Cloud Cover

Imagine for a moment that you’re on a floundering ship, surrounded by angry water. You look around for a lifeboat only to discover they are stored below deck, in the vessel rather than hanging off the side where they might actually prove useful.

But that effectively describes an equally chancy IT practice: conducting system-monitoring activities from within the system. When the digital waters rise, the value of a monitoring method vulnerable to a variety of server and facility mishaps greatly diminishes. Once disaster strikes, there is ample irony but scant comfort in restarting monitoring operations after you’ve figured out what went wrong with the system. Superior monitoring software doesn’t just report problems, it prevents them.

Maxava, purveyor of digital lifeboats for the IBMi community with its advanced High Availability and Disaster Recovery solutions, had a better idea. In retrospect, it seems self-evident, like storing backups off-site, but it portends to transform the way IT professionals track system functions. The product is called Mi8, and the innovative twist involves moving monitoring operations to the cloud where they are infinitely more flexible and markedly more useful—like an accessible lifeboat.

Cloud-based monitoring has numerous advantages most notably, ease of installation, mobility, the absence of additional hardware costs, and a ridiculous capacity for scalability.

Mi8 tracks four categories of event data: general information, warnings, critical notifications, and fatal errors. And it offers them in four formats: email, text, tweet, or the nostalgic phone call. Since the system travels, the only piece of luggage you’ll need is a single pane of glass. You can see all of your critical system, application, and availability notifications on any of a host of devices including desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones. Or, choose a specialist App for iPads, iPhones and, my favorite, the Apple watch, which provides the extra benefit of being able to escape any dull meeting by simply glancing at your watch and declaring an emergency.

No matter where the work is processed: in-house, in the cloud, or at a remote facility, Mi8 can direct the right information to the right folks. In other words, you decide who sees what. Management, Operations, Administration, Tech Support, each can receive a customized subset of the data tracked by Mi8. After all, why upset management unnecessarily when you have a team of techies that eats glitches for breakfast, providing there’s ample coffee.

Companies with multiple systems spread across multiple installations—if not multiple continents—would normally have the tedious task of installing, configuring, and maintaining each box individually. Mi8 makes that strategy and its labor-intensive implementation archaic. Once set up, the configuration can include global rules applied across any number of IBM Power Systems running (IBM i, AIX, Linux) or Windows.

A firm that took full advantage of that feature is aptly-named Interactive, a Managed Service Provider in Melbourne, Australia. It is elegantly headquartered in one of those crisp, glass-sculpted buildings you wish you worked in, but don’t. There, Andrew Williams serves as a Cloud Tenant Services Engineer for an extended list of clients over 20 of whom now receive monitoring services from Mi8.

An advantage, particularly for multi-system clients, he told me, is that there is “no need for additional servers; no infrastructure to own and manage.” Multiple systems can be tracked from a single location, using a single device. That speaks of opportunities for savings, a concept often difficult to achieve in IT, but always easy to embrace.

Williams said he also appreciates how the product doubles as a management system, complete with reporting options. Remedial action can be taken directly from the notifying device. “If Mi8 fails to get a push from the server every five minutes, it notifies the appropriate personnel.” And, he said, the product was easy to install, so I asked what he thought of Maxava’s technical support staff? Granted I was speaking to a man with an Australian accent, but I could almost swear he said they were “very, very good.”

One thing we didn’t discuss was Maxava’s curious naming conventions. In addition to Mi8, Maxava also features a cloud-based security monitoring system called Mi7. I suspect both products were named by someone who read too many Ian Fleming novels and became enamored of the British Secret Service. Maxava, I’m sure, has its own origin story, but I like mine better.

Nomenclature notwithstanding, here’s an extra benefit from Mi8 that developers never envisioned: Imagine getting a tweet in the middle of the night alerting you to a problem with your system. Your partner awakens and, in that voice that hovers between curiosity and suspicion, asks you: “Who was that tweeting you at 2:00 am?” And you answer with one, glorious word that not only demonstrates your innocence, but speaks of the faith your company has in your technical prowess: “Maxava!”

 


This article is written by Victor Rozek, who is an award-winning columnist and writes for IT Jungle The Four Hundred. #victor4maxava


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