Monday, July 9, 2012

The Open Group and MIT experts detail new advances in ID management to help reduce cyber risk

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This BriefingsDirect thought leadership interview comes in conjunction with The Open Group Conference in Washington, D.C., beginning July 16. The conference will focus on enterprise architecture (EA), enterprise transformation, and securing global supply chains.

We're joined in advance by some of the main speakers at the July 16 conference to examine the relationship between controlled digital identities in cyber risk management. Our panel will explore how the technical and legal support of ID management best practices have been advancing rapidly. And we’ll see how individuals and organizations can better protect themselves through better understanding and managing of their online identities.

The panelists are Jim Hietala, the Vice President of Security at The Open Group; Thomas Hardjono, Technical Lead and Executive Director of the MIT Kerberos Consortium, and Dazza Greenwood, President of the consultancy, and lecturer at the MIT Media Lab. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: The Open Group is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What is ID management, and how does it form a fundamental component of cyber security?

Hietala: ID management is really the process of identifying folks who are logging onto computing services, assessing their identity, looking at authenticating them, and authorizing them to access various services within a system. It’s something that’s been around in IT since the dawn of computing, and it’s something that keeps evolving in terms of new requirements and new issues for the industry to solve.

Particularly as we look at the emergence of cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) services, you have new issues for users in terms of identity, because we all have to create multiple identities for every service we access.

You have issues for the providers of cloud and SaaS services, in terms of how they provision, where they get authoritative identity information for the users, and even for enterprises who have to look at federating identity across networks of partners. There are a lot of challenges there for them as well.

Key theme

Figuring out who is at the other end of that connection is fundamental to all of cyber security. As we look at the conference that we're putting on this month in Washington, D.C., a key theme is cyber security -- and identity is a fundamental piece of that.

You can look at things that are happening right now in terms of trojans, bank fraud, scammers, and attackers, wire transferring money out of company’s bank accounts and other things you can point to.

There are failures in their client security and the customer’s security mechanisms on the client devices, but I think there are also identity failures. They need new approaches for financial institutions to adopt to prevent some of those sorts of things from happening. I don’t know if I’d use the word "rampant," but they are clearly happening all over the place right now. So I think there is a high need to move quickly on some of these issues.
They need new approaches for financial institutions to adopt to prevent some of those sorts of things from happening.

Gardner: Are we at a plateau? Or has ID management been a continuous progression over the past decade?

Hardjono: So it’s been at least a decade since the industry began addressing identity and identity federation. Someone in the audience might recall Liberty Alliance, the Project Liberty in its early days.

One notable thing about the industry is that the efforts have been sort of piecemeal, and the industry, as a whole, is now reaching the point where a true correct identity is absolutely needed now in transactions in a time of so many so-called Internet scams.

Gardner: Dazza, is there a casual approach to this, or a professional need? By that, I mean that we see a lot of social media activities, Facebook for example, where people can have an identity and may or may not be verified. That’s sort of the casual side, but it sounds like what we’re really talking about is more for professional business or eCommerce transactions, where verification is important. In other words, is there a division between these two areas that we should consider before we get into it more deeply?

Greenwood: Rather than thinking of it as a division, a spectrum would be a more useful way to look at it. On one side, you have, as you mentioned, a very casual use of identity online, where it may be self-asserted. It may be that you've signed a posting or an email.

On the other side, of course, the Internet and other online services are being used to conduct very high value, highly sensitive, or mission-critical interactions and transactions all the time. When you get toward that spectrum, a lot more information is needed about the identity authenticating, that it really is that person, as Thomas was starting to foreshadow. The authorization, workflow permissions, and accesses are also incredibly important.

In the middle, you have a lot of gradations, based partly on the sensitivity of what’s happening, based partly on culture and context as well. When you have people who are operating within organizations or within contexts that are well-known and well-understood -- or where there is already a lot of not just technical, but business, legal, and cultural understanding of what happens -- if something goes wrong, there are the right kind of supports and risk management processes.

There are different ways that this can play out. It’s not always just a matter of higher security. It’s really higher confidence, and more trust based on a variety of factors. But the way you phrased it is a good way to enter this topic, which is, we have a spectrum of identity that occurs online, and much of it is more than sufficient for the very casual or some of the social activities that are happening.

Higher risk

But as the economy in our society moves into a digital age, ever more fully and at ever-higher speeds, much more important, higher risk, higher value interactions are occurring. So we have to revisit how it is that we have been addressing identity -- and give it more attention and a more careful design, instead of architectures and rules around it. Then we’ll be able to make that transition more gracefully and with less collateral damage, and really get to the benefits of going online.

Gardner: What’s happening to shore this up and pull it together? Let’s look at some of the big news.

Hietala: I think the biggest recent news is the US National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyber Space (NSTIC) initiative. It clearly shows that a large government, the United States government, is focused on the issue and is willing to devote resources to furthering an ID management ecosystem and construct for the future. To me that’s the biggest recent news.

At a crossroads

Greenwood: We're just now is at a crossroads where finally industry, government, and increasingly the populations in general, are understanding that there is a different playing field. In the way that we interact, the way we work, the way we do healthcare, the way we do education, the way our social groups cohere and communicate, big parts are happening online.

In some cases, it happens online through the entire lifecycle. What that means now is that a deeper approach is needed. Jim mentioned NSTIC as one of those examples. There are a number of those to touch on that are occurring because of the profound transition that requires a deeper treatment.

NSTIC is the US government’s roadmap to go from its piecemeal approach to a coherent architecture and infrastructure for identity within the United States. It could provide a great model for other countries as well.

People can reuse their identity, and we can start to address what you're talking about with identity and other people taking your ID, and more to the point, how to prove you are who you said you were to get that ID back. That’s not always so easy after identity theft, because we don’t have an underlying effective identity structure in the United States yet.

I just came back from the United Kingdom at a World Economic Forum meeting. I was very impressed by what their cabinet officers are doing with an identity-assurance scheme in large scale procurement. It's very consistent with the NSTIC approach in the United States. They can get tens of millions of their citizens using secure well-authenticated identities across a number of transactions, while always keeping privacy, security, and also individual autonomy at the forefront.
Practically everywhere you look, you see news and signs of this transition that’s occurring, an exciting time for people interested in identity.

