RealTime IT News

Whatcha Got in the Datacenter?

datacenters and CMDB
As IT leaders' thoughts continue to veer toward how they'll save on costs in the next year, technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing appear to remain high on the agenda.

One question, though, is how quickly they can move or expand deployments in these areas to gain the benefits of fast-time-to-value. In fact, according to vendor Tideway Systems, these trends are presenting a new business opportunity for its dependency mapping, availability and configuration management database (CMDB) technology.

But Tideway's certainly not alone in pursuing the market: Many of the major enterprise IT software players are looking to address the problem for businesses. IBM's (NYSE:IBM) Tivoli got into the space in earnest in 2006. HP (NYSE: HPQ) does a brisk business in the area and has made efforts to continue improving on them, working with partners that adding new capabilities to Atrium Configuration Management, its solution in the area.

Additionally, EMC (NYSE: EMC) earlier this year unveiled plans to tie in its array of management tools for servers, storage, virtualization and security into one interface that links to its IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and CMDB technology.

Yet interest in undertaking full-bore, long-term CMDB projects as part of ITIL projects has pulled back as companies look to get fast payback from tactical efforts, said Tideway CTO Adam Kerrison. But they still need to quickly identify IT assets and hardware and software dependencies in order to move forward with consolidation efforts that can help them save on costs.

"These guys have these large datacenters, typically full and running out of space and they cost millions of dollars to operate. But they still need more servers for more services. So how can I repurpose servers for this and consolidate?" Kerrison said.

Getting a baseline identification of assets, what is running on a particular physical server and what it's talking to makes it easier to make decisions about consolidation. The double-edged sword of consolidation via virtualization, though, is that it comes with "a whole raft of pain around managing their virtual estates," he said, pointing to the ease with which companies can deploy virtual machines.

What's needed, he argued, is a way to keep tabs on physical and virtual servers, the operating systems and patches installed on them, and how the software they are running is configured and connected to other systems, storage and the switch infrastructure. Tideway's technology maps out the entire infrastructure and application estate to have an historical and current picture of environments, updated daily if companies like to spot infrastructure changes.

There's a future-proofing aspect to this, as well, assuming that IT shops' thoughts turn back to big CMDB projects post-downturn.

"This is a practical problem now," said Kerrison of the tactical issues companies are solving around virtualization deployments. "But if you had a full CMDB, you could do things like figure out where is the change request if ten new virtual machines were deployed and tie that into the ITIL process," he said.

But in the meantime, attention will focus first on other cost-savings efforts such as cloud computing. Plenty more organizations will embrace the model, Kerrison predicts, but notes that "IT shops are still quite traditional. They have infrastructure and enterprise management tools and the challenge is how to manage these services deployed on this nebulous cloud out there somewhere," he said. "Again, for us it comes back to base-lining what you have."

Answering questions in the cloud

Otherwise, companies may miss insight into how those services are integrated with other parts of the IT estate that could affect operations down the road.

"We can't see inside the cloud, but we can tell you what is talking to it and from where," Kerrison said, which prepares you when you get a message from a software-as-a-service provider that its system will be down for maintenance or it's moving to a new version. "When they make those changes, what are they changing and which of my systems that integrate with that might be affected, and what do I need to do about it?" he said.

Companies can make these discoveries with manual audits of their datacenters, he noted, but contends that it will take a lot longer and cost a lot in labor. He also said companies want to invest in automating the discovery process to help them deal with what he suspects will be a trend by application and database vendors next year to keep their own revenues streaming in hard times: Increased internal auditing of their customers.

"They are all looking for new sources of revenue as customers stop buying new systems and reduce maintenance bills," he said. It's not uncommon for enterprises to have, for example, Oracle installed on 1,000 servers while actually running just 400 databases.

"We tell you what you have got, where it is and what it is using," he said, which gives IT managers the data they need to rebut software vendors' assertions that they owe money following an audit's results.

He also advises companies to be cognizant that vendors may take a carrot-and-stick approach based on audit results, offering companies "all you can eat" fixed-price deals for the next three years. That may sound good, but in three years' time you'll be in the same situation again, he noted. "You'll deploy Oracle everywhere and three years later you'll be asked how much you're using."

This story originally appeared on bITa Planet.