For systems management, complexity dictates a scalable approach

Tools for managing systems and networks must be scalable in today's vast and complex IT environments. But scalable needn't mean grandiose.

 By Lynn Haber
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Remember "small is beautiful?" "Less is more?" Sometimes it seems these simple concepts are lost on the makers of scalable products for managing enterprise systems and networks.

John D. Lewis, vice president of datacenter operations at First Maryland Bancorp in Baltimore, discovered this when he went shopping for a better way to manage his company's computer systems and networks. The management systems the bank was using were ineffective and inefficient, and it took 50 operators to run the command center, where between 50 and 100 terminals were stacked high. "We'd try to correlate data from dozens of management stations and system consoles--it was an impossible mission," Lewis says.

And an expensive one: the company was adding two full-time administrators a year, to the tune of $100,000 each.

So Lewis began looking for a comprehensive solution. "Along the way, I learned that some solutions are so grandiose in scale that they tend to fail because people underestimate the effort to implement them," he says.

For that reason, he chose MAX/Enterprise, a fault- and event-manager from Boole & Babbage , based in San Jose. MAX/Enterprise took 18 months to implement, and its management features now provide a consolidated view of the IT infrastructure as it affects availability of systems, meaning that administrators can use a single console to view alarms from any number of systems. This has allowed IT to reduce staff size while improving service and increasing the scope of its responsibility.

"It's a 'manager-of-managers' type of solution and would give us the best ROI," Lewis says. He adds that the product paid for itself in two-and-a-half years.

A survey of Datamation readers shows that while 38% of them already have a systems management tool, 11% plan to install one by the end of 1999.
Source: SG Cowen/Datamation, User Survey: Networked Computing, Servers, and PCs, conducted summer 1998

Management of the bank's systems and networks is simpler now, and fewer hands are required. "We have significantly reduced the complexity and manual labor intensity of performing fault management and are truly doing more with less," Lewis says. At First Maryland Bancorp small is beautiful; less is more.

Scalability of tools is key

As organizations have embraced client/server architecture, the proliferation of devices has made the scalability of tools for network and systems management increasingly critical.

Scalability today means different things to different people, but for many IT executives, scalable administration means effective administration of numerous remote offices, nodes, and heterogeneous systems. "For us, scalability means that a product can manage a variety of physical hardware devices, platforms, and applications, regardless of the manufacturer," Lewis says.

In the case of network- and desktop-management, vendors measure a product's scalability by the number of desktops, servers, routers, hubs, switches, and such, which can be managed reliably across an enterprise. Talk about performance or availability management, however, and scalability has less to do with sheer numbers than with a product's effectiveness at improving productivity and managing complex systems to solve problems, analysts say.

This article was originally published on Nov 17, 1999
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