There are a number of technology and business milestones that are occurring as well. Open Identity Exchange (OIX) is a great group that’s beginning to bring industry and other sectors together to look at their approaches and technology. We’ve had Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML). Thomas is co-chair of the PC, and that’s getting a facelift.

That approach was being brought to match scale with OpenID Connect, which is OpenID and OAuth. There are a great number of technology innovations that are coming online.

Legally, there are also some very interesting newsworthy harbingers. Some of it is really just a deeper usage of statutes that have been passed a few years ago -- the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, among others, in the US.

There is eSignature Directive and others in Europe and in the rest of the world that have enabled the use of interactions online and dealt with identity and signatures, but have left to the private sector and to culture which technologies, approaches, and solutions we’ll use.

Now, we're not only getting one-off solutions, but architectures for a number of different solutions, so that whole sectors of the economy and segments of society can more fully go online. Practically everywhere you look, you see news and signs of this transition that’s occurring, an exciting time for people interested in identity.

Gardner: What’s most new and interesting from your perspective on what’s being brought to bear on this problem, particularly from a technology perspective?

Two dimensions

Hardjono: It's along two dimensions. The first one is within the Kerberos Consortium. We have a number of people coming from the financial industry. They all have the same desire, and that is to scale their services to the global market, basically sign up new customers abroad, outside United States. In wanting to do so, they're facing a question of identity. How do we assert that somebody in a country is truly who they say they are.

The second, introduces a number of difficult technical problems. Closer to home and maybe at a smaller scale, the next big thing is user consent. The OpenID exchange and the OpenID Connect specifications have been completed, and people can do single sign-on using technology such as OAuth 2.0.

The next big thing is how can an attribute provider, banks, telcos and so on, who have data about me, share data with other partners in the industry and across the sectors of the industry with my expressed consent in a digital manner.

Gardner: Tell us a bit about the MIT Core ID approach and how this relates to the Jericho Forum approach.

Greenwood: I would defer to Jim of The Open Group to speak more authoritatively on Jericho Forum, which is a part of Open Group. But, in general, Jericho Forum is a group of experts in the security field from industry and, more broadly, who have done some great work in the past on deperimeterized security and some other foundational work.
With a lot of the solutions in the market, your different aspects of life, unintentionally sometimes or even counter-intentionally, will merge.

In the last few years, they've been really focused on identity, coming to realize that identity is at the center of what one would have to solve in order to have a workable approach to security. It's necessary, but not sufficient, for security. We have to get that right.

To their credit, they've come up with a remarkably good list of simple understandable principles, that they call the Jericho Forum Identity Commandments, which I strongly commend to everybody to read.

It puts forward a vision of an approach to identity, which is very constant with an approach that I've been exploring here at MIT for some years. A person would have a core ID identity, a core ID, and could from that create more than one persona. You may have a work persona, an eCommerce persona, maybe a social and social networking persona and so on. Some people may want a separate political persona.

You could cluster all of the accounts, interactions, services, attributes, and so forth, directly related to each of those to those individual personas, but not be in a situation where we're almost blindly backing into right now. With a lot of the solutions in the market, your different aspects of life, unintentionally sometimes or even counter-intentionally, will merge.

Good architecture

Sometimes, that’s okay. Sometimes, in fact, we need to be able to have an inability to separate different parts of life. That’s part of privacy and can be part of security. It's also just part of autonomy. It's a good architecture. So Jericho Forum has got the commandments.

Many years ago, at MIT, we had a project called the Identity Embassy here in the Media Lab, where we put forward some simple prototypes and ideas, ways you could do that. Now, with all the recent activity we mentioned earlier toward full-scale usage of architectures for identity in US with NSTIC and around the world, we're taking a stronger, deeper run at this problem.

Thomas and I have been collaborating across different parts of MIT. I'm putting out what we think is a very exciting and workable way that you can in a high security manner, but also quite usably, have these core identifiers or individuals and inextricably link them to personas, but escape that link back to the core ID, and from across the different personas, so that you can get the benefits when you want them, keeping the personas separate.

Also it allows for many flexible business models and other personalization and privacy services as well, but we can get into that more in the fullness of time. But, in general, that’s what’s happening right now and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Hardjono: For a global infrastructure for core identities to be able to develop, we definitely need collaboration between the governments of the world and the private sector. Looking at this problem, we were searching back in history to find an analogy, and the best analogy we could find was the rollout of a DNS infrastructure and the IP address assignment.
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It's not perfect and it's got its critics, but the idea is that you could split blocks of IP addresses and get it sold and resold by private industry, really has allowed the Internet to scale, hitting limitations, but of course IPv6 is on the horizon. It's here today.

So we were thinking along the same philosophy, where core identifiers could be arranged in blocks and handed out to the private sector, so that they can assign, sell it, or manage it on behalf of people who are Internet savvy, and perhaps not, such as my mom. So we have a number of challenges in that phase.

Gardner: Does this relate to the MIT Model Trust Framework System Rules project?

Greenwood: The Model Trust Framework System Rules project that we are pursuing in MIT is a very important aspect of what we're talking about. Thomas and I talked somewhat about the technical and practical aspects of core identifiers and core identities. There is a very important business and legal layer within there as well.

So these trust framework system rules are ways to begin to approach the complete interconnected set of dimensions necessary to roll out these kinds of schemes at the legal, business, and technical layers.
What’s really missing is the business models, business cases, and of course the legal side.

They come from very successful examples in the past, where organizations have federated ID with more traditional approaches such as SAML and other approaches. There are some examples of those trust framework system rules at the business, legal, and technical level available.

Right now it’s, and soon, when we have our model MIT under Creative Commons approach, we'll take a lot of the best of what’s come before codified in a rational way. Business, legal, and technical rules can really be aligned in a more granular way to fit well, and put out a model that we think will be very helpful for the identity solutions of today that are looking at federate according to NSTIC and similar models. It absolutely would be applicable to how at the core identity persona underlying architecture and infrastructure that Thomas, I, and Jericho Forum are postulating could occur.

Hardjono: Looking back 10-15 years, we engineers came up with all sorts of solutions and standardized them. What’s really missing is the business models, business cases, and of course the legal side.

How can a business make revenue out of the management of identity-related aspects, management of attributes, and so on and how can they do so in such a manner that it doesn’t violate the user’s privacy. But it’s still user-centric in the sense that the user needs to give consent and can withdraw consent and so on. And trying to develop an infrastructure where everybody is protected.

