Single Pane of Glass: A Myth or Reality?
There are two views on what a "single pane of glass" actually is and does. The first is the concept of a monitoring tool that can replace all your existing tools, becoming your single source of monitoring truth from one dashboard. Over the years, monitoring tools have struggled to keep pace with evolution of multi-tiered IT service delivery technology and the vast array of software and hardware choices available in the market. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there will ever be a single monitor for the entire IT infrastructure that can usefully replace all other tools. Moreover, getting agreement from all domain experts on one common tool is practically impossible.
The other concept of a single-pane-of-glass monitoring tool is one that provides a consolidated view of metrics and performance alerts across the entire IT infrastructure – the entire service delivery chain – and helps simplify troubleshooting from a single console. In this case, the single-pane-of-glass monitoring tool does not replace all existing monitoring tools and does not require all the domain experts to use only one tool. By intelligently consolidating performance alerts, metrics, events and log data across the service delivery chain into a single dashboard and auto-correlating this data, the single-pane-of-glass tool helps triage even the toughest of problems quickly.
The toughest IT performance problem today is one where a user complains that "the application is slow". To help administrators solve this problem, a single-pane-of-glass solution monitoring must:
- Monitor the end user experience – either synthetically or, passively, by watching real transactions and users
- Monitor every layer, every tier of the service delivery
- Automatically correlate performance across the tiers, based on inter-dependencies between the tiers (e.g., web server depends on a database, a VM depends on a physical machine, etc.)
With this capability, when a problem is detected, administrators can easily identify the root-cause of the problem: Is it the network, or database, or application code, or virtual platform or storage? This allows administrators and even helpdesk staff to call the correct IT technician or department for an issue, sometimes avoiding the need for a war room meeting at all. In turn, the IT technician may turn to additional in-depth performance analysis tools for troubleshooting within his/her domain.
Just as your family doctor may refer you to a specialist for advanced diagnosis, the single-pane-of-glass solution serves to keep track of the overall health of the service delivery and provide direct referrals for specialized analysis and remediation. Going into a war room, everyone knows where the real problem originates, which facilitates communication and solutions. Helpdesk staff are empowered to locate the tier responsible for an issue and assign it to the appropriate team – saving time for the entire team.
Defined in this way, "single pane of glass" is a reality today , and is extremely useful to provide service-level IT insights to ensure a great user experience, every time, and improve both efficiency and business outcomes.
Consolidating the Sprawl
Consolidating IT monitoring tools may seem simple on the surface – just a matter of committing to the time and effort required for thorough auditing and paring of redundancies. But, consolidating tools through the implementation of a unified IT monitoring strategy puts monitoring and diagnostic power in the hands of your entire team at once, which, beyond helping decommission overlapping tools and cutting costs, also improves the business. End-to-end, service-centric visibility and diagnostics helps build process around cross-silo performance management. This reduces the sprawl and, even more importantly, leads to greater IT efficiency and value.