This is the second in our series of Q&A blogs with Optanix executives and other industry thought leaders. In this entry, Optanix CEO Mike Crest discusses how Optanix is responding to the ever-increasing complexity and rapidly evolving business requirements in IT operations.
Mike, what do organizations expect from their managed services provider these days? How are their expectations changing?
As technology has advanced and the industry has evolved, the requirements have become much more sophisticated. Their expectations have moved well beyond the basic break/fix and speeds-and-feeds discussions we were having five or ten years ago. Now they're looking for a true business partner that has a clear understanding of the business outcomes and objectives for their organization.
We’re no longer talking about designing an infrastructure with a "mess for less" approach. Rather, we’re tailoring it in a way that engineers the entire business service – including the infrastructure and its applications – to help organizations achieve the positive outcomes they're looking for.
And further, they’re expecting line-of-sight against that entire business service. With this type of accountable business reporting, we ensure a shared seat at the table with our customers in a way that is truly indicative of a partnership.
How do you keep pace with the changes? How does it directly impact your relationships?
Let’s take the cloud, for example. We've been in the cloud for a long time, and the reality is, it's made things more complex. IT organizations are now having to take a fresh look at how they leverage the cloud.
For Optanix, that means several things:
First, we need to provide a level of capability that allows customers to easily take advantage of our core capabilities around not only correlation, but also remediation for a broader set of disciplines within their environment. We've been repeatedly asked by partners and customers to help them solve for a broader set of issues, cloud included.
Toward that end, we’re continuing to work hard at developing technology that provides that level of capability out of the box. It’s extensible through a very robust set of APIs. We have the capability to ingest well beyond, say, Cisco environments.
We understand that the persona of our customers is varied. So, we’re going to continue to pull in a broader set of customer requirements and infrastructure. And we’ll do all this in a way that continuously allows us to align to their business with reporting, ease of use and administration.
Finally, it's working alongside our partners to help them develop services for their customers that are tailored to their respective core competencies. This could be around either verticalization or within specific disciplines in the IT environment. The customer organization may have core competencies in security, applications, or in a specific vendor-related type of deliverable. So, developing a services arm to coincide with our organization and enable service creation is a very critical piece of our strategy going forward.
"We're always going to be the company that people turn to for the most difficult things to solve."
– Mike Crest, CEO, Optanix
Mike, are you hearing from partners and end-customers that managed services can help them roll out new services more efficiently these days? Where are they looking for ROI that's causing them to jump in?
As I mentioned, a lot of what's going on in the industry is making things more complex – not easier. Much as we talk about the cloud and containers and all the stuff making things easier – it doesn't. It actually makes it more challenging, because you’re layering in more complexity.
Sure, you might have microservices embedded into a container, for example, that make your life easier as it relates to a particular application or situation. But the truth is, from a macro perspective, you're having to consider everything else you share in your environment. And how do you really, truly manage that in a holistic fashion? That's where it's getting to be more untenable.
We have situations with large, original equipment manufacturers that are unable to provide any level of correlation and root cause on their own applications within their own environment – on their own gear. And the problem is compounded by the fact that they're having to interoperate in a heterogeneous environment.
We're consistently brought into those discussions – it could be a security scenario or it could be specific to a vendor’s environment. We’re often asked to look at network and performance issues that organizations just can't quite get their arms around. That's typically where we're getting into it.
Clearly, we're always going to be the company that people turn to for the most difficult things to solve. Our heritage is rooted in that. What we typically see are things that – right, wrong or indifferent – our customers are often unable to dedicate the resources to really solve.
When we follow it back to the origination point of where the pain started, it’s often someone in the line of business that has said "I don't really feel like I'm getting value out of this." Or even, “my business is being compromised by the availability or reliability of these systems and applications."
Of course, some of it is cloaked in this idea of doing it for less. Oftentimes our partners can do it for less just because of their basic competencies. But those discussions typically begin because the fundamental equation – to deliver value to the business – has not been solved.
Based on this feedback and based on this direction of the market, what constitutes a good IT operations management platform in 2018?
You clearly can't always be all things to all people at the same time. A good IT operations platform is going to give organizations the ability to engineer their infrastructure – whether you call it DevOps or intent-based networking or whatever term you want to have today. They need to leverage a solution that enables them to support that – not only upon deployment, but also through ongoing operations.
Beyond that, it's this idea of having a solution that is extensible in nature. We live in an interoperable world. Whether it works with your IT Service Monitoring solution, or is able to contemplate security events, or simply work alongside other management forms, I think extensibility is critical to an IT Operations Management solution's success.
It must have robust APIs. It must have the capability of enabling an MSP to manage a multitude of customers highly efficiently, such that the ratio of devices to personnel continues to be highly productive. It's got to have the ability to deliver what we call a “clean signal.” That’s a time and money saver.
Today’s platforms are beginning to incorporate machine learning capabilities that enable advanced automation for applications such as discovery and topology mapping. They are also able to determine the inter-relationships between business services throughout a customer environment.
Finally, it’s being able to remediate through automation. That's a critical piece – ensuring that your solution, whatever it might be, enables you to automate a lot of the tasks that historically have been time and resource consuming.