The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is changing the landscape of the U.S. manufacturing industry.  Companies that understand the patterns and trends and position themselves to prepare for the impending advances will most certainly gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace. 

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Companies no longer have the luxury of being anything but data-driven. Data used to be something to simply maintain and manage, but now it’s a valuable asset that companies use to gain a competitive edge. With change happening so rapidly, how are manufacturers preparing to take advantage of the massive amounts of data that is available and more importantly, how are they using that data to really take advantage of the power that IIoT delivers?

When posing the question of how manufacturing companies are preparing for IIoT, many manufacturing leaders think of IIoT as something far off in the distance, but they don’t really understand the full impact that is coming. Many see it as a fad or something that may only have some effect on the way they handle day-to-day operations in the long run.  As we begin to peel back the layers of IIoT, one sees that there is a strong potential for a shift to occur that will change the entire manner in which manufacturing companies operate similar to what the manufacturing industry saw when they were first implementing automation and began using IT and other electronics. As a result, manufacturing leaders are seeking to develop formal and informal IIoT strategies that will position their companies to take advantage of new opportunities to streamline efficiencies, reduce downtime and stimulate profitability sooner rather than later.


Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

If one reviews the history of manufacturing, there are four distinct manufacturing industrial revolutions spanning from the initial mechanical production facilities to mass production to use of electronics and IT to IIoT and systems integration. The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, will allow manufacturers to leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to collect vast amounts of sensor and network data, apply advanced analytics and further utilize new technology such as robots and 3-D printing to improve quality and output.

While some progressive manufacturers see where the industry is headed, many are only at the starting gate of the next wave of innovation fueled by IIoT applications and solutions. According to a recent study by Smart Industry, many manufacturers are focused on learning and benchmarking to formulate winning strategies. Many will be using the findings to reduce operational costs, optimize asset utilization, improve worker productivity, enhance workplace safety, enhance the customer experience and create new business models and revenue streams.


IIoT Will Produce More “A-Ha” Moments for Manufacturers

The best way for the manufacturing industry to capitalize on IIoT is by gathering more data from sensors and systems and utilizing it to make business-driven decisions. While that may seem as though it is not an easy task, by adding advanced analytics solutions now, manufacturers will most certainly have more “a-ha” moments as they produce insights previously clouded by uncertainty or unattainable due to limited resources and time.

The advanced platforms will enable manufacturers to gather the right data, at the right time which can be leveraged to make well-informed, and most importantly, proactive business decisions. These tools will provide more insight and will enable manufacturers to develop a major engine to identify and create new products, services and profit centers all while simultaneously improving production efficiency, reducing costs, preventing downtime, ensuring quality and enhancing their overall ability to strategically plan business operations.


Manufacturers Aren’t Really Sure Where to Begin

Data is being collected by sensors, PLCs and more to the point some manufacturers are overwhelmed with data and aren’t really sure where to start. With so much data readily available, many manufacturers are wondering how to start implementing IIoT technologies in a thoughtful manner. Many manufacturers are taking a very close look at the data they want to collect and how they will use the information to streamline efficiencies, realize opportunities and produce a sizeable return on investment (ROI).

Manufacturers are concerned by a host of obstacles for adopting IIoT in their companies, with the most notable being cybersecurity. Cybersecurity concerns, lack of overall IIoT knowledge internally, legacy products that do not have obvious IIoT connectivity and lack of senior management support and commitment, just to name a few, are among the most pressing issues that keep manufacturers up at night. In order to wrap their arms around these challenges, proactive manufacturers will need to gain a better understanding of how to leverage advanced analytics. The traditional manufacturing business model is quite reactive and relies on management to be the primary driver of change, production that is driven by a sales forecast, and system improvements if, and only if, it is perceived to be “broken.”  As the manufacturing landscape advances due to IIoT, manufacturers must begin to take a more holistic view of the entire company to better understand how one part of the operation affects other parts in order to take advantage of enormous opportunities for improvement and to proactively gain the competitive edge.

