Since 2006, Coservit has been offering companies a software dedicated to IT supervision: ServiceNav. It enables effective monitoring of heterogeneous information systems, while offering ergonomic and readable dashboards for efficient steering. François Mateo, co-founder of Coservit, has witnessed the evolution of IT supervision since the advent of the cloud. He deciphers for you its new stakes and their strategic implications.
Hello François, what inspired you to create a computer supervision software like ServiceNav?
We have to go back to the creation of Coservit in 2006. At that time, my associates and I were working at HP. The cloud was beginning to find its place in the world of IT production and we realized that we could industrialize in small and medium-sized businesses the supervision methods used by large accounts.
Many companies were using the traditional licensing mode but there was no suitable tool for supervision. We wanted to industrialize an offer that service companies could propose to their own outsourcing customers. They needed to benefit from dashboards, to monitor their customers' infrastructures but also to provide them with information.
We quickly conducted a market study, with one question in mind: should we develop a new tool or build on the existing one? We found that many companies were using Nagios, a powerful open source software but linked to a single site, to a single company. However, service companies have to manage several clients, so Nagios did not entirely meet their needs.
You have therefore relied on Nagios to develop your own solution. What's the point of using an open source database?
Nagios already enjoyed a high level of trust so that fears associated with the proposal of a new technology were avoided. Moreover, by building our own software from an existing base, we became aware of its limitations and bugs, which led us to make numerous patches and, ultimately, to rewrite much of the software.
The resulting product, ServiceNav, has the advantage of being adapted to a multi-client problem.
The challenge, of course, lies in the added value that can be provided. Companies have become much more mature: in order for them to accept to move away from open source to paid software, they must be offered a solution that allows a return on investment and a real time saving.Request a demonstration of the ServiceNav software
One challenge: responding to changes in IT supervision
When you created Coservit in 2006, what issues were companies facing in terms of IT supervision?
In my opinion, we must distinguish between two types of companies:
- On the one hand, VSE/SMEs: they were still not very advanced in terms of the Internet, with a relatively low level of equipment. As a result, criticality was not very important and the need was almost non-existent. The service companies that ensured the smooth running of IT within these SMEs played a much more corrective than preventive role: when a problem was detected, the technician who intervened to repair it was notified.
- On the other hand, large companies relied heavily on market leaders (HP, IBM, etc.) who offer much more complex systems. This posed other problems, particularly that of maintainability and TCO (total cost of ownership). The complexity of these systems requires the presence of experts. But what happens when the expert leaves the company? How can we ensure the sustainability of the system independently of the human resources present in the company? Who steers the system when the expert resource leaves?
What developments have you witnessed over the years?
The level of demand from small businesses has increased significantly: they now expect a high response rate and a rapid response to the problems they encounter.
As a result, service companies are under significant pressure from their customers: contracts increasingly involve SLAs (service-level agreements), which provide for penalties if a certain quality of service is not provided. It is therefore crucial for these professionals to receive qualitative alerts and to be able to prioritize them according to their more or less critical nature. In particular, it is necessary to limit "false positives" that do not correspond to a real breakdown.
Moreover, the cloud has become well established in organizations, dematerialization has gained ground so that today's needs are totally different. Many suppliers are used and the CIO must ensure their compliance: do they respect the contract that has been signed and the commitments they have made in terms of availability rates? Companies use a multitude of products, mixing open source solutions such as Nagios with manufacturers' products: sometimes these products serve the same purpose but do not communicate with each other.
ISDs are therefore increasingly looking for a clear and efficient dashboard to control the information system but also to communicate with their management.
How does ServiceNav respond to this communication imperative?
In reality, there is not one but several communication imperatives.
Some of them concern the users: ServiceNav integrates with other products, allowing for example to display the status of an application or the availability of a service to its users. This avoids the multiplication of tickets sent to technical support, and also prevents the user from wasting time trying to connect when an application is unavailable. Thanks to the e-mailing functionality, you can also distribute information only to the users concerned (for example to warn of a maintenance operation).
We have developed a service weatherA real barometer of the health of services and applications: it allows you to instantly identify the availability of a service thanks to familiar pictograms evoking the weather.
In addition, the CIO must also be able to exchange with his management ServiceNav has a smartphone application which makes it easy to show his dashboard to other people: during a management committee for example, the CIO can communicate on his activity using an interface that is easy to understand for a non-expert user. This allows not only to follow what is happening in real time but also to share it with others. It is an effective way to answer questions about system availability, for example.
Finally, software like ServiceNav promotes links between the ISD and the business lines For example, imagine a network of stores, which communicates with a datacenter to obtain information on the status of stocks, etc. For the boss, what is important is that this connection is made in an optimal way and that the slightest problem is detected and dealt with without delay. By benefiting from an ergonomic interface, the CIO can report on the network situation in real time.
So this type of software promotes collaboration within the company?
Absolutely... That's also true within ISD itself. Roles are often well defined: some take care of the network, others manage the system or applications... Each team works with different products and, very often, can only solve problems directly related to its area of expertise. Each team therefore needs its own dashboards, which is what ServiceNav allows.
This is an effective way to resolve problems quickly because everyone only receives alerts that concern them directly. However, it is possible to keep an overview of the system availability at all times for efficient management.
