Cookers and car parks. This, according to many commentators, is the future for 4G mobile phone services. Yes, you will be able to download films faster, but thanks to super-fast 4G, car parks will soon text you when a space becomes free, while ‘smart’ ovens will cook your food before you get home.

4G will be an intensely competitive market, and communication service providers (CSPs) will crucially need to deliver a superior customer experience to increase market share and average revenue per user—and cut customer churn.

They’ll need enhanced infrastructure and network visibility because, as they roll out and manage 4G networks, customers will continue to push even these higher capacity networks to the maximum with streaming audio, video, and applications. The BBC recently reported that more than £1bn was spent on downloaded films, music and games in 2012, the highest annual total. Sales increased 11.4% from 2011, meaning that a quarter of the entertainment market is now digital.

Organisations of every kind have to deal with these phenomena and so face a similar imperative to improve performance and optimise service quality. They are dealing with the combined challenge of personal mobile devices in the workplace, increased application complexity, tremendous growth of video traffic on the network, and a significant increase in the use of cloud service providers—all operating on heavily virtualised infrastructures.

This infrastructure convergence translates into unprecedented IT complexity and performance management challenges. That in turn directly affects the business services used by customers and could negatively impact the end-user experience.

Managed service providers (MSPs) are vulnerable too. They will only survive by introducing differentiated, reliable services—not only in high volume, but also at the lowest possible cost using the fewest resources. This is what a superior customer experience is for an MSP customer: reliable, unique and cost efficient. Optimising the management and delivery of those services is paramount to delivering that experience.

Coping with infrastructure complexity

Convergence is changing the way we manage IT infrastructure. A surge in traffic volumes, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), social media, videos, virtualised data centres, cloud services, and wireless services are compounding complexity and making it harder than ever to deliver superior customer experience.

We only have ourselves to blame. Infrastructure management investments have often been associated with individual technologies, resulting in a disparate, overlapping toolset that compounds complexity and hinders collaboration. Network and physical and virtual infrastructure performance management for example, are typically managed as separate entities by different teams with little coordination across those domains and with application performance.

This siloed approach to performance management paints an incomplete picture of the technological factors that impact business outcomes. Moreover, monitoring faults and capacity has traditionally taken place in isolation, leading to greater complexity, longer resolution times, and higher operational costs.

The consequence of not having a clear, real-time view of the health of the underlying infrastructure can be devastating. At the very least, degradation in an online service frustrates customers and leads to an increase in the number of calls to Support. At its worst, both potential and existing customers quickly seek out your competitors—possibly never to return; the brand is irreparably damaged, and revenues dry up.

Referring back to the earlier examples, how can CSPs simplify and accelerate their 4G network rollouts? How do IT staff manage rapid growth of BYOD, video and application complexity across their extensive virtual infrastructure? And what is the key to MSPs creating new sources of revenue and on-boarding new clients faster? How, in essence, do all of these rapidly translate volumes of disparate performance data into actionable insight to improve service quality, predictability and efficiency?

Unified view of infrastructure health and performance

The answer to complexity is convergence: unified infrastructure management that provides one single, complete view of infrastructure health and performance. This service-aware infrastructure management tracks the relationships between assets, configurations and events, so the impact of infrastructure issues can be tracked to the affected business services.

Think of it as a hospital patient wired up to one unified device that monitors their entire body state, as opposed to independent systems, each managing an individual body function. The patient receives an enhanced outcome; it frees up healthcare staff time and lowers the cost of patient care.

From a technical perspective, unified infrastructure management enables IT organisations managing heavily virtualised infrastructures to understand complex relationships and interdependencies. For example, the relationships between physical and virtual servers, applications, storage and network resources—as well as the ultimate implication to customer experience.

It’s more secure too. Native multi-tenancy ensures controlled access to tenant data. This enables organisational and MSP IT staff to separate monitoring environments for each user group/customer, department, location, etc. Taking more eyes off the glass—administration via a single user interface—also lowers administrative overhead.

Converged infrastructure management ensures overburdened IT teams get the information they need to effectively manage infrastructure so they can deliver superior, differentiated services to customers.

Services that include heating your dinner.