Much of the attention to coping with mega IT challenges such as cloud, bring your own device (BYOD), mobile applications, and big data focuses on adoption and implementation strategy. Yet the added complexity and requirements of how to support these technologies once they are in place has now also become top of mind.
So how do enterprises deliver improved user experiences, leverage new reactive support tools and diagnostics, and increasingly rely on self-help and automation to keep their far-flung systems and services fully functional?
BriefingsDirect recently sat down with an HP Technology Services Executive to chart a better path to simplified, just-in-time, and pan-IT support improvements — despite dynamic and complex IT environments. Lou Berger, Vice President of Technology Services Enablement and Readiness in the HP Enterprise Group, took some questions from me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: What are some of the key trends and drivers that are impacting the reactive IT support services market?
Berger: Data center managers and CIOs are entrusted with managing the current legacy environment they have while transitioning to address all the new trends: cloud, mobile, big data, and BYOD. They’re all asking the data center to change and transform to address these things.
These new workloads are different, requiring new infrastructure and new strategies that are unpredictable. They’re changing quickly — and in the largest, hybrid cloud, with increased complexity. Hosting versus the legacy infrastructure is impacting the decisions and the requirements CIOs have to manage in their environments. This is obviously giving them more choices, but also adding more complexity.
The current state of affairs for a CIO is a very complex mix of technologies, supporting the old, while developing the new. They have new solutions that they’re building on their own. They’re buying solutions, converging their infrastructure, and really being asked to make choices now that are going to lead them into the future.
Gardner: And is this the case, Lou, for both enterprises as well as SMBs? Is there any difference between those two markets when it comes to IT support?
Berger: Not at all. The decisions are the same. The SMBs are looking to the future to save and optimize their environment and making the same exact decisions that the enterprises are making. Perhaps they’re moving at different speeds, some more agile and innovative than others, but everybody is being forced to make the same decision.
Gardner: It seems that expectations have changed. End-users, from their consumer devices or at-home systems, are used to getting rapid support and help. Have the expectations of the end-user shifted?
Berger: In the new world, always-on is really the keyword, and data center managers’ service-level agreements (SLAs) with their customers, the end-user, are at a much higher level. Access is always expected to be there for the full community of users, from the developers, to the actual customers, and then the end-users on the outside. The world today is 24×7 and with all the changes happening at the same time, they need to support that environment.
Gardner: So we’re all adapting, we’re all changing, and HP has adapted and changed as well. Maybe you could fill us in a little bit at a high level of what has changed with Foundation Care Services, and then also how reactive support fits into a wider panoply of all support choices?
Berger: At HP, we took a hard look at our service portfolio, not only Foundation Care, but across the whole portfolio, and we looked at how we were addressing customers’ needs in the current environment, and how we needed to look forward as the world was changing to meet the needs we just discussed. We totally revamped our portfolio about two years ago to really enable this new style of IT.
The first thing we did was simplify. CIOs have to make very difficult choices based on meeting the SLAs of the customers, of the environment, of each solution and each component of that solution, and then balance that against the cost of those things. We took a look at and simplified our portfolio.
The first thing was simplify it to make the choices easier for the CIOs. We broke the portfolio into three basic portfolio items. One was Foundation Care, the base of all service, the reactive parts of the service, the first decision the CIO has to make.
Second was adding Proactive Care, the ability for CIOs to add and make the decision of how much proactive support they wanted to add for the specific environment and the solutions they were building.
Finally, built on that, Datacenter Care, which combines all the options that we can make available to a customer to tailor to their specific needs for either their solutions or environment.
When we talk about Foundation Care, we looked at our portfolio and we realized it was extremely complex for something that seems simple as reactive support. We had over 18 offerings that we were making available for customers, adding confusion to the decision-making process. Then finally we looked at our SLAs to them, and how they combined that in combination to manage complex environments.
