The Technologies Driving IT into Transition

At a recent round table in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, EMA solicited inputs from a number of local IT managers, executives and professionals on topics of interest. While the range was wide and varied — from end-to-end e-mail and mobility, to APM and service management, to change, configuration and asset management — the No. 1 outstanding request was what might be summarized as the transformation of IT towards a more service centric organization.

In parallel, EMA asked its analysts for their predictions about what 2012 might bring. The range of prognostications, while focusing more on “hot technologies,” was also directly relevant to this notion of “IT in transition,” in which cloud, analytics, information sharing, the spread and commoditization of IT services through mobile access, heightened security challenges, are all coming into play.

So based on all this collective wisdom here are some of the technology and cultural hot spots to pay attention to as we move through this year and beyond:

Big Data (business and IT) – Business Intelligence (BI) is pushing out to just about every area of the enterprise, including IT. And with this comes challenges in how BI data is shared, including mobile access with its bandwidth challenges, as well as more complex policies for role-related access when roles are so diverse.

The notion of an IT data warehouse dramatizes this challenge within just IT and may ultimately (and inadvertently) set back in motion debates about a singular data warehouse or a data mart. When significantly more than 40% of respondents in a 2011 survey claimed they had a data warehouse as part of their service management strategy much of this turned out to be back end investments to shore up everything from CMDBs to advanced performance analytics for enriched capabilities in trending and analysis over time. So the truth is that while “Big Data” is by convention monolithic, its roles and deployments are becoming more varied as the need for more competitive business models fueled by more responsive and/or business-transforming IT services continues to accelerate.

Advanced threat intelligence (also driving Big Data) – As targeted threats continue to increase in number and sophistication, the requirements for better information gathering and data-driven security become intensified. These requirements go far beyond looking at isolated denial of service or malware issues to broader situational analysis. As managing simple threats and Mission Impossible terrorist scenarios begin to blur, patterns of human behavior need to be linked more aggressively to technical patterns and behaviors.

Advanced management analytics – The relationship between some of the “rocket science” level performance management capabilities far more familiar to the operations bridge than the enterprise marketing team are another source or critical advancement in 2012. These are too easily lumped into the application performance management (APM) market, which, as it’s been reconstituted by some analysts, creates a kind of inflated junk-food vision of cross-domain service management much like the giant Stay Puft marshmallow man in Ghostbusters.

A more effective way of breaking out these analytics might be:

User experience management (UEM) – Along with application performance issues, UEM provides the ultimate metrics for service level management (SLM), as they are by definition the most business impactful (e.g., latency, consistency, accessibility, relevance and all the aspects of user interaction with application services). UEM can also project outward into business process impact, transaction to business outcomes, and other related business and user behaviors (e.g., which applications are people really using to accomplish which business tasks?)

Executive dashboards – These will begin to thrive in 2012, especially when service models can assimilate all these analytics (including data warehouse analytics) in service context.

Application discovery and dependency mapping – This and discovery in general are once again “hot” as the CMDB moves outward into a federated systems of optimized sources for everything from classic configuration management, to active release and change management, to asset management, and service impact management including data center consolidation and the move to virtualization.

Melds – Capacity planning, performance, and business impact are all beginning to intersect in analytic “melds” across domains with both real-time and historical/trending values.

Applicationaware network management – This has been around for a long time and rarely gotten the respect it deserves. But in true cross-domain service management, the power of these many “application-aware network management” solutions (typically leveraging flow, packet analysis and other related technologies) can be as powerful as some of the hotter top-down solutions getting most of the attention today. As I used to say when I ran the network management practice, “the network is the ocean upon which everything floats” and this includes VMs.

Predictive analytics in support of automation – While automation deserves its own heading, the relation between predictive analytics and automation technologies from workload automation (WLA) to IT process automation (or run book) will continue to transform the automation landscape. Another, and not unrelated transformative factor will continue to be service modeling from the CMDB/CMS as modeled interdependencies and the policies around them will begin to advance in defining automation routines and associating them with larger processes.

CloudThe perverse catalyst, cloud computing is advancing more effective solutions for dynamic insights across domains from APM to optimizing the virtualized infrastructure and network. Endpoint virtualization will continue to be another key growth area. Cloud is also offering new opportunities for flexibility and scalability in terms of on-demand compute power for delivering everything from BI solutions to advanced business service management (BSM) capabilities. So, as vendors become more cloud-savvy, and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) continues to mature, watch for more and more service management solutions leveraging the scalability and flexibility of cloud for their own computing needs.

MobileWorkforce mobility is no longer about just working at home, as smartphone and tablet form factors are forcing IT to adjust to a whole new array of pressures in everything from asset management, to performance and configuration management to, inevitably, security. Mobility and the “consumerization of IT” will also require new process and compliance guidelines as well as ongoing technology innovation.

The Cultural transformation of ITAs I believe most of you know all too well dramatic technology advantages in service management don’t occur just by installing pricy software, reading the instruction manual, and then going off to celebrate with a beer (but wouldn’t that be nice!).

These initiatives require cultural and process change, which means that of course they require your commitment and attention. Look for a growing focus on Lean IT, i.e., applying the rigors and disciplines in terms of metrics from manufacturing to IT governance.

A related “hot area” is unified demand management (UDM) as IT professionals get saturated by fragmented and often effectively undocumented requirements, making daily life in IT more like trench warfare than running a business.

And, of course, I have to stress the transformation of the CMDB towards a more federated, model-centric universe as in my view single biggest revolution in service management yet as the CMDB/CMS becomes redefined as primarily a system of reconciliation versus a single, physical data store. I’ll be writing more on this in my next column based on fresh (Q4 2011) dialogs and research.

Dennis Drogseth is VP of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can be reached at [email protected].