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Ben Newton, Senior Manager in Solutions Marketing is a passionate advocate of exploiting data center automation.   We began the conversation around the subject of automating disaster recovery (or business continuity as Ben prefers).  “If you plan thinking only about disasters, you’re talking about dealing with FEMA and limited situations like that.  What we really want to do is to design a plan to keep businesses running, no matter what problems occur.  And to start, you need to define what you are trying to accomplish.  Simple requirements lead to simple solutions, but simple solutions don’t necessarily accomplish your goals”


 

He notes that it isn’t just about getting bits and bytes to a new location.  Even if you blindly copy data over to the new location, there is no guarantee it is going to work.  In most cases, you need to be up in hours, if not in minutes – so you need to be confident that you stand the recovery site up quickly.  And there is so much more to business continuity than the data.  Ben also notes that virtualization has changed the nature of the game. Virtualization makes it much easier to blindly copy data to a backup location, but will those images work? What state are they in? To obtain the lowest cost, quick time to value, and accurate failover capability, you need to build a robust plan.  It begins understanding the business; which applications/systems are mission-critical?  What is your configuration management process?  How do you migrate applications?  How current can you keep your data?  What is the sequence of events needed to recover systems? Ben sees a robust DR strategy as a catalyst to move to mature data center management. 


 

As an example, less mature plans don’t understand the implication of different IP spaces.  You could no more move Waltham houses wholesale to Houston than you can move most networked systems to another IP space.  The solution to this challenge is to understand your configuration and develop full stack provisioning for mission-critical applications.  In other words, automate the end-to-end build of your most important systems, so you can quickly stand up new systems – while taking into account the environment they are in. And you also need to understand your application release process, and make sure that the DR site is always up to date with the latest versions of your custom applications.


 

Ben had personal experience with this while designing a DR plan as a consultant before BMC. From a BMC perspective, he says that you can start with the Bladelogic suite of products.  BMC Network Automation ensures the ability to port your network, no matter how complex.  BMC Server Automation rebuilds your OS and configures it, BMC Middleware Automation builds your complicated middleware applications, like WebSphere or WebLogic.  BMC Database Automation helps you recover your databases. As an example, Ben has seen this product help you stand up Oracle RAC clusters in 2 hours.  Assess your capacity needs for this with BMC Capacity Optimization.   Understand your resources and relationships with BMC Discovery and Dependency Mapping then use BMC Atrium Orchestrator to pull together the sequence and scripts of automation.  Get application release management underway with Release Process Management.  Then, include BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management – this turns your business continuity strategy into a private cloud.  By thinking bigger – automation is good for every aspect of data center management – you can get business backing to obtain the benefit of cloud, as well as the benefits of better day-to-day management AND disaster recovery.


 

“Use this opportunity to do more than just DR – otherwise, it is just a wasted opportunity.  Move to a private cloud and solve multiple challenges with one effort.”

 

 

 

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I admit it. I listen to sports radio. Often, I turn it on when I am bored with the political situation of the day or when there is a sports story that I am actually interested in hearing. The other day, I was listening to a late-morning national sports program. I often find the broadcaster a bit annoying, but I manage to find nuggets that are relevant to me.

 

The broadcaster mentioned the concept of the “New Reality” and how people are unable to accept it. He was specifically speaking of realignment in college football, but he expanded his example to include other areas of life. The New Reality is that people don’t have home phones anymore, people don’t subscribe to newspapers, people don’t buy CDs, and people don’t go to Blockbuster. A certain segment of our society is naturally shook up by this change. Publishers and Record Labels are crying foul that they can’t make their outdated business models work, and Blockbuster is long gone. Traditionalists will decry the erosion of Americana and everything we hold sacred.

 

This New Reality is a consequence of the world evolving. Both businesses and individuals have to respond to this evolution. Most business leaders are fairly adept at staying ahead of these New Realities, with the few exceptions that eventually die (see Blockbuster). One area of business that is notoriously bad at accepting New Realities is the IT Department.

 

I venture to state that there is no department as resistant to change in any organization as the IT Department. IT is often the last on board and the first off the boat when it comes to aligning to the company’s overall goals and initiatives. As pointed out in “The Real Business of IT”, the mere fact that we speak of “Aligning IT to the Business” shows that there is a severe disconnect between the goals of the business and the goals of IT. The authors go on to point out that this disconnection is one reason that the IT Departments are now being run by CIOs with a CFO background or CIOs that report directly to the CFO; in other words IT is just another cost center. That is not a recipe for success for IT.