In our new Foundation Care portfolio, we’ve narrowed it down to five offerings only, with three response choices for the customer to decide. This way, a customer can make very easy choices to understand the more fundamental decisions they need to make on reactive support — what response time they want, what coverage window they want, and the length of term they want for that service before they review for renewal. It’s a very simple decision-making practice.
We then took a look at our Foundation Care, and what customers required to manage those environments and made those things available through our call centers and our portals. So customers can understand very easily on a component level or across their environment what’s available through the services they’ve already been provided and with the SLA we have with them, so they can manage their environments.
There’s an ability to be able to use their mobility tools to assess and understand exactly the state of their environments or the devices that they have connected to us and our support that we highly recommend because of the value it brings.
So we removed complexity and we provided management and operational tools for customers to use on this foundational service.
Gardner: This sounds like it aligns very well to some of these trends we mentioned — consumer behavior and expectations. Many people like the idea of self-help, of getting the right information that they can act on. Of course, they like to get it on a mobile device, which gives them flexibility and that 24×7 ability to track and manage.
Lou, one of the things that seems different nowadays is the ability for automation to play a larger role. How are your customers and HP adjusting to trying to automate some of these things, maybe through alerts and notifications, maybe through remote access in understanding systems regardless of where they are? What’s the newest on that level, that automation capability?
Berger: As you know, HP has always invested heavily in the connected devices, the ability for us to securely connect to a customer’s environment, each one of those devices, and monitor. For those devices that we monitor this way, our time-to-repair is significantly faster than a straight call-in with no device.
That connectivity allows us to do much more than that. It allows us to communicate information that we’re capturing for the customer to actually see, using mobility devices, on the health and the state of devices themselves and, in many cases, the configuration.
It allows us to understand failures, repair them quickly on behalf of customers, and notify customers of an issue so that we can work with them to repair.
These tools allow us to understand the state of their environment. So as we move up the proactive stack, we can help them understand and do preemptive maintenance, understanding what recommendations we make based on the devices, on doing upgrades to firmware and software, of the compatibility among the environment, of the key parts of the environment to the whole solution, and help make recommendations and keep their devices healthy.
The connected world is a key part of our strategy in helping customers manage through the complexity of new environments. Of course, the information we track becomes available to customers to help them manage their environments independently, both their SLAs, their contractual information, and the broader environment.
Gardner: And not only are we dealing with rapid change and complexity, but heterogeneity remains with us, as it has all along. When we talk about doing this support with updates, patches, and firmware, we are not just talking about one company or one vendor. We’re talking about whatever your environment has and whatever you need. Is that not correct?
Berger: That’s very correct. When HP develops a compatibility matrix, these are the things we apply in helping customers be preemptive and make the decisions on the best way of managing their environment and staying up-to-date in the healthiest way.
Gardner: So you would be able to cover the entire fabric of your environment, not just parts and pieces, and that’s essential? You can’t have those cracks where things fall between or where patches don’t get made. That’s where these real problems can arise.
I have to also imagine, Lou, that this has the interest of the security and the governance, risk and compliance (GRC) people. This is another way for them to get assurance that things will continue not only performing, but performing securely. How does GRC and security fit into the services portfolio?
Berger: First — and it’s most relevant when we talk about security — our connectivity is highly secure. It’s been tested, agreed, and approved across every tier of business and every type of business, from the financial industries, to the government agencies. These have set the bar very high for security. So you can rest assured that our connectivity is a very secure and comfortable connection.
The compliance of environments in this new world is imperative. As CIOs make the decision at each product, at the solution, or at the environment, and how they meet their SLAs, they make the decision on how many proactive elements they want to add to that support. Providing these types of reports, or an enhanced call experience, across the environment, rather than at the piece level, adds to our ability to and the customer’s ability to manage environment to those compliance levels.
Again, the goal of the new portfolio was to simplify and make clear what each level of the portfolio gave in deliverables, and how that translates to value and the ability for the CIO to make these decisions and then meet their compliance requirements.
We stage our portfolio in a way that allows CIOs to make the right decisions to meet their compliance and security needs at the optimum cost for them.
