Thursday, April 7th, 2011 - 15:25
Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 15:06
Discovery of IT assets and their rationalization before executing a consolidation helps to minimize risk.
The dictionary definition of “accretion” is ‘increase of property by gradual natural additions, as of land by alluvion,’ and is an apt description of the year-by-year growth of the IT assets within the Federal Government (or any large enterprise). Getting your arms around this accretion – in other words knowing what IT assets an organization owns - brings me back to the notion of discovery that I introduced a few weeks back.
In that previous post, I drew an analogy to cleaning the Augean stables – an odious task at best! In that fable, Hercules diverts a nearby river and harnesses the power of the water to flush out the stables – in essence automating stable cleaning. Likewise, we have introduced an automated alternative that can help clean up your IT systems through the discovery and collection of actual run-time system and operational data provides the basis for an accurate analysis of the environment and its dependencies (while we’re on the topic of stables, check out this entertaining video of the “Cloudboys” discussing how to wrangle and rope the power of the cloud).
Automation in the discovery phase is accomplished using the Data Collector Appliance (DCA), a server-based integrated toolset which automatically gathers in-scope server and application data from the operating data center environment, collecting data across server systems and application images. The DCA scans the physical devices, server configuration, application information, and application dependency information from a central point of control. Automating the process drastically reduces the amount of time spent collecting the accurate and complete data necessary for analysis and migration planning. It considers application dependencies, version levels, operating systems, and infrastructure type and capacity. This approach to data collection allows managers to obtain a detailed and accurate analysis of the application environment, in preparation for the formulation of a cost-effective approach to consolidation and migration.
Advanced discovery tools can provide a detailed understanding of an enterprise’s supporting infrastructure. In tech speak, native discovery reaches down to layer 2 network devices, storage devices, cross-tier dependencies, and runtime configuration. For any tool, it's imperative that managers decide what is in or out of scope (i.e. some servers may be too sensitive, etc), the system runs scans (over several days / weeks) and the analysis of the resulting data will give you a detailed picture of all of the hardware, software and even the people who are connected to the network. It will tell you where the security vulnerabilities in the system are, what others systems its connected too, and even how many licenses are in use (Agencies often pay for many more licenses than they actually use).
Conducting discovery is the military equivalent of going into battle with a detailed, multi-layered map that has the physical contours like hills and streams, as well as roads, bridges and buildings, versus going into battle with a map drawn on the back of a cocktail napkin. It is almost impossible to design and execute an effective IT consolidation cost savings effort if you don’t know what you have and where it’s located.
In our experience, customers are discovering an additional 30% of IT assets beyond what they thought they had. The cost savings that can be quickly achieved just by harvesting the “low-hanging fruit” identified through discovery is often much more than the cost of discovery.
Another critical benefit of conducting discovery before embarking on an IT consolidation effort or moving to the cloud, is that the discovery will provide you with the information needed to REDUCE THE MISSION RISK! The fastest way to get unwanted attention from the highest levels of agency leadership is to have an unintended failure of mission critical systems. It’s the nightmare of every IT or Agency leader, and yet it happens with surprising frequency. IT consolidation efforts can significantly raise the risk of system failures just through the process of moving servers and systems around. While you would think that you could just unplug a server on Friday afternoon, load the data into a hosted server in the cloud, turn it back on, and be all set to go on Monday morning, it often doesn’t work out that way. There are hidden dependencies and connections with other systems and applications that only become apparent when they no longer work.
Conducting discovery can greatly reduce this risk by identifying system dependencies and creating a transition sequence that moves the right parts of the system in the right order.
Discovery has so many advantages, and costs so little, it really should be standard practice on IT consolidation and cloud projects.
Johnny Barnes, left, is the General Manager Technology and CTO for IBM's Global Business Services. He has more than 35 years of experience with IBM, holding a variety of product, solution development, staff, system architecture, management and executive positions. Previously, Mr. Barnes worked to re-engineer IBM’s internal hardware development, global computing and telephony environments and grow IBM’s Public Sector transformation services business.
Mr. Barnes has an overall perspective of the computer industry and its applicability to business segments, as well as IBM's strategic plans to meet the distributed computing and e-business on demand market to satisfy future critical business requirements. Currently, Mr. Barnes oversees IBM’s WW Public Sector Technical and Solution Strategy and expanding IBM’s Public Sector transformation service business.