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You can't afford not to consider infrastructure management tools

If you can manage the whole ball of wax, your potential gains are enormous.

David Gabel

The information technology infrastructure has gotten quite a bit more complex today than it was just two or three years ago.

It wasn't too long ago that you didn't have to worry about keeping your e-business site up and running, because you didn't have one. If you had a Web site, it was for information only and not open for interactivity.

Now it's often e-business to the max, and the servers that power your site and the devices that connect the servers to the Internet have to be running 24x7, no ifs, ands or buts.

And while we're at it, what about that internal network? Everything has to be working at top efficiency because your business depends on the bandwidth that you provide and the workstations of all your people have to be online during business hours. Then after hours, there are always the folks in distant time zones, travelers who have to access the corporate network, remote workers, etc.

And what about wireless? Now you can have wireless access points cropping up here and there, providing access for more devices to your network and, at the same time, offering potential holes in your company's security setup.

It's enough to make you crazy, especially if you don't even know what's out there. And many IT managers don't. One of the most often reported facts about managing IT these days is that people just don't even know what they have -- for a number of reasons.

If you can't monitor what you have, you're heading for trouble. If you can't monitor, you can't control. And with lack of control comes chaos. Well, maybe that's a bit too strong. Without monitoring comes some real headaches trying to make sure your IT infrastructure is designed and operating the way your company wants it to be, rather than the way it just grows.

That's where infrastructure management comes in. This is managing the entire ball of wax, from workstations through managed hubs and switches to the servers, to your edge devices and through to your remote locations on the other end of your VPN links.

As a white paper on the BMC Web site says, infrastructure management is the management of "platforms, databases, storage, networks, security and middleware technologies." BMC would like you to consider, of course, its Patrol product for such monitoring, but you don't have to use that one. In fact, before you decide that you need to go with a very expensive infrastructure-management product, you should consider that you can start small, with a management system that you roll on your own, using some easy programming and simple network management protocol (SNMP) that can alert you when something is going wrong with your network infrastructure. Then you can, in effect, instrument your applications, and especially your databases, using tools built in to your operating system, and gathering the information for later analysis.

Computer Associates Inc., however, points out that investing in infrastructure management will reap big benefits. In a white paper on the company Web site authored by consultants IDC, the conclusion from a study of 30 companies that employed CA's Unicenter product for infrastructure management was that these multi-billion-dollar companies averaged savings of over $8 million annually and that they experienced a payback period of 55 days with an return on investment of 663%.

With numbers like that going for infrastructure management, can you afford NOT to investigate it?

About the author: David Gabel is the executive technology editor for TechTarget.


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This was last published in November 2002

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