by Richard Threlkeld
The overwhelming pressure on businesses to do everything
better and faster with fewer resources is taking its toll on the CIO and IT
departments, especially in the face of impending Windows 7 and 8 migrations.
While it doesn’t carry the cache of big data, BYOD or the cloud, systems
management is the backbone of these trends and of the IT
infrastructure. The need for a simple and agile IT infrastructure is more important
than ever, but effective systems management has never been so difficult to
understand or harder to implement.
Today’s organizations are geographically dispersed and often
rely on a mobile workforce – traditional administrative techniques and server-client
architectures simply can’t properly manage the networks and software needed to
run a business in today’s environment. At the heart of the issue – getting
content and business data to distributed and mobile systems quickly and simply
while eliminating software and version sprawl. Efficient systems management
ensures that IT can easily manage skyrocketing expectations and empower the
business to thrive.
Effectively and Predictively Made Available
IT organizations now, more than ever, need to offer the same
services to the entire user population regardless of physical location. Users
working at remote branch offices need to receive software at the same speed as
central office locations without bringing down the network. However, adding more
lines to every location quickly becomes cost prohibitive to networking teams,
as does quality of service (QoS) management of IT and business traffic.
Most organizations imagine their networking and systems
management teams working together to ensure that IT data goes out to mobile
systems and branch locations without causing any contention with business data
or applications. The reality, however, is that disparate teams locked into
their silos of expertise often fail to work together. Either immediately or in
the long run, this siloed approach creates unmanageable service levels, and the
business suffers. To change this, organizations need to have fewer teams and
more effective projects.
the Problem of Content Delivery
To ensure content delivery of configuration management
reliably and securely, IT needs a software-based, hardware-independent solution
that manages IT data dynamically, without disrupting business applications. To
achieve this, the software should automatically give priority to business
applications, only ramping back up activity once the business is no longer
using the systems or network.
When the business applications can work normally and IT
systems management content flows in the unused time, the organization will have
more effective IT operations and a more productive user base.
IT staff still need to heavily weigh risk. There should be
no reliance on the network hardware stack or client-side liabilities such as
faulty software, risky system drivers or prerequisites. Infrastructure
components that have a goal to reduce network impact and transfer data
effectively should not offload risk or workload to other parts of the
infrastructure, be they clients or servers. The overarching goal is to do
things efficiently, with high maintainability and low risk.
What Content is
Needed and Where
A technically efficient method of getting IT content out to
the workforce is critical but only one piece of the puzzle. A large hidden cost
of systems management initiatives involves the continued administration and
utilization of an implemented technology. Getting IT content or user
applications to systems is essential but difficult to achieve predictively when
no one knows what they need or when they need it.
Operating System migration projects inevitably raise this
issue when IT staff pre-cache images at locations to effectively manage Windows
upgrades, primarily to increase user satisfaction and to cut down on help desk
costs. When a remote branch user begins the migration process, the last thing
IT wants is a six-hour delay to the process while data is being transferred
across the WAN. Organizations managing remote and mobile systems need to
concern themselves with user data and applications as well, not just the base
The problem of application and program management through
the migration process and day-to-day operations of practical application storage
becomes an issue when IT wants to utilize existing client resources without
purchasing new infrastructure and raising costs. Organizations can overcome
this with the correct infrastructure software at the foundation of a
configuration management platform.
To migrate applications to the latest version during an OS
migration, IT support needs visibility into what software versions are actually
installed and used across the enterprise. To accomplish this, organizations
need a solution that can identify application version sprawl, put an
application supersedence plan in place, and then integrate this with IT data
and content distribution mechanism to only pre-cache the latest versions of
User Data in
Migrations and Hardware Refresh
During a migration – be it to a new system or new OS – IT
has to deal with user data, both business and personal, along with customized
desktops, born out of BYOD initiatives and less draconian IT practices.
Therefore, it is essential that IT address restoring both personal and business
user data to new systems to avoid an unhappy user base, loss of productivity
and possible loss of company data.
To achieve this without negatively impacting the network due
to geographical differences, organizations need to implement a peer backup and
restore solution. Next, they need to have a peer bare metal boot solution that
has some PXE functionality that is network and hardware configuration agnostic.
Both of these techniques must integrate with the configuration management
infrastructure and pre-caching solution to have a holistic tool that IT can
offer without any extra support or administrative costs.
Speed and bandwidth end up being two separate issues when it
comes to control of content distribution. The concern around IT data backing
off to business applications is only part of the equation. There are related
business issues around getting content to remote or mobile systems in a fast
and efficient manner. Many organizations have support policies where if the
technician cannot resolve an issue within 15 minutes, then the system is simply
rebuilt. While this may seem aggressive, in many cases it makes sense. Even if
the pre-caching of an OS image has been addressed, there is still the concern
of restoring user applications as well as peer backup and restore of user data.
Speed, user satisfaction and helpdesk costs are some of the
top reasons data location and network bandwidth control around IT content and
business application management need to be treated seriously. Organizations
need to implement solutions that prioritize business traffic over IT systems
management traffic to ensure smooth OS migrations that take place without
administrative interaction. At first, this might seem overly daunting. However,
systems management issues can be overcome by implementing the correct tools and
techniques to run the modern day IT infrastructure successfully.
Richard Threlkeld is the technical product manager at 1E.