Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Pavan Kumar, Darren Anstee, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Harnessing Big Data for Product Improvement

How UK data solutions developer Systems Mechanics uses HP Vertica for BI, streaming and data analysis

Three years ago, Systems Mechanics Limited used relational databases to assemble and analyze some 20 different data sources in near real-time. But most relational database appliances used 1980s technical approaches, and the ability to connect more data and manage more events capped off. The runway for their business expansion just ended.

So Systems Mechanics looked for a platform that scales well and provides real-time data analysis, too. At the volumes and price they needed, HP Vertica has since scaled without limit ... an endless runway.

To learn more about how Systems Mechanics improved how their products best deliver business intelligence (BI), analytics streaming, and data analysis, BriefingsDirect spoke with Andy Stubley, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Systems Mechanics, based in London. The discussion, at the HP Discover conference in Barcelona, is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: You've been doing a lot with data analysis at Systems Mechanics, and monetizing that in some very compelling ways.

Stubley: Yes, indeed. System Mechanics is principally a consultancy and a software developer. We’ve been working in the telco space for the last 10-15 years. We also have a history in retail and financial services.

Stubley

The focus we've had recently and the products we’ve developed into our Zen family are based on big data, particularly in telcos, as they evolve from principally old analog conversations into devices where people have smartphone applications -- and data becomes ever more important.

All that data and all those people connected to the network cause a lot more events that need to be managed, and that data is both a cost to the business and an opportunity to optimize the business. So we have a cost reduction we apply and a revenue upside we apply as well.

Quick example

Gardner: What’s a typical way telcos use Zen, and that analysis?

Stubley: Let’s take a scenario where you’re looking in network and you can’t make a phone call. Two major systems are catching that information. One is a fault-management system that’s telling you there is a fault on the network and it reports that back to the telecom itself.

The second one is the performance management system. That doesn’t specify faults basically, but it tells you if you’re having things like thresholds being affected, which may have an impact on performance every time. Either of those can have an impact on your customer, and from a customer’s perspective, you might also be having a problem with the network that isn’t reported by either of the systems.

We’re finding that social media is getting a bigger play in this space. Why is that? Now, particular the younger populations with consumer-based telcos, mobile telcos particularly, if they can’t get a signal or they can’t make a phone call, they get onto social media and they are trashing the brand.

They’re making noise. A trend is combining fault management and performance management, which are logical partners with social media. All of a sudden, rather than having a couple of systems, you have three.

In our world, we can put 25 or 30 different data sources on to a single Zen platform. In fact, there is no theoretical limit to the number we could, but 20 to 30 is quite typical now. That enables us to manage all the different network elements, different types of mobile technologies, LTE, 3G, and 2G. It could be Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, ZTE, or Alcatel-Lucent. There is an amazing range of equipment, all currently managed through separate entities. We’re offering a platform to pull it all together in one unit.

The other way I tend to look at it is that we’re trying to turn the telcos into how you might view a human. We take the humans as the best decision-making platforms in the world and we probably still could claim that. As humans, we have conscious and unconscious processes running. We don’t think about breathing or pumping our blood around our system, but it’s happening all the time.

We use a solution with visualization, because in the world of big data, you can’t understand data in numbers.

We have senses that are pulling in massive amount of information from the outside world. You’re listening to me now. You’re probably doing a bunch of other things while you are tapping away on a table as well. They’re getting senses of information there and you are seeing, and hearing, and feeling, and touching, and tasting.

Those all contain information that’s coming into the body, but most of the activity is subconscious. In the world of big data, this is the Zen goal, and what we’re delivering in a number of places is to make as many actions as possible in a telco environment, as in a network environment, come to that automatic, subconscious state.

Suppose I have a problem on a network. I relate it back to the people who need to know, but I don’t require human intervention. We’re looking a position where the human intervention is looking at patterns in that information to decide what they can do intellectually to make the business better.

That probably speaks to another point here. We use a solution with visualization, because in the world of big data, you can’t understand data in numbers. Your human brain isn’t capable of processing enough, but it is capable of identifying patterns of pictures, and that’s where we go with our visualization technology.

Gather and use data

We have a customer who is one of the largest telcos in EMEA. They’re basically taking in 90,000 alarms from the network a day, and that’s their subsidiary companies, all into one environment. But 90,000 alarms needing manual intervention is a very big number.

Using the Zen technology, we’ve been able to reduce that to 10,000 alarms. We’ve effectively taken 90 percent of the manual processing out of that environment. Now, 10,000 is still a lot of alarms to deal with, but it’s a lot less frightening than 90,000, and that’s a real impact in human terms.

Gardner: Now that we understand what you do, let’s get into how you do it. What’s beneath the covers in your Zen system that allows you to confidently say you can take any volume of data you want?

If we need more processing power, we can add more services to scale transparently. That enables us to get any amount of data, which we can then process.

Stubley: Fundamentally, that comes down to the architecture we built for Zen. The first element is our data-integration layer. We have a technology that we developed over the last 10 years specifically to capture data in telco networks. It’s real-time and rugged and it can deal with any volume. That enables us to take anything from the network and push it into our real-time database, which is HP’s Vertica solution, part of the HP HAVEn family.

Vertica analysis is to basically record any amount of data in real time and scale automatically on the HP hardware platform we also use. If we need more processing power, we can add more services to scale transparently. That enables us to get any amount of data, which we can then process.

