Built for the future: CDI + Proact discuss LogicMonitor for MSPs

In this customer panel video Chris Black, CTO Managed Services at CDI, and Per Sedihn, CTO & VP Portfolio & Technology at Proact, talk about their partnerships with LogicMonitor. Topics include the importance of predictability, automation, and intelligence in observability platforms for Managed Service Providers, specific ways LogicMonitor helped both companies scale quickly, and the future of support for hybrid infrastructures with unified observability.

Video Transcription

Dinesh: And Chris and Per welcome. We really appreciate your time in taking the opportunity to talk with us and I really like talking to customers, being a very customer-obsessed guy all along. And coming into LogicMonitor, I can only say that I am super excited about the number of customers that I’ve been talking to and the glowing conversations that I’ve been having. So looking forward to a wonderful conversation with you both as well. First off, let’s get over some introductions, and let me introduce myself. My name is Dinesh Chandrasekhar. As Rachel said, I recently joined LogicMonitor and I’m totally excited about the opportunity space here I have been two months into the job. So in a way, this conversation is going to be informational for me too, to understand your roles and what you’ve been doing with LogicMonitor and all that. So I’m going to use this opportunity to almost educate myself as well. So with that, let me start with you Chris. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your role at CDI and then we’ll go to Per.

Chris: Well thank you and good morning. Thank you guys for letting me speak at the LogicMonitor kickoff I greatly appreciate it. I’m more than happy to support this organization because we’ve been partnered together for a very long time now. My role at CDI and I came across via an acquisition of High Availability about a year and a month ago. So I’ll tell you my story on how we got into a partnership with LogicMonitor because I actually think it’s kind of funny. So 2012 we started a managed services company called High Availability or HR Services. And back in the day, we were looking for a secure private, multi-tenant monitoring platform. And it was 2012 and the only thing that was on the market was a little product called Nimsoft. The product just wasn’t meeting our needs anymore.

And I turned to one of our engineers at the time and said, “We are predominantly a NetApp shop. We do a lot of ISAs, we do a lot of Deras for clients. We base everything on a FlexPod and a Vblock architecture. I need something to monitor the NetApp infrastructure. Go find me something.” And he came back and he’s like, “I found this company. You may not have ever heard of them, LogicMonitor, but I think we ought to take a look. And I think this was like 2014. So back in the early days when we were starting to do this stuff. Took a look at it and it’s been growing ever since. It is a core foundation of what we do from an MSP and a VAR and integrator. So fast forward many years, CDI comes along and says, “We want you to be the platform that we extend our managed services across the additional acquisitions that we’re doing.” And CDI is a very large VAR integrator out of the New York region.

We’ve had eight acquisitions in the past 18 months and we’ve been integrating them all and they’ve all been migrating over to the LogicMonitor platform, which has been key. And the way I described CDI, and this is very much a marketing statement, so forgive me for making this one, but CDI is a business transformation organization by architecting, designing and deploying multi-cloud infrastructure with a proven blueprint for operational efficiencies. On top of that, we enable business transformation within our organizations by leveraging the five core clouds that we focus on. And those five clouds are Salesforce, ServiceNow, Splunk, O-365, and LogicMonitor.

Dinesh: Oh wow.

Chris: And we do the integration of those five ecosystems across the board and then we leverage it from an operations perspective on a day-to-day, how do I run this? So we’re very invested in the LogicMonitor and the ecosystem. We’ve been working with you guys on doing some improvements over the years and my role within the organization is the CTO of our Modern IT Operations Division is to enable those operational transformations across the ecosystem for not only internal use but our clients. So again, thank you very much for having me here this morning.

Dinesh: All right, I appreciate that. That’s a very good introduction. Thank you so much for that. Per I want to hand this over to you now to talk to you about your role at ProAct and help us understand what you do there and maybe a little context about ProAct as well.

