Infrastructure Management Software Blog

Hawaii Pacific Health – Data Center Transformation (download success story)

CIO magazine posted an article about “Five Lessons for Consolidating Data Centers At Merger Time”. It follows a case study from Hawaii Pacific Health. I have posted on data center consolidation previously on this blog.
Squeeze It Management Costs Out With Consolidation Automation
Does Virtualization Consolidate Your It Operations Or Fragment Them?

Data Center Transformation can be challenging because of all the moving parts. There is the hardware consolidation, migrating servers to lower cost and likely lower power consumption. There is the capacity planning to determine how to use virtualization to squeeze out hardware procurement and maintenance costs. Finally there is the software consolidation, to provide a comprehensive view of the new IT infrastructure.


In some ways a data center consolidation (or new data center) is a chance to shake things up and introduce new technologies. Many customers use HP Operations Manager as a top-level console to consolidate events from multiple domain managers. While this approach works well and avoids any disruptive rip and replace, it does leave them with multiple domain managers and the associated maintenance and training costs of using them.


A data center consolidation on the other hand means you can design in the management software from the ground up using proven best practices. One set of instrumentation for physical and virtual servers, end-user alerts to ensure a good user experience, network and storage events integrated into the main console, and of course automated remediation to fix problems without human intervention. Finally, don’t forget new processes and metrics to make sure that everything runs smoothly and there are closed loop systems to continuously improve availability, performance, and cost.


You can download a success story on Hawaii Pacific Health that discusses the approach and business benefits in more detail. Please click on the "Attachment" link below.


For HP Operations Center, Peter Spielvogel.


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Virtualization Management - Only Part of the Consolidation Picture

Last week, I posted about VMware’s move toward becoming one of the major infrastructure management vendors.


Since then, there has been much dialog about virtualization and the vendors that provide management consoles for virtual servers and their physical counterparts.


Virtualization.info responded that it’s not a big leap for VMware to add support for 3rd party hypervisors.
Microsoft discussed their virtualization management offering in their blog.
Denise Dubie at Network World had a recent post about some new analytics capabilities that vendors are adding to their virtual management offerings.


What seems to be missing from all these discussions is how managing virtual servers is only a part of a comprehensive infrastructure management solution.


Here’s what I have been hearing (loud and clear) from our customers.




  • Infrastructure management needs to start with the end-user experience. The line of business managers to whom IT is accountable do not care about server performance or other IT metrics. They care about the availability of their business services. Any management solution must have a way to monitor service level agreements on this basis.


  • Virtualization is not an IT strategy on its own. It is generally part of broader data center consolidation initiative - an opportunity to reduce hardware, energy, and server management costs. All while improving the overall quality of service. So, talking about virtualization without the impact on the end user is just another IT-driven initiative (albeit one with potentially large and measurable cost savings).


  • Managing physical and virtual servers through a single set of instrumentation is the right approach (everyone seems to get this now). But, a comprehensive data center consolidation project needs to manage storage, networks, applications, and application component events through a single consolidated operations bridge.

Evaluate any infrastructure management vendor based on whether they can do all these things. Don’t just rely on a demo. Ask to speak to some customers running such a solution in production. Finally, have them create a proof of concept on your data.


Then, let’s talk about which vendors can manage heterogeneous environments.


For Operations Center, Peter Spielvogel

Making the Best Use of the Tools You Have

I spent the day today at our executive briefing center with a customer that provides online spend management services. They have a number of our data center products, so we spent most of the day discussing integration. The agenda was simple. They wanted to learn how to:




  1. Make the best use of the tools they have


  2. Determine where they should be looking next

First, let’s examine their environment, which in turn drives their requirements.


Hardware
They have a variety of hardware, some HP servers and storage and some from other vendors. Some of this hardware is at the end of its lifecycle and in line for replacement. They want to dramatically reduce their power consumption with the replacement servers. Part of the savings will come from consolidation onto fewer, more powerful machines; part from newer hardware that is more energy efficient. We did not discuss replacement hardware explicitly today, but one topic of concern was that their current infrastructure management software must have the flexibility to manage future hardware purchases.


Virtualization
They are very interested in moving aggressively towards virtualizing most of their IT infrastructure. They want to be able to manage both physical and virtual servers and storage using a single set of instrumentation.