 

So as an industry, how do we begin to solve this problem? When I first moved to Columbus, I had coffee with Angelo Mazzocco, CIO of a local medical company. He was a technologist at heart, starting out as a programmer and moving up through the organization. The statement I remember most from this meeting was, “My value to the business increased when I could read and understand a [Profit and Loss] statement.” That simple statement stuck with me and I believe it is the heart of solving the perception of IT not being able to accept New Realities or change and thus, being seen as a cost center.

 

The average IT Manager has very little training in the basics of business. If you look at how most IT Managers progress in their careers, they start out as an individual contributor in an IT-focused role. Often, they hold a degree in a technology-focused area, such as Computer Science, or they hold a degree in a completely unrelated area. They are promoted based on their ability to execute ITs goals, and their ability to lead from an IT perspective. As this focus gets them ahead, they resist change. When the business approaches the IT department with their own goals, IT Management seeks to reconcile those goals with ITs goals. If the goals clash or they simply don’t understand business well enough to offer an IT solution, then the proverbial “Wall of IT” is raised.

 

This basic premise has been documented before, and is credited with giving rise to new concepts such as DevOps which promotes a tighter coupling between the Business, Development, and IT Operations. It is also documented in management literature under the premise of “Rewarding A while hoping for B”. To begin solving this problem, IT needs to focus on two basic things. First we need more Business Education for IT Leaders. Programs such as the Technology Leadership MBA at Carnegie Mellon are a good example. IT Leaders need to understand how and why the business operates as it does. Basic concepts revolving around marketing, competitive strategy, accounting, and leadership should be part of any IT Leader’s toolbox.

 

Second, IT goals need to be the Business’ Goals. IT should eliminate the IT-focused goals of Uptime, SLAs, etc., replacing them with Increased Earnings per Share (EPS), Revenue Growth, Customer Retention, etc. From CIO to the individual contributor of IT, the Goal should always be the Business-centric goal. When a request for a new project or change (New Reality) comes in, the focus for IT should be “How can we add value and achieve the goals of the business?” This realignment needs to be understood by all levels, including the IT individual contributor. They need to see the connection between a firewall rule change and its impact on EPS.

 

One could argue that changes in the organizational structure of IT are also required, but organizational changes happen so frequently and rarely produce any results. In the end, the goal is to help IT understand why this New Reality is important for the business, and how IT can most effectively bring about this change. Business will continue to evolve and IT needs to be ready to help with this change, being good stewards of the business first, and technologists second.

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I recently received an email from a customer who was elated that one of our support staff had been so helpful while he was putting a new release into production. I asked myself what is different about this, why is the customer so happy, we are just doing our jobs. And then I thought a bit more.

 

Our customers, that’s you, have deadlines, milestones, projects, etc. that you need to meet. We, BMC Customer Support, are not always aware of those dates and deadlines.

 

Further research into our issues showed us that that our customers are most elated when they have told us they have an upcoming deadline and that they might need help such as an upgrade, install and our seeking support’s expert advice to avoid further issues, instead of dealing (and sometimes scrambling) with urgent issues during a critical (and short) time window.

 

To boil it down, you are most happy when we are aligned with your business.  This makes perfect sense. But the question is, how do we get aligned with your business?  We are not in your meetings, in your hallways and in your project planning meetings! The answer is plan ahead and open an issue with support.  Why should you open an issue?! Because if you tell us something in passing, we might not catch it. But, if you have a conversation with a support person regarding your upcoming project, we will have it documented and we both have a forum to ask each other questions. Communication is a two way street!

 

The issue title can be as simple as 

  • “Can you tell me any gotcha’s in upgrading to xyz release, we plan to do this over the holiday break”.
  • “We are going to be working next weekend to do an install, will you be available in case we need help” (this is particularly a good one since we will make sure you have weekend support and that we have the right people lined up to help you).

 

A phrase that is helpful in speaking/writing to us is

  • “This issue is high priority because we are doing an install this weekend and I cannot afford to lose any time or we will miss our install window”. It helps us understand why an issue may be a severity 3 to some may be a severity 1 or 2 to you.

 

These key pieces of data give us information we would not typically know if we were to just take the issue and work on it.  They avoid situations like spending your time on the phone with BMC Customer Support over the weekend when an install has failed because you were not aware that we did not support a certain hardware platform. And most important, they give us insight into your business to make you more successful.