Gardner: The Open Group, being a global organization focused on the collaboration process behind the establishment of standards, it sounds like these are some important aspects that you can bring out to your audience, and start to create that collaboration and discussion that could lead to more fuller implementation. Is that the plan, and is that what we're expecting to hear more of at the conference next month?

Hietala: It is the plan, and we do get a good mix at our conferences and events of folks from all over the world, from government organizations and large enterprises as well. So it tends to be a good mixing of thoughts and ideas from around the globe on whatever topic we're talking about -- in this case identity and cyber security.

At the Washington Conference, we have a mix of discussions. The kick-off one is a fellow by the name Joel Brenner who has written a book, America the Vulnerable, which I would recommend. He was inside the National Security Agency (NSA) and he's been involved in fighting a lot of the cyber attacks. He has a really good insight into what's actually happening on the threat and defending against the threat side. So that will be a very interesting discussion. [Read an interview with Joel Brenner.]

Then, on Monday, we have conference presentations in the afternoon looking at cyber security and identity, including Thomas and Dazza presenting on some of the projects that they’ve mentioned.

Cartoon videos

Then, we're also bringing to that event for the first time, a series of cartoon videos that were produced for the Jericho Forum. They describe a lot of the commandments that Dazza mentioned in a more approachable way. So they're hopefully understandable to laymen, and folks with not as much understanding about all the identity mechanisms that are out there. So, yeah, that’s what we are hoping to do.

Gardner: Perhaps we could now better explain what NSTIC is and does?

Greenwood: The best person to speak about NSTIC in the United States right now is probably President Barrack Obama, because he is the person that signed the policy. Our president and the administration has taken a needed, and I think a very well-conceived approach, to getting industry involved with other stakeholders in creating the architecture that’s going to be needed for identity for the United States and as a model for the world, and also how to interact with other models.
In general, NSTIC is a strategy document and a roadmap for how a national ecosystem can emerge.

Jeremy Grant is in charge of the program office and he is very accessible. So if people want more information, they can find Jeremy online easily in at And also has more information.

In general, NSTIC is a strategy document and a roadmap for how a national ecosystem can emerge, which is comprised of a governing body. They're beginning to put that together this very summer, with 13 different stakeholders groups, each of which would self-organize and elect or appoint a person -- industry, government, state and local government, academia, privacy groups, individuals -- which is terrific -- and so forth.

That governance group will come up with more of the details in terms of what the accreditation and trust marks look like, the types of technologies and approaches that would be favored according to the general principles I hope everyone reads within the NSTIC document.

At a lower level, Congress has appropriated more than $10 million to work with the White House for a number of pilots that will be under a million half dollars each for a year or two, where individual proof of concept, technologies, or approaches to trust frameworks will be piloted and put out into where they can be used in the market.

In general, by this time two months from now, we’ll know a lot more about the governing body, once it’s been convened and about the pilots once those contracts have been awarded and grants have been concluded. What we can say right now is that the way it’s going to come together is with trust framework system rules, the same exact type of entity that we are doing a model of, to help facilitate people's understanding and having templates and well-thought through structures that they can pull down and, in turn, use as a starting point.

Circle of trust

o industry-by-industry, sector-by-sector, but also what we call circle of trust by circle of trust. Folks will come up with their own specific rules to define exactly how they will meet these requirements. They can get a trust mark, be interoperable with other trust framework consistent rules, and eventually you'll get a clustering of those, which will lead to an ecosystem.

The ecosystem is not one size fits all. It’s a lot of systems that interoperate in a healthy way and can adapt and involve over time. A lot more, as I said, is available on and, and it's exciting times. It’s certainly the best government document I have ever read. I'll be so very excited to see how it comes out.

Gardner: What’s coming down the pike that’s going to make this yet more important?

Hietala: I would turn to the threat and attacks side of the discussion and say that, unfortunately, we're likely to see more headlines of organizations being breached, of identities being lost, stolen, and compromised. I think it’s going to be more bad news that's going to drive this discussion forward. That’s my take based on working in the industry and where it’s at right now.

Hardjono: I mentioned the user consent going forward. I think this is increasingly becoming an important sort of small step to address and to resolve in the industry and efforts like the User Managed Access (UMA) working group within the Kantara Initiative.

Folks are trying to solve the problem of how to share resources. How can I legitimately not only share my photos on Flickr with data, but how can I allow my bank to share some of my attributes with partners of the bank with my consent. It’s a small step, but it’s a pretty important step.

Greenwood: Keep your eyes on UMA out of Kantara. Keep looking at OASIS, as well, and the work that’s coming with SAML and some of the Model Trust Framework System Rules.

Most important thing

In my mind the most strategically important thing that will happen is OpenID Connect. They're just finalizing the standard now, and there are some reference implementations. I'm very excited to work with MIT, with our friends and partners at MITRE Corporation and elsewhere.

That’s going to allow mass scales of individuals to have more ready access to identities that they can reuse in a great number of places. Right now, it's a little bit catch-as-catch-can. You’ve got your Google ID or Facebook, and a few others. It’s not something that a lot of industries or others are really quite willing to accept to understand yet.

They've done a complete rethink of that, and use the best lessons learned from SAML and a bunch of other federated technology approaches. I believe this one is going to change how identity is done and what’s possible.

They’ve done such a great job on it, I might add It fits hand in glove with the types of Model Trust Framework System Rules approaches, a layer of UMA on top, and is completely consistent with the architecture rights, with a future infrastructure where people would have a Core ID and more than one persona, which could be expressed as OpenID Connect credentials that are reusable by design across great numbers of relying parties getting where we want to be with single sign-on.
So it's exciting times. If it's one thing you have to look at, I’d say do a Google search and get updates on OpenID Connect and watch how that evolves.
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Roundtable: Revlon and SAP executives describe accretive benefits from aggressive cloud adoption

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: VMware.

The latest BriefingsDirect roundtable discussion focuses on two prime examples of organizations that have gleaned huge benefits from high degrees of virtualization and aggressive cloud computing adoption.

Join here executives from Revlon and SAP, who recently participated in a VMware-organized media roundtable event in San Francisco. The event, attended by industry analysts and journalists, demonstrated how mission-critical applications supported by advanced virtualization strategies are transforming businesses.