Software
Service Desk. They are using most of the modules within HP Service Manager. This allows them to manage their help desk efficiently and track changes throughout the enterprise.
Configuration Management Database. They have HP’s uCMDB (“u” for universal), which manages all the configuration items (CI) within their enterprise. In an effort to streamline their operations, they also purchased our Discovery and Dependency Mapping (DDM) software to automatically discover their IT infrastructure and populate the CMDB. The CMDB is the foundation layer that ties together all the components within our Business Technology Optimization suite. In addition to maintaining state and configuration information about individual CIs, it understands relationships among them, and how these align with business services.
Network Management. They use an open source network management software.
End-User Monitoring. They use a commercial product (non-HP). They purchased it last year to replace home-grown scripts. It runs synthetic scripts (similar to our End User Management software)
Operations Manager. They just purchased Operations Manager, along with agents, but have not yet deployed it. The prospect of consolidating several existing management consoles was one of the main reasons driving the purchase.


Presenting a Complete View of the IT Infrastructure
We started with the usual slide presentations that showed all the nice relationships among the products. Of course, heads nodded in agreement when we mentioned self-inflicted IT problems, the finger-pointing among groups during troubleshooting, and the challenge of seeing everything through a single console.


The key problem emerged that they lack a holistic view of the entire environment. Fortunately, once they deploy Operations Manager, this will solve the problem. It provides a “single pane of glass” in which they can view events from across their entire infrastructure, including the non-HP servers, non-HP network management, and non-HP user monitoring, in addition to all their HP hardware.


Generate (Enriched) Service Tickets from Events
And, Operations Manager can automatically open tickets in Service Manager. In addition to opening tickets based on events, Operations Manager enriches the events with all the relevant information from the CMDB including the affected business service. Once the incident is closed, either manually or automatically, Operations Manager will clear the event in its console and then tell Service Manager to close the ticket .That wrapped up the section on making the most of what they already have.


Automation Cuts Costs
Then, things got really interesting when we went to the white board. We outlined how much money they can save by implementing Operations Orchestration, our runbook automation solution, to automate some of the routine actions an operator would perform using Operations Manager. We used an example of another customer who saved $400K per year just by automating a database fix that takes only one minute to fix. That problem occurs 400 thousand times per year. At $1 per minute for support costs, do the math.


This paints a clear picture of where they should be looking next. And, all the discussions were based on released technology that is available to anyone today.


Let us know how you are making the best use of the tools you have. We’ll give you some expert guidance about what steps to take next that will further increase the return on your investment in infrastructure management software.


For Operations Center, Peter Spielvogel.

Squeeze IT Management Costs Out with Consolidation, Automation

Network World had an interesting article today called “IT budget '09: Spending down, contingencies at the ready”. It shows some survey results about IT professionals’ spending forecasts. Interestingly, there is some optimism that smart IT spending can drive productivity improvements.


This mirrors the sentiment I hear in most of my conversations with customers. Everyone is looking to cut costs. But, many IT executives are open to making investments in their infrastructure, including management software, as long as they recoup their investment within a reasonable (or some might view as unreasonable) period of time. These days that is often six months. For some who are more patient, they might stretch this period to a year. During other (rosier) times, people might accept a 2-year payback period.


Tool consolidation is often one initiative that results in significant savings in a short time horizon. (Data center consolidation done properly can generate even larger savings, but this is generally a multi-year proposition.) In addition to the savings in software license costs by consolidating management tools, organizations often see reductions in training costs and improvements in efficiency as operators can focus their skills on learning one tool really well instead of gaining a superficial knowledge on a variety of consoles. Using a single vendor for all your IT infrastructure management also saves money on integration, as the individual components, at least in HP’s case, are pre-integrated.


Of course, one of the biggest potential savings in a tool consolidation is in applying automation to perform routine tasks. A global financial company saves over $4 million per year by automating only 22 IT processes, most of which take only five minutes or less to execute. For one database process, the savings is only a minute, but the operation happens 400,000 times per year.


How many routine tasks do your administrators complete each day? How long does each take? What does this cost you? What will you do about it?


For Operations Center, Peter Spielvogel.

Virtualization: IT Nirvana or CapEx for OpEx Tradeoff?

