We've been talking about the convergence of systems, network, application and security management for years. But a combination of technical issues, combined with the internal inertia of the IT department, has usually conspired to postpone what most people see as being inevitable.
But with the downturn in the economy, we're starting to see a major push toward the convergence of IT management. For example, this week saw Lumension talking about integrating antivirus software management into its existing suite of system and security management tools. Sophos is talking about the need to integrate data loss prevention(DLP) with security. Traditional systems management vendors such as IBM and CA are talking about the need to integrate virtual server management alongside physical server management. And on the grandest scale of all, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard are pushing for convergence of servers, storage and networks into a single data center platform.
All of these efforts have a common theme, which is to drive down the real cost of enterprise computing. Unfortunately, far too much of those costs is tied up in the dedicated specialists we now employ to manage servers, networks, storage, applications and security. The amount of overhead that generates makes labor the single most expensive element of enterprise computing. That means that if we really want to lower the absolute cost of enterprise computing, we have to first integrate more management tasks, and then automate them.
IT automation might not be the most popular subject among the people that work in IT, but it is an economic necessity. The good news is that it should allow more of the IT staff to focus on adding value to the organization at a higher level. Right now, far too many people in the IT organization are focused on maintenance activities that don't add value to the business. And as painful as this may be, it's the job of the chief technologist to accelerate this transformation so we can focus more on the true value of IT, rather than all the costs.