As manufacturers begin to take a more holistic approach, many are working with internal teams, suppliers and consultants to decide the most valuable data to collect, what systems require enhancement, how the data will help them realize opportunities as well as how to gauge the full impact of IIoT changes within and outside the company. The two most critical issues are data management and cybersecurity. These areas will be critical challenges for the company to address as it affects future competitiveness

IIoT is most definitely changing the landscape of the manufacturing industry as we know it. Manufacturers that read the trends, understand data patterns and begin to lay the foundation now to proactively take advantage of the technological advances will be poised to remain viable in the global marketplace throughout the decades to come.

As an IT professional, your job is to ensure continual systems availability and to mitigate risk. Monitoring your IT infrastructure is an essential part of your overall IT strategy, yet many companies either don’t have an effective system in place or are using outdated tools that only provide part of the picture.

The risks associated with not monitoring your system or using outdated tools definitely outweigh the time required to advance your systems measurement resources and their costs. Failure to monitor or using outdated systems can lead to unnecessary downtime, reduced security, lost profits and is a major blow to your company’s street cred.

Here are the Top Five Reasons Why IT Performance Monitoring is Critical:
Prevent Unnecessary Downtime

No one wants to experience downtime. Your network needs to do more than simply work as expected. It is imperative that it is working at all times. By integrating newer IT performance monitoring tools, you’ll ensure that every aspect of your IT infrastructure is stable and functioning as it should. Alerting functions provide up-to-the-minute information about performance issues that could cost your company hundreds of thousands of dollars in unplanned downtime.

Security Breach Mitigation

Just turn on the evening news and you’ll hear about hackers, phishing schemes and other malicious attempts to extract customer and credit card data from companies. By incorporating an IT performance monitoring software, you’ll have the protection you need to mitigate the risk of experiencing a “Day at the Breach” by proactively identifying weak points in your security setup. IT performance monitoring tools will automatically alert you to atypical system activity which gives you the power to respond to potential threats and stop the bad guys in their tracks before it’s too late.

Manage Expectations

It’s is easier than ever to manage internal and external expectations with an IT performance monitoring system in place.  With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can provide your staff with the tools they need to report on what’s working, and what isn’t.  You’ll also be able to ensure that you’re providing a reliable customer experience.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Data visualization turns obscure data into easily understandable visuals and provides a quick way to convey your message. When the data is presented visually, the IT team can more effectively recognize patterns, identify data outliers and analyze data over time. Elements and patterns that were once too obscure to notice on a spreadsheet will pop off the page when delivered in a visual manner. Data visualization also allows members of the c-suite and other decision-makers to quickly identify trends and patterns to understand how one variable affects other areas of the company.

Strengthen Your Company’s Reputation

Your company’s brand is at stake.  Now we realize that many of you might be saying “branding…schmanding….what does our internal IT infrastructure have to do with my company’s brand anyway?” Well, take our word for it…it does.  As more and more customers interact with your brand online, ensuring that your systems are safe, secure and always working is imperative to repeat business and an IT performance monitoring solution is the key element to delivering an exceptional customer experience.

A Bonus 6th Reason IT Performance Monitoring is Essential…
Your Competition is Using IT Performance Monitoring Software to Deliver More Value Internally and Externally

More and more companies are realizing that they can gain a competitive edge by leveraging the data that results from IT performance monitoring. Your competition is implementing IT performance monitoring to easily capture, monitor and visualize data streams to improve quality and reduce the costs of operations to remain competitive.

Successful companies are leveraging the advanced data and analytics to ensure system-wide performance. Whether they seek to improve customer experiences, catch product flaws before repairs or replacements are needed, or increase safety, these systems also provide IT and OT professionals in many industries such as manufacturing, financial services, and telecommunications with previously untapped views into how their businesses operate.

