service Automation, we’re extending that whole model. So now when we monitor a particular service we’re able to ask: How do we manage the workloads for that particular application? Could we allocate more resources? Is that really what the problem is, or could we do something else? What could we do that would help resolve that performance problem from a resource-management perspective?


This idea of context aware is something that proliferates through HP’s whole portfolio. What we’re trying to do is use context so that people can more rapidly resolve problems. Actually, with context-aware IT, it’s not just people that can resolve problems, but the systems themselves.


To learn more, read the article 4 IT trends that will help you remain competitive in 2012 and watch the video IT Mega Trends in 2012.


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