In the age of the CMDB, and now of the configuration management system (CMS) as per ITIL v3, one of the things I consistently hear is “how hard it is to get my arms around the infrastructure to really know what’s out there.” Since discovery tools of various kinds have been around for a long time, most IT executives are shocked to discover that their discovery isn’t discovering what it should. The good news is there’s been a lot of innovation in terms of accuracy, administrative efficiency and assimilation; bringing different discovery requirements together so that the same solution can support multiple objectives.
Often it takes a CMDB initiative, in which multiple stake holders are forced to come to the table and come clean, to really expose what a mess you’ve got. The first step may not be the purchase of a classic CMDB system, but a thorough evaluation of how your discovery tools need to work together to get the basics done. Here you can save on redundant hardware and software and with the right tools also save on software license costs and more automated audits. As discovery begins to include configuration and application dependencies—you’ve already made taken the first critical steps towards a CMDB.
People define process automation differently, which is no surprise since it’s grown up from, at minimum, two fundamentally different markets and traditions: data center automation that targets machine-to-machine and to a lesser degree machine-to-human automation (job scheduling is the classic example), and service desk-centric process automation, which has always focused on people-to-people workflow. NGAM requires all of this, and the good news is these technologies are beginning to come together―although the jury’s out as to what, if any, standard unifying technology will win. My particular favorite is coming out of the CMDB side, which is sort of a middle ground, where common data models inform on instrumented process flows. If you’ve never seen this before, don’t worry. You will see it soon (within the next twelve months) from at least a few vendors. Whatever form it takes, automation can bring huge benefits in terms of risk minimization, improved operational efficiencies and improved service uptime.
One deployment of a configuration tool allowed a company to go from 20 changes an hour to 10,000 with an increase in accuracy. It reduced security issues associated with change from 90% to 10% and it reduced to the time to determine if a change impacted the network from four hours to less than five minutes.
This is of course not meant to be a comprehensive list of good first-phase objectives for NGAM. Far from it. But hopefully it can give you some ideas for going forward. Just do keep in mind that smart technology investments depend on smart minds working together or we go back to that idea of putting the software on a server, letting it run and having a beer. An appealing scenario, but one more suited to situation comedies than situation transformers in IT.
Dennis Drogseth is VP of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can reached at [email protected].