The discussion examines the full implications of IT virtualization, and how accretive benefits are being realized -- from bringing speed to business requests, to enhancing security, to strategic disaster recovery (DR), and to unprecedented agility in creating and exploiting applications and data delivery value.

Our guests are David Giambruno, Senior Vice President and CIO of Revlon, and Heinz Roggenkemper, Executive Vice President of Development at SAP Labs. The chat is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: What's going on with your internal cloud at SAP, and why is the speed and agility so important for you?

Roggenkemper: If you look at SAP, you find literally thousands of development systems. You find a lot of training systems. You find systems that support sales activities for pre-sales. You find systems that support our consulting organization in developing customer solutions.

From a developer's perspective, the first order of business is to get access to a system fast. Developers, by themselves, don’t care that much about cost. They want the system and they want it now. For development managers and management in general, it’s a different story.

For training, it's important that the systems are reliable and available. Of course again for management, it's the cost perspective. For people in custom development, they need the right system quickly to build up the correct environment for the particular project that they're working on.

Better supported

lso these requirements are much better supported in the virtualized environment than they were before. We can give them the system quickly. We can give them the systems reliably. We can give them the systems with good performance, and from a corporate perspective, do it at a much better cost than we did before.

Our business agility and ability to respond to market drivers is greatly improved by this.

Gardner: How does the training application demonstrate some of the more productive aspects of cloud?

Roggenkemper: The most interesting part about that is that you don’t need a vanilla system, but a system that is prepared for a particular class, which has the correct set of data. You need a system that can be reset to a controlled stage very quickly after the end of a training class, so that it’s ready for the next training class.

So there are two aspects to it. One is the reliable infrastructure on which the systems run, and second part is to get the correct system for that particular class ready in a short period of time.

Gardner: Are there unintended consequences or unintended benefits that come from this cloud model?

One is the reliable infrastructure on which the systems run, and second part is to get the correct system for that particular class ready in a short period of time

Roggenkemper: The thing that comes to my mind is that it allows us to take advantage of new computing infrastructure more quickly. We reduce the use of power, which is always a good thing.

Gardner: This idea of agility when producing these applications proves this concept of IT as a service. Do you see it that way?

Roggenkemper: Absolutely. And obviously, what we use internally benefits our customers as well. To have these systems available in a much shorter period of time for the customer’s development environment is as important for them as it is for us.

Future plans

Gardner: And a question about future plans. It sounds as if this works for you. Then the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) approach of delivering entire client environments with apps, data, and full configuration would be a natural progression. Is that something that you're looking at or perhaps you're already doing?

Roggenkemper: Some things we're already doing, We have a hefty set of terminal services in our environment, as well, which people, especially if they are on the road or work from home, take full advantage of.

Gardner: David, I was very interested to hear you say that advances in pervasive virtualization and cloud methods are transforming how IT operates, giving you the ability of, as you said, saying "yes" when your business leaders come calling. What have you have been able to say "yes" to that exemplifies this shift in IT?

Giambruno: We've increased our project throughput over the past couple of years by 300. So my job is to say, "yes." I'm just here to help. I'm a service. Services are supposed to deliver. What this cloud ecosystem has delivered for us is our ability to say yes and get more done faster, better, cheaper.

The correlating effect of that is we have seen not only this massive increase in our ability to deliver projects for the business, because that’s really what business alignment is. I do what they want and I give them some counsel along the way.

The second piece is that we've seen a 70 percent reduction in the time it takes us to deliver applications, because we have all of these applications available to us in the task and development site which is part of our DR.

So this ability to move massive amounts of information where everything is just the file, bring that up and let our development teams at it, has added this whole speed, accuracy, and ability to deliver back to the business.

It’s probably easier to quantify it this way. We have 531 applications running on our internal cloud. Our internal cloud makes roughly 15,000 automated application moves a month. Our transaction rate is roughly 14,000 transactions a second. Our data change rate is between 17 and 30 terabytes a week. Over 90 percent of our corporate workload sits on our internal cloud, and it runs most of our footprint globally.

Gardner: We're talking about mission-critical apps here -- ERP, manufacturing, warehousing, business intelligence. Did you start with mission-critical apps or did you end up there? How did you progress?

Trust, but verify

Giambruno: I have a couple of "isms" that I live by. The first one is “Crawl, Walk, Run” and the second one is “Trust, but Verify.” When we started our journey roughly five years ago, we started with "Crawl" -- very much "Crawl" and “Trust – but Verify.” At Revlon, we didn’t spend any more to put this in. We changed how we spent our money.

We were going through a server refresh, and instead of buying all the servers, we only bought roughly 20 percent. With the balance of that money, we bought the VMware licenses. We started putting in our storage area network (SAN), and although core component pieces, and we took some of our low-hanging fruit file systems and started moving all that.

As we did that, we started sharing with the business. We showed them what we're doing and that it still worked. Then, we started the walk phase of putting applications on it. We actually ran north of six nines.

System availability went up. Performance went up. And after this "Crawl Walk Run," "Trust and Verify," it became "Just keep Going." We accelerated the whole process and we have these things that we call "fuzzies," things that we can do for the business that they weren't expecting. Every couple of months, we would start delivering new capabilities.

One of the big things that we did was that we internalized all our DR. We kept taking external money that we were spending and were able to give it back to the business and essentially invest in ourselves, because at Revlon I'm not going to be a profit center.

We kept taking external money that we were spending and were able to give it back to the business and essentially invest in ourselves.

For Revlon, the more money R&D has to develop new products to get to our consumers and for marketing to tell that product story and get it out to our channels and use the media to talk about our glamorous products, that really drives growth in Revlon.

What we've done is focused on those things, taking the complexity out, but delivering capability to the business while either avoiding or saving money that that the business can now use to grow.

Gardner: You've been able to keep your costs at or below the previous levels. Do you credit that to virtualization, to cloud, to the entire modernization?

Giambruno: To me it’s the interaction of the entire ecosystem. It is a system. Virtualization is a huge part of that. That’s where all it started. As you look through the transition, it's really been interesting. I'm going to segue back to the saying yes pieces and what it’s allowed us to be.

We have this thing called Oneness. I always talk about being the Southwest [Airlines] of computing, and I live inside of very simple triangle. The triangle has three sides, obviously. One side is our application inventory, the other side is our infrastructure capabilities, and the other side is my skill-sets.