 

As a teaser, I will tell you that we will be piloting some different ways of accessing and doing support so BMC Customer Support can be even better aligned to serve your business needs. Does a virtual genius bar spark your interest? Stay tuned!!

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Almost every day, I find myself at my local Safeway, picking up food for the next dinner or a running in to get a forgotten item.  The grocery store is across the street from my complex, which makes it easy to plan badly and be very spontaneous.  The “cost” is low and I can always use more exercise.  So I don’t operate proactively and thus, have the luxury of responding to our “in the moment” food desires.  It works for us.  When I share this experience with a friend who lives in a remote part of Colorado, he said they didn’t have that opportunity; it is a 45-minute drive to town, so they have to plan.  It’s even more critical for residents of remote parts of Alaska.  They must plan meals and buy food for at least a month at a time.  And they have to alter their plans or pay more based on what is available. 

 

As I made yet another trip to Safeway, I found myself wondering – how many data center managers operate exactly as I do?  How many are trapped in the “weeds” of day-to-day operations, just trying to survive, while assuming that their next “provisioning” will be as easy as mine is?    Unless your office is at HP or IBM (or similar), you can’t get the hardware you need when you need it, at the price you want for your company.  You have to plan.  You have to work with the business to understand future needs, so you can minimize your costs and have just what you need, when you need it. 

 

But as a colleague pointed out, it isn’t just hardware planning.  Many of your fellow employees view IT services as if it is a local resource, like my local Safeway. When they need a new service or capability, it should be as simple as a “walk across the street.”  But in IT, we all know it isn’t.  This too means working with the business to help them understand the effort and resources required to deliver on the services they want to offer.  It’s teamwork, and teamwork means planning.  Just as my husband and I sit down regularly, so I can present him with menu ideas, the IT process is a collaboration resulting in a “meal” that both sides enjoy and can support.  When this alliance is functioning, sometimes the business will okay a trip across the street to Safeway (getting hardware even when it isn’t a great deal or hiring some consultants to speed the process.)  But without that alliance, IT sees the provisioning of services like a 7-day sled-dog trip; the business sees it as a quick trip to Safeway. 

 

On a side note, sometimes I just open my fridge and plan a meal around what I have, going for some innovative combinations.  You can do this too, by looking at the resources you already have (people, hardware and software) and putting them together in new and different ways to offer a better service experience.

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It seems that every couple of months I read another article about the search for the Higgs Boson, and how that will either confirm or call into question various all-encompassing "theory of everything" in particle physics. While that story of particle-colliding is interesting in its own science-geeky way, I also think that the drive towards the all-encompassing answer has echoes outside of physics and large groups of grad students spending years underground building super-colliders. The drive to establish some underlying theory for "how things should work" is not only intellectually satisfying, it also provides a lot of insight into why things should work one way versus the other, and why some things work and others don't.

 

So, getting right to my point - I think IT needs a Unified Theory. There are so many conflicting pressures on IT organizations pulling in different directions. ITIL calls for deliberation and adult supervision at all times. Cloud sometimes seems to be turning IT personnel into short order cooks, rather than thoughtful chefs. And then Agile Development has developers seething at IT for being too slow, plodding, and behind the times. So, what is an IT organization to do?

 

To even get to that theory of everything, we need to ask - why do company IT departments exist at all? The answer is not "to buy expensive computers and provide a living to hard working geeks everywhere". It's not even "to run the company's IT stuff". At the end of the day, companies would not be spending millions of dollars/euros/pounds if IT weren't essential to the business. "Yeah, duh" you say. Well, yes, it is obvious, but do we run IT like the whole reason it exists is to make the business successful? Many times, the answer is no. Most companies are entirely dependent on their IT infrastructure to run the business, yet decisions are often made for "non-business" reasons.

 

Ok. So, IT departments exist for the good of the business. Now how should IT run, based on that observation? I suggest that IT should be managed in order to provide the best service to the business - that is, the most value for the least cost. Taking that a bit further, I think that means that IT should run as a service-oriented organization - IT as a Service. Again, this seems rather obvious, but do we do this? This is really a fundamental change in the relationship with the business. IT should focus on making decisions based on achieving the greatest value for the business. Interactions with the rest of the company should be framed in terms of the services provided - not hardware, CPUs, or MS Sharepoint directories.

