Business Service Management: Driving Data Center Performance
Managing application and infrastructure performance consumes an increasing amount of time and attention from enterprise Data Center IT staff. This is a direct result of the existing and evolving level of complexity and interdependence that continues to escalate dramatically among the infrastructure, applications and functions required to deliver business services. Compounding the problem, enterprise demands on and expectations from IT and data center services continues to grow despite flat budgets and static levels of IT staffing.
Stronger operational links to and more immediate impact on business operations results in increasing pressures on enterprise IT to deliver business services that are more reliable, adaptable, faster and innovative in function and delivery to keep existing customers, while attracting new ones.
On the down side is the business risk of catastrophic failure of a vital service as a result of just one more service request hitting the wrong server at an inopportune time. To deal with these pressures and demands, IT must proactively manage the performance and availability of infrastructure, applications and services. They need to identify potential problems and, if possible, resolve problems before a service failure occurs.
However, in order to maintain reliable services and avoid problems requires IT visibility into the impact of change, early warning of potential problems and more insight into cross-functional operations. In addition, a growing scarcity of experienced IT resources increases reliance on less skilled staff while highly qualified individuals are spread too thin to handle the multiple, different and complex assignments where they are most needed.
The cumulative result is a significant level of pain hitting hard in the operations center. Fortunately, this is now being addressed by vendors with a new generation of intelligent, automated system performance management tools. It’s known as Business Service Management or BSM. Let’s see what’s behind this marketing designation.
Integrated Performance Management
But it’s an integrated and complex world. All too often forgotten is the fact that actions have consequences. In today’s interdependent environments, unilateral action taken without considering impact in other parts can have disastrous consequences. Infrastructure, applications and resources can no longer be managed as separate entities or with siloed views. To solve this requires an increase and focus on automation, data sharing, cooperation and communications across all parts of the IT and business functions, as well as tools that support such activities. The solution requires integrated, intelligent and automated management that functions across the enterprise.
The concept and solutions that support it is popularly known as Business Service Management (BSM). Solutions now available apply intelligent, automated analysis to the full range of enterprise and IT management data and are able to provide early warnings of potential service problems.
For our purposes, we’ll focus on performance and capacity management. The ability to proactively anticipate problems and recognize actions that will result in performance degradation remains a key factor in maintaining infrastructure and service performance. Traditional operational performance management monitors and analyzes both current and past data about the performance of services and the infrastructure in order to maintain on-going and future performance at acceptable, committed service levels. To meet evolving needs, IT needs to anticipate potential problems, whatever the source, early enough to take action to avoid or minimize negative service impact.
Intelligent automation allows non-expert IT staff access and ability to effectively use analytics, reporting and visualization capabilities in operational settings without requiring extensive training. For example, intelligent analytics using workload forecast data can predict infrastructure performance and identify potential bottlenecks. End-to-end views of service delivery tied to infrastructure operations can provide advance warning of capacity bottlenecks and potential performance problems. Enterprise and IT staff working together can determine the cause of the problems – application design, processor overload, network saturation – and initiate proper corrective action.
A Quick Example
All of the major players, as well as many mid-tier players offer solutions to implement BSM. There are too many, with new ones emerging all the time, to do a detailed comparison in this essay. However, we can gain some insight into the effectiveness of BSM solutions by taking a quick look at the results we found as a result of interviewing a user of a product for optimizing mainframe performance. During the interview we discussed two major proof-of-capability operations.
First, we discussed the product’s ability for connecting IT operations and business metrics. For many enterprises today, the ability to identify and track metrics that provide meaningful information about these two areas remains a major operational problem. This product also accepts as data the input of external business metrics. The result is that the user can perform data analysis of the business metrics and include the results in performance reports along with and in relation to IT’s own metrics.
The customer was able to successfully combine IT performance metrics with business planner capacity forecasts. As a result, the enterprise was able to effectively plan for future investment and operational changes in its IT resources based on actual and forecasted business needs. The result was better management of capital expenditures that helped reduce costs overall.
Second, successful business operations require effective automated analysis able to correctly identify the real cause of operational problems. It’s also increasingly desired to provide an automated recommendation, even initiation, of the action that will solve the problem. Finally, unless solution will, at a minimum, match the performance of an experienced staff member it will not really meet enterprise needs.
At one user, a new employee familiar with automated process automation tools but with limited mainframe skills took 1 hour to perform an evaluation of an application performance trend. An experienced mainframe specialist using traditional tools took ½ a day for the same analysis. They both arrived at essentially the same conclusions of changes to be made to improve performance..
One vendor implementation of BSM focuses on providing a service and program targeted at protecting existing infrastructure investment while increasing incremental value through a more effective integration of people, process and technology. A customer using the process consolidated dozens of corporate-wide labs to just 4 on-demand labs used by 5000 globally dispersed developers. An automated provisioning and a remote reservation system managed physical and virtual servers. The firm saved in excess of 20 years of developer time and over $4 million in just one year.
There are plenty of other examples of the successful application of BSM using solutions from many different vendors. The message is that the challenges of effective performance management for the enterprise and IT can be addressed following a strategy of BSM and implemented with intelligent, integrated performance management tools. The necessary tools exist and are being used today with improvements and enhancements emerging nearly every day.
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