Today’s post is from Kalyan Ramanathan, who manages virtualization initiatives for our data center automation group. This is the first in a series of posts on how organizations use automation to improve their IT infrastructure management.
- Peter


Even in this down economy, data center virtualization is all the rage and that is for a good reason - virtualization brings many benefits, including infrastructure consolidation, reduced power usage, data center footprint etc. Not everything is rosy in this picture, though. Virtualization also introduces several challenges and IT management is definitely a critical one.


The beauty of virtualization is that this dirty little “management” monster only rears its head once you are deep into the dungeon!


Let us explain what I mean in the context of a recent conversation that I had with the data center managers of a large financial enterprise. This enterprise started out with a consolidation project and instantly found value by virtualizing its servers. By consolidating its Windows and Linux servers, IT was able to see a 20-30% reduction in servers counts. Fewer servers meant lower power usage and freed up data center racks. Managing the initial virtualization candidates – print server, Web servers was not that bad either, and a basic set of scripts and tools sufficed. The CIO is thrilled with the instant CapEx saving and IT became a hero.


Fast forward a year.


With their initial success, data center managers pushed to virtualize a large portion of their data center. So now that same IT department has 3x the number of servers. IT has more vendor technologies to contend with – VMware, Microsoft HyperV, Xen, etc. and each of these servers – hypervisors and virtual machines - needs to be configured and patched in a economy that prevents any IT headcount increases. And what about the agility and flexibility benefits?


While managing the homogenous Web farm servers was simple, the same cannot be said of complex applications that depend on resources such as storage, network etc. The data center managers were facing a severe operational issue. Left unattended, this problem was only going to become worse. “We traded CapEx for OpEx”, noted the director of operations, as he articulated their management challenges.


Are you seeing similar problems in your datacenter? Post a comment about your key management challenges.


You might want to read a free e-book by Realtime Publishers on Virtualization and Service Automation for some shortcuts on how to start a virtualization initiative and several pitfalls to avoid.


For Business Service Automation, Kalyan Ramanathan

Does Virtualization Consolidate Your IT Operations Or Fragment Them?

Customers tell me constantly they are consolidating their tools sets to drive efficiency and reduce operating costs. They tell me they do not want hundreds of point tools that they have to integrate themselves. They tell me they want to spend more time working on strategic projects and less on keeping the lights on. They tell me that they have Virtualization projects that are following the same path as previous innovation projects. When is it going to stop?

 

The average IT organization spends 70-80% of their budget “keep the lights on” and not innovating. As a result, most IT organizations are looking for ways to reduce their IT operations costs so they can free up resources to work on more strategic business demands.

 

Most customers are modifying their cost structure through consolidation projects (Data Center Transformation). The goal for these consolidation projects is to eliminate redundancy and more importantly increase efficiency to avoid and minimize downtime.

 

There are many types of IT consolidation that can occur but the most common are organizational, and datacenter consolidations. In both cases virtualization is often one of the key enabling technologies deployed. Each of these projects usually kicks off an IT management tools re-evaluation.

 

Unfortunately as IT organizations invest in these projects they are often very disruptive and counter productive to IT initiatives focused on reducing operating costs. I believe it is due to the lack of planning on how to best manage the new technologies once deployed.

 

Virtualization promises to deliver significant hardware and software license cost savings and thus very attractive to companies trying to reduce capital expenses. What is not understood by most companies is the fact that every new technology deployed can be very disruptive to IT Operations goal of keeping the lights on and potentially increase operating expenses.

 

Virtualization is not alone. Think back when your organization first deployed new technologies like, PCs, Client Server, Web, ERP, SOA, etc. How disruptive was it? How long did it take to get the management technologies embedded into your IT Operations processes correctly? For most companies it was too long, which drove the need to consolidate the number of management vendors because it was too costly and inefficient to maintain multiple home grown integrations, event management systems, dashboards, and IT processes.

 

Most of the disruptions were because IT organizations do not know where or how to integrate the data received by the multiple tools deployed or where different organizational boundaries should lie. This is where HP Software and Solutions has helped thousands of customers over the past 15 years drive the cost out of IT operations through tools consolidation projects.

 

What disruptions have you encountered during your data center consolidation project? Or, how did careful planning avoid the pitfalls that trip up most IT professionals.

 

For HP Operations Center, Dennis Corning


 

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