 

Get More Information About How IT Performance Monitoring Helps Your Business Become Better, Faster and Stronger

Companies like Sightline Systems are helping customers achieve business transformation with IT performance monitoring. The newest release of Sightline’s award winning platform for managing the continuous streams of time series data has broken new barriers, collecting data in real time millisecond observations. This breakthrough technology is providing users with access to data which was previously unavailable.

Sightline EDM helps users easily capture, monitor and visualize data streams from their IT environments. Older, legacy systems have for many years provided visibility into operations but the data was frequently summarized due to the volume of data produced.  The state-of-the-art Sightline EDM software has removed these barriers and can store millisecond level data in real time and preserve the data for future analysis and planning tasks.

For more information about how IT performance can help your company reduce downtime, optimize performance and achieve real results, contact Sightline Systems at (703) 563-3000, info@sightline.com or complete the form below and someone will be in touch with you right away.

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Sightline Systems Included in Prestigious ITOA Predictions List

FAIRFAX, VA – March 6, 2016 – We are proud to announce that Sightline Systems’ own Brandon Witte is mentioned in the ITOA Landscape’s 2016 ITOA Predictions list. The list features quotes from the ITOA50 (the Who’s Who of ITOA IT Operations Analytics Leaders) and ITOA analysts. The list of quotes provides insightful predictions about just how IT Operations Analytics (ITOA) will affect organizations in 2016.

According to Mr. Witte, “This year, we are going to see predictive analytics take center stage for infrastructure monitoring. Rather than being in a reactionary mode, IT teams will now be able to access more data-points and real-time analytics than ever before to help them understand what is happening now and to accurately forecast what will happen in their businesses over time. Predictive analytics will help businesses improve efficiency and up-time which will stimulate long-term growth. Data centers will now be able to closely monitor everything from primary servers to PDUs and HVAC systems to cameras and electronic door locks to identify issues before they become too costly.”

To read other quotes from the 2016 ITOA Predictions List, visit http://www.itoa-landscape.org/2016-itoa-predictions.

Compound Expressions Improve Your IT Monitoring

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While today’s monitoring solutions help IT teams view their IT infrastructures with little to no tweaking, using an IT monitoring solution that allows for complex expressions can be very useful in improving reliability.

So what’s a complex expression? A compound expression is a series of simple expressions joined by arithmetic operators.  It’s a way of combining a series of thresholds together that, when in violation all at the same time, could lead to a bigger problem. Once these compound expressions are created, teams can apply those expressions to historical data to see if when problems began or occurred. Or they can combine them with their IT monitoring solution’s alerting capabilities to inform IT teams when certain conditions are met.

Examples:

  1. A server’s heat increase and that additional heat affected the CPU. That caused website response time to degrade. A compound expression could be useful here to monitor CPU, temperature and web server response times.  By combining an alert with this expression IT admins can be notified in advanced before the problem becomes too serious.Temperature > 80 degrees AND CPU Time Busy > 90% AND response time < 5 seconds
  2. An engineer or IT admin notices problems with a particular server, and wants to pinpoint the time of the day that the server is performing the worst to see if a particular event may be the cause. A compound expression monitoring CPU, memory and disk usage would help.CPU Time Busy > 90% AND Memory Usage > 75% AND Disk Busy > 75%

Using an IT monitoring and analysis solution such as Sightline EDM, this expression can be used to perform root cause analysis. Once the expression has been created and data has been collected, the data can be plotted over a time period to find any violations.  Correlation can then be used with root cause analysis to find related events (across different systems). If you’re already an EDM user, I’ve even written a short guide on Creating Compound Expression Alerts in Sightline EDM.

Compound expressions, even such as the simple math equations above drastically improve your IT monitoring solution. It’s up to you to be creative and make awesome expressions to monitor your IT environment and solve problems when or even before they happen.

Increase Productivity by Classifying Monitored Alerts

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Few people think about the types of alerts they receive. Yet, having the right types of alerts configured can result in significant cost-savings, improved infrastructure performance and increased end-user productivity. By planning and categorizing the right alerts for your company’s infrastructure operations, you can be confident that your IT operations are running smoothly and efficiently.

