General Datatech, Using Predictive Analytics, Might Fix Your Next IT Issue A Month Before It Happens

Dallas-based General Datatech is using SAP's HANA, a database and application development platform, to boost its IT operations analytics (ITOA) capabilities, speeding up the time it takes to troubleshoot complex IT problems, and even predict issues before the occur.

GDT, No. 50 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, offers a suite of managed IT services under its Advanced Solutions umbrella that includes network infrastructure and data center monitoring and maintenance. Between the GDT remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) platform and the software its clients use, however, aggregating and analyzing data from both systems could take up to three weeks.

But improved IT operation analytics offered a way out, said Allen Sulgrove, director of GDT's digital business unit. The company has begun using HANA to collect IT ops data from multiple sources – through directly streaming onto the platform or pulling it through APIs and database pools – and then it singled out variables that provide clients with real-time business insights.

"With analytics tools, we're able to visualize the data within minutes," Sulgrove told CRN.

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In addition to the added speed HANA added to its ITOA capabilities, GDT has been able to use machine learning tools to predict potential issues months in advance. Once more than a year's worth of data has been compiled, year-over-year forecasting becomes a possibility as well, Sulgrove said.

He added that GDT can now layer master data on top of the ITOA. That allows the solution provider to visually distinguish critical and non-critical systems and potentially fix IT problems before they occur.

"When we have (quarterly) reviews with our clients we can say, 'We can see within the next two-and-a-half months, you're going to exhaust your storage capacity. We need to talk about that. Looking at CPU utilization, we might accelerate the refresh cycles based on this information,'" Sulgrove said. "All that stuff plays in."

The breadth of tools in the HANA platform made SAP a more efficient choice for GDT, mainly because its engineers saved the time it would have taken to collect the operations data themselves.

Sulgrove said many of the company's service provider and telecom clients, particularly those liable to suffer significant losses when systems go down, have a serious need for capabilities that promote system uptime. "That's where it really begins to shine," he said.

Analytics – not just ITOA – will be major priority for GDT moving forward as it invests in its separate SmartX Edge solutions practice, which features IoT and big data capabilities. Smart cities, communities, universities and buildings are areas of particular focus as the company has begun to takes its mobility expertise and apply that to wireless access points.

By doing that, and by using Cisco’s connected digital platform as a center for IoT data aggregation, GDT has been able to look at presence and location analytics that allow the company to analyze demographic information on a community Wi-FI network and capture video analytics through its physical security practice.

"Now we've quadrupled and quintupled how much data we're able to access and put into a common information model. That's launched us further into that smart city, university and community space,’ Sulgrove said.

That circles back to the data GDT has begun compiling through HANA from an ITOA standpoint. With "edge" devices now at the solution provider's disposal, figuring out how to further leverage IoT tracking to enhance its ITOA capabilities is a question Sulgrove and his team hope to answer.

"How do we manage those (edge devices)? We're having to grab that machine data not only from a monitoring and management standpoint, but also to get to the deep analytics of it," he said.