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Machine analytics fuel Cardinal Health's IT transformation

Clint Boulton | Oct. 4, 2016
The global health services provider monitors its sprawling IT operations using analytics software from Splunk to detect hardware and software performance problems.

Companies struggling with the large volumes of data their computer systems generate are turning to a new crop of software that uses algorithms to analyze their IT operations. It's a decidedly big data approach to the challenge of finding and fixing technology glitches that hamper service production.

Cardinal Health, a Fortune 21 health products company generating $125 billion in revenues across 60 countries, knows this scenario all too well. A glut of acquisitions had rendered Cardinal's technology footprint so broad that it was blind to problems plaguing its legions of servers and software systems. And while Cardinal gauged system health with monitoring tools and domain experts, it struggled with prolonged system outages because the volume and velocity of data produced made it impossible to get a holistic representation of IT operations.

Scot Lindsey, Cardinal Health

Scot Lindsey, Cardinal Health's senior vice president of enterprise IT shared services.

"There are certain problems and patterns that we just aren't able to see with that approach," says Scot Lindsey, the company's senior vice president of enterprise IT shared services. "That bigger picture view is hard to see at our scale and complexity."

Cardinal turned to Splunk, whose algorithms are trained to analyze and correlate log files  generated by computer systems to pinpoint the root cause of performance problems, providing IT a more holistic view of its IT operations."Splunk crunches huge amounts of data and presents the pattern to you," Lindsey says.

Embracing IT operations management as a big data problem to be analyzed with algorithmic software is a trend that's playing out across several industries, says Gartner analyst Colin Fletcher. He says that previous IT operations tools have been so coupled to domain-specific data collection that they were largely unaware of what was happening outside the systems they were built to monitor. "You can't make the same assumptions that you did in the past around what is relevant data, where will it come from and what are the skills of people I need to answer questions," Fletcher says.

Companies are turning to algorithm-based analytics software from the likes of Splunk and Sumo Logic, among other vendors. Fletcher expects that by 2020 50 percent of enterprises will use such platforms to provide insight into business execution and IT operations, an increase from fewer than 10 percent today.

Analyzing machine data optimizes performance

Cardinal first used the software three years ago to monitor log files created by its ecommerce software, which generates the bulk of its revenues. This platform daily endures what Lindsey calls a "Black Friday event," as healthcare providers rush to order medical and pharmaceutical products before the cut-off deadline to have it shipped to them the next day. Cardinal identified performance errors and made corrections to ensure that orders were processed and shipped in a timely fashion.


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