eyeShare Workflow Designer

Ayehu eyeShare 4.1 – Automating IT Processes for Excellence and Repeatability

Implementing IT Service Management (ITSM) for Improved Productivity and Quality Achieving ROI through IT Service Automation

Bob Aiello

Review MethodologyFor this review, we implemented Ayehu’s eyeShare 4.1 on a Windows 7 Virtual Machine using VMware Player, Microsoft .Net Framework 3.5 SP1, Microsoft IIS7 and SQL Server 2005. I built several workflows using easy-to-use built-in templates which monitor websites using Apache and Tomcat on Windows and Linux. Several service interruptions were intentionally caused, triggering alert notifications and initiating workflows to resolve the incident. The installation itself was easy, with all dependencies well-documented. Download link http://www.ayehu.com/Downloads/DownloadFreeTrial.html

Introduction

Ayehu’s eyeShare 4.1 is easy to use and rich with features, thus offering a significant value proposition as it provides a clear and detailed approach to implementing IT service management best practices as defined in the ITIL v3 framework. Key features include event monitoring, out-of-the box automated workflows (with over 500 predefined activities) and a robust framework for managing knowledge, communicating more effectively and escalating status and incident response. Advanced features include virtual machine creation and active directory user account management. eyeShare can help companies prepare for ITIL and ISO 9001 certification.

The Value PropositionServices are a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating the outcomes which customers want to achieve, without the ownership of specific costs and risks (ITIL v3).

Intended Audience

IT Ops managers along with an increasing number of Development Managers implementing DevOps methodologies.

Many organizations struggle to implement IT Service Management as a dedicated function to effectively monitor the events and alerts which often precipitate critical incidents that unfortunately can disrupt essential IT services. The Service Desk plays an essential role in helping the organization achieve success as their IT operations staff find themselves unable to keep up with the need to respond to critical incidents including systems outages. When an incident does occur, success depends upon the ability to monitor events and alerts which, in turn, enables the Service Desk to correctly pinpoint the source of the problem, or escalate if the cause is not easily determined. Smart technology managers understand that they need to create processes that are repeatable and also can scale to meet the needs of their organization.

Automating IT Service Incident Response

When serious incidents occur, they can impact the entire organization, resulting in outages that cause unplanned interruptions or significant reduction in quality of an IT service. In the past year, there have been numerous critical incidents at Banks, trading exchanges and other financial services firms that resulted in significant losses, even causing one firm to cease operating as an independent organization. So how do tech-savvy managers address these challenges and ensure that their critical services remain secure and uninterrupted on an ongoing basis? The good news is that there are excellent industry standards and frameworks which can help provide guidance on precisely how to establish effective best practices. 

Industry Best Practices

The itSMF ITIL v3 framework provides guidance on establishing effective functions and processes to support IT Service Management, including both the Service Desk and Incident Management. While the ITIL framework provides excellent guidance, many critics argue that there is not enough descriptive information for managers to fully understand how to implement these industry best practices. eyeShare provides the specific type of guidance that enables managers to establish IT automation in full compliance with the ITIL v3 framework. One of the key objectives of the ITIL framework is to establish a comprehensive knowledge base known as a Service Management Knowledge System (SMKS). This is essential because of the scarcity of subject matter experts and the importance of creating a rich and comprehensive knowledge base.

IT Process Automation with pre-packaged Templates

It is often difficult to know where to start the IT process automation effort. eyeShare enables the Ops team to achieve success by providing a set of easy-to-use templates that define a complete process, from recognizing an event or alert to successfully fixing the issue that has already affected, or could potentially impact, services. This comprehensive approach provides a considerable amount of functionality straight out of the box that will help you address common problems such as Active Directory (AD) user account lockouts and password resets. Having a set of working templates for simple scenarios is especially helpful when addressing the more complex scenarios.

Fortunately, Ayehu eyeShare comes with many workflows already available and an easy-to-use Workflow Designer. 

eyeShare_Workflow_Designer

Figure 1.0 – Workflow Designer Creates Custom Workflows

You can get a lot done using the out-of-the-box workflows but Ayehu eyeShare provides considerably more value and also providing a framework to understand and deal with complex situations where diagnosis and incident management are both difficult and often mission critical.