Per: Absolutely. Hi, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, whatever it is. Per Sedihn the CTO. So I have quite a technical role. I love the technology and the way you can actually help customers use the technology. I also manage a team of product managers where we’re working on packaging or service because I think ProAct and we’ve been around for 27 years is going to be this Fall. And I’m one of the co-founders. So as you can see, I was really young when we started it. But we’re quite new as a LogicMonitor partner, it’s about a year-old relationship. So it is quite new for us. But we, ProAct has, I think during the maturity, I think most organizations start with system sale, selling software, selling hardware, adding support, 24 by 7 support, consulting. But over the last decade or so, of course, more and more asset services production, we call it managed cloud services.

We obviously have multi-cloud, all these nice words. But we’ve been moving more and more into as a service production for I think for two reasons. One obviously because customers want that and secondly our owners, we are a public company, owners want more stability and revenue, recurring revenue type of revenue. So it is absolutely strategic direction for us. We still have a lot of what we call system size. We sell products to customers to their data centers, but more and more it is our own services’ production. So we have a number of data centers across Europe. We are about 1200 people across Europe in I think about 12 countries, plus a small little hub outside Chicago to support some customers in the US. So we are not really in the US but we have a little bit of a hub with a couple of people. Working with infrastructure in the data center, Nethub is obviously one of our larger partners, has been for many, many years.

And I think the focus for our partnership has been around how can we improve our service operations where we operate our services. How can we get the contemporary tool? And we’ve been, I think like most people we’ve been using Nimsoft and we had some, I would say experience with Nimsoft. We kind of changed it way later than you did, but it wasn’t working. So we had a central Nimsoft platform. It wasn’t really working technically, commercially, or operationally. And of course, we had eight or 10 other monitoring tools across the ProAct Group because we’ve been growing, we’ve been buying companies, it was a bit of a diverse portfolio. But my role is really in working customers and try to understand where they’re going in their digital transformation way, want to call it. And in this context, first of all ensure that we have the best and most efficient service operation and then we’re going to drive some innovation out of our partnership, which we might touch on a bit later in the discussion.

Dinesh: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Per: Glad to be here. My first ever LogicMonitor conference, although I would’ve loved to be, I think it was Santa Barbara, wasn’t it? I’ve been there once many years ago and I would love to go back there.

Dinesh: Cool. Very cool, thank you. That was a great introduction. Appreciate that. So I think both of you touched on a couple of things. So it was that the tools prowl, you mentioned the lack of ability for the existing tools cater to the needs of what you were looking for. So that’s one thing both of you touched on. Two is the amount of scale that you both of you are accomplishing. Chris spoke about eight different acquisitions and how much it’s growing and then Per use spoke about the multiple data centers that are growing and happening across multiple countries. So with scale in mind, how do you decide as a CTO where your SLAs are from an operational perspective? Do you focus more from a customer-facing objective or do you take internal operational goals of having uptime and delivering resiliency and those kinds of things? Where does the balance lie, and what are some of your immediate priorities right there? Per since you started on the data center? Do you want to start us off with that?

Per: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think I would like to start with the customer because it is for me and I think very much to Chris, it is the customer. It’s all about the customer. Making sure that we understand their requirements and deliver on them in a high-quality but also for us in an efficient way. So it is always about making sure that we are meeting the SLAs because we usually have quite extensive contracts. Usually what we do with customers is quite complex. It’s not like, you click and put in your credit card information and your customer product. We are not working out, you need to set up the network, the security practices, all the processes, all of that. So it’s a fairly complex technical implementation. So I think it’s all about what we are promising customers and making sure that we actually fulfilling the promise.

So it is very much outward facing when it comes to that. But of course internally, which we don’t really want to show to customers, the way we architect it, the availability, the recoverability, multi-site, that’s all down to us. And certain we all more and more measuring internally, certainly the quality of what we deliver, or we actually delivering the SLAs. But more and more we are focusing on actually the efficiency.

Dinesh: Efficiency.

