The past and present drive the future, and IT executives are hyper-aware that 2009 will force change on individuals, corporations and companies large and small. As an industry, we are likely to see a repeat of the flat budgets of the early 2000s, and all eyes will be on hoped for improvements in the economy, which may or may not materialize. At the same time, the show must go on, and business as usual is the order of the day.
One bright spot on the horizon is a rising potential to reduce support costs with a new generation of intelligent enterprise management products. Nipping at the heels of the technology innovations of the past five years—including the maturing of Web services standards, the introduction of service oriented architecture (SOA) and agile development, and the spread of virtualization—management products are finally starting to catch up. And although we are still seeing just the tip of the iceberg, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of a leaner future. This evolution is multi-faceted, but products are a key player and the promise of automated, autonomic, and self-learning management solutions are starting to materialize.
I’ll discuss these products later, but I want to start with a caveat first—research is showing that, in 2008, IT organizations were actually less proactive and more reactive than they were in 2006. The number of application-related problems detected by users (versus by management products and/or IT personnel) has risen by 10% in two years.
So, it appears IT is between a rock and a hard place. The rock being rapid innovation, and the hard place being the directives of the business. This positioning is unlikely to change. As a matter of fact, given the economic challenges of 2009, it is likely that this paradox will continue to squeeze CIOs in a seemingly inescapable vise.
Putting the rose-colored glasses back on, it is also important to understand that this has been a time of accelerated innovation in the application management space. While systems management products have been available for years, products capable of managing applications—specifically, today’s virtualized, SOA-enabled, standards-based business services—have, in many cases, not kept pace. However, 2008 has seen a spate of intriguing advancements in capabilities that go beyond managing systems to managing “systems of diverse systems,” or applications.
Better yet, these capabilities are timely in that most IT managers will be unable to turn to the old standby, headcount, to solve business service delivery problems in 2009. Since headcount growth will not be an option for many organizations, turning to automation to bridge this gap makes good business sense. Investments in management solutions are among the most cost effective IT-related investments possible in today’s economic climate.
Product announcements from large and small vendors alike offer examples of why this is the case. For example, one of the areas of innovation is predictive analysis. Why is this important? Customer satisfaction, either internal or external, depends on availability and performance of business services. Predictive analysis enables IT organizations to become more proactive in terms of managing these services; in many cases “fixing” application problems before they impact users. And the best way to become proactive is automation.