 

Now, we could spend a lot of time on what it means to be service-oriented, but I want to focus on one part. IT as a Service - ITaaS - means standardizing requestable services into a service catalog - and then fronting that service catalog with a self-service portal. Now, that is where it becomes the Unified Theory. Instead of having all of these different, silo-ed approaches to requesting services from IT - the self-service portal becomes the ultimate equalizer. And this shouldn't just be for the obvious services - like requesting a new cell phone, or a cloud-based server. It should also include core-IT functions like scheduling the release of an application, requesting a compliance scan, or request a new patch. My vision is of the worlds of Systems Mgmt, Workload Mgmt, Cloud, and DevOps all meeting together in a unified structure that removes the complexity from the requester. But it also means that IT needs to get serious about standardization and automation.

 

To illustrate this, I have added a graphic that show the basic thrust of the argument. So, do you agree? Isn't a "Unified Theory" essential to IT's survival?

 

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What would you say if I told you that you can finally meet the goals your business owners and IT management have asked of you in terms of Application Performance Management (APM)?  Well, you can indeed meet those APM goals … if only you are willing to stop doing APM!

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Yes, you read that right … the problem with today’s application support and application operations practices is just that – we are managing application performance.  So what’s wrong with APM?

 

  • How often do you find conflicting data pointing to the root cause of an application problem?
  • Did you ever fix an application problem only to discover your end-users are still frustrated with service levels?
  • Is it possible to instrument everything that’s an important part of your mission-critical applications?  If so, at what cost?
  • When is the last time you got a call from an application into the service desk?

 

If you want your team to stand apart as one of “the groups that gets it”, stop doing APM and start managing end user performance.  If you run a mission-critical application you know already that the satisfaction of your end users is the only thing that matters to the business.  If end users are content with your service delivery they will buy more books, return to your site more regularly, post social media updates about how great your company is, and ensure your company’s revenue goals are met.

 

You will be the hero … BUT, if you fail … your customers will abandon transactions, they will trash your company on Twitter and Facebook, and your company’s reputation will be irreparably damaged.  And you will probably get the chance to meet some of your company executives under not very pleasant circumstances.  You can prevent this from happening and ensure delighted end users are the hallmark of your company.

 

So what does end user focused application performance management look like?  Look for a solution with the following capabilities:

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  • Global Visibility into application performance from the end-user perspective
    • Eliminate “blind spots” without information overload
  • Automated End-User Forensic Analysis
    • Combine maximum visibility into user experience with deep session analysis
    • to enable rapid and precise problem detection, prioritization and isolation
  • Real-Time Change Impact Analysis
    • Prevent end-user performance issues resulting from application and infrastructure changes
  • End-to-End Application Performance Monitoring
    • Detect problems as soon as a single user experiences them - and capture all of the diagnostic data necessary to drive rapid problem isolation and resolution - for all application architectures

 

 

If you want to be an application superhero at your company and manage applications in a way that brings your team closer to the needs of the business, quit doing the same thing expecting different results – take a new approach to APM and watch as customer satisfaction grows and your business goals are exceeded.

 

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I found myself caught up recently in a Twitter storm over why, or why not, multi-hypervisor support in Cloud, Automation, and Management software is important. The proponents were positioned on the side of cost, and the detractors were against the complexity such a solution introduces. Multi-Hypervisor support is important for 2 reasons: managing costs, and reducing vendor lock-in.


Managing Costs


One of the big reasons enterprises are clamoring for this feature is the increasing cost of virtualization. Ziff Davis estimates the budgeted cost of virtualization increased 17% in 2011 and will increase another 8% in 2012 (pdf report). This increase in budget is of course directly correlated to the significant trend in virtualization adoption, but it also quickly becomes a sore point for CIOs, as this increase in budget needs to somehow be funded. This increased demand has CIOs looking for other options in the Hypervisor space, such as Citrix’s Xen Server. Additionally, organizations with enterprise agreements – of which there are many – are being courted by Microsoft to use Microsoft’s HyperV platform for free. Of course, “free” is relative, and there are plenty of hidden costs with a free hypervisor, but from a purely budgetary perspective, free is attractive for many CIOs.


Another reason for this increased budgetary expense is VMware exploiting their strong market position. Off the record, CIOs have told me that renewals are becoming increasingly expensive and difficult with VMware. Anecdotes abound on blogs and the Internet over the costly upgrade and renewal process associated with the licensing of VMware VSphere.


Reducing Lock-in


This leveraging of VMware’s market position has made many CIOs realize one key point; they find themselves locked into one particular platform with no secondary plan. In economics this is known as a “Hold-Up Problem” (yes like “Stick’em Up Mr. CIO.”) This fear was increased when VMware introduced its latest revision, VSphere 5. As part of the product introduction, VMware changed its licensing model to be based not only on CPUs of host systems, but also the RAM that would be available to the running virtual machines.