Per: It’s a tough market. We need to be more efficient. We know we need to get more out of our existing service operations. So I think it doesn’t show the customers because we want to deliver a really good experience and a good service to our customers and certainly fulfilling the SLAs and the contract. But in the backend, we need to do this more efficiently and we need to standardize the processes, we need to standardize the tools. So one big reason for doing this project about a year ago, and we did a very solid RFP and looked at what we had, we looked at all the requirements, we looked at probably 10 or 12 players across the market, and land with you guys. And, but I mean in all of these we really need to standardize toolsets. We can’t afford to have 10, 12 different monitoring tools based on local preference or an acquisition.

So we are really standardizing the processes, we are automating, we are standardizing the tools sets to enable this. We have ServiceNow is our front and ITSM tool that customers see it as a portal. So it is some really nice integrations with the CMDB population using LogicMonitor. So we have really good, I think commercial technical and operational reasons for using you guys.

And I’d probably like to add a fourth one, which is sometimes the most important one. It was your both global and local team, the way they work with us. Really worked with ProAct, try to understand ProAct where we’re coming from, where we’re going and working very closely with us during the RFP process, of course but also perhaps even more important in the implementation phase we’ve been going through during 2021. So we worked really closely and that was as important I think as the hard effects on RFP really. So I think a great big thank you for, well some into the US but very much your local team in Europe making this a success. In the initial phase we did the business case, the RFP got approved from our CFO and CEO, which is really hard to get. And we actually delivered on every piece of that business case we have delivered or done it better than we actually described what we’re going to do.

Dinesh: Fantastic.

Per: Everything on time, everything meeting all the targets we agreed, on and we explained in the business case, which doesn’t happen all the time, with these, some tunnel tools, not for us anyhow.

Dinesh: Good to hear that kind of success and it’s always nice to hear another partnership that you’ve been experiencing. That’s awesome. What is your take on that same question?

Per: Partnership basically, it was really a partnership. Sorry.

Dinesh: No, I agree, I agree. That’s how we see it as well. I don’t think we look at customers as somebody that pays us money. It’s more about how we vest in your success so that we can be successful. That’s how we see it. So I can clearly see that happening across different customer conversations over and over again in my two months here. So this is phenomenal.

Chris: From an SLA perspective. And how do we manage and maintain that across the board? I mean we’re very much an outcome-based organization and we deliver outcomes to our clients and I like predictable and boring as an MSP and being able to create that predictable, boring outcome for our clients is very important to me. And being able to respond in a timely manner. It’s very difficult to predict what the resolution time to an incident may be, but it’s very easy to control the communications and the alerting and the reporting of that. And I can’t claim to be an extension of a client’s IT staff and then obfuscate data from them. So we’ve integrated LogicMonitor directly into the My CDI Portal, which also has the access to the graphs and the historical data and the dashboards and the reports and all. That’s awesome.

But more important to me is being able to baseline a client environment and understand what normal looks like to them and then alert on deviations of normal because that’s what really matters. We’ve had some clients in the past and one of my favorite examples is 90% disc utilization is bad. Not usually, maybe not, it could be, it may not be like, I don’t know. So as we look at doing this deviation from norm monitoring methodology, we had a client that went from 92% disc utilization down to 4. Well in most systems that’s not going to throw an alert because all of a sudden I got all this extra space to do crap with. Great, knock yourself out. Well in this new model and the way we’ve configured it and the way we’ve worked with LogicMonitor to build this out, those alerts now hit our operations staff. We notified the client, they had some scripting that was doing Oracle RMAN dumps because DBAs never trust anyone to do backups.

So those things started failing and all of a sudden disc space went away and now they could correct that based upon a known change that was made within the platform. So being able to react and communicate quickly within the environment allows us to meet those objectives that we’re trying to jointly create with our client. We all know how it is. Every clients like, “We’re unique, we’re different, we’re special. You wouldn’t understand.” I’m like, “Cool, you don’t use networks or storage or systems or whatever.” “No, no, no, we use all that.” I’m like, “Okay cool. So you’re like everyone else but you’re just different. I get it.” So we take some time in the beginning to understand what normal looks like to them and then the configurations, the alerting, the SLAs are wrapped around deviations of norm and the response time to it.

