To guarantee top levels of service to managed services clients, Blue Chip needs clear visibility into IT assets at all times. As its landscape grew, how could the company gain deeper insight?
Blue Chip is building a real-time, end-to-end view of all the applications, configurations and dependencies across its IT estate, helping teams manage IT assets more effectively.
Safeguardsservice continuity for clients by boosting availability
Enhancesresponsiveness to customer requests by driving smarter IT delivery
Enablescompetitive pricing through greater efficiency
Business challenge story
Cutting through complexity
Blue Chip has grown to become one of the UK’s leading managed service providers (MSPs), supporting a host of customers ranging from small businesses to FTSE-listed global organizations. As its business expanded, so too did the company’s application infrastructure—and Blue Chip was finding it more and more difficult to maintain clear visibility of this sprawling IT estate. Gareth Hughes, Business Transformation Manager at Blue Chip, explains: “In a way, we had become victims of our own success. We manage an incredibly complex landscape comprising hundreds of physical servers, storage devices and networking switches, not to mention thousands of virtual machines.
“As we grew, it was more difficult to gain the insight we needed into our infrastructure. As a result, we were dedicating increasing amounts of time and effort to tracking all our IT assets and understanding how they were configured and connected.” Vanessa Aitken, Configuration Manager at Blue Chip, adds: “Our biggest concern was that we lacked a continuous, trusted view of our infrastructure. We performed regular audits, but they could only provide a snapshot of systems at a particular point in time, so if changes occurred, we could be left working with an outdated view. And if we don’t have an accurate picture of our assets, we can’t manage them properly. For example, if we make a configuration change without fully understanding the dependencies between different infrastructure components, it could lead to performance or availability issues that might potentially impact the smooth running of a client’s operations.”
Gaining a clear view
Blue Chip’s goal was simple: it wanted to take back control over its complex application infrastructure. The first step to achieving this was finding a solution that could deliver end-to-end visibility into an ever-growing IT landscape. This is where IBM Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager (TADDM) software came into the picture. Vanessa Aitken reflects on the selection process: “We evaluated the Tivoli offering against a number of tools, and it proved to be the most complete solution in terms of breadth and depth of functionality. One of the things we really liked about the IBM solution was the level of granularity it offered around discovery; whereas most of the other tools we considered could only identify assets at the operating system level, TADDM can pinpoint individual server models as well, which is very valuable when you run a large, heterogeneous environment like we do.” Blue Chip is currently working with Orb Data, an IBM Gold Business Partner, to configure and deploy the TADDM solution across its vast managed services environment. Chris Smith, IBM Solution Sales Manager at Blue Chip, comments: “Our use case is quite unique in that we operate a large collection of disparate managed infrastructures. Each client’s estate is kept separate from the next for security reasons, and their environments are all very different from each other. That means that we can’t follow the standard approach of rolling out a single instance of TADDM and running a big sweeping scan. Instead, we’ve had to implement a lot of anchors and roll out the solution on a customer-by-customer basis.” Vanessa Aitken continues: “It’s been a big undertaking, and having support from Orb Data has been a great advantage. They have been most helpful in working with us to build the TADDM servers and deploy the solution.” Once the implementation work is complete, Blue Chip will take advantage of TADDM software to collect the identity, attributes and settings of each application, system and network component on its IT estate. With a full view of all assets and their application dependencies, teams can quickly understand the structure, status, configuration, and change history of applications. The newfound visibility will enable Blue Chip to immediately isolate issues when they occur, and to more effectively plan for application change without disruption. Ultimately, TADDM software will form part of a new strategic approach to configuration management at Blue Chip, as Gareth Hughes elaborates: “We are building a state-of-the-art configuration management system, for which TADDM will provide a crucial source of information. Having a real-time view of our assets and their condition will give us the strong foundation we need to optimize many other areas of operations.”
More effective managed services
With TADDM software in place, Blue Chip has gained greater visibility of its entire application infrastructure. The improved awareness will enable teams to more effectively manage the impact of IT changes, helping ensure that all IT assets remain up-to-date, highly available, and compliant with internal policies and regulatory standards. “We will no longer have to rely on multiple tools that give us different versions of the truth, or manual approaches that are prone to human error,” notes Chris Smith. “TADDM will deliver the real-time, end-to-end visibility we need to keep our clients’ mission-critical systems running smoothly at all times, safeguarding service continuity.” In addition, the improved visibility will help Blue Chip manage its infrastructure in a more efficient way and deliver a higher quality of service to customers. Gareth Hughes states: “TADDM will allow us to drive a much more strategic approach to infrastructure management. By analyzing the data we collect on our assets, services and customers, we will be able to track performance in a much more nuanced way. For instance, if we see that a certain server has incurred unplanned downtime multiple times in a single month, we can recommend for it to be replaced with a newer model—saving our teams’ time and effort on maintenance, and ultimately reducing costs for our client. “Similarly, we will be able to better track the quality of the services we provide, looking at things like timeliness of response to a change request or performance issue. Armed with this insight, we can make targeted improvements that result in higher-quality service—all without letting costs spiral on our end. Enabling us to deliver differentiated services at attractive fees, the IBM solution helps us keep clients satisfied and sharpens our competitive edge.” In the future, Blue Chip is planning to introduce a web portal for clients, allowing them to gain up-to-the-minute views of their hosted infrastructures. “Many of our clients are very hands-on and having instant visibility of their IT assets will be a great benefit for them,” remarks Vanessa Aitken. “The web portal will give them access to real-time data from TADDM, enabling them to see the precise state of all their assets whenever they want. Not only will this give clients greater peace of mind that everything is configured and running as it should be, we also expect it to cut down on the amount of helpdesk and service requests we receive.” For Blue Chip, TADDM software will offer valuable opportunities to take its IT services to new heights. Gareth Hughes concludes: “We see TADDM as a vital stepping stone to other improvements that we want to make in the future. For instance, we’re thinking about introducing a more bespoke invoicing system, where instead of calculating fees based on the overall size or complexity of a client’s estate, we can invoice per server or service. TADDM will be instrumental in delivering the in-depth insight we need to enable this kind of capability. We see huge potential for the solution in the future, and we look forward to taking advantage of TADDM to add greater value for our customers, and shape a more nimble and efficient IT services business.”
About Blue Chip
Blue Chip is the UK’s largest independent provider of supply and support services for IBM solutions. Established in 1987, Blue Chip offers cloud and data center services, on-premise backup and recovery solutions, maintenance and resale services, business process and infrastructure monitoring and more. Passionate about the environment, Blue Chip has invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology to help make its data center one of the greenest in Europe.
- Control Desk
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager software, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/software/products/en/tivoliapplicationdependencydiscoverymanager Orb Data is an IBM Gold Business Partner specializing in implementing IBM Tivoli software. Based in Reading in the UK, Orb Data offers IT infrastructure management, analytics and mobile solutions, and consultancy services. For more information, visit: www.orb-data.com