Imagine you’re about to take a train trip. You walk into the train station, look up at the departures board – and it’s completely blank. There’s no hint of which platform to go to, let alone any destinations. There’s just a half a dozen platforms, each with a train waiting to leave. How on earth do you get where you want to go? All the infrastructure is there, but you don’t know a thing about the train services that run from the station.
If you’re just managing your IT infrastructure, then it’s exactly the same. You know where your servers, databases, storage arrays and routers are, but you have no idea how information flows across your IT environment. For example, does that database support your e-commerce portal, or is it used to keep track of your manufacturing inventory – or does it do both?
Just understanding the individual components in your IT environment isn’t enough. Unless you understand how all of these components work together to deliver business services, then you’re traveling blind. For each business service, you need to know which components support the service – and how they are connected end-to-end. Unless you do, your business services are at risk.
Understanding the business impact of changes
The first reason is change. Whenever you make a change, you first need to understand the potential business service impact. For instance, if you reconfigure a specific piece of software that supports a service, will it continue to work with all of the other software components that deliver that service? If not, then you are going to have a serious issue – and that’s going to damage your business, whether that damage is measured in lost productivity, lost customers or lost revenues.
As business services become increasingly complex, understanding this relationship between services and infrastructure is becoming increasingly important. It’s no longer simply about an application that runs on one server and accesses a database on another server. Instead, multiple applications interact with each other, and are supported by multiple underlying technology layers. Virtualization compounds the complexity, with virtual machines and other components changing dynamically – and sometimes autonomously. Unless you understand these multi-faceted relationships, change becomes an enormously time-consuming and risky process.
When you understand how infrastructure changes impact business services, it also makes it much easier to plan changes. For example, you may know that to upgrade a server, you need to take that server offline. It’s a known consequence, and it’s unavoidable. However, unless you know which business services that server supports, there is no way to align the change with maintenance windows, or to inform business service owners about the change before it is made.
Avoiding lengthy service outages
The second reason is service availability. When a business service fails or degrades, you need to get it back up and running as quickly as possible. If you don’t, the impact can be enormous. For example, when Delta Air Lines recently experienced a five-hour outage due to a single equipment failure, it cost the company $150 million and made headlines around the world.
In Delta’s case, they experienced a cascade of failures due to the malfunctioning of a power control module, but any mission-critical infrastructure issue can have devastating consequences. However, here’s the problem. IT infrastructure is incredibly noisy, creating thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of events every day. Some of these are just symptoms, while others are root causes of real issues. To understand how these events are related and get to the root cause, you need to know how they propagate across your IT environment.
To do this, you have to know how your IT infrastructure delivers your business services. Otherwise, you’re faced with a business service outage and a torrent of seemingly unrelated events – any one of which could be the real root cause. Is it a storage problem, or a network connectivity issue, or an application failure? Unless you understand how your business services are delivered – and the role that each infrastructure component plays – there is no easy way to get to the bottom of the issue.
On the other hand, once you do understand these relationships, you can dramatically accelerate diagnosis and resolution of service issues. In fact, this service-level understanding is one of the key reasons why the Optanix platform can typically get to the root cause of business service issues in 30 seconds or less. When every minute is costing you thousands of dollars or more, service visibility isn’t a luxury – it’s a critical necessity.
Balancing service quality and service cost
The third reason is service optimization – delivering appropriate service quality levels at the lowest possible cost. For example, this may involve providing appropriate redundancy, rationalizing your IT architecture, or migrating portions of your IT infrastructure to a public cloud.
Again, to do this you need service visibility. For instance, unless you understand how your services are delivered, it’s impossible to decide which functions need to be replicated in a backup data center as part of a disaster recovery plan. Similarly, if you’re migrating parts of your IT infrastructure to the cloud, there’s no way of knowing which components need to be moved together to ensure continued service delivery. And, unless you understand how services are delivered, there is no low-risk way of taking significant cost out of your IT environment – whether that’s finding and eliminating stranded infrastructure, or rearchitecting your business services to lower costs without compromising on quality.
Many IT organizations continue to manage infrastructure, not business services. While this infrastructure approach may have worked in the past, it’s no longer viable given the increasing complexity of today’s business services. Unless you understand how your business services relate to your IT infrastructure, you’re going to experience more frequent service outages – and take longer to resolve them. That’s why it’s so critical to look for IT management solutions that break down infrastructure silos and deliver end-to-end service visibility – if you don’t, your entire business is at risk.
Contact us today to learn more about how Optanix can help you manage your critical business services!