And I think that’s an important differentiation. I can remember sitting on the back porch of my house on the phone with the CEO and Kevin and I are talking about LM logs like eight months ago and he’s running through, he’s like, “Hey, we’re looking at doing this, what do you think?” And I’m like, “I like it and here’s the direction I would go with it based upon my clients and what we’re trying to accomplish with that.” So it’s been great, it’s been a wonderful partnership. I’m hearing about things, I’m having conversations on the backend helping to communicate what I’m seeing from an end user perspective and how they’re leveraging the platform to, I would love to say I’m steering the ship in the direction you’re going, but we all know that’s a lie, but at least I’m having some influence over the direction that’s going from time to time. So I appreciate the feedback and I appreciate the communication.

Dinesh: Yeah, no that’s the whole point of having customer advisory boards and getting inputs from customers like you to make sure that we are going in the right direction. The industry might be leaning towards certain buzzwords, they might lose some traction and so forth. But the reality check is right there with you guys. So when you tell us this is what we are looking for, this is actually going to work for us and within our environments for our needs and stuff, I think that makes more sense for us to implement in the product roadmap rather than listening to multiple different feeds everywhere. But you know, you touched on something very important I want to ask, given that the forward-looking statement that you also made about how Kevin was asking you about eight months in advance, we are going to be doing this and so forth.

You spoke about what is normal and how to identify normal and the manual interventions that may be required to managing some of those thresholds and stuff. But what about the intelligence that is required on the tool? So both of you spoke about tool selection at some point where you had a legacy tool which you didn’t like and then you moved over to LogicMonitor. But putting aside LogicMonitor for a second, if you were doing tool selection in a more broader observability platform tool, what is the level of intelligence that you’re looking for in it as a CTO? What are the things that you would want to be reducing from an operations perspective so that you can save on time improving efficiencies like what Per said and so forth. So what is your perspective on that from an intelligence perspective?

Chris: So-

Per: Sorry, go ahead please.

Chris: So there’s a couple of different areas that you can look at for this, right? So we talked about deviations from normal and being able to do dynamic thresholding based around variances to what we determine normal should look like. And my God, I’ve been pounding my fist on the desk for years about the dynamic threshold capabilities within LogicMonitor and I’ve seen massive improvements over the years for those feature functionality and how we’re leveraging that and then tying that into anomaly based log detection for those one-off things that don’t affect a resource utilization. Because at the end of the day we can only monitor what the end manufacturer allows us to pull out of the device. And then there has to be some intelligence around it. So much like Per, we’ve done some integrations with our ServiceNow with our CMDB and we’re leveraging the urgency of an alert, whether it’s a critical, an error warning, whatever it may be, versus the impact of the asset.

So we’re doing things like eBonding our ServiceNow instance with our client ServiceNow instance. So they can adjust the impact threshold of the CMDB assets that are being imported into the system from LogicMonitor that we’re controlling the urgency on. So now between the client and CDI, we have a joint lever that we are adjusting the prioritization of the alerts that are going into the system. They adjust the impact, we adjust the urgency, we refer to it as a triage board. So that triage board ranks, stacks, all of the alerts and the cases and the service requests and the people calling in and going in through text messaging or whatever. So now my operations staff has a rank stack order of the next most important thing they need to look at. And we tie that into, and this is just part of how LogicMonitor fits into the overall ecosystem of CDI, but we tie that into our client experience managers who are tracking the documented escalation procedures, which leveraging the APIs within ServiceNow, My CDI and LogicMonitor correlating all of them together.

So my operations staff gets the ticket information, gets the escalation procedures, gets the graphing, gets the alert modules all on one screen so they don’t have to spend 25 minutes trying to find a document. I’m really trying to curse less in my life.

Per: No, please don’t.

Chris: Almost slipped up right there. But they don’t have to spend 20 minutes looking for the document that goes, oh call Mary Jane because this happened. So those are some of the areas that we’re leveraging logic on and it’s great when I have these conversations ahead of time with Michael, with Christina, with Kevin. So we can have those conversations about where you’re going so I know where I’m going and now we can plan to kind of meet there and have a party at the end.