As servers become more and more dense (more cores, more memory), they can, in theory, run more virtualized guests. VMware most likely envisioned a future where companies would decrease their license spend as server density increases, and thus rolled out the new licensing plan. But the plan backfired. VMware customers revolted, dubbing the new licensing model vTax, and many CIOs woke up to the risk of being at the mercy of their virtualization vendor. Eventually VMware relented and revised their new vRAM licensing model to be more generous, but the snowball had already been pushed down the hill. Enterprises are now looking more seriously at alternative hypervisors.


Complexity


Multiple hypervisor platforms increase complexity; there’s no way around that. But so does having multiple operating systems, multiple application server platforms, multiple hardware vendors, etc. IT organizations have figured out how to overcome the complexity that a new platform introduces, and IT has managed to survive.


Cynicism aside, the level of complexity can be reduced if operations teams are operating effectively. First, basic knowledge of one hypervisor platform can speed adoption of the new platform. For instance, a competent VMware Administrator should have knowledge of Clusters, Data Stores, Hosts, and Guests and how those systems interact. The same concepts exist in Citrix Xen Server (albeit with different names), and this base knowledge can be leveraged to quickly ramp up on the new technology. If organizations have competent staff running their virtualization environments, they should be able to quickly ramp up on new technologies. If they aren’t then you might want to reevaluate your staffing plans.


Second, solutions exist that are multiple hypervisor aware; the key is how you use them. BMC’s own Cloud Lifecycle Management supports VMware and Citrix, BMC’s BladeLogic supports four x86 hypervisors and two Unix hypervisors, and Open Source solutions such as OpenStack supports multiple hypervisors. In using one of these solutions, you need to ensure that you are abstracting on the correct level.


Say for instance you wish to deploy MySQL servers to both a Xen environment and a VMware environment. Traditional, single hypervisor organizations with no automation would build a template containing all the software preinstalled. New instances are easy – point, click, clone. With multi-hypervisors you need to abstract one layer up, on the automation layer. You build basic templates in Xen and VMware, and then you build a common package in your automation solution to deploy MySQL to the new instance. As a side effect, you now have a package that can be deployed to virtually any server whenever you need a new MySQL installation. Complexity isn’t necessarily increased; the work is just moved to a different part of the operations stack. And in the end, your operations teams need to be moving towards this better operating model. Multi-hypervisor support simply accelerates this change.


In the end, multi-hypervisor support is becoming a larger and larger part of the enterprise’s playbook. It may initially seem to introduce complexity, but this perceived complexity can be overcome by adjusting your operations models. The scare that VMware introduced into CIOs dreams this past summer has helped to accelerate organizations multi-hypervisor goals. Whether you agree with it or not, more and more vendors will (or are) emulate BMC’s support of multiple hypervisors as more and more CIOs demand it.


For more on this discussion, and more viewpoints you can check out these Blog Posts:

 

Virtualization Costs, Virtualization Advantages and the Case for Multi-Hypervisors by Massimo Re Ferrè

 

Why Enterprises Will Force Down the Cost of Virtualization by Mark Thiele

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When I started in performance and capacity planning, we weren’t all that concerned about money.  IT was a cost-center; everyone accepted this and it wasn’t a problem.  We had the luxury of extra capacity and loads of time to plan.  This approach made the job much easier, but also less valuable to the organization.  Our quarterly capacity plans were rarely of interest to anyone.  The business would let us buy what we said we needed.  It was sort of the same way in our personal lives.  Remember going out to dinner or drinks whenever you wanted to?  It just seemed to be an easier time.

 

Ah, for the good old days!  Outsourcing and offshoring put IT in the position of competing and cost was the trigger.  This inflection began in the late ‘80’s and only got worse as hardware got cheaper, and companies began to undervalue capacity planning.  Why pay an expert a high salary AND fund software for them when a server is so cheap?  The same challenge will keep arising as long as we don’t change what we do and how we message it.  It seems so easy to just buy cheap servers even if that isn’t always the right answer (anyone ever see more CPU capacity thrown at a memory problem?)  And now, we are all more cost conscious whether it is entertainment (Netflix versus going out to movies and cooking at home rather than dining out) or necessities (do we really need to go to the doctor – can’t we just gut it out?)  Everyone is squeezing the last cent out of their dollars.