Saying yes

f you're inside that space I can say yes, very quickly. What’s happened inside that space helped us contain cost . When we first started work, our ratio was one physical to seven virtual. A couple years later, we're at 1:35. It’s roughly a 500 percent increase in capacity without any commensurate cost. I give credit to my team for owning the technology and for wielding the technology for the benefit of the business and to get the most out of it.

The frame of reference to keep ourselves grounded is that we make lipstick, and it’s really how much money we can save and how well we can wield that technology to deliver value and do more with less. That’ll enable our company to grow.

We love simplicity and we have this Southwest computing model of taking a very complex ecosystem and making it simple to use. To a large degree it's kind of like an iPad, where the business wants to touch it, but they don’t care what’s going on underneath.

It's our job to deliver that, to deliver that experience and capability back to the business, without them having to think about it. I just want them to ask that we’re here to help and that we can figure a way to deliver it and keep exercising our technical capabilities to wield the technology to do more.

Gardner: What are some of the upsides on the data when it comes to this ecosystem approach?

Giambruno: One of the things that we have is a big gestalt after our cloud was live. We literally had all of our data in one place.

One of the big challenges historically was that we had all these applications geographically dispersed. The ability to touch them, feel them, get access, access controls, all of these things were monumentally challenging. In Revlon, as we went to the Southwest or Oneness model, we organized globally our access controls and those little things.

So when we had all this data and all these applications now sitting at one place, with our ability to look at them and understand them, we started a fairly big effort for our master data model. We’re structuring our data on the way in So when we're trying to query the data, we already know where it is and what it does in its relationships, instead of trying to mine through unstructured data and make reasoning out of it. It’s been this big data structure.

I’d say we "chewed glass." We spent a couple of years chewing glass, structuring all this data, because the change rate is so big, but there's value in information to the business. I joke, if you've missed at this, we’re in the information age. So how well we can wield our information and give our leadership team information to act on is a differentiator. The ability to do this big data and this master data model has been really what we see as the golden egg going forward, the thing that can really make a difference with the business.

Symbiotic relationship

Gardner: How does disaster recovery (DR) play into this larger set of values?

Giambruno: We’ve actually done this. No one was hurt, but last year, our factory in Venezuela burned. It was on a Sunday afternoon and they had what we call a drib. If you look at VMware architecture, they have data center in a box. I always joke that we’re years ahead of them in that. We use dribs, strategically placed throughout the world where we push capacity to for our cloud. They largely run dark.

So our drib "phoned home" that it was getting hot. We were notified that the building was on fire. It took us an hour and 45 minutes, and most of that time was finding one of my global storage guys who was at the beach. We found Ben, and got him to do his part, which was to tell the cloud to move from Venezuela to our disaster site in New Jersey.

So we joke that our model in DR is that we just copy everything. We don’t even think about tiering or anything. It’s this model, sometimes a Casio is just better than a Rolex. Simplicity rules, and not thinking about it ensures that we have all the data available. Again, it goes back to our cloud and virtualization. Everything is just a file. We just copy the deltas all the time. We never stop.

For us it was available in less than 15 minutes. We went in, we broke the synchronization, we made sure everything was up-to-date, and we told our F5s and our info blocks that Venezuela is now New Jersey. Everything swung, we got everything in, we contacted the business units to test everything and verify everything.

It's this whole idea of simplicity, where you're just not putting the complexity into the system.

Then we brought up all the virtual desktops and we used Riverbed mobile devices. We e-mailed their client to everyone. So people either worked from home or we had some very good partners that gave us some office space where people could use the computers. They loaded the Riverbed mobile devices on those computers. They brought the virtual desktops, people went to work, and the business didn’t go away.

This is a real-world example of how you can do it, and it wasn't a lot of effort. It's this whole idea of simplicity, where you're just not putting the complexity into the system. I always go back to this iPad view of the world, where the business just wants to know what's available and we will do the rest underneath.

This high degree of virtualization lets us move all of this data around the world, and it's for DR, development, and a myriad of capabilities that we keep finding new ways to use this capability.

Redundancy and expense

And some of the other unintended consequences are interesting. You talk about redundancy and expense. Two is one and one is none in a data center. Do you really need to be fully redundant, because if something happens we'll just switch to the other data center?

I only need one core switch or whatever. You start to challenge all these old precepts of up-time, because it's almost cheaper for me or less-expensive. I can just roll the computer over here for a little while. I get that fixed, if I have a four-hour service-level agreement (SLA) with my vendors for repairs.

You can start to question a lot of the “old ways of doing things” or what was the standard in figuring out new ways to operate. One of the interesting things I love about my job is you can question yourself and figure out what you can do next.

Gardner: Tell us about this extended business-process value that you're starting to explore.

Giambruno: One of the things we realized is that we could start extending our cloud. We spend a lot of time managing security and VPNs, and the audits that have to go around that.

At the end of the day, it's about collaboration with our community of vendors and suppliers, and enabling them to interact with us easily.

If I could just push out a piece of my application or make that available to them, they could update their data, reduce the number of APIs, the number of connections, all of that complexity that goes out there, and extend our MDM.

Then we can interface our MDM through our cloud to do some of this translation for us that they can enter data, or we can take it from their systems, from our cloud edge securely and in context and bring that back into our systems.

We think there are huge possibilities around automating and simplifying. But at the end of the day, it's about collaboration with our community of vendors and suppliers, and enabling them to interact with us easily.

So you're always trying to foster those relationships and get whatever synergies you can. If we make it easier on them to interact with us from a system’s perspective, it just makes everybody happier. We've got some projects slated for deployment this year. Maybe in a year, if you come back, I can tell you how well we’ve done or what we’ve done. But one of the things that we are looking is we can think really change how we operate as a company.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: VMware.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

HP Expert Chat explores how Insight Remote Support and Insight Online bring automation, self-solving capabilities to IT problems

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IT must do whatever it takes to make businesses lean, agile, and intelligent. Modern support services then too need to be able to empower the workers and IT personnel alike to maintain peak control of systems, and to keep the applications, data and processes performing reliably at lowest cost.

Not only are data centers supporting many types of converged infrastructure, and now increasingly virtualized technical workloads, too. They're supporting big data requirements -- as data continues to explode -- but they must do this all efficiently, with increased automation as a key component of that efficiency.