We have two processing layers. Referring to our earlier discussion about conscious and subconscious activity, our conscious activity is visualizing that data, and that’s done with Tableau.

We have a number of Tableau reports and dashboards with each of our product solutions. That enables us to envision what’s happening and allows the organization, the guys running the network, and the guys looking at different elements in the data to make their own decisions and identify what they might do.

We also have a streaming analytics engine that listens to the data as it comes into the system before it goes to Vertica. If we spot the patterns we’ve identified earlier “subconsciously,” we’ll then act on that data, which may be reducing an alarm count. It may be "actioning" something.

It may be sending someone an email. It may be creating a trouble ticket on a different system. Those all happen transparently and automatically. It’s four layers simplifying the solution: data capture, data integration, visualization, and automatic analytics.

Developing high value

Gardner: And when you have the confidence to scale your underlying architecture and infrastructure, when you are able to visualize and develop high value to a vertical industry like a telco, this allows you to then expand into more lines of business in terms of products and services and also expand into move vertical. Where have you taken this in terms of the Zen family and then where do you take this now in terms of your market opportunity?

Stubley: We focus on mobile telcos. That’s our heritage. We can take any data source from a telco, but we can actually take any data source from anywhere, in any platform and any company. That ranges from binary to HTML. You name it, and if you’ve got data, we could load it.

That means we can build our processing accordingly. What we do is position what we call solution packs, and a solution pack is a connector to the outside world, to the network, and it grabs the data. We’ve got an element of data modeling there, so we can load the data into Vertica. Then, we have already built reports in Tableau that allows us to interrogate automatically. That’s at a component level.

Once you go to a number of components, we can then look horizontally across those different items and look at the behaviors that interact with each other. If you are looking at pure telco terms, we would be looking at different network devices, the end-to-end performance of the network, but the same would apply to a fraud scenario or could apply to someone who is running cable TV.

The very highest level is finding what problem you’re going to solve and then using the data to solve it.

So multi-play players are interesting because they want to monitor what’s happening with TV as well and that will fit in exactly in the same category. Realistically, anybody with high-volume, real-time data can take benefit from Vertica.

Another interesting play in this scenario is social gaming and online advertising. They all have similar data characteristics, very high volume and fixed data that needs to be analyzed and processed automatically.

Why Vertica?

Gardner: How long have you been using Vertica, and what is it that drove you to using it vis-à-vis alternatives?

Stubley: As far as the Zen family goes, we have used other technologies in the past, other relational databases, but we’ve used Vertica now for more than two-and-a-half years. We were looking for a platform that can scale and would give us real-time data. At the volumes we were looking at nothing could compete with Vertica at a sensible price. You can build yourself any solid solution with enough money, but we haven’t got too many customers who are prepared to make that investment.

So Vertica fits in with the technology of the 21st century. A lot of the relational database appliances are using 1980 thought processes. What’s happened with processing in the last few years is that nobody shares memory anymore, and our environment requires a non-shared memory solution. Vertica has been built on that basis. It was scaled without limit.

One of the areas we’re looking at that I mentioned earlier was social media. Social media is a very natural play for Hadoop, and Hadoop is clearly a very cost-effective platform for vast volumes of data at real-time data load, but very slow to analyze.

So the combination with a high-volume, low-cost platform for the bulk of data and a very high performing real-time analytics engine is very compelling. The challenge is going to be moving the data between the two environments. That isn’t going to go away. That’s not simple, and there is a number of approaches. HP Vertica is taking some.

There is Flex Zone, and there are any number of other players in that space. The reality is that you probably reach an environment where people are parallel loading the Hadoop and the Vertica. That’s what we probably plan to do. That gives you much more resilience. So for a lot of the data we’re putting into our system, we’re actually planning to put the raw data files into Hadoop, so we can reload them as necessary to improve the resilience of the overall system, too.

You may also be interested in:

More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

@ThingsExpo Stories
IoT is fundamentally transforming the auto industry, turning the vehicle into a hub for connected services, including safety, infotainment and usage-based insurance. Auto manufacturers – and businesses across all verticals – have built an entire ecosystem around the Connected Car, creating new customer touch points and revenue streams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Macario Namie, Head of IoT Strategy at Cisco Jasper, will share real-world examples of how IoT transforms the car from a static p...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
Businesses are struggling to manage the information flow and interactions between all of these new devices and things jumping on their network, and the apps and IT systems they control. The data businesses gather is only helpful if they can do something with it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Witeck, Principal Technology Strategist at Citrix, will discuss how different the impact of IoT will be for large businesses, expanding how IoT will allow large organizations to make their legacy ap...
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the protocols that communicate data and the emerging data analy...
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, will discuss key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management solutions, helping companies worldwide activate their data to drive more value and business insight and to transform moder...
What are the new priorities for the connected business? First: businesses need to think differently about the types of connections they will need to make – these span well beyond the traditional app to app into more modern forms of integration including SaaS integrations, mobile integrations, APIs, device integration and Big Data integration. It’s important these are unified together vs. doing them all piecemeal. Second, these types of connections need to be simple to design, adapt and configure...
Digital innovation is the next big wave of business transformation based on digital technologies of which IoT and Big Data are key components, For example: Business boundary innovation is a challenge to excavate third-party business value using IoT and BigData, like Nest Business structure innovation may propose re-building business structure from scratch, as Uber does in the taxicab industry The social model innovation is also a big challenge to the new social architecture with the design fr...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at EMC, will introduce a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organizati...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lea...
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...