 

 

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Capacity planning is providing cost-effective performance and availability by understanding the relationship between IT resources and business transactions and managing to business KPIs.  We are business-enablers.  The result of the buy cheap (penny-foolish) approach was the rooms full of under-utilized or even completely unused servers.  It might have looked cheaper, but it really wasn’t.

 

A well-thought-out capacity planning process involves collection of “all the data, all the time,” fed into an automation engine which produces reports, analytics and feeds into modeling and trending engines.  This allows for a continuous cycle of analysis and improvement.  You aren’t doing the IT equivalent of “making copies;” you spend your valuable time understanding the business and proactively managing the environment to provide the business just-in-time capacity to provide the SLAs they demand.  It elevates your job to a new level – you (and everyone else) can see how your work contributes to business success.   Of course, it requires a new kind of capacity planner, one who is willing to learn the business, understand the variety of platforms applications run across and who will rise from the weeds of their favorite silo.  Don’t be afraid of “beginner’s mind;” this is how we grow, learn and add more value.

 

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

                          •        Walt Disney
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Your Recipe for Value Maturity

 

Have you ever heard the saying, “Anyone who can read a cookbook can cook”? That may work if the recipe is well tested and the cook has a basic knowledge of cooking terms and processes. However, culinary experts —professional chefs — have a deeper knowledge of how various factors can affect the results. This includes how the freshness of ingredients or an alteration in cooking temperature at the right time can influence the outcome of a dish.

 

They are likely to taste-test frequently,monitoring the cooking progress and adjusting seasonings or cooking procedures accordingly. This close attention to detail is often the difference between a good meal and an excellent one.

 

Likewise, real-time monitoring and management plays acritical role in day-to-day IT operations, often making the difference in how well you achieve your business objectives. The effective implementation of availability and performance management tools enables organizations to understand the current state of IT,with a growing number of IT organizations using these tools to understand how well they are supporting critical business services. To this end, application performance management is considered a core subset of availability and performance management, which provides visibility into how well user and application transactions flow across the IT infrastructure in support of these business services.

 

Analyst firms continue to create and enhance their maturity models to help their clients understand the value of technology, as well as provide a path toward greater organizational and process maturity. New technologies, approaches, priorities, and challenges have changed how IT is,and should be, monitored. The focus has moved from monitoring faults and outages to managing performance degradation. It has also moved from a reactive approach based on mean time to repair (MTTR), to a proactive approach that uses behavioral analysis to avoid outages. In addition, there is a need to understand how end users are working with IT,and how new IT service delivery models (e.g., public and private clouds) are being used. These factors, plus a growing reliance on IT, are fueling the need for more effective ways to monitor IT applications and end-user behavior — no matter where those applications are located or how users choose to access them. For example, many users now access applicationsfrom their smartphones, tablets, televisions, laptops, and other devices.

 

This paper explains the shortcomings of traditional,analyst-developed IT maturity models for informing and guiding the evaluation of IT monitoring capabilities, the purchase of monitoring tools, and the creation of effective monitoring strategies.

 

About the Authors

David Williams is a Vice President of Strategy in the Office of the CTO, with particular focus on availability and performance management, application performance management, IT operations automation, and management tools architectures. He has 29 years ofexperience in IT operations management. Williams joined BMC from Gartner, where he was research vice president, leading the research for IT process automation(run book automation), event correlation and analysis, performance monitoring, and  IT operations management architectures and frameworks. His past experience also includes executive-level positions at AlterPoint (acquired by Versata) and ITMasters (acquired by BMC), and he served as vice president of Product Management and Strategy at IBM Tivoli. He also worked as a senior technologist at CA Technologies for Unicenter TNG and spent his early years in IT working in computer operations for several companies, including Bankers Trust.


Leslie Minnix-Wolfe is Lead Solutions Manager for Proactive Operations and the Service Assurance products at BMC Software. Minnix-Wolfe has more than 25 years of diverse development and marketing experience, primarily in the IT systems management domain, with a broad base of other experience, especially in BSM and predictive analytics. She previously held product and development management positions at several high-tech start-ups, including Netuitive and Managed Objects. She holds a BS in math/computer science from the College of William and Mary.

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In this Buzz on IT Automation Podcast, Ben Newton and Tim Fessenden of BMC talk about building a business case for automation and educating the decision makers about investing in resources for the rollout,ongoing development, and maintenance of an IT automation platform, and creating  a customer "Center of Excellence."