To accomplish this high efficiency and to exploit the best in performance management and operational governance, enterprises must move now toward proactive types of support -- to continue the ongoing improvement and to maintain systems with high expectations met.

In a special sponsored HP Expert Chat discussion on new approaches to data center support, remote support, and support automation, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, recently moderated an in-depth session with Tommaso Esmanech, Director of Automation Strategies at HP Technology Services.

Esmanech, with more than 16 years of HP IT support design experience, explained the latest on how HP is revolutionizing support to offer new innovations in support automation and efficiency. HP is redefining modern data-center support, enabling far more insights into performance and operation by placing a proactive edge on service and support capabilities.

The discussion was filled out by contributions from two other HP support experts, Andy Claiborne, Usability Lead for HP Insight Remote Support, and Paddy Medley, Director of Enterprise Business IT for HP Technology Services.

Here are some excerpts:
Esmanech: Our intent is to automate entire support processes, eliminate minor work, and improve production and activities for the entire enterprise. This involves finding solutions for software and hardware, and making hardware and software work seamlessly together by providing a best-in-class customer experience.

What we need to understand is that the world is changing. Customers are using devices that now are providing a new, innovative experience. Their front end is becoming easier. Customers demand integrated capabilities and are requesting a seamless experience, though the back end, the data center, is still complex, articulated, and provided by multiple vendors.

You have network storage and management software that needs to start working together. We began a the journey about 18 months ago in HP to make that change, and we’ve called it Converged Infrastructure. HP took on the journey, mostly because we're the only provider in the industry that provides all the components to make the data center run seamlessly. We're the only provider for data-center network solutions, storage, servers, and management software.

Let’s put this in context of support automation. When you have hardware and software working together and you’re supplying services within that chemistry, you achieve a powerful position for customers. Furthermore, if you're able to automate the entire support and service process, you provide a win-win situation for you, our customers, our HP partners, and for HP, of course.

When you have hardware and software working together and you’re supplying services within that chemistry, you achieve a powerful position for customers.

Support automation

Support used to be very manual. A lot of the activities used to reside on site where a very qualified workforce, customer engineers and system engineers, would interact to resolve and manage situations.

In the early '90s, we saw a change with infrastructure support moving from decentralized to centralized global and regional centers, moving routine activities into those centers and providing a new role for the customer engineers by focusing on value-added infrastructure and capabilities.

In the '90s, we saw the explosion of the Internet. The basic task was to move to the Web sales, service, our system knowledge base, chat, support cases and case management. A lot of these activities were still manual, relying on human factor activities, to determine the root cause of a problem.

In 2000, we saw more growth of machine-to-machine diagnostics. Now, imagine that we can completely revolutionize that experience. We can integrate the entire delivery support processes, leveraging the machine experience, incorporating that with customer options of all the information with the customer in control, and really blending a remote support, onsite, phone, Web and machine-to-machine into a new automated experience. We believe that unimaginable efficiency can be achieved.

Gardner: As we talk about support automation, how is this actually reaching the customer? How do these technologies get into the sites where they’re needed, and what are some of the proof points that this is making an impact?

Intelligent devices

Esmanech: It starts with how we build intelligence and connectivity into the devices. You probably followed the announcement in February of our new ProLiant servers, our Gen8 Servers.

We have basically embedded more support capabilities into the DNA. We call it Insight Online. As of December 2012, we will be able to support in a similar fashion the existing installed base. This provides the customer a truly one-stop-shop experience for the entire IT data center.

Now that it is easier to utilize and take advantage of an automated support infrastructure, what are the key points? You don't have to make, or necessarily have to make, a phone call. You don't have to wait for a document provide a description. All those activities are automated, because the machine tells us how it’s feeling and what is its health status.

Furthermore, if we compare our support infrastructure to standard human interaction and technical support, we've seen a 66 percent improvement in problem resolution. All these numbers are great for your business.

How much does it cost in downtime? What if your individual servers are impacting your factory? For us, it's about keeping your systems up and running, making sure that you meet the customer commitments, and delivering your products on time.

If we compare our support infrastructure to standard human interaction and technical support, we've seen a 66 percent improvement in problem resolution.

With Insight Online, accessible through the Web, we now provide secure, personalized anytime/anywhere access to the information. We're totally changing the dynamics from few who had access to those who need to have access to the information. That reduces high learning times that were necessary before, and moves to the user-friendly, innovative, and integrated content that our customers are requesting.

Furthermore, Insight Online is integrated in real-time with a back end. It's not just a report or dashboard of information that is routinely updated. It truly becomes a management tool, when you can view the infrastructure.

One of the other key aspects with Insight Online, this new Web experience, is that we didn’t want to create a new portal. We had made a conscious decision in integrating it with the existing capabilities that you're using to do basic support tasks like accessing a knowledge base, downloading drivers and patches, downloading documentation, and making the infrastructure run seamlessly. The access to the information has to be seamless.

We've also leveraged HP Passport, the identification methodology that you use within your HP experience, providing one infrastructure and not multiple access points.

Gardner: Tommaso, can you give us a bit more detail about how it all comes together, the server management and the support experience?

Customer connectivity

Esmanech: It starts with the connectivity on the customer side. We have a new Gen8 with embedded DNA that directly connects to the HP back end through Insight Remote Support. Through Insight Remote Support, we're able to collect information and provide alerts about events, warranty, case-management status, and collect all the information necessary for us to deliver on the customer commitments.

In this new version, we've embedded new functions. For example, we allow you to provide identification on the HP service partner that is working on managing your environment. It could be HP, or it could be a certified HP service partner. We have authentication through HP Passport that allows and permits access to the information on Insight Online. Last but not least, we've been able to achieve a faster installation process, eliminating a lot of those hurdles that made it more difficult. It's now significantly easier to adopt Insight Online.

What's important to recognize is that as we collected the bulk of knowledge and information on how these patches are performing, Insight Remote Support does role matching and event correlation.

It not only provides, as we say, traffic-light alerts. You're able to correlate an event with other events to propose a multipurpose action and, in the end, trigger the appropriate delivery and support processes. For example, we can automatically send the right part to you in case you need to manage the device. We link with the standard support processes.

When information is flowing from the customer side into HP support, they have access to the customer in Insight Online. We have access to a customer through our dashboard. This provides alerts and information about how the devices are performing and automatically links warranties. It informs the staff of when they're going to expire, so you can take more proactive actions about renewing it. They also automatically link support cases to events, and with one click, you can navigate to the website.

