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12 IT Trends for 2012: #2 Death of a pager, IT management goes mobile

It hardly seems like 20 years since I was given the job of installing and configuring my first  network management platform at a major enterprise, but I still recall it vividly. Everyone at the client's site was excited.  For the first time, they were looking forward to seeing an accurate topological map of their network. They were eager to monitor, graph and analyze key network performance trends and, the icing on the cake, to be able to display the entire result in an impressive, custom built NOC.


NOC, for those of you who've not heard the term, is geek-speak for ‘network operations center’. In this particular case, the client has modeled it on the type of control center that you see that you look at video of CNN or NASA's headquarters. For my client, the NOC would finally allow them to tame the beast that was their (perceived to be erratic compared to the 3270 terminals they had prior) enterprise-wide TCP/IP network by giving everyone visibility of the “one screen” that would show them everything they needed to know - 24x7.


As always, I wanted to do the best job possible, so to best prepare and plan I chose to visit a friend and guru of managed services who, a year earlier, had setup a remote management service for global financial services network. With his setup he had improved performance and reliability compared to their own internal team and with only three people - talk about performaning better! - my idea was to learn how Stephen (for indeed, that was his name), had configured his NOC - his maps, “service” containers and screens to accomplish his goal with such efficiency. 


After spending an hour in the car, fighting traffic I eventually made it out to his office. One of the tean ushered me into the dimly lit NOC, and right away was impressed with what I saw. The top row of the “air-traffic” style work space was covered in screens - each showing a network map for each client. Eureka!  This was it!


I looked around to find Stephen and his day shift operator chatting over a coffee - all strangely relaxed compared to what I had expected (in my mind's eye it should have looked more like the NYSE trading floor on a busy day).  Either way, I was going to learn the secrets of running a high stakes network operations center from one of the industry’s thought leaders! We sat down and I hit him with my questions - how did he think about object inheritance, what about contextual menus and SynOptics and Ciscoworks tool integration? 


His answer at the time stunned me, even if in hindsight it seems so obvious.  He flatly told me that none of the things mattered to him. Sure they were helped with some tasks and they definitely impressed the visiting execs, but they were not the reason for his success. “So what’s your secret?” I asked him. “This” he said and pointed to a pager on his hip (I did say this was nearly 20 years ago!). “If my team spent their entire day in the NOC looking at screens waiting for something to go wrong they’d never get any work done. Anything that’s really important is monitored, correlated and if it meets our criteria, one of my team gets paged. The rest of their time is spent doing project work for the client or helping me win new business.”


That coaching, combined with Stephen teaching me about the importance of industrial strength configuration documentation and control, changed the way I thought about network and later IT operations forever. Yes, before that I was probably the “fool with a tool” you often read about. 


134 | Joy.jpgFast forward 20 years, and despite all of the advances in mobility, we don’t appear to have advanced beyond the pager and let me be clear, lugging a laptop around is NOT an advance. However, I believe that 2012 will mark a sea-change in mobile IT management.


In the first of my “top 12 for ’12” articles, I wrote about the opportunity for IT leaders to empower their own organizations with collaborative IT solutions. The second social IT change I believe will change the way we think about and deliver IT management in 2012 will be the use of handheld devices such as tablets and smart phones for IT management. 


To a certain extent the process has already begun - just look at the Android or Apple app-stores and you’ll see a growing number of apps from HP, partners and others each of which allows you to take “their view” of IT management mobile (HP has made the interfaces to Application Lifecycle Management 11 and Business Service Management 9 available through iPhone and more recently Android interfaces). But as HP Software’s head of innovation Ahi Gvertsman demonstrates, collaboration between groups using different tools means we’re going to need to create greater consistency and integration between mobile experiences from different vendors.


The problem is that each has it’s own firewall tunnel (read: security threats), different user-interfaces (read: lack of portability and re-work) and authentication mechanisms (read: governance headache). 


I expect that in 2012 IT leaders will use mobile IT management to free people from their desks and use that freedom to get them engaged in more proactive project work. However, as adoption becomes more widespread, we’ll increasingly require a common gateway or framework on which to develop, deploy and control mobile management if we’re to realize the benefits of collaborative IT. Independent partners such as (x)matters (formerly Alarmpoint) are already working solutions to part of the problem, in their case notification, but the problem of consistency of collaboration is still be to addressed. 


In my opinion, we’ve only just begun, I believe we’ll see more than just your existing management screens on a smartphone. I expect you’ll see innovative uses of the touch screen and augmented reality to allow us to re-imagine IT management and collaboration challenges in ways that weren’t possible with desktop and laptop devices.


If only we could free up some time to get away from our desks and do it...


For more thoughts on IT management you can follow me on 



Photo by The Doctr -

PaulMuller | ‎01-17-2012 03:52 PM

An interesting note from a DevOps conversation on LinkedIn - it seems the pager is not *quite* dead.

Death to the pager! Is 2012 the year for smartphones and tablets to move mobile IT automation into t...


Thanks to Matthew Ray for the tip.

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About the Author
Paul Muller leads the global IT management evangelist team within the Software business at HP. In this role, Muller heads the team responsib...

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