Arthur Cole spoke with Andrew Hillier, Founder/CTO, CiRBA.
Cole: Change management is a crucial yet largely overlooked segment of the IT infrastructure. In what ways does change management software help IT managers optimize their networks?
Hillier: One of the things it helps to achieve is control of a normally steady infrastructure and making sure it does not encounter problems that result from normal business functions. It offers an orchestrated way to measure changes taking place within the environment. When people make changes, whether it's outside vendors or internal changes, it's important to understand what is happening and make sure changes in one area are not messing something up somewhere else. You have to make changes to keep applications and services moving forward and you have to ensure that your network can withstand a certain level of change.
Cole: Is it possible to record every change taking place within a large network and not be overloaded with so much data that it interferes with robust analysis?
Hillier: That's the critical element that makes change management possible, in fact. When you get a certain amount of information, you need a way to turn it from just a bunch of details into actual knowledge. Filtration, normalization, aggregation - these are all elements that will bring up signatures that can be used to understand patterns and turn it into something that is humanly digestible. No one wants a fire hose inundating them with information. The other critical element is knowing that changes to the network are not necessarily right or wrong. It's not like an event where a disk is getting full, which sets off an alarm. It's a different paradigm in which you don't know whether a patch is good or bad until you understand what's going on at a higher level.
Cole: But if a particular change is causing a network problem, wouldn't it be more prudent to invest in a system that not only detects the change, but corrects it as well?
Hillier: Separating the two problems is important. A lot of problems can be auto-remediated. But when you put an auto-remediating feature in, it ends up being rarely used because it can be dangerous. Either the problems are so trivial that it's not worth the automation, or they're so complex that you can't automate it. And if you're trying to manage change by making still more changes, you actually become part of the problem.