 

Bios:Ben Newton is the Sr Manager for Operations Buyer Marketing and Tim Fessendenis Product Line Executive for Data Center Automation at BMC Software.

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For anyone who has been in the performance field for a while, the truism seemed to hold true.  If you did a great job and performance was excellent, management thought they didn’t need you. If the performance was poor, you had failed.  The job of performance management was poorly understood, in part because of the arcane processes we used to manage it – people simply thought good response time was “magic.”

 

As systems became more complex and business applications hopped across servers, geographies and even across companies, people began to be more aware that performance doesn’t “just happen.”  The internet quickly weeds out the performance-haves from the have-nots; people simply won’t wait and they don’t have to.  There are alternatives for every service and every product.  Customers have begun to value great response time as a competitive differentiator.  The management of great companies is beginning to realize that as well. 

 

Great performance analysts usually move up through the ranks from a variety of roles – developer, database specialist, systems analyst…   They have a wide perspective because they have to.  You can’t do the job unless you can both understand all the components at a deep, detailed level while still seeing the transaction holistically.  It’s not for everyone. The best truly “feel the need for speed” and this shows up in their daily lives.  Got a good shortcut, anyone?

 

But with all that complexity and increasing demand for stellar performance, the job has become more difficult. Add to this that in most organizations, management has been skinnying down the ranks, so you are either managing alone or with one other person who may or may not have the experience to do the job you can do.  And the job just keeps getting bigger and more challenging. 

 

The solution?  Great tools that give you all the data, all the time, filtered down to show you what you need to see.  Gone are the days where 90% of your day had to be spent running scripts to collect and transform data and then sifting through too many metrics to find ones of interest.  Even if you enjoyed that (you didn’t really, did you?), you simply don’t have the time.  Let automation and intelligent software be your friend, allowing the time to do the expert analysis and problem solving.  That’s what’s fun about the job.

 

For the first time in performance management history, we have the chance to be heroes.  But only if we can make our systems hum.  Consider taking your game to the next level by selecting a performance management solution that provides ALL the information and intelligence you need, so that you can be a key player in your company’s success.

 

 

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It's that time of year again. We take stock of all the things that make us feel guilty, and dream about the person that we want to be. There is something almost subconscious about the need to re-invent ourselves on a regular basis, and the new year provides as good an excuse as any. And, inevitably, most of the time we don't end up reinventing anything, and our resolutions are forgotten by Super Bowl Sunday. So, you say "Thanks for the psychology lesson, Dr. Phil. This is an IT software blog. Please make your point". Thank you. I do have one (my resolution for the year is to be more concise…). So, if we end up breaking and forgetting most of our resolutions, why even have the ritual? The answer is easy - with such hectic lives, we hardly ever stop to consider why were are doing what we are doing what we are doing, and living how we are living. Even if we don't change anything, the exercise of questioning ourselves is essential to making sure that we don't get stuck in any number of ruts.new-years-resolutions.jpg

 

So, what does this have to do with IT? I think IT organizations need to do the same thing. Most IT shops spend so much fighting fires, planning budgets, and wrapping and unwrapping themselves around various operational axles, that they rarely stop ask - why do we do things the way we do them? As we have discussed in previous blog entries, implementing software like BMC's BSM products often requires cultural change along with the simple installation and configuration of the solutions. But, if the IT organization is charging along at 100 mph, how can they possibly take a breath and question their processes and procedures? So, could IT benefit from the new year's resolution process? YES (That was a rhetorical question).

 

So, if we agree that some "soul searching" is good for IT, how do we approach it? At the risk of pushing my analogy too far, why do our own new year's resolutions fail? I would put a few reasons out there for your consideration. First, they can be unrealistic - particularly if they are driven by peer pressure and not by a real need. Did you join the gym because you want to get fit, or because Grandpa helpfully pointed out your very generous slice of Carrot Cake after Christmas dinner. For IT, any changes need to be driven by real business needs, not by hype or over-active vendors. Build a cloud because you have a solid business case for it, not so you can get the CIO off your back. Second, many resolutions fail because of the absence of a serious plan. On a personal note, after 10 years of failed resolutions, I finally hit my weight goal in 2011. What was the difference? I buckled down, got a serious plan, and followed it. This goes for IT as well. It is great to decide that you want to some particularly grueling processes, but you don't identify success metrics (the bathroom scale in my case), establish clear goals, and project manage to that goal, you won't succeed - and the helpful resolution will be for naught.