Taming Complexity

IT process automation is particularly important when dealing with complex technology and complex scenarios. Many technology professionals find it difficult to tackle the trickier scenarios where the risk for errors is greater. But this is exactly where IT process automation can yield the greatest value. Most organizations have a few subject matter experts who can handle the complex scenarios, but what do you do when these highly skilled resources are unavailable? eyeShare helps capture the thought processes involved with diagnosing complex technology problems. This diagnostic effort is almost always an iterative process, and the exciting news with eyeShare is that you can start small and iteratively improve both your diagnosis and your response to handling complex challenges. This effort can result in the development of a valuable knowledge management system.

Building the Knowledge Management System

Most organizations have one or two expert technology professionals who just seem to be able to address and resolve any and all issues – regardless of the challenge. The problem is that these gurus are rarely on duty seven days a week/twenty four hours a day to provide immediate backup in real-time should thorny problems arise.  Successful IT process automation starts by capturing the expertise required to recognize, analyze and respond to events and incidents. One of the most impressive features in eyeShare is its implicit framework which facilitates the gathering of expert knowledge and allows for the iterative development of automated IT processes.

eyeShare_Knowledge_Management

Figure 2.0 – Entering The Knowledge Base Solution

The result is a knowledge base of automated IT processes that are repeatable, traceable and can help the organization scale its IT service management to help the business achieve success. Developing a robust knowledge management system is especially important with regard to addressing the challenges imposed by audit and regulatory requirements.

eyeShare_Knowledgebase

 

Figure 3.0 – Summary from Knowledge Base

Documented procedures helps your team respond to incidents, having such a record can also help to satisfy audit and regulatory requirements.

Passing the IT Audit

Technology organizations are required to establish effective IT controls to comply with audit and regulatory requirements. IT controls are simply rules that require building in the extra steps to minimize mistakes and quickly recover from those that manage to slip through. For IT Service management, establishing this control usually means that every incident must be documented in a ticketing system and that there must be full traceability into every step taken to diagnose and address issues which impact IT services. It also means that you must comply with change management policies within the organization, especially when modifying code and configuration files (usually called configuration items) upon proper authorization. eyeShare helps to enforce IT policy and controls especially when a separation of controls and change control is required by regulatory authorities. IT controls also provide a robust ticketing and history tracking that will satisfy any auditor. In addition, IT controls help meet regulatory requirements and pass IT audits, while simultaneously improving productivity and quality. DevOps is emerging as an important industry best practice to support successful IT automation.

This journey begins with building the tools and processes to detect and respond to incidents.

eyeShare_Studio

Figure 4.0 – eyeShare Studio

Detecting and Responding to Incidents

eyeShare comes with a number of well-designed tools to recognize events and alerts that may indicate a pending interruption in services. This enables your team to diagnose and respond to incidents before they have actually impacted customers. Detecting problems can sometimes be a daunting task and early missteps can lead to costly mistakes or even failure to react quickly enough to a pending incident. IT process automation helps to define the rules and provides a framework for continuously improving the team’s capability to detect and respond to incidents.

eyeShare_Incident_Console

Figure 5.0 – Incident Console

This task often involves processing a considerable amount of information, including multiple sources of events and alert notifications.

eyeShare_Dashboard

Figure 6.0 – Real-Time Process Dashboard

IT process automation provides a reliable framework for handling what can quickly become a classic situation of information overload. Of course, detecting an incident is only the first step. The real test is whether or not the Service Desk can recover once an incident has been detected. Another essential component of a valuable automation process is a robust and efficient capability for communicating with all stakeholders.

Effective Communications Framework

Too often, technology professionals find it difficult to communicate effectively. This can cause serious problems, including but certainly not limited to service interruptions, which ultimately adversely impact your business. eyeShare provides a powerful framework for communicating information – from emails to automated phone alerts.

