As a product manager of an integrated solution suite, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between traditional systems management (OS deployment, inventory, software delivery, patching, monitoring) and its major trends (security, virtualization, cloud, efficient data centers) with network management (deployment and configuration, backup/restore, monitoring, traffic analysis, Quality of Service) and networking trends (mobile devices, cloud, virtualization, larger networking demands). There are many similarities between these two IT focus areas and I will “blog” about several aspects as I tie-in and compare systems management with network management over the next year. One similarity that is particularly easy to spot and “leaps off the page” for me relates to discovery. In fact, it ALL starts with discovery.
By obtaining a complete and accurate discovery of your networking “stuff,” you will gain immediate benefits. The first premise here is that, until you know what you have (i.e. your stuff), where it is, and how it is connected, you cannot determine the best course of action to improve services, plan for new capacity, uptime, planned outages, or anything for that matter. Performing a regularly scheduled discovery of your devices will provide benefits that trickle into every other aspect of network management, and IT services in general.
The second premise is that the discovery process should be automated. Let’s face it, we live in a day and age where automation can and should be your best friend. Automation allows an IT administrator to remove the mundane and really boring daily tasks from his/her “to-do” list and to focus on things that add value. Back in the late 90’s, while working in IT at a local private liberal arts college, we performed what I call a “clipboard” inventory 2 times a year. The fact was that our manual inventory was inaccurate the moment we left the professor’s office. Add to that the notion that we could only gather some of the most basic inventory details: CPU, RAM, Network card, Add/Remove Programs. The level of detail that can be obtained today in an automated fashion is very complete and can be adapted to gather almost any piece of electronically stored information on a device. Don’t waste any more time doing manual discovery/inventories!
The third premise is that you need a management system that provides “out-of-the-box” reporting and mapping capabilities that easily and intuitively show discovered devices, their attributes, and their connectivity. The system should allow the flexibility to generate your own custom reports as needed. As a really cool bonus feature, the reports and maps should also dynamically update as new discoveries are performed so that you not only know how your network looks like right now but also easily visualize to how it is performing.
Imagine going from a world of clipboard inventory, 2 times a year, to a fully automated discovery complete with a dynamically updated map of your network. Does it get any better than that? Possibly not, but then again the only constant with technology is change.
As we begin our discussion on how to provide great IT services, I hope you will start to think about, and hopefully act upon, the premise that “it ALL starts with discovery”.
P.S. As a public service announcement, I am providing you with a product link that can dramatically assist with the process of discovery/mapping and meets every requirement I describe above. Visit WhatsUpGold Network Discovery for more details.