The elusive infrastructure management goal
management is a complex issue, and the lack of adequate tools makes it an elusive
goal to achieve. Nitin Paul, Founder & CEO of n-Evangelist, talks
about the challenges for the CIO that stand in the way of the goal.
Business decision-makers today not only expect, but also demand
consistent service level guarantees for key applications or services across
the whole enterprise. Large-scale automation has taken place, or is set to happen
in key functions of organisations. Enterprises are heavily dependent on these
automation applications across functions.
If we were to critically consider options available to automate
processes, well find applications encompassing every function. There are
ERP systems, sales and distribution modules, CRM, SCM, and a host of standard
applications available to critically evaluate and implement in their respective
functions. This creates an ecosystem of enterprise applications across the company.
The critical responsibility
The most important and critical responsibility of the ownership
of these enterprise applications is the IT department of the organisation. And
within the IT function, the IT infrastructure is the most critical component
due to the dependencies on the applications for each function.
An interesting part of all this is that management of the
IT infrastructure is the only area which does not have a standard application
available to handle processes or bring about elements of intelligence.
The available applications/tools are only point tools. But
in order to manage a large IT setup, one needs to integrate multiple tools which
many IT teams avoid due to the complexities of implementing and running such
tools. The only way the IT teams today cope with it is by outsourcing the IT
infrastructure to a third party.
There are various infrastructure management models currently
available, but these require human interference.
Manual interference and the lack of consistent service management
processes is still the number one source of incidents resulting in end-user
The biggest challenge
The biggest challenge for IT infrastructure managers today
is unplanned and untested infrastructure change. Lets face it: humans
are not very good at repetitive tasks, so this cries out for automation.
Over the last year during my interaction with some of the
top IT infrastructure managers, I was able to get an idea about the key challenges
in running corporate IT infrastructure, in a country like ours with a diverse
business environment. These challenges make IT infrastructure management elusive.
- Multiple technologies, protocols, and vendors
- Diverse geographies and users
- Greater business demands and Moores Law
- A daunting environment
Today, even small IT environments have many inter-related
components. Complexity arises from the inter-dependencies among these components,
which increase exponentially as business demands the addition of hardware and
software to IT architectures.
It may be necessary to add network elements such as servers,
networks, storage systems, and management systems. The organisation may need
to upgrade its facilities and expand the scope of processes and organisational
Management and control become critical to business as the
IT environment becomes more complex. With millions of inter-dependencies, many
are difficult to identify, some are difficult to understand, and others are
outside our domain of control. IT infrastructure management is a formidable
undertaking if we cant understand and control the inter-dependencies.
Multiple technologies, protocols and vendors
Not long ago, mission-critical systems all ran on mainframe
technology. With the advent of the PC, LANs, and related technologies many business
applications moved from the protected realm of the mainframe data centre to
the free-flowing desktops of users.
Todays hottest gadgets include Blackberrys, pocket
PCs, Palm PCs, and other devices that connect to networks, allowing users to
carry data with them.
When dealing with the architecture or systems deployment
strategy, no longer are IT managers bound to use host-based configurations where
a large, powerful central computer does all the processing, and users interact
via dumb terminals.
In todays client/server architectures, each computing
resource can be a client, a server, or both at various times. With this architecture,
the mainframe is regarded as a fat server, and the dumb terminal becomes a thin
Alternatively, IT managers can choose a fat client (a powerful
PC) that communicates with a thin server, or a newer Web-centred or n-tier architecture.
Each of these approaches present unique deployment, management, and availability
The IT industry is an apt example of a democracy. Enterprises
can buy from scores of vendors whose products implement the same popular technologies
and standards, and safely assume that your products will workmost of the
time, at least.
But freedom can be abused, and even in the best case, it
creates enormous challenges for IT professionals, who are called upon to get
multi-vendor products to work together with mission-critical reliability.
Today, even small IT environments
have many inter-related components. Complexity arises from the inter-dependencies
among these components, which increase exponentially as business demands
the addition of hardware and software to IT architectures
Diverse geographies and users
Technology is a great enabler and empowers individuals to
perform equally well wherever they are. Gone are the days when all requests
for computations or data manipulation would have to be submitted to the EDP.
Today, nearly everyone in the organisation has access to some form of computing
With the growth of networks comes the challenge of managing
computing resources that are physically distant from each other. In the 1960s,
the IT organisation only needed to worry about its glass housethe
room where its giant mainframe was protected.
Today, you must provide extensive remote-user access. Given
the telecom reach today users can connect to your system via the public telephone
network, rent leased lines to remote departments or offices and also connect
to the Internet. Users want to work from their homes, or from wherever their
jobs take them.
Managing all the varied users is a big challenge. As a result,
IT professionals must ensure that their systems consider the skills, experience,
and languaReaderwarege of a wider range of users than ever before.
Greater business demands and Moores Law
Information technology is no longer a matter of competitive
advantageits a matter of survival. Customers now routinely demand
what were once extra features and capabilities.
They ask questions such as, whats your web address
so I can get more information about your products? Do you have an e-mail address
where I can send information about my problems or concerns? Can I do business
with you electronically, and do away with all these paper forms? Can I access
my bank account from the Internet?
Anybody who follows the IT industry can attest to the fact
that the rate of new product developments is growing exponentially. Businesses
once went several months without new product announcements. Now, not only do
businesses introduce new products (or versions of their products) more often,
but many more businesses are involved.
In addition to this, the biggest factor driving this industry
is Moores law and with possibilities of technology deployment increasing
manifold the challenges to manage it are also growing exponentially.
A daunting environment
To summarise, IT infrastructure professionals are living
in a world where they have to use a service-led model as there is no single
tool available to cater to their needs; and build a process-based governance
layer to manage their roles better.