A New Way Of Thinking About A Single Pane Of Glass

What if you could create your own view of your data center?

It may sound like a lot to ask but it’s closer to reality than you may think.

As infrastructure gets re-architected for virtual environments and cloud, new approaches to the solutions that manage, replicate, analyze, and alert need to be considered to keep IT in step with the evolving needs of the business. While feature-rich legacy infrastructure management solutions often have long lives, they‘re challenged to deliver all the features and functions every customer wants to run their business.

New IT management solutions need to get pulled together quickly and made available in a single, personalized display. This requires new ways of presenting management information, including new tools and technologies, and new ways of thinking about how information is consumed and shared throughout the organization.

Composite Applications to Solution Dashboards

The concept of mashup architectures became popular with the emergence of Web 2.0 and the acceptance of the social web. Because of where it all started, most people often think of mashup in terms of consumer-focused applications. The proliferation of mobile apps has fueled this perception and quickly educated the world on what can be done and delivered, and in how little time.

But, now the concept of enterprise mashups for business intelligence is gaining popularity as a vehicle for delivering agile software solutions in the workplace.  Besides the widespread use on mobile devices, the rise in the acceptance of solution dashboards can also be traced to the growing adoption of composite applications, where new business systems are built from a combination of existing components or data sources.    

Silos to Services

Have you ever acquired a solution only to find that it fulfilled much of your needs but missed some of your key requirements by a mile?

Traditional solutions, whether customer developed or purchased from a vendor, focus on solving very specific pain points for a particular environment. This situation results from a combination of the limits of domain expertise, a focus on near-term business requirements, and time-to-market needs.

Let’s face it, no solution can be all things to all people. However, with business intelligence solutions delivered in solution dashboards, you can extend and combine domain-specific products to be more in step with a larger variety of end-user needs.

Off-the-Rack Versus Bespoke

Think of the business intelligence model as the difference between off-the-rack and a bespoke suit. Sure, the mass-produced outfit might look good, but there is nothing like the form and fit of a bespoke suit made just for you.

Many IT infrastructure management products were designed to solve business problems for the masses. They go deep in their area of expertise and are stand-alone and not easily integrated or combined with other products in the IT infrastructure. The data models, user interface frameworks, and other elements vary and make it difficult, if not impossible, to integrate two or more products together in a seamless fashion.

However, each product provides powerful insights into various aspects of the IT Infrastructure for various administrator roles. Therefore, it is worthwhile to combine the behavior and information embodied in these products.

A New Model

A key tenant of business intelligence for the enterprise and IT infrastructure management, in particular, is an architecture that provides for ready product integration to create a personalized or bespoke view. Learning from the Web and mobile apps, integration comes via information feeds from Web-service APIs similar to the ideas behind Odata (Open Data Protocol) and Gdata (Google Data Protocol).

EMC has developed a similar approach for IT infrastructure management called EMC Data Access API (EDAA). Some new products like EMC ProSphere and EMC Unified Infrastructure Manager, and recent updates to legacy products such as EMC IT Operations Intelligence’s ( ITOI) new companion user interface now include the EDAA REST interface.

The move to virtualization and cloud requires new tools and new ways of managing the data center.  Information is both operational (e.g. relevant data for the process), and topological (e.g. a picture of what’s going on) to feed IT management with analytics and monitoring of performance, usage, and compliance.

In this new model, intelligent business apps are created and integrated quickly into a dashboard. These enterprise mashup apps are small units of functionality that can be used standalone within a dashboard as well as leveraged into building blocks for creating new apps.

Mashup apps can be quickly and easily tailored to specific IT administration roles. This approach enables existing products to be combined to suit the specific needs of data centers.

IT can combine the building blocks and leverage the resulting highly-specialized apps to provide meaningful insights, in real time, for proactive versus reactive management. Additionally, this approach provides flexibility in evolving apps and the higher-order integrations and tools they feed dynamically to meet the evolving needs and changing roles in the data center.

Personal Views

Assume you’ve adopted these new enterprise mashup apps to create your own dashboard and your brand new higher-order IT integrations.

How do you present your new apps? What’s your single pane of glass?

The fundamental issue with the concept of a static single pane of glass is that you can never deliver one user interface that will satisfy the information needs of all individuals or all organizations.  And, that’s where the concept of a toolkit for creating enterprise mashup apps really shines.

You know better than anyone what you need to run your IT services.  A toolkit provides the ability to leverage data from multiple sources in new, meaningful ways to meet your evolving business needs and to achieve your single pane of glass nirvana. The toolkit is your bespoke tailor or seamstress.

Enterprise mashup dashboards require vendors and IT users to change the way they think because no longer is the user interface that eventually gets to end users of their products universal. It might be a myriad of custom dashboards resulting from numerous custom configurations.

Any worthwhile toolkit needs to not only address how to combine functional capabilities across IT infrastructure to manage, replicate, analyze, and alert;  it also needs to include a presentation console or dashboard that will enable users to house and personalize their chosen apps. A good example of this concept is what many users do today, downloading apps and arranging them in custom displays on their iPads and other mobile devices.

In the initial stages, an enterprise mashup toolkit will deliver the building blocks for pushing a new form of IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) to administrators and other IT end users. Eventually, as the users embrace the presentation capabilities and personalize their dashboards, ITaaS becomes more user-defined and more of a pull behavior will emerge.

All of this makes for exciting times in IT!

About the Author: Mark Prahl