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Reining in Enterprise IT Management Costs

Reducing support costs is a key goal of CIOs

Simplifying IT administration is a goal for CIOs to reduce manual intervention while running day-to-day operations with the primary goal of reducing the percentage of their IT budgets spent on maintenance. The IT management costs of web companies like Google and Facebook (which cater to tens of millions of users) are extremely low when compared to the size of their infrastructures. A huge advantage they and other super-efficient companies share is gained by 1) a mostly virtualized compute workloads 2) very little legacy infrastructure and 3) most applications written to follow common patterns optimized to take full advantage of virtualized resources. Having learned from managing compute infrastructures, these companies have extended this best practice to managing storage and network resources, too.

A number of enterprises are adopting cloud infrastructures with the aim of replicating similar efficiencies in their own IT departments. The challenge these organizations face is that they are hobbled by supporting legacy systems that must co-exist with new cloud architectures. Traditional approaches to IT management require IT operators and administrators to navigate among multiple systems and agents to collect and analyze information necessary to maintain high availability and performance. Most of the IT management products enterprises use do not offer integrated capabilities to manage these new environments.

Consider as an example the enterprise challenge that has arisen from recent major changes to retail businesses. Using a multi-channel approach by combining online properties, stores and mobile devices is crucial to improving customer experience while also increasing revenues. This approach requires use of composite applications combining various components of an IT environment, including supply chain, web-to-store integration and order management. Managing this environment that combines traditional IT with virtualized and cloud infrastructure brings up new challenges to IT operations.

For an integrated enterprise IT environment, IT management tools should provide optimal detection, management and fix of problems as follows:

  1. Detection: Before end-users even observe problems, IT management tools should generate alerts. These alerts could include applications that cross a warning threshold for response times or transactions speeds that drop below a limit. Notified of anomalies, IT operations personnel can take steps to manage the process of fixing the components causing these problems.
  1. Management: After getting alerts, IT Operations have enough information to review traditional IT, virtualized and cloud resources together. They can leverage a consolidated IT Management tool to view the entire infrastructure through a "single pane of glass." Operational analysts are able to drill down into various components of the entire IT infrastructure, including tracking transactions, application servers, ERP applications and end-user experiences. This allows them to look into the health of traditional IT and cloud applications to identify components that need to be fixed.
  1. Fix: Once the components causing the problem are identified, the revised parameters should be recorded on the Change and Configuration Management Database (CCMDB) through the same interface. A provisioning tool should be leveraged to create patterns of composite applications targeted to be deployed to virtualized hardware and supported hypervisors. The updated parameters are then recorded and stored in CCMDB, forming the basis of future deployments.

Similar detect/manage/fix activities could be followed for network and storage resources. Particularly critical to the success of these strategies are the insight into end user experience and the capability to automatically respond with capacity, availability and performance management.

As businesses change to adopt cloud computing solutions, enterprise IT support operations are increasingly challenged to handle more complex environments. Managing an integrated IT environment requires a single solution with visibility into application performance. The combination of technologies demands that solutions work across multiple environments to pull together diverse applications and data. This kind of insight enables management of cloud, virtualized and hybrid environments that run side by side with traditional IT environments. It is important to take the right approach so that business change is not hobbled by an inflexible IT infrastructure. Matching appropriate technology solutions to increasingly complex business challenges allows an optimum business outcome.

Several products exist in this space to assist enterprise customers including: CA, Compuware, HP and IBM. I have reviewed several from IBM including SmartCloud Application Performance Management, SmartCloud Monitoring, SmartCloud Control Desk, SmartCloud Provisioning, IBM Netcool Network Management and SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center. While each has unique strengths, the integration of these products is what really allows IBM to offer customers highly differentiated solutions for effectively managing new IT environments.

While enterprise customers have several goals for 2013, managing integrated environments should be high on the priority list. Choosing the appropriate vendor with an appropriate integrated portfolio is important to meet enterprise goals of managing infrastructures with the efficiencies of Google or Facebook. One vendor whose solutions are well worth considering in this regard is IBM.

Disclaimer:  IBM is one of my customers.

This post was first published on Robustcloud.com. Republished with permission.

More Stories By Larry Carvalho

Larry Carvalho runs Robust Cloud LLC, an advisory services company helping various ecosystem players develop a strategy to take advantage of cloud computing. As the 2010-12 Instructor of Cloud Expo's popular Cloud Computing Bootcamp, he has already led the bootcamp in New York, Silicon Valley, and Prague, receiving strong positive feedback from attendees about the value gained at these events. Carvalho has facilitated all-day sessions at customer locations to set a clear roadmap and gain consensus among attendees on strategy and product direction. He has participated in multiple discussion panels focused on cloud computing trends at information technology events, and he has delivered all-day cloud computing training to customers in conjunction with CloudCamps. To date, his role has taken him to clients in three continents.