Integrating Workspace Analytics with Cognitive Services

Introduction

Lakeside Software's SysTrack is well known as a workspace analytics platform of unparalleled depth. With its patented, scalable method of collecting incredible volumes of data from environments of every size SysTrack contains a vast amount of rich information to help organizations understand their computing environments. The only complication is that by its very nature the breadth of the available data means that detailed investigation may take a user deep within some of the SysTrack interfaces. As increasing numbers of teams within the IT organization and beyond seek answers for their data driven questions, each question requires time and expertise to answer. This has led to the next evolutionary step for the SysTrack platform: make it easier for IT to get answers with a Workspace Analytics Insight Engine. Lakeside Software's Ask SysTrack provides precisely that.

The push for cognitive and chat based interfaces has shown that users often find natural language based processing to be the most intuitive method of finding answers to their questions. Public perception of interaction with data has begun to set the expectation that analysis should be as simple as posing straightforward, intuitive questions, and this has been increasingly showcased in popular media. Perhaps the best example of Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the work done by IBM Research with Watson and associated cognitive computing demonstrated on Jeopardy!; this exercise demonstrated the art of the possible with cognitive computing and NLP and sparked an idea. What if getting insights from your workspace could be as easy asking simple questions?

With the general availability of Watson cognitive API library, it became possible to combine SysTrack's Workspace Analytics with a powerful NLP engine to enable users to explore information collected from their IT landscape with ease.

Asking Questions in Natural Language

The crux of the issue is that often it's important to be able to attach value to the findings from the data collected in SysTrack, and the easiest method of doing that is being able to answer questions in a natural way. Let's take an easy example. What if I wanted to know more about what kind of an end user experience my users are currently getting? That question could involve digging through some system stat information or sorting through system KPIs, but with Ask SysTrack I can ask a simple question: "Do any of my users have a poor user experience?" Figure 1 has that very question and shows a direct suggestion of where to look for an immediate answer.

Figure 1: Ask SysTrack suggesting Enterprise Visualizer for a summary of end user experience in the environment

Not only has it highlighted the user experience score for the groups in the platform, but it has also suggested a few related topics all related to the central idea of understanding how well things in the environment are working. It's as simple as that. With additional help forming questions, anyone can start using the data in the SysTrack platform by just asking basic questions. Using the "help me ask my question" option even prompts the user as they type with what Ask SysTrack thinks is the most likely subject of the question being asked, allowing users to very quickly form their questions.

Another key feature is the ability to ask questions verbally using a voice to text processing feature. By using the voice input feature, a user can ask any question out loud and the Ask SysTrack engine will relate that back to a suggested resource. As another example, let's take finding the most used software in the environment. Figure 2 shows the results of a verbal question: "What is my most used software package?"

Figure 2:Voice to text input for a simple request to find the most used software package in a sample environment

Again, we see related topics and other items of interest including other pieces of how applications actually function. That means that anyone looking to find key data for software asset management has it immediately available to them.

The final key piece is awareness of custom content available through the SysTrack Kits program. This means that if you have a question that can be answered specifically by content that's available in a component that can be imported you'll be prompted to do so, and you can then be directed right to the relevant content from that Kit. That means that as new items are added or as you look to expand into new areas of collection for the workplace the answers to your questions will always be up to date. For a final example we may want to know what the quality of experience is like for users in your VDI environment. Figure 3 shows the answer from a Kit dashboard focused on virtualization.

Figure 3: VDI Environmental health trend

All of these features combine to make asking questions as straightforward as possible with minimal effort from the end user.

How it Works

Ask SysTrack primarily makes use of a locally running service that manages processing the language of the questions on the SysTrack master server. This essentially takes the questions as posed and tries to understand the intent. In situations where this intent lookup needs extra analysis non-personalized information is sent to a cloud based service for more processing, but a key component is a unique method to avoid the transmission of certain components like software package names or unique text strings. For voice to text features an audio processing service is used to process the request and return the text for further analysis.

This means that while a connection to the central Ask SysTrack cloud service is required, the majority of the processing of requests takes place locally using SysTrack platform services. The net result is a system that ensures the maximum amount of privacy while allowing the best possible methods for interpreting the language of the questions posed.

Ask SysTrack Now

With the general availability of SysTrack 8.2, Ask SysTrack can be used for day to day questions any user may have for the workplace analytics platform. Look for more growth here in the future as we expand our offerings on the cognitive computing front to try and make sure we're always evolving to make SysTrack even easier for our users to work with.