Documenting key information about IT infrastructure streamlines system provisioning and management, according to Washington University’s senior computing specialist Lee Damon.
Speaking on opening day on Monday of the System Administrators Guild of Australia's (SAGE-Au) conference in Hobart, Damon said the concept of IT “infrastructure” has evolved over time.
“Many years ago there was a rigid design philosophy; however this is no longer my philosophy as it is frequently difficult to define what an infrastructure is.” Damon’s definition of infrastructure is a “complete set of systems, networking and services”.
“If you have a standard and stable system image that you can build on it is much easier to establish an infrastructure,” he said.
“It used to take two weeks for us to set up a system but now it only takes two hours due to the procedures we now have in place.”
According to Damon, the most important concept in building an effective infrastructure is documentation. “Document everything,” he said. “Documentation must tell the users what to do to use the system, and tell the admins what they need to know to maintain the system. Flexibility will save your life – live it, breathe it, plan for it, and build it.”
If you are building infrastructure for a customer, you need to know what the business needs from it, as well as considering the human factor, he said.
“People fear change. That’s why users need to be trained and listened to and that’s when they will be most cooperative.
Damon said the “fundamental tools” required in designing an infrastructure include a machine database – including a record of hostname, operating system type, hardware type, support person and cluster (bunch membership); and user database – including password and work role.
“At the very least a flat file is needed to record this information including all the specifications of every machine,” Damon said. “By clustering groups of PCs such that staff software requirements are known, deploying updates is easier.