Per: Love it. This is awesome. Per what do you to say about that?

Chris: Go ahead just say ditto.

Per: I’d love to get to know you Chris because you’re doing way more boss things than we are doing currently. We are taking the first stumbling steps. We went from Nimsoft on-premise deployment. It didn’t scale, it didn’t work, technically, didn’t fit the multi-cloud and we couldn’t really scale this across a common tool set. And we started working with the common tool sets. We migrated customers, we trained the service operation. The dynamic threshold for us is absolutely fantastic from where we are coming from-

Chris: You’re welcome.

Per: … and the integration. Because we were certainly seeing, I would say, technical and commercial challenges with ServiceNow and the way we’re detecting devices there. We say we can’t keep doing this because it won’t work either technically or commercially. So I think the CMDB integration has been… So for us, we’re taking some great steps and we saw some interesting things happening. Did we get the service operation people in loving this at first? No, they hated us it’s, “Oh we’re going to have a new tool. We know the old one.” We say, “Yeah but it’s going to be great.” And for one of the first times in what, six months we got it rolling, they were trained, they started using it. We certainly saw a spike in the amount of alarms initially because suddenly we’re actually seeing things that we had some tuning to do and we’ve been doing tuning in the Fall, for sure.

I think I was just taking the first stumbling steps around using intelligent software, so to say. But I mean the requirements we had was that the software we were choosing would enable us to take these steps. I think there need to be steps, we need to take them step by step. I think now we have a good foundation for what you’re using in service operation. We are working on some packages to commercialize this so we can actually sell this to end users as well because not everyone wants to work, have everything with product. Now some have the stuff on-premise, they operate it themselves. So we are actually making a business. Part of the business case we’re doing now is actually selling this. We are selling a monitoring platform as a service based on audit monitoring, and big product service operations. We try to get additional revenue from this investment in people and time. And secondly we are looking at what will be the next step to do more clever, let’s say automation, more intelligence. A lot of the things Chris was talking about sounds really exciting. So maybe we can touch base.

Chris: Oh without a doubt. It’s funny Per, because you and I seem to be on the same journey just on different lanes of the same highway, right? I mean-

Per: Yeah you’re probably six or seven years ahead of us.

Chris: So it’s funny, we were describing you and you have all these data centers in Europe and you have one location in the US, I’m the exact opposite. I have eight data centers or seven data centers in the US and we have one location in London. So we’re mirror images of each other.

Per: We’re not competing at all. So it might work. I have a data center in the US, I don’t plan to have one either.

Chris: We took this entire panel over and just became a bro session. It’s all good.

Dinesh: It’s okay. See that’s what the whole thing is that we want this community to thrive. That’s one of my core objectives for this year, to bring customers more closer and inform this community, get customers to help each other paint the vision. It’s one thing to, for the vendor to get onto a podium and preach the product and stuff. But it’s another thing where I’ve been seeing customers telling other customers about, “Hey, we like this particular capability and this is what we are doing. Here’s how we have optimized our data center or operations and stuff.” I think that’s phenomenal. I think that’s exactly what we need to keep doing.

So we are obviously doing something good and I’m glad to see that reflect upon your roadmaps as well. So I know we are coming up on a close, I want to wrap up with maybe some future-looking questions here. We haven’t talked about the cloud specifically. I know we spoke about multiple different types of data centers and stuff. Is that part of your existing current infrastructure set up embracing the public cloud or having maybe a private cloud or something? Or is that something that you’re working towards from a scale perspective? Maybe Chris, you know start it off.

Chris: Yeah, I mean the concept of an MSP or an IT integrator or a partner not embracing the cloud seems very foolish to me. Like you either embrace it or you die. It is that simple to me. So I look at it and I don’t care where the IT asset runs, it could be running on the moon if I have communications capabilities to it, I can monitor and manage it in the same predictable and efficient manner as if it was sitting in the closet down the hall from me. So the public clouds, the HyperScalers, the Rackspace of the world, or whatever they are, that are doing traditional three-tiered architecture is no different in my mind than it’s running in my data center or client’s data center. The way you monitor, manage and maintain it should be consistent, predictable and boring as hell.

