Technology can be your best friend or your worst nightmare.
The right tool can make your job easier; the wrong technology can leave you without resources such as time and money but still strapped with the same problems. While products promising to ease all IT pains often don't deliver, well-chosen tools help simplify IT management, align business goals to network projects and ensure secure operations under even the most dynamic conditions. The promise of good technology drives network pros to look for innovative tools that will advance the business. Yet that requires they also wade through the sea of useless, inane and in some cases absurd technologies clouding their view and muddying their decisions.
Here we narrow the search with three early-stage technologies promising to make a difference in the enterprise in 2008. Some of the technologies have established their place in the enterprise and others are still working to gain widespread recognition, but each technology enhances the environment in its own way. The technologies introduce intelligence and efficiency into operations, give the business an edge with IT know-how or bring fluid security to a Mercurial environment.
A foundation for optimized service and performance
Almost everyone knows you can't manage an environment without first knowing what it comprises.
And while in the past inventory and discovery tools worked to identify and catalog devices, systems and applications, yesterday's technologies have no chance of keeping up with today's complex, distributed application architectures. Add to that new IP and service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications, and the tools that relied in part on manual effort, outdated standards and human memory are toast.
Enter application dependency mapping (ADM). This new breed of discovery technology goes beyond compiling a list of simple components to generating a map of how the components interact and rely on each other. Network managers equipped with that information can more easily prevent performance problems from reaching users and prioritize work around the most critical applications.
"One of the biggest challenges today for IT organizations is changing from a bottoms-up approach, in which they piece together and manage components, to a top-down understanding of what the critical business applications are and how they can proactively manage them so as not to impact the business," says Evelyn Hubbert, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "IT organizations still very much need to know what the bottom components are, but they need to be able to relate them to the applications that rise to the surface."
The technology emerged several years ago and large management vendors quickly acquired innovative start-ups that provided the tools to collect inventory, configuration and relationship data on applications in distributed environments. Just to name a few: CA acquired Cendura; EMC acquired nLayers; IBM acquired Collation; HP acquired Mercury Interactive, which had acquired Appilog; and Symantec acquired Relicore. BMC Software has its own ADM technology, part of its Atrium configuration management database (CMDB). Tideway Systems remains one of the only independent ADM specialty vendors.
The industry activity can be overwhelming, Hubbert says. But in the coming year, ADM will become less secondary and more primary for companies wanting proactive management of business-critical applications. "Companies with dynamic applications, and there are fewer companies that don't have such applications, cannot afford for them to go down, and ADM will become part of the infrastructure to support and maintain applications," she says.
For customers, ADM means getting a complete picture of what they have and knowing better how to optimize it.
"The data center was basically invisible to us and we wanted to make it visible," says Jacob Hall, vice president of platform and design for Wachovia Corporate and Investment Banking in Charlotte, N.C. After developing custom scripts to do data dependency mapping for mission-critical equities applications, Hall came across Tideway Foundation, and about a year ago became an early adopter of commercial ADM software. Tideway's automation enabled Hall to deliver top-rate application performance while focusing his efforts on bigger projects such as a green data center initiative, architecture reviews, data center moves and disaster-recovery plans.