Remind Me, What Does This Thing Do Again?
For many organisations, a lack of visibility across their IT estate makes effective infrastructure management akin to herding cats. Maintaining visibility and control over an increasingly complex portfolio of devices becomes time consuming and inefficient. Worse, a lack of visibility exposes the organisation to unnecessary risk.
Without control, complexity can descend into chaos. Simply “keeping the lights on” becomes an all-consuming task for IT professionals who could be better utilised elsewhere, helping to deliver on value-adding, digital transformation projects.
Our old friend mobility, and our new friend the Internet of Things, have helped to extend the reach of the average organisation’s IT estate well beyond what we might consider to be the traditional boundaries of the network. Research suggests that the average number of internet-dependent devices per user is nudging toward 5 and the IoT itself is set to break the 20 billion connected devices barrier by 2020.
Even if your business doesn’t leverage the IoT to any great extent, you are still likely to be looking at an IT estate that contains hundreds, if not thousands of connected devices. Keeping on top of them is more than just a necessary evil.
The interdependency of infrastructure components rarely means that if one fails, it has no impact on the rest of the network. At the same time, not every part of your infrastructure is business-critical. A regular systems audit can help identify those components that are nearing end-of-life, or end of support.
A simple traffic light system can be used to identify the status of a device on the network: Green means low risk as the device is current and supported. Amber means medium risk, where the device is near the end of its life but still supported by the vendor. Red means high risk, where the device has reached the end of its predicated lifecycle and is no longer supported by the vendor.
Even on a basic level, the ability to profile your IT assets in terms of life-cycle allows you to gain greater visibility and control over the estate. It makes cost and product management more predictable and reduces the risk of a catastrophic failure.
When faced with the results of a traditional systems audit, IT managers need to make a call as to whether they swap out a red product or run the risk of a critical systems failure. Most IT managers are risk-averse, so the result is almost always a swap-out; whether the device needs to be replaced or not.
The trouble with this approach is that it only relies on one frame of reference – the technical perspective. What if you could add a layer of intelligence to this that could put the risk into a business perspective too? One that adds a second frame of reference to allow IT to make a more informed risk assessment.
Now, some of you might be thinking “if it’s red, it’s dead”. However, with IT budgets still under pressure, decisions to sweat assets beyond their supported life are made every day. This risk-management approach has become an essential part of delivering long-term ROI for your technology.
To make an informed decision about what assets can be “sweated”, you need to apply a layer of criticality to the device. Within your infrastructure, not all devices were created equal. There are some that can be left to work themselves into retirement and will have little impact on business-critical operations. These may neither require pro-active maintenance or redundancy. Others, will lead to significant business disruption if they fail, so even a low risk is unacceptable.
Many technical audits fail to consider the critical nature of infrastructure components. The reality is, we are much more tolerant of risk when the potential impact of failure is small. Someone once said, “don’t sweat the small stuff”. The irony of this statement is that by not sweating the small stuff (forgetting about the little things that aren’t important), you get to sweat the small stuff!
Managing a modern IT infrastructure is a balance of performance, availability, risk-management and return on investment. None of which is easy without 360-degree visibility. By layering the business impact analysis on top of the standard lifecycle management report it is possible to achieve significant savings on maintenance costs.