It's one thing to share with you a new product from EMC. We've got plenty of those as part of our announcement barrage at EMC World 2012.
But occasionally, I get to share a product that embodies a new way of thinking about a familiar challenge.
New ideas can be more interesting (and potentially valuable) than iterations on previous approaches -- and that's why I think the new EMC DataBridge deserves a bit of your attention.
Not only does it have some immediately useful capabilities on Day 1, it shows we've started to think about IT management challenges in entirely new ways.
And it can't happen soon enough in my book ...
The Pain With IT Operations Reporting
IT infrastructure can be complicated, expensive and difficult stuff.
When it comes to reporting on things like assets, configurations, performance, utilization -- and so on -- there are some inherent challenges that have been really hard to tackle using traditional approaches.
First, it goes without saying that (a) everyone wants to see a different report,(b) everyone wants to see a different report each time, and (c) they want the very latest data.
As vendors, we typically provided a bunch of canned reports in our IT management capabilities, along with access to the underlying data so you could roll your own if you like.
No matter what we did, no one liked our reports. Yes, we were supplying the underlying data, but that by itself wasn't useful enough in isolation. And there's only so much you can do with Excel :)
More was needed. Much, much more.
Especially as the industry transitions to the "as a service" model (whether you're an enterprise IT organization or an IT service provider), we had to come up with an entirely new set of capabilities, and do it in such a way than enabled and empowered people, rather than try to offer a pre-fabricated "answer".
Enter EMC DataBridge
A while ago, a small team formed at EMC with the express charter to start looking at the problem differently.
Instead of thinking in terms of a packaged product, how could we create an environment -- and an ecosystem -- to better address the growing challenges our customers and partners were facing?
There was plenty of technology and expertise at hand -- what we needed was a new model around how IT operations reporting applications were created, exposed and shared.
We couldn't presume the existence of particular EMC products in the environment -- the model had to flexible enough to potentially work with anything the customer might have on their floor.
The result is quite interesting.
EMC DataBridge is a development environment for creating, publishing and collaborating around IT operations reporting. In its first release, it's mostly targeting EMC information sources, but -- thanks to open interfaces -- there's no real limitation there for other management information sources.
Structurally, there are three components.
First, the DataBridge Studio is where you discover and provision management information sources.
There are a large number of adaptors that have been created for EMC products, but -- as before -- there will be plenty of adaptors over time created by both EMC and users via a community model.
Second, the DataBridge Apps environment is where you create individual management "applets" to filter and correlate multiple data sources to provide one view or another of interest.
Using a visual studio approach, you drag and drop design elements until you've got something you're looking for.
Finally, the DataBridge Dashboard allows you to quickly compose combinations of reporting applets into a big-picture at-a-glance presentation view for many different audiences. Everything in the environment is reusable and shareable across different use cases and teams.
Although not part of the formal announcement, I believe the plan is to create an external community where users can complement EMC's own offerings with their own adaptors, filters, widgets, applets and so on created around DataBridge.
I would expect that -- over time -- the resulting community ends up being a very useful place indeed.
Why I Like This Approach So Much
The new thinking in IT management is around enablement and empowerment. There's only so much that can be done with pre-packaged fixed-use-case vendor solutions.
EMC DataBridge clearly reflects that thinking: here are the tools you need to give your users what they want to see -- even if we didn't think of it.
Second, as IT moves to an as-a-service model, here's the reporting side "as a service" as well.
If ITaaS is all about making IT easy to consume for everyone, then IT reporting and management information ought to be easy to consume as well.
Indeed, early trials with IT service providers who have to deliver all sorts of reporting portals for internal and external stakeholders alike have been mightily impressed with what we've been able to whip up on short notice :)
Third, I really like the beginnings of the community model in place here.
The people I meet who do IT management reporting have many of the same challenges, passions and interests. As they find each other in the community, not only will they share tools and adaptors, but they'll be able to share expertise and strategies as well.
IT Reporting -- A New Core Competence?
As IT learns to run more like a factory, there's inevitably a veritable flood of metrics that have to be gathered, filtered, correlated, analyzed, presented and discussed.
Everyone wants to see the numbers (producers and consumers alike!), and -- of course -- everyone wants to see *their* data *their* way.
Would you expect anything else?
I look at what the team has done with DataBridge, and I think it's the right sort of approach -- a framework that enables people to meet their own needs -- and the needs of the people they serve -- quickly and easily.
For me, it's just another sign that IT is changing ... for the good!