By Clayton Weise
When we hear the word “sprawl,” most of us think of the urban variety, when the largely uncontained and ungoverned growth of a city and its suburbs runs roughshod over nature.
But partners with time in the IT management trenches might also think of other types of sprawl: server sprawl, VM sprawl and monitoring sprawl.
With monitoring, it starts innocently enough. Perhaps you have an application, like SolarWinds or PRTG, to monitor the network. Then you add another, like Nagios or Zabbix, to watch servers. Then another for storage, and another, and another.
This sprawl is understandable. These tools are easy to deploy, and they each do a good job at the tasks they’re designed for. But their functionality beyond that is often limited. Hence the need for more and more tools. Before you know it, you’re bogged down with applications, each targeting a specific area. There are multiple dashboards to monitor and many places to collect data from, and internal teams are disjointed and unable to see the IT environment as a whole.
So, how do you eliminate, or at least manage, this sprawl? You could adopt a larger monitoring suite, like IBM Netcool or OpenView, that has more robust features, but deploying these systems is often a gargantuan undertaking, and managing them is no easier. And that’s before we start talking about the resources – time, money, employees – required to keep the system running.
There is a new way to solve these issues: monitoring as a service. Here are five ways service providers can use monitoring as a service to help companies tame monitoring sprawl and realize the benefits they were hoping to get out of all these applications in the first place.
One big reason sprawl gets started in the first place is just how easy some applications are to install. As we mentioned, these apps tend to excel in a narrow aspect of the business, so companies pile on many of them — each with their own dashboard, interface and data sources. On the other end of the spectrum, going with an enterprise-level solution is costly, and the implementation times can be scary.
Monitoring as a service can be deployed and data can start being collected within a day. You solve the adjustment and scaling issues of smaller applications and avoid the long implementation of complex solutions.
2. Change management
In environments with many solutions deployed, updates can be a nightmare. Changes in one area have to be propagated to other areas, often a manual task that takes many hours. And, as with any manual task, it is fraught with potential errors and missed steps, all of which can be damaging to a customer’s overall security and more.
With monitoring as a service, IT teams can work with their service-provider partners to create a blueprint of different devices and systems. When you make a change to the blueprint, everything that is connected to the blueprint is changed instantly, eliminating the need to touch every endpoint.
3. Information in one place
Another thing that’s dangerous about sprawl is all the places you have to check for information. Each application has its own interface, its own data and its own documentation. Monitoring as a service helps partners determine which applications are most critical to monitor and work to ensure all information is properly managed.
Eliminating the need to manually monitor all systems and software greatly eases the burden of IT teams. They can then focus on making the data center as agile and responsive to business users as possible.
Reporting goes hand-in-hand with a unified approach to monitoring. In many systems and data centers, reporting is a truly arduous task. Reports are often cobbled together by hand from many different systems: export data, generate a report and give it to a business-line manager or executive. Repeat as needed.
By automating this process, reports can be generated on a regular basis, as well as when certain events happen. This isn’t limited to IT systems, either. There are many internal applications and processes that record data and monitor what’s happening in the business, so processes that can improve internal workflows and approaches can also be realized. That’s all data that can be easily captured – and reported on – with monitoring as a service.
5. Enterprise-grade service
As with any “as a service” technology, one of the major benefits is the expertise a service provider can contribute. Providers, by definition, have experience with the technology that an IT department just can’t develop. And we all know customer IT departments are usually stretched thin as it is.
Monitoring applications are valuable tools. But too much of a good thing can weigh a customer, and partner, down. Left unchecked, monitoring sprawl can prevent a company from making the best use of its applications and infrastructure, make it less secure and less efficient, and eventually, less profitable. But, with monitoring as a service, partners can work with customers to curb monitoring sprawl, letting them make the best use of their infrastructure, IT staff and support teams.
Clayton Weise is a cloud architect at IT solutions provider Key Information Systems, where he is responsible for designing, architecting, and implementing cloud solutions, managing production workloads and leveraging cloud resources in disaster recovery, clustering and hybrid (cloud and on-premises) infrastructure solutions.