IT vendors and customers spend a considerable amount of time evaluating the new features for enterprise IT systems. For storage hardware, the questions generally revolve around capacity, IOPS, and scalability. Storage software is evaluated from a usability and functionality perspective. However, in the ultimate utility of the system relies on a combination of the product features, both hardware and software, and the ongoing support services that the vendor offers for the product. While the support is important, it often does not get significant attention from the vendor or the customers. It was very refreshing to see that this was not the case this year at EMC World 2016 with the announcement of MyService360.
MyService360 is EMC’s new, cloud-based, support and management dashboard. MyService360 was launched at EMC World 2016 (May 2nd – 5th at Las Vegas, NV) and utilizes EMC’s Data Lake to aggregate customer installed base, service, product, and customer data. By utilizing the EMC Data Lake, customers can gain real time visibility into their EMC infrastructure, thus enabling better analytics regarding the status of that infrastructure. Further, because MyService360 is accessible via EMC Online Support and leverages the EMC Data Lake, clients are not required to deploy an agent or other software into their environment.
Neuralytix believes that there are several benefits to this offering. The first is the lack of enterprise side software. Customers already have a considerable number of support and management tools to maintain. The goal of all of these tools is aid in the management of the overall infrastructure. However, the sheer number of tools that a customer has to maintain onsite, in order to maintain the IT environment, decreases the value of the tools. Customers spend a considerable amount of time updating support tools rather than the underlying IT environment. Since MyService360 does not require a customer to update and maintain the tool, Neuralytix believes it is more valuable to customers.
The second main benefit is the analytical capabilities of the tool. Having a real time look at the status of the infrastructure is valuable, however, being able to dig into the status of that infrastructure increases that value. EMC has designed this tool to be able to accomplish that task. Customers can configure the tool by creating custom groupings of different elements of the infrastructure to be able to better understand the status of the infrastructure, the source of various problems, and the impacts of those problems on operations. Additionally, the tool allows users to investigate the history of problems and resolutions. By having real time access to this information, customers are in a better position to be able to optimize their operations based on data regarding system performance, costs, and operations impact than on perceptions or “gut feel”.
The third main benefit will be the ability to schedule updates and expansions to the infrastructure. IT infrastructure is constantly going through upgrades and updates. Managing these upgrades and updates can present a significant challenge to customers. They all have their unique maintenance windows and schedules. So, while most customers are fine upgrading on a weekend, if the business is a retail tax preparation service in the US, the weekends from late February to mid-April are not acceptable times to take down the IT systems for an upgrade. By being able to see the entire infrastructure and map that infrastructure to business processes, customers can see the optimal times to perform upgrades and updates.
The final noticeable benefit is the look and feel of the tool. When it comes to IT tools it is easy for vendors and customers to overlook the general appearance of a tool. After all, it is a support tool, and function is more important than appearance. While this is true, the two do not have to be mutually exclusive and there are benefits to a tool that has an attractive look and feel. Neuralytix believes this because our research shows many customers using real time analytics platforms for board and executive level reviews. Our research shows that most of the time the use of real time analytics for board and executive level reviews revolve around sales management using real time tools that can show sales data during these reviews. The ability to investigate and answer sales performance questions in real time is very beneficial to the organization for two reasons.
The first is it allows for better and faster decision making at the executive level. There are fewer action items that need to be investigated before a final decision can be made.
The second is it increases the productivity of the staff as they do not have to spend the time required in collecting data, building the charts, and then transferring them to a static tool like PowerPoint. The elimination of this time accomplishes two goals. The first is it frees the staff to continue with their ‘day job’ rather than spending time preparing for executive reviews. The second is that it avoids the uncomfortable situation where the executive is presenting data that is several days to weeks old when the board wants to talk about the outage that happened this past Tuesday. While Neuralytix does not believe that MyService360 will be needed for board level reviews, we suspect that it could be a very valuable tool for CIO or infrastructure level reviews.
Neuralytix believes that while the tool is going to be valuable to customers, there are challenges that we believe EMC will have to overcome.
The first is data accuracy. Neuralytix talked with several customers and they expressed concern that the information in the EMC Data Lake was not currently 100% accurate. While the issues with the data that they pointed out were, in many cases, trivial, they felt it presented potential problems. One customer mentioned that the database had several different sites associated with their account that were all the same site (in one cases the city name was listed in ALL CAPS, and in another it was not). This will be easy for EMC and the customer to fix, but they will have to do it and make sure that trivial errors like this do not resurface. While this is a shared challenge for both the customer and EMC, MyService360 will bring data inconsistency issues to light, and is expected to drive corrections where needed. This issue is not isolated to EMC, but they will need to take the lead and engage customers where necessary.
The second challenge that EMC faces is the integration of MyService360 with other support and infrastructure management tools. MyService360 is a very strong tool for looking at the EMC infrastructure. The storage and infrastructure teams within the customer will use the tool, however, customers will also want a holistic view of their entire, multi-vendor environment. For customers whose IT executives come from the application side, they are going to want to use a more application-centric tool to see the entire environment rather than an infrastructure-centric tool. To truly maximize the use and value of the tool, EMC will need to develop APIs that allow the integration with support tools developed by IBM, SAP, Microsoft, Cisco, and HP to name a few.
The final challenge will be consistency. For this tool to be valuable it must cover all EMC solutions. EMC cannot allow product teams within EMC to develop their own support tools, or choose not to use MyService360. Customers that use this tool are going to expect that it will cover all EMC hardware and software products. If it does not, then it will lose value in the eyes of the customers.
In conclusion, Neuralytix believes that MyService360 is a positive step forward for EMC. The benefits for customers that use the dashboard will become obvious once they start using it. However, for that value to continue and increase, EMC will need to continue to grow the functionality of the tool, understanding that not all customers will use all of the features. EMC does have significant headroom to accomplish this. So the ultimate success or failure of MyService360 will be up to EMC – if the tool is grown and customers are able to increase the use of the services at their pace and in conjunction with the specifics of their IT environment, it will be a success.