Less IS more: Avoiding the Data Race to Nowhere

February 10th, 2011 by

Proliferation of IT management tools

In the last two decades IT management has been in a race to nowhere. A race to discover more, collect more and present more. More reports, more graphs, more views. If there is an IT asset out there, there is a tool to discover it. If there is a metric that can be collected, there is a tool to monitor and graph it. If there is a knob to turn, there is a tool to control it. How many management tools do you have in your environment? Which one do you use when? How many different reports/views are you looking at each day? How much time do you spend investigating these reports? Are you in control?

IT environments are complex. Managing these environments can be challenging. Many different moving parts with very complex interactions make the environment very difficult to effectively track, monitor and control. For years, trying to address the broad range of pain points, we kept throwing more and more management tools into the environment. Every pain point we answered with a different tool. Introducing a new technology or product to the environment led to deploying of yet more tools. Very quickly, we ended up utilizing hundreds of different management tools/products. Instead of addressing the management challenges, we increased the TCO and created an operational and administrative nightmare. Over the last decade I have seen many organizations that realize this mess, and have embarked on multi-million dollar projects aimed to reduced the number of management tools they use.

Are virtualized data centers in the same boat?

The IT landscape is transforming. Virtualization, SaaS and cloud technologies lead to increasingly more dynamic, complex, heterogeneous and large IT environments. At the same time, the constraints within which IT needs to operate are becoming more and more stringent. On one hand, business constraints and regulation require strong alignment of IT with the business to meet aggressive business and service goals while keeping OPEX and CAPEX under control. On the other hand, environmental constraints of energy, space, etc. limits the flexibility and the “free ride” we used to have in the data center.

We are no longer looking at static, silo’d IT environments where the boundaries between the technology layers and products were well defined and understood. Virtualization breaks down these walls. Instead of one application running on one known dedicated physical machine with attached storage, we now have a complex dynamic boundary-less compute capacity, available on-demand. Can we scale to these types of environments with the existing brittle intelligence tools and approaches?

In spite of the great opportunity and needs introduced by virtualization, virtualization management is at risk of being on the same “old” trajectory. More and more point tools chase and collect more and more data.

Virtualization management is relatively a young space, but we already see too many different non-integrated tools. In his article, “Managing Performance and Capacity in Virtualized Server and Desktop Environments,” covering only performance monitoring tools, analyst Bernd Harzog mention twenty four different monitoring tools in six different categories: resource and availability management, infrastructure performance management, application performance management, transaction performance management, end user experience management and virtual desktop management.

So — to gain visibility and ensure application performance you need to buy six separate point tools? And by the way – do you actually achieve application service assurance by buying those tools? When a problem occurs somewhere in the environment, which tool would you look at to find out where the problem is?

The trajectory leads to management that is too complex, not scalable and provides limited value towards the end goal of self-managed environments.  Instead of reducing the management complexity and the operational costs, the current trends only contribute to the increasing management nightmare.

This trend must stop. Less IS more! We must look for management solutions that utilize novel approaches to get us on the road to self managed orchestrated environments. Reversing the current trends of chasing too much information and trying to discover, represent and rely on continuously changing topological relationships. This is the only way we will be able to scale and meet the challenges of the new dynamically changing environments.

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