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Is Everything Really Awesome In Your Data Center?


Is Everything Really Awesome In Your Data Center?


In the opening of the Lego Movie, the main character moves to the beat of the song "Everything Is Awesome", where the foundation for everything being awesome is that this Lego society operated according strict rules and stuck to the instructions, with a procedure in place for everything. This maintained control and order. The question comes up when something changes or a new situation suddenly arises then how do they react, especially when the rules don't apply to such sudden changes. 



IT operations faces a similar challenge in managing today's dynamic and complex environments. On the one hand, IT operations need to set a reasonable amount of control over changes to critical processes. The cause of a problem on one system may be something that was reconfigured or completely different in another environment. To support IT for handling change in an orderly fashion, the ITIL framework relies on tools. ITIL's Change Management process is meant to protect the IT service provider from undesired consequences of a change, maintaining proper performance. 

However, today IT operations need to be agile in order to meet changing business demands. Between applications, environments, and individual instances, mistakes and unauthorized changes happen (as has been seen with some high profile outages), demanding that IT ops spend hours troubleshooting IT systems. 

Agile software development methodologies are driving the number of releases radically higher, increasing the pressure on release management teams, compounding the tasks required of IT Operations for maintaining stability. An evolutionary and ever increasing complexity of platforms now means keeping track of many active pieces that must seamlessly interact. So, even seemingly minor changes can impact the performance of applications. So what takes precedent control or change? How can IT operations maintain enterprise performance without compromising innovation?

The Need for Control

Without setting a reasonable amount of control to changes critical processes, then the business is left in the dark about the actual standing and availability of the IT support infrastructure. Why? This is because today's dynamic IT ecosystems are extremely complex. The cause of a problem on one system may be something that was reconfigured or completely different on an unrelated system. 

While organizations need resources that effectively control changes to the environment, the processes in place to handle change are often ignored or not effective for coordinating changes occurring in dynamic production environments. 

Some of the issues that arise are:

  • Not all changes are logged
  • Unauthorized changes enter production
  • Lack of process enforcement and centralized process ownership
  • Poor change communication and dissemination
  • Override change approval policy
  • Change notification after the fact
How exactly do you bridge the gap between control and agility? Well, you start by ensuring sufficient control is being established in the infrastructure. IT organizations can minimize risk of downtime by controlling planned changes, and by proactively detecting unplanned changes, as early as possible.

Staying Agile

Billions of machine events, environment and application changes, performance and availability metrics, and vast amounts of other structured and unstructured IT operations data from a wide variety of sources go mostly unprocessed, requiring greater visibility into IT's growing data set. 

Challenges faced by IT operations have intensified due to both the rapid growth in performance and event monitoring data volumes. For IT Operations, changes occur constantly. Changes are one of the key contributors to these problems, and still remain a blind spot for IT operations, exposing business systems to risk each time a change happens in an application, infrastructure, or data. Where application updates used to be a monthly occurrence, with a few weeks for application stabilization in production, now, however, accelerated application and software deployment schedules are driving high-paced change activity. Implementation of agile development processes, and the adoption of such practices as continuous integration and continuous build, are pushing higher numbers of changes, making it practically impossible to keep IT environments stable, while creating higher risk for error.

Automation Can't Handle Change Alone

With change requests and changes coming at a blinding pace, IT operations teams have tried to rely on automated approaches to keep up. While able to accelerate responses, only when automation is integrated with analytics can automated tools effectively take on change issues. 

Whenever a change is made, there are many ways it can negatively impact environment stability. While solutions like Application performance management (APM) collect metrics assessing the state of environment components, they have difficulty connecting these metrics to a root cause. Approaching IT management through the context of changes, IT operations can actually bring a top down perspective of IT activities with their actual impact still measured through APM.

Maintain control and be agile with IT Operations Analytics (ITOA)

IT Operations Analytics can take a complex IT environment overflowing with change data and transform it, turning operational data into a competitive tool that provides users with the right information at the right time. By basing analytics on a blend of IT data (log, APM, CM, Security), IT Operations Analytics can sift through terabytes of operations data in real time, to spot and present issues to users in understandable context to better handle problems critical to IT health and performance. 

IT Operations Analytics can help users uncover why environments are not operating as they should, correlating various metrics into context of activities changing state of the environment (release, infrastructure update, user workload change etc.) and handle the problem, allowing operators to successfully remediate it.

Your Turn
How do YOU stay on top of change in your environments?

About the Author
Martin Perlin