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Twelve trends for '12: #8 IT Management sprawl


Watch movement macroThe eighth in my series on IT Management trends to watch in 2012 relates to IT automation and management tools themselves where a fragmented set of offerings and a cottage industry of open source tools threaten to make management harder than ever (talk about irony). The challenge is for IT leaders to turn what could be a disaster into a differentiator by anticipating and managing the new heterogeneity.


(I should probably remind you that my employer,  HP Software, is the leading vendor in the IT performance suite market - regardless the views expressed below are mine.)


Once the domain of what Gartner and Forrester often refer to as “the big four”, there has been an explosion of management and automation solutions onto the market in recent times, all claiming to either to be the “one stop shop” for IT management (provided the stop you’re heading towards is their application, operating system or hypervisor). These proprietary integrated tools are joined by boutique vendors tackling increasingly esoteric elements of the management stack. Either way, the result is so many management tools that the IT leaders I speak to are spending more time and money trying to piece together an overall picture, “managing the managers”, than they are using the tools to help IT perform better.


Watch the watch To be clear, the blame for this situation needs to be shared between buyers and vendors alike. In the commercial world, many of automation solutions are optimized for a specific technology stack – for example, Microsoft does a fine job managing their own environment, but would not be my first choice for managing Linux and Apache for example and the same is true in the other direction (you would imagine that tools from Redhat might not be the best choice to manage Microsoft software). The result is that enterprises often deliberately double up on tools that do roughly the same thing, but are limited to being used for each vendors’ platform, especially where they are “freely” bundled as part of enterprise license agreements.


Many of my customers’ are also experimenting with low/no budget innovation projects where, in order to keep start-up costs down, they’re using open-source stacks including management tools. A couple of things you need ot know. Many of the tools, like MRTG, are not engineered to scale to enterprise class networks, as a result they run out of head room as the project  scales. Second, the open-source world generally can’t afford to maintain the investment in the content and compliance packs (eg: for Sarbox) required by enterprises and as a result, they face an unpleasant future of building and maintaining software instead of buying in order to overcome the shortfalls. And finally, just because it’s “free” doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to play nicely together. The semi-commercial open source world of tools like Chef, Puppet, Nagios and Zenoss are competitive, profit driven companies (often with investors) much like traditional enterprise management software vendors, and each of them is jockeying to become “the one” at the expense of the other.


The result – I expect to see “tool sprawl” to replace virtualization and cloud sprawl as one of the top-of-mind headaches in 2012 for IT managers trying to get control of the entire IT lifecycle.


watch faces.jpgIn order to address the challenge, I believe that we’ll see increased focus on “manager of manager” solutions that allow enterprises to leverage the best of their installed base of vendor specific and open-source software while enabling consistent control, data and processes across IT delivery processes. By building abstraction layers and “control surfaces”, CIOs and their teams avoid having to bypass or replace vendor specific or open source tools, management abstraction layers will allow IT leaders to embrace heterogeneity while maintaining compliance and control of their entire environment – from plan through build, run and securing their infrastructure applications and data.


Don’t misunderstand me, we live in a time of innovation and opportunity last seen twenty years ago. “Standardise and automate” is still a sound operating principal, the challenge in 2012 will be to lower the TCI (total cost of innovation) requiring IT leaders to keep their options open by being smart about leveraging open management tools and processes that ensure cost, quality, security and agility are not compromised.


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Paul Muller has a wealth of experience working with CIOs and VPs of IT improve IT performance and business alignment.
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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 responsible for fostering HP’s participation in the IT management community, contributing to and communicating best-practice in helping IT perform better.

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