Predictive Analytics: Closing the Divide Between IT and Business

There’s a lot of talk these days about the business value of predictive analytics and Big Data. But one of the biggest impacts might be on how IT is actually managed.

IT organizations have long wrestled with making sense of the massive amount of information that exists in system logs. Data collection is expensive, and correlating system events to specific business processes has often proven next to impossible. Most IT organizations, in fact, have precious little idea what business processes are tied to which applications and systems. And the introduction of virtualization on a large-scale basis has made correlating information an even more daunting task.

With the advent of Big Data frameworks, however, capturing massive amounts of system information has become more affordable. In turn, predictive analytics applications can use that information to increasingly automate IT management. As a result, the IT world is poised to undergo significant change.

IBM, for example, recently rolled out a series of new tools that leverage its investments in analytics software to better automate the management of IT. According to Scott Hebner, vice president of marketing and strategy for IBM Tivoli, the core idea behind the tools is to apply the same analytics technology used in business intelligence applications to IT management. IBM has also created an entire consulting practice based solely on the concept of tailoring Big Data and analytics to this same purpose.

But two other vendors are taking that concept even further, in the form of cloud computing services that utilize Big Data frameworks in the name of managing more effectively.

The first is AppFirst, a provider of repository services in the cloud that correlate system metric data against business performance goals. AppFirst CEO David Roth recently described AppFirst as a multitenant cloud application that gives organizations a 360-degree view of their business and IT environments. “In real time, customers can see what impact a system event is having on a business process,” he said.

Intelligize, which provides a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application that makes it easier for customers to research and analyze data provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), is one company that relies on AppFirst. According to Christian Berczely, Intelligize’s vice president of engineering, the cloud-based service enables IT organizations to become a lot more proactive in preventing IT issues from affecting business processes—and allows the business and IT elements of the company to become much more intertwined. “We’ve got a 46-inch screen hanging on a wall that has a dashboard on it that gets salespeople excited about what’s happening with IT,” he said.

In a similar vein, Sumo Logic recently launched a log management service in the cloud, with data supplemented by a set of advanced real-time analytics. Log data tends to be massive; it also features mind-bogglng amounts of indecipherable machine data. According to Sumo Logic CTO Christian Beedgen, the service offers an analytics application that turns all that information into something actually useful to a business.

While the combination of advanced analytics, Big Data and higher levels of automation will certainly make IT easier to manage, the real value of these technologies exists in the real-time insights they provide to businesses. Instead of questioning whether IT really matters, executives will soon have the capability to analyze system events to predict future business events, including everything from how to optimize the supply chain to predicting which products customers are most likely to buy next. As business executives derive more business value from IT investments, it could raise their esteem for IT people—and make it easier for new IT projects to secure funding. That alone could radically redefine the relationship between the IT and business portions of a company.

That new relationship begins with investments in analytics that optimize the management of IT, in turn setting the stage for a business transformation. Once the latter is underway, the real value of IT becomes priceless.

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