No, it’s not a B movie from the seventies. It’s what faces IT Operations teams today. As if it weren’t hard enough to deliver high value business services to internal and external IT users, the Operations team is bombarded with new technology and management initiatives that make life in IT even more difficult.
“Do More with Less”
Efficiency is the name of the game here, with Operations teams being asked to take on more responsibility, from application verification to capacity management, service level reporting, and root cause determination. The biggest challenge with these tasks, though, is not that the team must do them, but that the tools for these tasks assume some level of platform or tool expertise, which just isn’t feasible in a complex environment.
“Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen”
We’ve all dealt with the never ending bridge call. I’ve seen some customers with 50 (that’s five-zero) individuals that dial into a call for every – single – problem. Nobody knew how they got to 50 people on the call, and nobody seemed to be able to change it. “It’s just expected to occur,” one executive told me when asked about their bridge calls.
"Work Smarter, Not Harder”
You’ve not only heard this one, you’ve probably used it. The Ops team isn’t happy about being on time consuming bridge calls. Executives aren’t exactly jumping with joy either. Having a 2 hour call for every problem can quickly add up to hundreds of wasted hours. So the mandate is delivered to solve the problems in a smarter way, not by involving more people.
“It’s Not Rocket Science”
It may not be rocket science, but today’s application systems are more complex than ever – and growing in complexity daily. New technologies and architectures such as SOA, Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, Web Services, and virtualization add to the complexity. And the IT initiatives that drive them, from single sign-on and Green IT to server consolidation and rapid application deployment, create a never ending stream of change.
Is it even possible for IT Operations to succeed in this highly specialized technological environment? After all, conventional management tools built around technology silo specialties promote the idea of experts setting up and using tools built specifically for code platforms, virtual environments, databases, packaged apps like SAP, and so forth.
The bad news is that Ops teams aren’t going to become experts in these or the hundreds of other unique technology silos. The good news is that they won’t actually have to anymore. The answer, ironically enough, is not rocket science either. Transactions are the key, but only if monitored properly.
Transactions in the data center are the best connection between end user activity and the infrastructure and applications that deliver business services. While transactions can be defined in many different ways, the IT Operations team need only worry about activity inside the data center (and, in some cases, like Web Services and Hybrid Clouds, behind it).
Not all Transaction monitoring tools are equal, though. In some cases, transactions are treated as another technology measurement and thought of as the most encompassing measurement of end user performance. While a nice piece of data to have, this approach doesn’t help solve the problem of Operations autonomy. In fact, it creates problems by adding in yet another technology silo to include on the bridge call.
To get the most out of transaction monitoring, IT Ops must understand how transactions, applications, and infrastructure are connected. One way to think about it is being able to follow a transaction across the infrastructure to the slow component, then drilling down the application server stack to understand what caused the problem.
With full transaction visibility and a methodical way to use it, Operations teams can now take back control of the systems they manage. Gone are the 20 (or 50!) person bridge calls. Gone are the 2 week outages. Gone are the angry calls to the help desk. Those horrible clichés will disappear, too.
Vic Nyman is Co-Founder and COO of BlueStripe Software.