We have access to a customer through our dashboard. This provides alerts and information about how the devices are performing.

One new feature of Insight Online is access for our HP partners. I talked about having to identify a partner that is actually working on the device? What we have is now a new partner view, again, through HP servers and Insight Online. This uses a new tab called My Customers, and now others can be part of the entire interaction by being able to manage devices on behalf of the customer.

You don’t have to install any of your own software. You don’t have to develop it. We are providing the tools to be more productive, right from the start, by installing the HP server, HP infrastructure, data network storage, and giving you new tools to give you more efficiency.

HP Support Center with Insight Online also provides access to multiple users. You could be an account manager, managing infrastructure, who is going to meet the customer and you want to talk about that infrastructure, how it's performing. You log onto Insight Online and review the information.

Your HP partner can automatically view the information before even going on site and taking actions on a customer device. You will have everything accessible. If users complain that the infrastructure is not performing, you will view the management software and know what is actually going on.

You can actually gain that without having to be in the environment. It is kind of giving the life back, that is the way I would like you to see. Now, let’s also look at this in terms of security. You have information flowing from your data center back into HP and now accessible online.

Security and privacy

First of all, security and privacy are extremely important. We actually compare our privacy policy against all the countries that we do business in. Security is highly scrutinized. We've been audited and certified for our security, and it’s extremely important for us to take care of your security concerns.

Gardner: Tommaso, one of the things I hear quite a bit from folks is that they’re trying to understand how this all works in a fairly complex environment, with many people involved with support. There are individuals working on the customer IT infrastructure internally, self-maintainers as well.

But they’re also relying on partners, and there are other vendors across other devices and equipment and technologies involved. So how does the support automation capability that you have been describing address and manage a fairly fragmented support environment like that?

Esmanech: It is indeed one of the questions we asked ourselves, when we started looking at how do we solve today's problem? How do we give something more than just management software? It’s all about the users that need to access the information.

As I said before, access through a management console is limited to the few that can have access to that environment, because they're within the network or they have the knowledge how to use the tools. With the new experience, by providing cloud-based service in support automation, we're able to provide tools to the customer to enable access to the right people to do the right job.

We've created a new portfolio of services that is taking advantage of this new knowledge and infrastructure to provide new value to the customer.

HP shares devices or views devices or groups of devices with multiple users through the Web-based capabilities that we have with Insight Online. The customers then create groups. Also all customers manage. So you're in control of setting up those groups, saying who has the right to view the information and what he is able to do with such information.

Another important aspect is the security when employees move on. It's part of life. You have somebody working for you, and tomorrow he’s going to move to another organization. You don’t want that individual to have access to your information any longer. So we've given the ability to control who is accessing information and eventually removing the user's right to go into HP Support Center Insight Online and see your environment. So it’s not only providing access, but also controlling access.

Let me take another look how things are changing. We have this easy-to-adopt Insight Remote Support. You have this new access methodology and you have all this knowledge, information, and content flowing from the customer environment into the hands of the right people to keep the system up and running.

If you are under warranty, which is the minimal requirement to take advantage of this infrastructure, you still have a self-solve capability. You have to figure out what you have to do in some cases. While there's information provided, it's still up to you.

We've created a new portfolio of services that is taking advantage of this new knowledge and infrastructure to provide new value to the customer.

Proactive care

n the technology side, we need to look at proactive care service. First of all, a technical account manager is assigned as a single point of contact for the software. Several components and reports are sent or made available to the customer. Incorporated incident reports are reviewed with a technical account manager.

This allows them to decide configuration, performance, and security, match it against best practices. It allows them to understand what is the current version of software to keep the infrastructure up and running at the optimal level.

I want to close with few takeaways. First of all, products and services have come together to provide an innovative and exciting user experience, helping to guarantee a 24x7 coverage, and providing access to anywhere/anytime cloud-based and secure support, while managing who can receive such information.

We've embedded this also with a new portfolio to take advantage of old HP expertise and knowhow. Now, partners, customers, and HP experts work together to dramatically increase uptime and achieve efficiency at 66 percent.

Products and services have come together to provide an innovative and exciting user experience, helping to guarantee a 24x7 coverage.

Gardner: Paddy Medley, what about licensing. Do we use the full functions of iLO 4 and the new HP SIM without any licensing issues?

Medley: The good news is, Dana, is that what we’re trying to do with the solution here is to make it as pervasive as possible and to eliminate licensing issues. HP SIM is essentially a product attribute. Once a customer purchases a storage server from HP or they’ve got such device that’s under service contracts, they are actually entitled to HP SIM by default.

With iLO, iLO really comes in two formats, the standard format and advanced format. The standard format is effectively free, and the advanced format is for fee. The advanced format has additional facilities, such as supporting virtual media, directory support, and so on.

Gardner: We have a question here directed at Insight Remote Support. It’s about the software. They're asking, is it included, and is it difficult to install?

Medley: The preface of the first answer applies to this answer as well. What we’ve done with our overall solution is make it as easy to install as possible for the huge amount of human factor effort in behind that. At its most basic level, what’s required is Insight Remote Support software, and that needs to be installed on a Windows-based system or a VMware guest or Windows guest. That’s pretty pervasive.

The actual install process is pretty straightforward and very intuitive. As I said, it's an area where we’ve gone through extensive human factors to make that as easy as possible to install.

The actual install process is pretty straightforward and very intuitive.

The other part of that is if the customer has Insight Manager already installed, they'll actually inherit its features, and there is an integration point there. For instance, if Insight Manager has already discovered a number of devices on the customer’s environments, we’ll inherit those with Insight Remote Support, and for pertinent events occurring in those systems, we’ll try to trace them through Insight Manager into Insight Remote Support and back to HP.

Gardner: Andy Claiborne, as users are working to modernize their infrastructure and virtualize their environment, they'd like to implement support automation like Insight Remote Support, but they feel the cost is too high. What does it cost to implement this?

Claiborne: Previous versions of Insight Remote Support were very challenging to get installed, especially at large customer sites. Trying to address that has been one of the key features that we've been trying to bake into our latest release of our support automation tools.

If you have just a couple of Gen8 ProLiants that you want to deploy in your environment and support using our support automation solutions, those systems are able to connect directly to HP, and that capability is just baked into their firmware. So it's really straightforward to set those up.

