Today's IT infrastructure, systems and applications — as well as the business operations they support — are more complex than ever. Subsequently, this means that the amount of configuration information in IT environments is staggering.
The fallout from having to manage this growing complexity can have heavy costs to the enterprise when problems arise: more system downtime and slowdown, higher costs, inferior customer experience.
Ensuring high performance for IT environment requires staying on top of an ever growing collection of configuration information and environment content.
The New Reality Impacts IT Performance
A number of factors impact performance. As software systems, the development process, and resources become more distributed, this reality contributes to less visibility and complicates the management effort.
Agile software development methodologies have driven the number of releases radically higher. The increase of release events now means an increased pressure on release management teams, compounding the task of IT Operations to maintain stability while tracking and executing new releases. An evolutionary and ever increasing complexity of platforms means keeping track of many active pieces that must interact seamlessly. So, even seemingly minor releases can impact the performance of applications.
Difficult to Identify the Critical Configuration Data
Due to today’s complexity, IT departments are unprepared to track configuration information and predict outcomes for fast-changing business requirements.
That's because nowadays the complex technology environments essentially lack tools and practices to look into detailed changes at the high resolution level. With the exponential volume it’s basically impossible to review this information manually, unless you have an IT team the size of a city.
According to Gartner analyst Kathy Harris, "When you make changes in a complex environment, it's very [difficult] to test the full extent and quality of the change. You're more likely to interject errors into what you're doing."
In the Dark About Change
Without setting a reasonable amount of control over changes to critical processes, businesses are left in the dark about the actual status and availability of the IT systems. The cause of a problem on one system may be something that was reconfigured or completely different in another environment.
ITIL offers tools to support IT departments for handling change, and ITIL's Change Management process is meant to protect the IT service provider from undesired consequences of a change.
As defined by ITIL, the main objective of Change Management is to carry out changes beneficial to IT and the business, while minimizing possible disruption to the business. However in this process, each particular change requires formal authorization, from a change authority.
As suggested in the recent Forrester Research report Assessing Complexity in IT Operations "an overly complex change process that calls for a lengthy chain of review and approval may deter employees from using it and consequently push the number of unauthorized calls in the name of expediency and effectiveness."
Pushing Change Forward and Maintaining Control
So do you need to choose between keeping control or allow agility?
This issue of ensuring IT performance can sometimes lead organizations to lock down their environments with excessive controls. This means having all changes specifically identified, tested, monitored and, finally, approved.
On the one side, this structured approach can effectively reduce the number of change errors. However, this comes with a price. The more control imposed over an environment, the slower the enterprise is able to implement improvements (patches, updates, new releases etc.) and respond to business objectives.
On the other side, IT operations that introduce rapid changes to their environments without control processes, can greatly increase the risk of environmental failures.
What businesses need are resources that will effectively allow them to drive change in their environment without inhibiting business agility, and still remain in control and this is only possible through the introduction of a technology that will automate change and configuration management at a granular level of details while supporting radically dynamic environments.
Sasha Gilenson is the Founder and CEO of Evolven Software.