Information is key
Gardner: So a key to good support, of course, is getting the right information to the right people in the right time-frame. We’ve talked a bit about the timing being very rapid, and the means to get that information being somewhat automated, with more mobility. But the information is still key.
So how do we improve the information flow? I understand the HP Support Center has been revamped to a certain degree as well. So that part of the equation, the information, is also rich, up-to-date, and easily available?
Berger: At a Foundation Care-level support, a customer has the option to only call the call center on a problem to be fixed and get the full support experience that comes from there. They also have access to our product pages, where they get specific information, access to our drivers, software and firmware, and the ability to download software, firmware and drivers on their own, which often includes both fixes and new features and functionality.
They have the ability to search the HP Support Center, which has all the content repositories for answers to support questions; guided troubleshooting, which provides step-by-step ability for our customers to self-heal themselves. And the Support Community, and our HP Forums allows our customers to interact with peers and learn how others dealt with issues and best practices.
You have the Support Case Manager, where a customer can call in at any time and understand exactly what the state of open cases is. So if a case is in progress of being fixed, they can call in. Or they can use the mobile app, which allows automated updates.
In addition, we have 24×7 chat from our HP Support Specialists, which is available either from the mobile app or from a PC. And the full suite of solutions and technical manuals that are available to a customer for support.
Gardner: Of course, HP being a global company that means that these services are available around the world, with localization issues managed. What’s the breadth and depth in terms of that applicability to different markets and different languages?
Berger: HP’s greatest strength for a global customer is it’s 24×7 worldwide support. We have Support Centers in every region. We have local language support for all our customers in every country necessary. We have the full suite of access and the same customer experience in any place in the world. That is the strength of HP.
Gardner: Okay, we’ve talked a lot about what it does. I think it’s always great to show in addition to tell. Do we have any examples where we can point to an organization, large or small, one market or another, and demonstrate how they’re using the simplified Foundation Care Services, getting some benefits, making sure that all the systems are up and running, and if not, the fix is in right away?
Foundation Care services
Berger: Foundation Care, our reactive services, is the base of all services. I will stick to that as an example. The first is a UK-based IT service company, a holding company for a group of companies involved in the provision of real-time monitoring systems and data management services, specifically the UK’s leisure and forecourt petrol services.
The customers were looking to upgrade their IT infrastructure to handle growth in their customer demand. Our solution from the product side was to deploy converged infrastructure with HP Blades and Virtual Storage.
The customers’ requirements were met with HP Foundation Care Support. This is a very stable environment. It’s a converged infrastructure, but there are times when an anomaly can arise.
For example, in a connected world, the customer’s storage device sent a message stating that a driver is about to fail. Under Foundation Care, the driver was sent to the customer, preventing an issue before it happened. It’s a different experience for many of our competitors, because we monitor the converged infrastructure and we take proactive actions versus waiting for the problem to occur.
So we recognized an issue. We proactively notified the customer. We sent the fix or sent a CE to fix their problem. We helped this customer meet their SLA at 99.98 percent uptime. In this case, we gave them a 100 percent uptime.
A quote from the customer, “HP Support was fantastic. We were protected all the way through the support processes.”
Gardner: Any other examples?
Berger: Sure. In this case, we helped a customer shift their focus from maintenance to strategic activities. HP offered a differentiated support experience by providing proactive alerts to flag potential issues.
The customer in this case is an underwriting services using proprietary databases and algorithms to estimate people’s life expectancy based on their medical records. The customer had performance issues with the large amounts of data on different services, with various hard drive configurations and several direct-attached devices for storage.
The resolution was to modernize their data center, where we worked closely with the customer, consolidating servers and storage using server virtualization and SAN technology. We installed ProLiant Server and 3PAR Storage and the customer purchased Foundation Care 24×7 support services.
The benefits were that centralized storage provided reliability and productivity. For the customer, their IT staff previously spent about 70 percent of their time dealing with infrastructure. Now, they spend only 20 percent of the time. That’s a 50-percent saving in time.
