What it takes to build a next-gen command center and why you should do it

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As customer experience rapidly supersedes price and product to become the single most important differentiator for businesses, turning global data into meaningful insights has emerged as a critical imperative. 

For this, organizations must adopt a global command center model wherein a centralized command center serves as the hub for organizational data aggregation and processing. 

However, most organizations have separate command centers for different segments of business such as network, applications, facilities, business, cloud, service desk, and data centers. 

Each command center comprises of its own service owners, tools, technologies, and processes – with little or no interaction between them. 

This could lead to a potential situation where a network command center does not have information about power outages in other command centers such as applications, cloud or facilities. 

This, in turn, can have a cascading impact on the availability of multiple servers and applications, and ultimately, the business as a whole. Such a setup also hinders service desk operations by slowing down the exchange of information with the IT service desk. 

How can businesses bridge this gap and ensure errors are averted proactively, or at least, detected early?

Integration is the key to superior insights

Today businesses have vast amounts and varied types of data – IoT data from smart sensors, consumer, business, IT, facilities, as well as marketing and customer data. In the future, the volume, variety and sources of data is expected to increase even further. 

The biggest challenge for companies of the future will not be data collection but the aggregation, processing and analysis of this vast amount of data at a centralized command center. 

Companies need a solution to interpret data, perform data correlation, detect anomalies, trends and patterns, and present the insights back to a single command center (which may have specialized groups such as network command center and others) to derive a single version of the truth. 

Command center integration and consolidation can significantly improve businesses’ ability to predict outages and disruptions, and take remedial decisions quickly and intelligently, minimizing operational and financial impact. 

The biggest benefit of implementing a global command center operating model is that it enables organizations to consistently deliver high quality customer experience across the entire life cycle while simultaneously optimizing cost to serve.

The next-generation command center: Eight building blocks

How enterprises conceptualize command centers will directly influence their ability to support future developments. The eight key aspects or capabilities of a next-gen command center include:

1. Data aggregation layer: Comprises tools and technologies that collect data from multiple sources such as IoT devices, applications logs, security systems, cloud and facilities alerts, and more.

2. Event correlation layer: Processes and filters data, corrects anomalies, and leverages its cognitive capabilities to contextualize alerts and identify the best suited teams to handle business issues effectively.

3. Prediction layer: Leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect anomalies in IT behavior and the pattern of faults in order to predict future outages and IT performance.

4. Service management layer: Based on IT4IT reference architecture, this includes key aspects like self-service, service request management, incident, change, configuration, and knowledge management.

5. Automation layer: Takes quick actions on the intelligence rendered by the event correlation layer and automates the actions typically performed by human resources. For instance, automating remedial scripts, generating outage alerts to the Major Incident Management team, etc.

6. Cost management layer: Manages the cost impact of changes in an enterprise and the budgets required to manage these changes effectively. For instance, how much would it cost the enterprise to migrate new applications to the cloud or add/remove a server?

7. Audit and compliance layer: Ensures that the enterprise audit meets business objectives. For instance, audit rules must support the need for business continuity and bar IT/facilities from making any major changes during critical business hours. 

8. Intent based policy and configurations: Drives ‘Intent based networking’, within the command center, instead of focusing on siloed availability of infrastructure or applications. 

For instance, ‘intent’ for a typical business may be defined as ‘keeping the response time in customer service applications to a minimum, say two milliseconds. To uphold this intent, all impacted underlying components like applications, servers, databases, and networks would have to alter their policies accordingly. 

These policies must be deployed and adhered to, irrespective of which tool is used to monitor and manage the enterprise. 

What a next-gen enterprise command center looks like: Moving from reactive to proactive service delivery

As digital technologies become increasingly complex, IT becomes bimodal, and user behavior drives IT consumption, command centers will need to evolve in tandem – from a reactive to a proactive function where every action or alert is investigated as a threat to the enterprise. 

To achieve this, predictive tools need to be employed to drive IT operations. A global command center will play a key role in helping enterprises get to this state. 

What will a next-gen global command center look like? It will be characterized by five key tenets – contextual, complete, secure, predictive, and automated, with an end-to-end view of applications and all underlying components that potentially impact service availability. 

Such a center will be able to perform deep dive diagnostics of contextualized alerts generated by business applications across multiple geographies, even when the applications are consumed by different users. 

Leveraging the eight building blocks discussed above, can help companies build highly contextualized command centers – tools and applications that are inherently service-context aware and scalable – to handle growing data volumes. 

The command center tools and technology platforms, besides being highly secure and automated, will also be compatible with other technologies (OEM, Public Cloud, PaaS, Open Source, Containers, Micro-services, Java apps, IoT data, etc.). 

The future will see predictive IT operations analytics (trend analysis of events, configuration change analytics, anomaly detection, service consumption pattern analysis, seasonal analytics, and behavior analytics) take center stage. 

The role of a command center will evolve into an empowered business unit that drives the superior performance of IT, and consequently, that of the business. 

  • Kiran Desai K is the Senior Vice President of Cloud and Infrastructure Services at Wipro Limited