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As operational IT analytics vendor Splunk announces its new IT services intelligence product, ComputerworldUK speaks to Vodafone Group about adopting the technology to firefight troublesome services built on Oracle applications and ensure 100 percent availability for its customers.

Splunk’s IT service intelligence (ITSI) product uses log file data to show operational IT teams how services are working. This new product promises analytics that detects anomalies, root causes and impacted areas.

Vodafone Group, one of the largest telecos in the world, has adopted ITSI to analyse how it serves its clients with IT systems, like billing for local markets (Vodafone UK, for example) as well as external partners.

Its operational team isn’t concerned with analysing data to drive down costs, its solutions architect Oliver Hoppe tells ComputerworldUK.

“We don’t care about return on investment, we care about increasing quality," he says.

Vodafone has been using log file data with Splunk Enterprise for five years, but never had the means to ensure its worldwide operations team adheres to universal documentation standards, or provide access to the entirety of the company’s data so an employee can create comparable dashboards.

It is now able to do this with ISTI, using its application and DB logs, infrastructure metrics, network metrics, remedy and enabler services data.

“We are putting data in people’s hands,” Hoppe says.

100 percent availability

The pressure is on for Vodafone's operational team to provide 99.9 percent availability for the systems it provides. It uses data analysis to ensure the lights are always on.

“Five minutes of downtime would cost a fortune. It’s the worst case scenario,” Hoppe adds.

The telecommunication company has deployed a global load balancer between datacentres so if the worst happens, “we can get an answer from somewhere".  But Vodafone needed a method to send operational IT data to its team across continents, and ensure employees were looking at the same information - at the same time.

Also, with troublesome services built on its Oracle estate, Vodafone needed a tool that could monitor how applications were working with each other, to ensure systems were up and running for its customers.

The ops team and its analytics problem

Every day, a pool of thousands of IT operatives, both offshore and internal, work around the clock to keep Vodafone’s 2,000 servers going.  

Without granular visibility of its IT operations, a Vodafone’s systems' support employee could receive up to 500 tickets a day, with operators in India and Romania working around the clock to close them- a near impossible task.

Since migrating to Splunk ITSI, the operations team can see what is causing bugs in Vodafone Group’s systems - and spot trends. With this overarching view, operations can link problems to a certain event and shut down the majority of tickets quickly - once the source of the problem is resolved.

Big data to analyse Oracle pitfalls

Vodafone's operational team's main priority is troubleshooting systems built around Oracle applications, which are difficult to integrate.

Its new Workforce Identity Access Management, a complex Oracle Fusion Middleware stack-based application for identity and access management, is a prime example. Vodafone’s operations team struggled to monitor interdependent software components that were integrated with the identity tool. This affected the system’s overall performance as detecting and prioritising issues was near impossible, Hoppe explains.

In one case, an issue with stuck sessions in Oracle Identity Manager brought down the entire web interface.

But using Splunk ITSI to monitor the add-ons, the team built a KPI on stuck end-user sessions to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring and see the root cause easily.

Why Splunk over open source big data architecture?

Vodafone Group is leaving open source for smaller, agile companies, Hoppe says. With an out-of-the-box solution, Vodafone has avoided coding and knows that its 1,500 strong operations team understand the technology. Hoppe says that testing, standards and privacy are too problematic for enterprises considering open source, but that “it’s cool, but only in a small world”.

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