 

So, where do you start? Be willing to question the status quo. Use business goals as a club to bludgeon waste and inefficient processes. Make sure you set achievable goals, and clearly define success and how to measure.

 

Happy new year, and may you succeed in your new year's resolutions - both personally, and for the business.

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We’re all customers now, surfing the web daily to keep updated, shop, and connect with people.  As customers, we demand two things – we want fast response times and we want every aspect of the application to work.  In fact, even though we are IT people and know how hard it is to deliver, we demand perfection from everyone else’s application.

 

Some savvy companies get it – they have figured out how to stand above the crowd with well-performing, always-available apps.  How do they do it? 

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BMC Software and Gartner partnered on a newsletter designed to help you quickly understand the keys to success.  The articles introduce you to the concepts of leveraging end-user experience management and application release automation to improve DevOps collaboration – and prevent issues from being introduced into your production environments – which of course, is fundamental to customer satisfaction.    Once you understand the fast track to improving application management, you’re well on the way to helping your company lead. 

 

Start the New Year off right by investing a few minutes to peruse this great content.  Read the newsletter now.

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BMC Software  today announced that the company received a “Strong Positive” rating in Gartner’s recent report entitled, “MarketScope for Network Configuration and Change Management (NCCM).”

BMC’son going investment in NCCM was evaluated based on the following criteria considered in the report: current product capabilities, product strategy,overall viability, sales execution and market responsiveness.

“Webelieve that Gartner’s recognition of the quality of our integrated architecture confirms BMC’s approach to NCCM as an integral component of our cloud computing, full-stack provisioning and network assurance solutions for business service management in dynamic IT environments,” said Tim Fessenden,vice president of research and development, data center automation,BMC. “Our ‘Strong Positive’ rating is a testament to BMC’s strength in NCCM and the value we deliver to our customers as they work to improve staff efficiency, address network compliance audit requirements and automate provisioning in multi-tenant environments.”

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The Gartner Data Center summit is one of the more interesting trade shows that I attend during the year. It is interesting if only because it isn't a vendor or customer trade-group show. It is a fire hose of Analyst Presentations, Analyst 1-on-1s, and customer discussions. And the customers tend to be more senior decision makers and influencers, rather than technical subject matter experts. This can make for a great learning experience.

 

One of the primary reasons for vendors and customers to interact with analysts is to understand the future and to understand each other. An analyst show like the Gartner Data Center Summit is no different. As a vendor representative, I always to hope to validate my understanding of trends and customer needs, or have it challenged so I can adjust our approach to better serve the market. And so what trends struck me?


 

First of all - the trend towards consolidation of performance management and automation. Sounds nice, but what does it mean? It means that the current trends in IT - in particular, Cloud Computing - are driving towards more proactive, efficient, and lifecycle-oriented approaches to fault-management. It isn't good enough to detect a fault, and then spend hours researching the cause and implementing the fix. In the cloud, speed is all important, and manual process just don't hack it anymore. And what about visibility. The trend towards self-service, means that we want to expose more operations information to the requester. For example, when I request a cloud service, I might also like to see the performance of my systems, patch levels, compliance, and capacity issues. BMC is definitely going down this path with both our traditional and cloud offerings.

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Second, Dev Ops. Well, Dev Ops has arrived. A year ago, the concept of connecting the estranged cousins Development and IT operations was out there, but rarely acknowledged at this level. Well, no more! Customers are clearly looking at Dev Ops projects, though it is also clear that many of them are still early in the process. I also found it interesting how ITIL, CMMI, and DevOps are interacting. Most customers have attempted some level of ITIL compliance, particularly around incident, problem, and change, or they have implemented elements of CMMI. Now we are starting to see that DevOps is growing at the intersection of ITIL and CMMI, providing a much needed bridge. BMC has clearly hit a nerve with our acquisition of Streamstep, and this market is set to explode.

 

Third, End-User-Experience-Management. It is EVERYWHERE. It is in the datacenter, in the cloud, in SaaS, in DevOps. There is a clear recognition that a maniacal focus on infrastructure monitoring has distanced IT from the end-user, and with the modern data center combining cloud, SaaS, and traditional element, EUEM is the common element. The newest foray is probably in DevOps, where the usefulness of user experience data further back into the test and release process is obvious. This focus on the end user is also

 

And there were other interesting trends around mobility, SaaS, etc. - but we will leave those or another post. Bottom line, I am happy to see that BMC's strategic direction is being validated by customers and by Gartner, and I look forward to seeing what new predictions 2012 brings.


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