Is It Time to Replace First Level IT Support with Artificial Intelligence?

When Pittsburgh woke up on September 14th, 2016, some lucky residents got to experience a first – hiring an Uber that drives itself. Admittedly, there were only four self-driving Uber cars on the road – and each car had a driver and engineer on board just in case. However, here’s the headline – these autonomous cars successfully navigated Pittsburgh traffic without anyone touching the controls.

In fact, autonomous vehicles are constantly in the headlines. It’s not just Uber – Google self-driving vehicles have clocked up more than 1.5 million test miles on the streets of Washington State, California, Texas and Arizona. And, companies such as Ford, General Motors, Tesla and others are all actively pursuing self-driving technology.

Intelligent Machines Are Changing Our Lives

Self-driving cars are part of a much bigger trend. Intelligent machines are starting to transform the way we live and work. It’s not just IBM’s Watson winning Jeopardy – artificial intelligence is making its way into healthcare, marketing, finance and other fields. For example, Swedbank’s Nina handles 30,000 conversations with banking customers every month, resolving 78% of inquiries on first contact. And, of course, there’s Siri and Cortana – it’s early days for these personal virtual assistants, but the future potential is enormous.

IT Operations Is Lagging Behind

The IT industry is the driving force behind autonomous technology and artificial intelligence. However, here’s the ironic thing – when it comes to managing IT technology itself, we’re missing the boat. We may automate some basic processes – such as resetting a password, provisioning a new virtual machine, or creating a new email account – but for anything more complex, IT still relies almost exclusively on human intelligence.

Nowhere is this more evident than with first-line support.

A Torrent of Disconnected Incidents

Think about a critical business service, such as a customer portal. When there’s an outage or performance issue, there’s no time to be lost – the service has to be restored right away. In an ideal world, a monitoring system would detect the issue and send a single, clear notification to support, making the issue easy to diagnose and remediate.

However, the reality is completely different. When a business service runs into trouble, multiple disconnected monitoring systems often report hundreds or even thousands of symptoms with no obvious root cause. In other cases, the symptoms are more subtle and are drowned out by an ongoing background noise of meaningless events. When this happens, service issues are routinely missed – the first indication that something is wrong comes when an end user complains.

First-Line Support Just Gets in the Way

The result? First-line support is drowning in a never-ending deluge of incidents. Worse still, these incidents are a complex mix of infrastructure issues, with no clear indication how they affect specific business services – or whether they affect any business service at all.

Because of this, first-line support can only resolve a few obvious incidents and has to pass the rest back to second-line support. They are reduced to providing basic triage, rather than providing an effective mechanism for getting business services back up and running quickly. They lack the skills to diagnose and remediate the root cause of complex business service issues – often just creating delays that lead to extended service impairments.

Replacing First-Line Support with Automated Intelligence

There’s a better way. Imagine replacing first-line support with intelligent technology that turns a vast number of infrastructure events into a small number of meaningful, actionable incidents for second-line support. This automated technology exists today – and our own experience at Optanix shows just how effective it is. By using machine intelligence, you can reduce event volumes by as much as 100,000 times – and get to the underlying reasons for business service issues in as little as seconds.

So, how does this intelligent approach work?

1. Intelligent Monitoring

It starts with intelligent monitoring. Rather than just passively reporting events, intelligent monitoring is active – it interacts with the IT environment to automatically carry out diagnostic tests and collect key information when it detects an issue. This goes far beyond the level of triage that a first-line support team can provide – delivering targeted, relevant information that makes it much easier for second-line support to pinpoint and resolve the root cause of business service issues.

2. Intelligent Pattern Recognition

It uses built-in intelligence to recognize spatial and temporal patterns in incoming events. By embedding a detailed knowledge of individual IT technologies – and how these are connected to deliver a specific business service – it can quickly pinpoint the root cause of a business service issue, while filtering out secondary symptoms. This also eliminates the constant, irrelevant background noise generated by the IT environment. Think of this as dozens of IT engineers in a box – with far more knowledge than typical first-line support staff.

3. Automated Remediation

Automated remediation is critical. By giving second-line support the automated orchestration tools they need to actually fix business service issues, IT organizations can dramatically accelerate resolution and minimize service downtime. Again, our experience at Optanix has shown that a combination of automated root cause analysis and automated remediation typically lowers average incident resolution times by 50%.

From Reactive to Proactive

Finally, there’s another key advantage of replacing first-line support with automated intelligence. First-line support is reactive, focusing on incidents that are affecting users right now. Faced with enormous incident volumes, limited time and limited skills, they have no other choice.

However, once users are affected, the damage is already done. Benjamin Franklin once said that an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure. IT organizations need to proactively prevent service issues, and that means detecting and resolving potential issues before there is a serious impact. Automated intelligence can do this – it has the time and it has the skills. Again, we’ve seen this in action at Optanix – by using this approach, up to 95% of service issues can be resolved proactively.

To find out more about how automated intelligence can accelerate your IT support processes and increase the quality of your business services, talk to Optanix today.

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“The Optanix single unified platform replaced multiple point tools, reducing the TCO.”