Alerts can be categorized into three classifications:

Performance Alerts – These are simple alerts used to make sure day to day operations are running smoothly.  These are things that may need immediate attention, such as a sudden spike in CPU utilization that’s causing your end-users to have a bad experience, or a large memory increase indicating that something needs to be investigated in the very near future.

Capacity Alerts – Classic alerts that warn end-users about when storage is full, CPUs are at full utilization, RAM is at zero or other factors. Capacity alerts have evolved to include triggers before capacity thresholds are exceeded. These triggers alerts IT teams when things should be fixed or fined tuned in order to reduce operating costs or increase productivity.

Dynamic Alerts – A modern, smarter approach to notification is the dynamic alert. A dynamic alert has the ability to move the threshold parameters based on day-to-day or week-to-week use.  Say on a Monday morning, CPU utilization of your farm is high at 80% due to workers showing up after a weekend, ready to tackle their assignments.  A dynamic alert would be smart enough to capture typical Monday CPU utilization and classify that use as “normal”. Yet, a dynamic alert might be triggered if CPU use on a Monday hits 99% or drops to 30%, a clear sign that there’s a problem. By analyzing trends over time by time of day we can create intelligent alerts and become aware of things which otherwise may not be noticed.

Now that you know the three types of alerts, you should look at your current alerts and see where switching alerts to a different type might help decrease the amount of alerts you get while improving the fidelity of alerts that need immediate attention. Good luck.

Meet Sightline Assure

As a successful monitoring and analytics solution provider, we’ve had 12 years of success answering the needs of current and future customers. While our EDM product has continuously delivered a high level of performance for IT teams from banks to telecommunications to airlines, it is a powerful enterprise-grade solution that some businesses don’t need yet. Yet, we believe that regardless of size, every business needs an IT monitoring solution that helps keep their systems running.

So we decided to simplify.

Sightline Assure is a new product that utilizes the power of EDM into a simplified, easy-to-read solution for companies that need to look and understand their entire server stack essentials from hardware to operating systems (Windows, Linux and VMware) to virtual machines.

Accuracy was essential. Assure features the same EDM platform technology to deliver high-fidelity of data monitoring to the end user. With 98% of EDM customers choosing to stick with EDM for the past 10 years, its platform as the foundation not only made Assure easier to develop, it allows us to update Assure with better technologies when they become available.

Portability was essential. While EDM’s is web-based, Assure needed to offer an interface that’s not only accessible from a laptop, its information needed to be readable from a smartphone or tablet. We tested Assure from a wide variety of devices and we’re happy to report that Assure is up to the task.

Simplicity was essential. Assure needed to boil down the 700+ metrics it receives into knowledge and notification – it needed to convey immediate context to any user. So Assure features only three easy to understand colors: Grey for good, yellow for warning and red for more immediate concerns. When end users drill deeper into Assure, they gain more knowledge about issues, when they began and how long they’ve lasted. It’s simply enough to learn in just a few minutes, doesn’t need a long-winded manual or long hours of training.

Pricing was essential. With Assure, we wanted to create a solution for any company looking to increase their IT systems’ operational stability so we priced Assure at a level that even a very small company could easily afford.

We’d like to thank the Sightline Assure team for adding expertise to building a solution for an industry that can significantly improve their operations as they upgrade their operations to Industry 4.0.

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Meet the Sightline Assure Team

So when will we release Sightline Assure? Today. Take a moment to look at the Assureproduct page to learn more, watch a video that talks about how it works and feel free to reach out to ask about how to purchase Assure for your company.

East of Data Center Alley: Our Trip to Data Center World

 

dcw-raffle2A good deal of the Internet traffic that flows to government sites and commercial sites like Amazon, LinkedIn and Facebook go through “Data Center Alley,” which is just minutes to the west of our Fairfax, VA-based headquarters.

Given that we offer enterprise-grade IT monitoring and analysis solutions that can work with data centers, we ventured to Data Center World a few weeks ago at National Harbor, MD to investigate how we could help.