With Foundation Care support, they now manage availability better with proactive support alerts on potential issues and focusing on improving applications rather than failures.
Managing costs better
Gardner: Lou, I’ve been tracking enterprise IT for quite some time now, and the question always comes up, “What do you get for your dollar or your peso or your Euro?” I have had trouble always coming up with return on investment (ROI) or a total cost of ownership (TCO) formula for some aspects of IT, for example, investing in modernization of a data center.
It’s more the soft quality-assurance issues, but it seems to me, the economics of something like technology services and Foundation Care in particular is pretty straightforward.
What do you tell people when they ask you about the ROI here? It seems if you catch one big issue and you’re in an always-on environment. That that can really save you a great deal of money very rapidly.
Berger: In any industry, an outage translates to revenue and cost, besides the customer satisfaction issues and everything else. There are studies that go back and say that in some industries, an outage, a long outage can actually put a company out of business in a very short amount of time.
But this does play very closely to the decision the CIO must make when they choose the support, and understanding the impact on their environment and understanding the crux of the business if they don’t meet those needs.
In the Foundation Care Services portfolio we have three response levels with most customers. So Call-to-Repair is the highest level of service. Very fast response time is critical to the business. We commit to a six-hour call-to-repair.
It’s our broadest coverage. We have 24×7 coverage, and take four hours, generally to fix a customer’s problem, with full access to our Support Centers and on-site service as part of the coverage.
Most economical would be Foundation Care Next Business Day, with coverage from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. So a CIO can make decisions, based on the SLA they have and the impact to the business, whether critical or not, and apply these very simple service choices — rather than the 18 we had before.
Gardner: So even though you’ve simplified, you still have the benefit of one size doesn’t need to fit all. For example, I might have a set of applications or even a small rack or data center that doesn’t require that higher level of oversight, and I might want to tier this. That gives me a lot more flexibility, and therefore I can manage my costs better. Is that the case?
Berger: That’s exactly the reason we did it. A data center manager, a CIO, can make the right decisions, at the right cost profile to meet his business needs, and optimize his decision making. Then, he can manage and understand by using the tools we provide to understand exactly what is covered for each one of those devices at any time. So they can understand if they are still meeting those needs as times change and customs change.
Looking to the future
Gardner: Looking to the future a little bit Lou, as we mentioned at the beginning, we have a lot of change. You mentioned it earlier, but we’re looking at a lot more converged-infrastructure capabilities, particularly for big data.
We’re looking at more use of hybrid and more types of cloud, platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), moving workloads from cloud to cloud, if we can do that in the future; the Internet of Things; the scale of the data and the amount of data and streaming data rather than static or batch data.
How do these things come to bear? What is your vision for how technology services adjust, given what we’re expecting to happen over the next several years?
Berger: I hope you can see from the way we developed our portfolio that our Foundation Care Services allow the customer to make the most basic decisions on these requirements.
We added Proactive Care service, which allows the customer to add further coverage based on the same parameters, adding preemptive support for those areas, environments, and solutions that require a greater uptime, a greater sense of security, and an enhanced call experience that includes solutions support.
Proactive Care service allows a customer to call in across a variety of products. We own that problem and solve the problem across the solution.
Then building into our Datacenter Care service, which was built including Foundation Care and the Proactive Care services, and allowing the customer to add elements specific to meeting their specific requirements, many of them now being built specifically for the new style of IT.
We also have a Cloud Hybrid Support offering, specific for this new style of IT. And different opportunities for customers to translate CAPEX into OPEX through support offerings, because many of the customers who are building on-premise clouds and converged infrastructure want the same experience from a financial point of view as moving to a hosted service. We built that into our Datacenter Care service.
As we move forward, the new style of IT, then DevOps requires agility, velocity, innovation, and continuous service. We’re tailoring new offerings specific to that audience, specific to meet those requirements that we will partner closer and closer with customers on meeting those specific needs, and as always built on a Foundation Care support for their environment, too.
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