And I started saying this 15 years ago and I’ll continue to say it for the next 15 years of my IT career, but the CIO of the future will be a lawyer and his or her job will continue to negotiate the terms and conditions of the services that their organization consumes. And we are moving in that direction. And if it doesn’t sound like I’ve said that a million times in my life, then rewind and listen to that again because I have. But being able to create that predictable outcome and integration into those organizations that are delivering the SaaS-based applications and understanding the interdependencies between them and how they interact with each other. So therefore, here’s another criticism.

So I truly believe in the 30/30/30 rule of IT and I believe in it because I made it up. 30% of IT assets are going to remain on-prem and in the local business and that local on-prem may be my house now thanks to everything that’s going on in the world, but 30% of the assets are going to remain on-prem. 30% are going to remain in a private data center. In the EU you have localization laws. In the US you have HIPAA and high tech laws and PCI requirements, and New York’s 500 and CCPA in California. Those requirements are going to require the protection and the controls around data and assets that clients don’t want out in the public cloud. Then 30% is going to live in the public ecosystem and that is Salesforce, LogicMonitor, O-365. Those SaaS applications that clients are consuming. Our job as IT professionals is to interconnect those different areas and create a controlled deliverable experience to our end users so they can drive the business transformation that they need to.

Per: For us, we like the mix. I think if a customer goes 100% public cloud or Hyperscale, which is very unusual, it’s probably better for us to have a mix the multi-cloud mix or a hybrid. And I think that’s where most customers are. And for us, and I think we’re entering now a customer think maturity phase, we’re starting to look at okay, we have some innovation and we have digital transformation, we have new types of applications, containers, applications, they’re running left or right. Where is the data? How do we control the data? How do we backup the data? Personally allow backup and protecting data. And how do we manage all of this one? I think this creating new opportunities for us, but we as an organization really have to step up. We need to have the right skills, we need to have the right partners, the right tools to be able to do this.

So I think the public cloud and new types of applications, for us, just less than a year ago we acquired a large consultants organization in Sweden focusing primarily on containers’ infrastructure because it’s a specialist field and you really need to know what you’re talking about. I mean, how do you build an infrastructure for developer? And we have customers that spent two years on Google trying to set up container application environment and you couldn’t do it. He said, “Well it’s off the shelf.” Well Kubernetes Cluster is off the shelf, but a complete development platform for your developers is not off the shelf. You really need to know what you’re doing. And now of course we are creating a service, the combination of our more existing little bit more old school service operation grown up over a decade in combination with these leading-edge containerized applications versus we are creating a service around that one.

So what’s new and we’re going to do multi-cloud delivery. It’s going to be in a ProAct data center as a local service. It could be deployed in a customer data center because they have very strong demands for security or they’re just afraid of having it outside their own data center and firewalls. And of course, you’re going to deploy it on public cloud infrastructure. We need tools to manage all of this in an efficient, errant, secure way. So I would say, I don’t know what you say Chris, I don’t think it’s getting easier. I think it’s getting harder and even there are some opportunities, I believe.

Dinesh: The old phrase about its not rocket science. I think the new one is like it’s not Kubernetes administration. It’s more like that in a where-

Per: Kubernetes Cluster is pretty much setting up the whole thing, which is the platform we are building consists of, I think it is 27 different software packages out of Kubernetes is one. So there you go.

Dinesh: I hear you. No, but thank you both so much for the time that you have spent with us. This was very, very helpful. I really enjoyed the conversation. Let’s keep the candid conversations going on. Let’s build a community. I really would reach out to you separately. I want to understand more about your use cases and I want to be there for you as a part of the journey as well. So thanks for your time today and appreciate all that you’re doing with us.

Chris: Thank you.

Per: Thank you.