A visit to the headquarters of IPsoft, in a glass-façade building overlooking New York harbour, belies the sea change that the software company is attempting to bring to the business world of IT. Such an ambitious attitude is usually found in tech start-ups, but IPsoft is a 15-year-old company. In tech years, that makes it middle-aged at best.
How has IPsoft stayed relevant in the new wave of transformative technology? In a word: autonomics. This is the ability of a system to self-learn and self-manage for process control and performance optimisation. What is intriguing about the company’s platform is that the more problems it solves, the smarter it becomes. Remote IT management (RIM) allows corporations to monitor and repair IT infrastructure faster and more reliably, saving back-office IT time and money, while reducing the risk of downtime.
The brainchild of its CEO and founder Chetan Dube, IPsoft has been off most people’s radar for two reasons. First, the company has been self-financed from day one; with no venture capital to hype the company, IPsoft has focused on its products, not marketing. That is about to change. Second, its flagship product, IPcenter, works in the back office of corporations’ IT departments. Though not the limelight, IT operations are critical to the management growing costs, IT infrastructure and the scale of growing data that enterprises must adapt to if they are to stay lean and competitive.
“As enterprises pour more resources into basic management for ever-sprawling IT infrastructure, investment in innovation will take a significant hit, undoubtedly putting organisations behind their competition,” says Jonathan Crane, chief commercial officer of IPsoft. “To forge ahead in innovation without sacrificing existing performance, IPsoft calls for organisations to embrace a smarter form of automation called autonomics.”
From IPsoft’s view, the autonomics approach “remediates performance degradation and persistent IT problems without human intervention or upfront coding. It does so with autonomous IT maintenance in place,” says Mr Crane.
IPsoft sees the trend of enterprises moving their IT operations into an automated environment – taking in everything from management and infrastructure to software and incident reporting. Gone will be the repetitive low-level IT tasks and the scripted automation processes that manage them.
“IT administrators will instead drag and drop code off a decision tree, which will be validated on the ground floor,” says Mr Crane. “The break-fix analysis will examine incidences that engineers solve. Autonomics builds those events into a mechanised, computerised environment that empowers a ‘virtual engineer’ to manage the process of identifying issues, trying to repair them through self-learning of similar past incidences, or sending them to an available engineer who has fixed a [similar] event before.” In other words, IPsoft’s platform acts as a high-speed data traffic manager, or what a load balancer does for video games played in the cloud.
Taking on the world
Today, IPsoft is experiencing high double-digit growth in the US and triple-digit growth over the past three years in Europe and emerging markets. “Based on IPsoft’s growth rate, we expect the majority of the IT infrastructures in the world will run through IPsoft’s autonomic platforms by 2015,” says Mr Crane. “This dynamic growth will be fuelled by the rapid adoption of autonomics by many of the world’s largest service providers.”
IPsoft’s goal for its growing portfolio of clients, which span more than a dozen business channels, is for them to push their organisations to the forefront of their markets, as well as “elevate staff to become more strategic”, according to David C Harron, IPsoft’s vice-president of sales, who adds: “We have over a 95% customer satisfaction rate.”
Those numbers are attractive for any software vendor. Further support from a Gartner Magic Quadrant survey on managed network services confirms: “IPsoft has become a best-in-class provider based on customer feedback, its investments in a hybrid proprietary and off-the-shelf IT operations management platform, and its success in going to market with direct and indirect sales approaches… Most impressive is that IPsoft can generate hundreds of millions [of dollars] in RIM service revenue, where its offshore peers would require 10 times the headcount in their network operations centre labour arbitrage model.” IPsoft has 1200 employees located in 13 offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
When asked about future product launches and the impact they will have on the company's growth, Mr Crane says: “IPsoft plans to announce the availability of the first cognitive knowledge worker that interacts on a very human-like basis. It will be a virtual employee that speaks, thinks and learns on the job. This cognitive technology was developed by IPsoft to mirror the human brain with an emotional and intelligence quotient. Thanks to advanced cognitive science, IPsoft’s cognitive solution understands what people ask – and even feel – when they call for service. The potential applications of this cognitive technology are targeted at the 230 million knowledge workers that make up 27% of human costs, or roughly $9000bn.”
The vision is to utilise the knowledge worker to help clients produce more customers, “which will only be realised if the enterprise can convert data into information and knowledge,” says Mr Crane.
The benefits of cognitive autonomics include labour automation merged with labour intelligence, speeding up management processes and allowing the machine to do the deep diagnostics and resolve the incident in minutes. “Our technology allows us to do this at lower costs than others, where we can achieve a respond-and-repair rate 40 times faster,” says Mr Crane. “It’s about eliminating the bottlenecks to drill down to the problem.”
What is the next space for autonomics to tackle? “Automated telephones,” says Mr Crane with a look of confidence. “In the business world, today’s phone calls are answered 24% by computer systems, and 76% by humans. Our technology will flip that. We want to remove humans from the mundane tasks, and automation will elevate the human capital.”
Historically, complex service agreements used some version of the ‘your mess for less’ slogan, but with the rise of autonomics, this slogan has grown passé. It is now about true radical innovation and transformation: less cost, fewer restrictions, with more time for humans to perform more valuable tasks and not worry about the mundane.