IT Complexity Continues to Worsen

While the promise of simpler times seemed just around the corner with advancements in automation, middleware, virtualization, SOA, IT governance, ITIL, etc., et. al., the truth of the matter is IT is getting more complex by the day.

While it may appear to end users things “just work,” and for the most part they do, but IT today, behind the scenes, is harder to manage on all levels.

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Allen Bernard, Managing Editor.

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It is more far-reaching than ever before, changing more rapidly than most professionals can keep up with and, overall, continuing to be a huge mash-up of disparate platforms and architectures; new technologies married to old ones; convergence; client-server and legacy; software-as-a-service; tape and networked storage; outsourcing; governance; compliance; security; collaboration between partners, suppliers, vendors; … Whew. Where’s the aspirin?

On top of this (a few critics aside), IT and all that it provides is indispensable to business. Who today can run a company of any size (say over 20 employees) without technology? At least a PC. Scale that up to hundreds or thousands of employees and IT’s role in that company’s success is inescapable.

Moreover, it appears this trend is going to continue for the foreseeable future. The current crop of IT management tools are not keeping pace with the changes to infrastructure. And even though the promise of new technologies such as utility computing and service-orientated architecture (SOA) abound, if applied incorrectly or without stringent governance, the old-time problem of spaghetti code now becomes the new-found problem of “spaghetti IT.”

“I think there’s still a gap between the complexity and scale of the IT technology that’s been deployed and our ability to effectively manage it,” said Julie Craig, a senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates.

A big part of the problem, according to Craig, who spends a good deal of her day thinking about technology solutions to technology-based problems, is new technology is continuously layered on top of old; nothing is ever (or at least rarely) retired. “So, companies end up supporting everything from mainframes to UNIX boxes to AS400 to Windows servers to SAP.”

Add to this the need for businesses to move ever faster and adopt to new ways of doing things seemingly daily and you get a huge push from the business to add end-user tools and capabilities.

And, if you don’t do it for them (think wireless routers, instant messaging and USB drives), often times users just go ahead and start using introducing new technologies on their own. This creates yet another layer of complexity — shadow IT — and one that is completely ungovernable, at least in the early stages.

“Technology is more diverse, more affordable and far more attainable — thirty years ago we had a fax machines, centralized data processing, and copiers, said Lou Washington, the “Master of MIPS” and a senior business analyst at software and services provider Cincom Systems.