Utah CTO Dave Fletcher talks about AIOps with Gartner Research Director Eric Olson during NASCIO's 2022 Midyear Conference in National Harbor, Md. 

May 05 2022

NASCIO Midyear 2022: Utah Plans More AIOps After Data Center Refresh

The state’s Department of Technology Services established a center of excellence to study use cases.

Utah is in the process of upgrading a decades-old data center, and state CTO Dave Fletcher looks forward to adding more artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) to his government’s enterprise upon establishing the new data center.

“It’s going to be built into everything we do in our operations,” Fletcher said of AIOps during the midyear conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

During a panel discussion Tuesday with Gartner Research Director Eric Olson, Fletcher elaborated. “We are exiting our current data center, and what’s happening, as with most states, is that our environment is becoming even more complex,” he said. 

Utah has moved more than 900 workloads to the cloud in the past few months, producing more complexity even without the refreshed data center. “We’re not just in one cloud; we’re multicloud, so we have workloads in different clouds,” Fletcher said. “And we are not increasing our staff to meet all of those additional demands. So, we have to deal with more data and more applications every year with a more complex network.”

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To deal with that complexity, Utah established an artificial intelligence (AI) center of excellence to examine AIOps use cases. “In some ways, that’s where we are at. We are looking and things and trying to figure it out,” Fletcher said. In Olson’s presentation Gartner defined AIOps as “applying capabilities of artificial intelligence to all phases of IT operations.”

Meanwhile, Utah has activated AIOps for cybersecurity, a big driver for AI adoption. Utah must secure a large amount of data, which continues to grow. The Utah Department of Technology Services centralized log data not long ago and sent it to the cloud with the goal of analyzing the logs and understanding the threats facing the state enterprise.

“The only way we can get our hands around that log data is through an AIOps platform,” Fletcher said. “AIOps gives you insights into what’s happening and empowers the state to respond more quickly.” Future drivers for the adoption of AIOps will include network operations and cloud management, he added.

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Fletcher said Utah’s main need for AIOps is to augment increasingly scarce government employees. About 15 years ago, the Utah Department of Technology Services employed roughly 1,000 people, and that number has since dropped to 750. Augmenting staff is one of the great advantages of adopting AIOps for all state governments, Olson said.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to attract and retain the operational talent that can do this work. At the same time, expectations for service levels are really increasing. People expect everything to be on all of the time,” Olson said.

Fletcher expressed relief that more vendors are building AI into their products.

General Tasks AIOps Can Handle for State Agencies

“The future state of AIOps is such that it will occupy a centerpiece of the IT operations platform. It is not going to be a big bang; it is going to be an evolution over time,” Olson said.

AIOps directly addresses some challenges in IT operations, including the dramatic increase in data volumes and sources, a shortfall in qualified staff and rising expectations for service levels. AIOps can handle a greater volume of data with more accuracy and precision while serving as a force multiplier for short-staffed state agencies, Gartner noted in a presentation prepared for NASCIO Midyear.

As such, AIOps can absorb a variety of responsibilities, including anomaly detection, event correlation, root cause analysis and predictive analytics. AI can make recommendations based on learned or defined responses. It can automate operation, including infrastructure provisioning, workflow, data processing and more.

Ultimately, AIOps offers the potential of great value through building a common operating picture by contextualizing large volumes of data, improving analysis and insights for service management, and augmenting existing service management and automation, Gartner notes.

State agencies face some significant challenges in the implementation of AIOps, according to Gartner’s research. The biggest obstacle to the establishment of a successful strategy for AI in IT operations is “ambiguity and hype around the term AIOps,” said Gartner’s presentation. Also, state agencies must prioritize and focus on high-value uses of AI applications. Adoption of AIOps is significantly improved by “clarity of purpose,” Olson said.

There is not one product that can unify all AI uses, and there “probably never will be,” Gartner notes, adding that administrators “require multiple, often overlapping tools and technologies” to successfully manage AIOps.

Check out more coverage from the NASCIO 2022 Midyear Conference and follow us on Twitter at @StateTech, or the official conference Twitter account, @NASCIO, and join the conversation using the hashtag #NASCIO22.

Photography by Mickey McCarter

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