Hosting device

If you have a bunch of legacy devices in your environment, you’d have to set up what we call a hosting device, which is one system that sits in your environment that listens to all of your devices and sends service events back to HP. For our latest release, we've dramatically reduced the amount of time that it takes to set up, install, and configure the hosting device and implement remote support in your environment.

In the labs, we have cases that used to take our expert testers 45 minutes to get through. Our testers can now get through them in five minutes. So it should be a dramatic improvement, and it should be relatively easy.

Gardner: Here's a related question ... How soon can we recover the upfront cost of implementing HP support automation? I think this is really getting to the return-on-investment (ROI) equation.

Claiborne: We look at two aspects. What does it cost to deploy it, and what benefit do you get from having remote support? As we said, the cost is greatly reduced from previous releases.

The benefit, as Tommaso mentioned, is in looking at our case resolution data across thousands of cases that have been opened, we see a 66 percent reduction in problem resolution time. When you think about just how incredibly expensive it is if one of your critical system goes down and how much that costs every second that that system is down, the benefits can be huge. So the payoff should be pretty quick.

Through the entire support processes and collection of the data, we're able to provide a great value proposition for our customers.

Gardner: Tommaso, a user asks, Why is Insight Remote Support mandatory for proactive care?

Esmanech: If you think about the amount of data that we need to collect to deliver against the proactive care, if we were to all do that activity manually, that would definitely make the value proposition of proactive care through event and revision management, almost impossible to manage or to adapt as a value proposition. So we separate those. Through the entire support processes and collection of the data, we're able to provide a price quantity that is very interesting and a great value proposition for our customers.

A customer can choose as a part of our portfolio, foundation care, but of course, the price point and the value it will provide is going to be different.

Gardner: Here is a question that gets to the heart of the issue about your getting data from inside of other people's systems. They ask, our company has very strict security requirements. How does HP ensure the security of this data?

Esmanech: That is really one of the most-asked questions. After we start talking with the security experts at the customer sites, we're able to solve all the problems.

Our security is multilayer. It starts with information collected at the customer site. First of all, the customer has visibility into everything that we collect. When we collect it and transfer it to HP’s back end, all that information is encrypted. When we talk about providing access on Insight Online through the Web, the access goes through HTTPS, so it's encrypted access of information.

For a password, for example, a minimum set of characters is required for an alphanumeric password. Also, the customer has knowledge and information about who is accessing his and viewing his devices. Last but not least, we have certified our environment end-to-end for eTrust, which is one of the most important certifications of security for these type of services in infrastructure.

Product support

Gardner: A user asks, Do I need a dedicated server to run Insight Remote Support?

Claiborne: If you're running Insight Remote Support, you have this hosting device in your environment that listens to events from all of your devices in the environment. That doesn't need to be a dedicated server and it doesn't need to be running on HP hardware either. You can run that on any computer that meets the minimum system requirements, and you can even run that on a VMware box.

We end up doing a lot of our testing in the lab in VMware systems, and we’ve realized that a lot of you out there are probably implementing VMware systems in your customer environments. So VMware is supported as well.

The one thing to remember, though, is that this box is the conduit for service events from your environment to HP. So you need to make sure that the box is available and turned on and that it's not a box that’s going to be accidentally powered off over the weekend or something like that.

Gardner: What is the difference between Insight Online and Insight Remote Support?

We’ve realized that a lot of you out there are probably implementing VMware systems in your customer environments. So VMware is supported as well.

Esmanech: That’s come up before. The easy way to describe these is that Insight Online is the Web access of Insight Remote Support. It's part of the entire support of the information ecosystem. While we do recognize that Insight Remote Support has a management console, where you can view events and view the devices, that's limited to access within the environment, within the VPN, and only to the few people that know how to manage the environment.

You also have to recognize that Insight Remote Support goes beyond just a management console. It has event correlation and it collects all the data. As Andy said, it's a conduit back to HP. The conduit back to HP leads to Insight Online. The way it is now, there are two systems, and they're part of the same ecosystem.

Gardner: Tommaso, you mentioned self-solve services. What are those, and what did you mean?

Esmanech: The term self-solve we define as those activities and capabilities for which a customer can find a solution of the problem by himself. For example, if you were going on a website for support, you're accessing that knowledge base, finding articles and information on how to troubleshoot or solutions to the problem. If you were just loading drivers, it’d be component of self-solve.

By themselves, they're not services that we sell, but they're part of our services support portfolio. It's about doing business.

Some of the self-solve capabilities may be available to customers with contracts, versus customers who have a warranty, or or don't even have an HP device, but we give the customer the ability to solve problems by themselves.

Future direction

Gardner: Next one to you, Paddy. This is sort of a big question. They are asking, can you predict HP support automation's future direction for the next 10 years? Can you look at your crystal ball and tell us what people should expect in terms of some of the capabilities to come?

Medley: We're seeing a number of trends in the industry. We talked earlier about the converged infrastructure of storage, servers, and networks into single tabs and converged management of that environment.

We’re seeing a move to virtualization. Storage is continuing to grow at a pervasive rate, and hardware continues to become more and more reliable. So when you look at that backdrop, the future is different from the past, in terms of service and service need. We’re seeing this greater need for interoperability, management, revision, configuration management, and for areas like performance and security.

In other words, we're also seeing a move to greater needs that are proactive, as well as reactive, service support. The beauty of the Insight Online solution is that it provides us a framework to go along that path. It provides us the basic framework to provide remote event monitoring or reactive monitoring in the case of subsequent events occurring, and then getting those events back to HP, but also to deliver proactive service.

What we're doing with the solution here is that, as we collect configuration and event information from customer environments, that configuration and event information is securely transported back to HP. Parts are loaded into a database against a defined data model.

We’re bringing convergence of all the reference data associated with the products that we support and then providing a set of analytics that analyze that collected data.

We’re bringing convergence of all the reference data associated with the products that we support and then providing a set of analytics that analyze that collected data against that reference data, producing recommendations and actions and events management. In fact, aggregation and that ability to do that in that aggregated back end, that’s really providing us, we see, with a key differentiator.

And then, all of that information is presented through the Insight Online portal, along with our knowledge bases, forums, and other reference data. So it's that whole aggregation that’s really the sweet spot with this overall solution.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: HP.

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