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Simplifying Systems Management: Steps 6 to 10

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.

6. Look for a tool that bridges visibility gaps.
The biggest obstacle to systems management as a result of IT fragmentation isn’t confusion over responsibilities—it is a lack of overarching visibility into day-to-day operations. When seeking a new systems management tool, Illsley recommends that enterprises ask a key question.

“Can the software cut across these and reorganize them and get them to a point where you're looking at them as one group?” he says. “Because you're never going to get the mainframe boys and the Windows boys talking together, but can you get a small window into the silos so at least you've got a greater flexibility with the people to do better things?”

In the case of virtualization, for example, the tool should be able to give good visibility into the physical and virtual systems.

7. Seek the most interoperability for your buck.
Just about every IT organization in existence today deals with the complications of running a heterogeneous environment. Illsley believes that enterprises must choose.
“If you think about any IT organization, they may well be a Tivoli shop, and they may well run CA, and they may well have Microsoft, and they may have XY and Z system running, so they need to ask how easily it supports and plays these vendors' solutions together,” Illsley says. “Are you creating a problem for yourself by doing it at the API level, or is it something that works at a metadata level so it is quite easy to do?”

8. Shop green.
Environmentally friendly IT practices are not only signs of solid corporate responsibility, but they also save a lot of green. And one of the easiest ways to effectively diminish power and cooling requirements is to improve systems management practices. When upgrading management tools, Illsley highly recommends factoring power management controls into the decision-making process.

“Thinking about practicalities like power management—can I use the tool to make myself environmentally aware?” Illsley says. “Can I record what I'm using, [and] can I adjust the power consumption to meet the demands of the business effectively and remain environmentally friendly?”

9. The more automation the better.
Reducing the manpower necessary to run systems is the name of the game in systems management, so the tools you choose need to be able to automate both simple and complex tasks. For example, to improve power management, a tool could automatically shut down desktops at quitting time and start them up prior to workers’ arrivals.

“Ask yourself: Can it use things like behavioral analysis and a behavioral learning system to recognize use patterns?” Illsley says. “[Say] it’s a Monday morning at 9 a.m., and everybody is going to be logging on. Therefore, it should say, ‘Let’s save this background activity for later, and let’s make these resources available. Let’s do some
pre-work and fire up the operating systems on these desktops and these servers, so when they come into the office, everything is fine.”

10. Finding a Fit.
Nowhere is scalability as important as in systems management. Illsley says that it is absolutely crucial that an enterprise choose its tool based on whether it is built for the right size of organization and how well it can grow with an organization. This is especially critical for organizations expanding rapidly through mergers and acquisitions, which can really strain staff when it comes to managing newly gained systems, desktops and staffs.

Ultimately, all of these steps fit together to form the backbone of a cohesive systems management process. While some of his advice may seem rudimentary, he firmly believes that the principles it is based on are still not acted upon in the typical organization.

“Taking a holistic perspective to managing the organization’s infrastructure requires a different approach and one that many IT organizations are not equipped to adopt,” he wrote in his report. Part of it may just be a question of resources. If you’re an IT manager or executive who is getting pushback from those who hold the purse strings over the purchase of systems management tools, Illsley leaves you with a few parting words of encouragement for the big pitch.

“I think a lot of these tools now are building their return on investment on the fact that they can deliver the capability of saving money,” he told Baseline. “If you say, ‘I'm going to implement X applications this year, and I’m going to install them on these servers, and they're going to need these people to manage them,’ [these tools] are going to absorb that and automate some of the activity and reduce the management of these new systems.”

This is key for many organizations, which will be asked to do more with less in the coming months. According to a recent Butler Group survey, 73 percent of IT staffers expect their budgets to be reduced or remain flat in the coming year.

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