Tear Down These IT Walls

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The biggest issue with IT today is that the entire way we think about IT is as a series of loosely coupled technologies that somehow can be magically managed in isolation from each other.

Any time anybody talks about IT today, they are usually talking about some subset of the whole. For example, they usually discuss the nuances of a particular application or the challenges associated with a particular type of hardware system. This invariably then leads to fiefdoms within the IT that are built around a particular technology expertise, rather than a particular business process.

We've been hearing about the need to better align the management of IT with the business for years, but that will never happen as long as we continue to manage IT based on particular types of technologies. We need to manage IT as a collection of technologies that are brought together to deliver a particular service to the business. That means that instead of obsessing about the performance of a storage array, we should be focused more on the performance of the IT service being delivered to the business.

That does not mean that we don't need worry about managing the storage array. But it does mean we need to approach how we manage the storage array, or any other hardware system or software component, in the context of the services are relying on that device or application.

Unfortunately, managing IT as a service is next to impossible because all the data needed to accomplish that are locked away in a myriad of management tools that don't play nice with each other. Of course, any number of tools more managing IT as a business service have debuted over the last few years, but none of them have any real visibility into the underlying infrastructure that makes up the service. They can tell you that the service is being adversely impacted, but not exactly why.

This inability to holistically see what is happening inside a particular IT service then leads to endless rounds of "blamestorming" across the application, system and network management teams until somebody finally fesses up to being the source of the problem after every possibility has been thoroughly investigated. And at least half the time, the problem one way or another mysteriously "self-corrects" itself, so while nobody officially gets blamed, nobody is ever really quite sure what really happened either.

Progress is being made as more IT automation is brought to bear and we see the advent of new management frameworks from companies such as Zyrion that allow organizations to track a particular IT service from the application level right down to the individual packets on the network. We don't need to replace every tool we have to accomplish this. But we do need to open up the information flow across all the management tools we use.

But until the various competing camps that make up the IT kingdom agree to start tearing down the walls of the fiefdoms, we're never going to really align IT with the business. Efforts such as ITIL that endeavor to make the IT organization more mature are admirable. But all too often, all we still have is an expensive mass of IT equipment and software that nobody on the business side really sees the value of because it's never directly tied to a service they understand.