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Simplifying Systems Management: Steps 1 to 5

By Ericka Chickowski  |  Posted 2008-07-09 Print this article Print

Here is some no-nonsense advice for implementing holistic systems management practices and tools in an organization.

1. Start with an inventory.
It sounds very basic, but this fundamental step is crucial to the development of a sound systems management strategy, and it is often ignored by IT management.

“You can't manage anything unless you know what it is you're managing,” Illsley says, “so the first thing is to know your assets.” This means coming up with a detailed asset inventory across all subgroups within IT and mapping their interactions.

2. Affix values to assets.
Once the asset discovery process is complete, it is now time to create a prioritization of assets, Illsley says.

“The next step is to understand the value that those assets are bringing to the organization,” he says. “Are they delivering an important service? Are they redundant? Are they sitting there as a backup-and-recovery system or what?”

3. Link it back to the business.
The next step is to figure out how all of these assets deliver services to the business. This step may very well rearrange the system priorities you set out in step two. It should also affect how system resources are managed, Illsley says.

“You've understood what you've got; you've understood the value of what you’ve got, but can you now link that back to what the business values in terms of how I do things, why I do things, what is important is it integrated with a business service? Do you have business service management so you can look at a prioritization of process to technology?” Illsley says, explaining that by doing so, “you can then alter the resources according to their needs.”

4. Staff up appropriately.
An enterprise needs to have the right competencies and skills necessary to properly handle holistic systems management processes and tools, Illsley says.

“A tool in the wrong hands means you’ve just got a fool with a tool,” he says. “If I give a bloke a hammer, he could miss the nail and miss the wood. The hammer's a tool, but you've got to have the skills and the competencies to use it to build something beautiful.”
Some organizations may have many specialized workers in IT, but none with requisite expertise to orchestrate high-level systems management. IT leaders need to be honest with themselves in evaluating current staff’s ability to do the job and might even look toward business-side leaders with technology skills to move into the role.

5. Streamline the management duties.
As new systems and technologies are added into the infrastructure, they are often just tacked onto the existing data center management schema, Illsley says. To really get a handle on overall systems management, he believes that enterprises have to do a better job with how they cluster technologies and set out responsibilities for their management.
“IT structure has got to be adaptable to change as the technology is changing,” Illsley says.

He likes to point to virtualization as a prime example of how inflexibility in hierarchies can get a business into trouble.

“Before virtualization, you had a mainframe team and a server team and a desktop team and a network team and an application team,” he says. “Now you've gone to virtualization—do you start a virtualization team? If you do, who looks after the servers? Is that the server team or the virtualization team? The virtualization team cuts across everybody, and therefore you'd have a problem. So you need to make sure that the structure works for how the tools and the technology are implemented.”

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