If initial alerts are not acknowledged, eyeShare workflows can be easily configured to escalate until an authorized support professional acknowledges the incident and begins addressing the problem.

eyeShare_Workflow_Library

Figure 7.0 – Ayehu eyeShare Workflows enhance communication

Industry best practices can come from many sources. Successful business people know that one of the best sources of information is the customer base itself and often proactively solicit feedback about their products and services

Learning Best Practices from the Customer Base

Ayehu taps into this reservoir through its creation of a communications loop wherein customer feedback helps drive new features within the product. This shared lessons environment enables both new and existing customers to benefit from best practices derived by other professionals. eyeShare continues to evolve and address emerging needs to provide effective IT process automation. One of the areas where the tool has extended its feature set to great effect is in provisioning virtual machines (VMs) and Active Directory user accounts.

Provisioning Virtual Machines and AD Users

eyeShare has capabilities to provision virtual machines using predefined configurations. This enables the Service Desk to spin up VMs as part of well-defined recovery procedures. Using eyeShare’s workflow, these steps are clear and detailed, including controls related to Active Directory (AD) user account authentication and authorization where required. eyeShare also provides a well-defined framework for managing active directory issues, such as unlocking AD accounts and resetting AD passwords. One of the most important capabilities needed is to support the discovery of current versions of software configurations. This information is typically recorded in the Configuration Management Database (CMDB), which is often a challenge to keep updated.

Keeping the CMDB updated

eyeShare workflows can be configured to monitor existing server configurations and to report back actual results to a configuration management database (CMDB). This is very important to users who wish to maintain an accurate database of configuration items that may be impacted by changes arising from any incidents. Many organizations implement CMDBs, but then find themselves challenged to keep them updated and accurate. eyeShare workflows can be configured to help with this daunting challenge, thus enabling the organization to maintain an accurate up-to-date CMDB.

Continuously Improve from Lessons Learned

Even the most successful IT teams make mistakes. eyeShare enables your team to learn from past mistakes and implement additional controls to recognize events and alerts that may lead to incidents causing service interruptions. Successful teams should never make the same mistake twice and proper IT process automation frameworks allow you to use each incident as a learning experience that leads to tighter controls and more reliable systems!

DevOps and IT Automation

DevOps is bringing an exciting new set of industry best practices that help significantly improve IT process automation. This focus on quality integration of functions includes improved communication and pushing many best practices to be implemented earlier in the lifecycle. The rise of DevOps encourages IT professionals to develop their controls and automation during the development effort, an emphasis which significantly improves the development process itself and also results in a more mature IT service model. DevOps embraces IT process automation to support development and QA testing, instead of waiting until the application is ready for production. The result is a more productive development lifecycle and mature IT processes and process automation. For many efforts, although the rewards are obvious, the toughest part is just getting the ball rolling.

Summary

My experience in giving eyeShare a test run was that it was easy to use and I was creating workflows within the first hour. The product comes with many templates and predefined common activities which makes getting started very easy. This tool can help your organization harness your existing knowledge base so that you can establish effective IT process automation. If you want your organization to maintain IT Services that are highly available and support your business then you should take a close look at Ayehu eyeShare for IT Process Automation.

Bob Aiello is a consultant, editor-in-chief for CM Crossroads, and the author of Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World, Addison-Wesley Professional (http://cmbestpractices.com). Mr. Aiello has more than twenty-five years’ experience as a technical manager in several top NYC financial services firms where he had company-wide responsibility for CM, often providing hands-on technical support for enterprise source code management tools, SOX/Cobit compliance, build engineering, continuous integration, and automated application deployment(DevOps). Bob has served as the vice chair of the IEEE 828 Standards working group (CM Planning) and is a member of the IEEE Software and Systems Engineering Standards Committee (S2ESC) management board. Mr. Aiello holds a Masters in industrial psychology from NYU and a B.S. in computer science and math from Hofstra University. You may contact Mr. Aiello at bob.aiello@ieee.org, link with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobaiello  or visit his corporate website http://yellowspiderinc.com and follow him on twitter @bobaiello, @cmbestpractices.