Tony Lock, originally published on The Register
When it comes to providing users with access to the tools and information they require to perform their daily tasks, the notion of service provisioning is usually to be found close to the heart of IT operations. A wide range of new solutions are now available to ‘help’ IT deliver services to users but is the job getting any easier?
In the past it was fairly straightforward to try and work out what resources were required to deliver the IT systems to users as the user requirements were frequently defined at project initiation. OK, so they may not always have been 100% accurate but any changes to the number of users to be supported or the scale of operations required usually came with user acceptance that such changes could not happen immediately.
Today, times have changed and business users expect that every request for additional capacity or capabilities can be furnished without any delay. It is true that technologies such as virtualisation allow much more flexibility to provision IT services, especially those that have already been defined and just require additional physical resources to be made available.
However, it is essential that effective use of asset management tools be employed to keep track of the underlying physical boxes do not run out of space or compute power unexpectedly. They also have an essential role in monitoring software licence compliance in environments where virtual machine creation becomes a routine, low change management process. This is a particularly important point for organisations that today may only check license usage every quarter, or even every year. The spinning up of virtual machines offers considerable opportunity to become software licence non-compliant very, very quickly.
It should be recognised that whilst “asset management” using sophisticated tools is often thought of as solely the preserve of the large enterprises, even small organisations undertake some form of the activities and processes involved. True, these may not be based on specific asset management solutions, but everyone undertakes the tasks somehow, even if manually and not continually. This type of approach may cause issues to arise.
But using asset management / inventory monitoring tools for elementary resource observation might be a first step along the path of implementing service management. As we know, many management frameworks and best practice approaches place a sound and up to date repository of asset management information at the foundation of all IT management processes.
Clearly managing the hardware, operating systems and applications available to users is an essential part of core IT operations. But after the basics are in place, it is possible to utilise the “non-inventory” information held in the asset management repository or CMDB (Change Management Database) to help IT better align the use of flexible resources with user / business service goals.
Tracking resource usage and service quality goals does require extending established IT operational processes but the potential benefits are clear. After all, knowing just who is using what resources to perform which job function should help decision-making when flexible systems come under pressure. Linking asset management information on resource usage with business service delivery may help avoid, or at least postpone, the acquisition of new physical resources if there are suitable resources either underutilised or employed to support less valuable or currently unnecessary tasks.
This latter option relies on having business manager buy-in to allow resources to be allocated to support, perhaps only temporarily, certain business services whilst removing them from others. Getting agreement for this to happen is usually far more difficult at an internal political level than at the technology itself. Using the asset management system to deliver resource consumption charge back reporting may prove effective in changing minds.
As always, the primary need is to have effective and efficient IT management processes in place to support dynamic change. Asset management / CMDB tools should posses the core knowledge to help make decisions regarding resource allocation, but they need to be considered in the context of the needs of the business as a whole. This is certainly the case where organisations seek to ensure that application response times and other business criteria are used to dynamically adjust the resources deployed to keep a balanced service delivery running with finite physical systems.