We were welcomed into the data center industry as attendees were open to our questions and curious about what Sightline Systems could do.

While we talked about how we monitor and analyze the infrastructure that makes IT work inside businesses, other exhibitors showed us cooling, wiring, racks and power products that help fuel the IT infrastructures that we support.

Sightline Systems CEO Brandon Witte was also on hand to talk to business leaders, tell them about our solutions and handed out a $250 Amazon gift card to our raffle winner, Rahman Khaalis.

Leaving the show not only helped us understand the work and planning that goes into data center development and management, it gave us a new appreciation for the massive windowless buildings that we see on our daily commute.

Sightline's Comments on the Agent vs Agent-less Monitoring Debate

If the Agent-based or Agent-less debate has got you down, why not use both? For over fifteen years, Sightline Systems has delivered industry-leading agent-based data collection capabilities for mission-critical IT systems. This detailed data is critical for forensic root cause analysis and detailed capacity planning activities. But what about when this level of data collection is not required? Sightline Systems has the answer — our Agent-less data collection product allows you to collect data from systems without the need to deploy local agents.

Need high-level performance data quickly from a farm of servers? No problem!

Want to gather performance metrics from network or storage devices? We have you covered!

Our new framework offers the ability to take advantage of a variety of collection options without additional software installations. Agents are and will continue to be the industry standard mechanism for the collection of performance data on mission-critical systems. They offer security and availability that cannot be matched by Agent-less collection products. So end the debate — you can have your cake and eat it, too! Contact Sightline Systems today and enjoy the best of both worlds. (703) 563-3000

Installing and Updating the Power Agent on Windows Systems

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Creating a Response File

We have had several inquiries about silent installs and updates for the Sightline Power Agents. Silent installs and updates for Windows Power Agents are accomplished by creating a response file, documented here.

The Problem With Ghost Servers

Ghost servers are a growing problem for enterprise infrastructures. The term, which denotes unused or underutilized servers, has grown recently as companies perform cost, security or performance plans for their big networks. Back in 2013, a BizTech article entitled The IT Monster in the Closet: Ghost Servers cited an industry estimate that ghost servers may make up to 15 percent of the enterprise marketplace. With the growth of global enterprise networks over the last two years, 15 percent might be a conservative estimate in 2015.

In terms of cost, ghost servers consume power and require cooling. Typically the use of these systems have either have been deprecated but not removed from the network because they might still run one or a few VMs or other applications. Time and power equals money and while ghost servers might not break the bank, finding, removing or optimizing them can make IT teams gain visibility when companies are looking to lower IT costs.

Having any unmonitored systems attached to a secure network always increases risk. Ghost servers might not directly contribute to a significant rise in security breaches but they could, at least in theory without monitoring, supply hackers with a potential backdoor into your secure network. Back in 2006, Computer World reported that such a server was used to hack into Ohio University’s alumni database and obtain 170,000 social security numbers and personal information. How’d it happen? The IT team thought the server was offline.

Now for the good news. Ghost servers might also provide a vital and inexpensive way to increase infrastructure performance for teams looking for more processing power on-premises. Applications that might consume significant CPU or memory resources on a multi-VM servers might be moved to a ghost server or teams can increase performance by adding such servers to their load balancing activities.

So where do you start? First, teams need to find the servers and use a monitoring solution such at Sightline’s EDM to look at all the servers on a network to see which servers are on, operational and what applications are running. For systems that are powered on but idle, teams can use EDM to create groups of potential ghost servers to watch.

Next, teams need to discover when and how those servers have been used and resolve ownership of them. This might be the hardest part since teams might not have access to that data. Yet, it’s a vital way to ensure IT tranquility by avoiding the potential for shutting down a seldom used but vital server or VM.

Once identified, teams will need to figure out of the server is needed for another task or should be removed from your network. Regardless of the decision, optimization or offline, identifying ghost servers should be a priority for any company looking to increase performance or ensure additional security for their infrastructure.