And I imagine that efficient management also translates into a more efficient business...
Yes, a computer supervision software like ServiceNav can be an excellent support for help ISD negotiate its budget because it provides numerical indicators and therefore allows trends to be anticipated. For example, if you see that bandwidth is constantly growing, you can already anticipate future needs and therefore integrate it into your budget forecast. Similarly, if you notice that a server often experiences breakdowns, you can more easily justify the importance of planning its replacement. The tool can therefore play a role in budget planning.
ISD is mentioned... but is ServiceNav aimed at other user profiles?
There is the case of the operations manager who operates the solution on a daily basis. Often, he or she will be interested in three major aspects.
- First, the perimeter of supervision ServiceNav: ServiceNav offers more than 1,000 possible checkpoints, which concern equipment (servers, switches, routers, connected objects) as well as the virtualization layer, applications or databases. We can precisely define the perimeter of what we want to supervise. For example, if we want to test the operation of an e-mail system, we can send an e-mail every day to see if the system is functional or returns an error. You can design test sets tailored to the specific needs of each organization.
- Next, we have an operational dashboard It makes it easy to identify the aspects that the team should work on first.
- Productivity : ServiceNav also aims to promote team productivity. For example, a professional who is on call can receive an alert on his phone and see directly which part of the system is affected by a problem. This allows him to restart the service quickly. In 90% cases, it is thus possible to solve problems remotely without having to return to the company's premises, a real time saver for professionals!
Templates can also be created to simplify the implementation of the solution and save time. For example, we will create a server model where we measure the CPU, RAM, etc.. We define the standards that we want to monitor and set alerts that warn you if we deviate from these standards.
SaaS and IT supervision: a gain in agility
ServiceNav works in SaaS mode. What is the interest for the customer compared to a traditional license mode?
We work in Agile mode, with a new release every month. Of course, we distinguish between major and minor releases, but all SaaS customers benefit instantly from these new features or patches. This allows us to offer software that evolves, integrates new features, develops and is maintained. We have a dedicated R&D team, in-house, and we make commitments on ServiceNav's availability rate in order to offer an optimal quality of service.
Including when the computer park is very heterogeneous?
That's what this software is all about. Most organizations use products from multiple manufacturers. But having a different dashboard to monitor each of them would be totally impractical. ServiceNav allows you to federate different tools to provide a synthetic view.
Today, a user who is dissatisfied with the tools offered by the company will often go looking for his own solutions, this is the great problem of the "IT shadow" which is beyond the control of the CIOs. An IT supervision software allows you to be more proactive, is this an asset in the face of shadow IT?
Above all, it allows the CIO to regain control of the information system. Let's imagine that the human resources department asks for an expense management application... the ISD will integrate this request into its budget and schedule, but very often it will take several months before the application is actually installed in the company. These long delays are often a source of frustration for users and in particular for business departments, who feel that their needs are not being taken into account.
A good IT supervision tool will allow the CIO to say: "Do what you want because, from my side, I will be able to check through the tool that the availability commitments of the contract are well kept". It is an effective way to maintain control over the system while giving users a certain amount of freedom.
Is this one of the new challenges facing CIOs?
The role of the CIO is undeniably evolving and the function is becoming increasingly cross-functional. Today's CIOs are quite ready to outsource, but they want to have better control over what they outsource. On the other hand, his role is also being refocused around business issues, an in-depth reflection on digital transformation and the way in which IT enables business and services to develop.
Today, for many companies, the network is as important as electricity: without a network, business can stop, unlike in the days when we worked on paper. So it's becoming a critical issue.
Does the advent of the cloud also bring new challenges for CIOs?
Before, organizations often had their servers in their own premises, now they are in a datacenter so it is essential that the connection works between the company and the datacenter. It also raises the question of outsourcing and the controls that are put in place to ensure that the system is working properly.
Some professionals may tell you that they can develop their own IT supervision tools in-house, what would you say to them?
You can do things yourself... but it takes a lot of time! You might decide to build a car yourself... but it's likely to take much more time than buying one from a dealer! At a time when companies are looking for productivity gains, it is a worthwhile investment to use software that has already been developed.
Furthermore, since the creation of Coservit, we have had the opportunity to work with a large number of professionals on a wide range of systems and issues. We mutualize all the comments of our customers and this experience feeds the software because it allows us to constantly make patches and improvements.
When you develop in-house, you rarely have dedicated teams, and this is hardly surprising since software development is not your core business, so your teams can't devote themselves to it full-time. The notion of continuous improvement does not exist in the same proportions.
And of course, the issue of technical support is also of crucial importance: when you call on a specialist service provider, he is there to support you in the implementation and use of the solution.
How do you see the future of IT supervision?
I think there are going to be many developments related to the Internet of Things. The supervision of connected objects will become a crucial issue and with their multiplication, the number of incidents will also be multiplied by 1000. Today, there are an estimated 10 million people in the world who are involved in IT monitoring. It is easy to realize that if the number of incidents to be handled is multiplied by 1000, the personnel providing supervision will not be able to absorb this enormous volume of alerts and data from all these objects.
This information will need to be processed to reduce the number of incidents and false positives (estimated at 50%) and to target relevant alerts. It will also become crucial for companies to equip themselves with intuitive tools to provide much shorter support time.