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Maintaining ICT availability and resiliency in 2015 and beyond


2014 saw continued use of buzzwords like cloud, wearables, BYOD and IoT but conversations around what this will mean to business if we don’t evolve and prepare our IT infrastructures were significantly lacking.

There’ll always be some level of disconnect between maintaining IT and maintaining business productivity; both have very different deliverables. However the two must be interlinked as there are key areas where IT and business objectives overlap. Understanding the ICT environment in depth is important to improving business resilience and the efficiency of the ICT infrastructure.

In this article Patrick Hubbard highlights emerging areas where greater understanding is required to enable organizations to maintain current levels of ICT availability and resiliency.

Today’s and tomorrow’s challenges

BYOD (bring your own device) and IoT (Internet of things) are simply two other aspects to an IT admin’s day that means more security and visibility is needed. BYOD has increased productivity and mobility for organizations and job satisfaction for employees but it has also removed the restriction on applications and hardware devices that can be used on the enterprise network. This has a huge impact on the help desk.

As more apps and devices converge on the network, businesses have to move faster than ever to both protect and maintain their IT infrastructure.

Employees will start to bring in any device loaded with IOS, Android or Windows, onto the corporate network. Compatibility and connectivity issues will increase the IT help desk workload and the IT department’s skillset needs will also need to increase. However, although BYOD allows the use of personal devices for business purposes, it doesn’t mean that the technicians should provide support for all applications/hardware issues. The help desk must say no to troubleshooting for employees’ non-business applications as this is the only way they will be able to manage their workload and security of the network successfully.

Before organizations adopt BYOD they have to make sure IT is ready to accept the revolution: because this is just the first step in supporting wearables and the Internet of things. The data generated by these devices could fundamentally impact how we track and improve performance in any number of fields. But for enterprise IT, a flood of devices inseparable from their wearers - and the security and infrastructural risks they pose - would be enough to give Robocop a headache!

Securing the new IT

IT managers have seen all this before: wearable technology is, in many respects, simply the second wave of the BYOD movement. By drawing on lessons learnt from BYOD management, IT leaders can lay down secure, scalable frameworks that account for wearable devices’ myriad applications while pre-empting their potential vulnerabilities. Treat these cyborg devices with suspicion now, and they, and their users, could be far better off in the long run.

The increase of data, devices and users accessing a corporate network today and tomorrow brings security even more to the fore and will no doubt keep CEOs awake at night in 2015. As the IT landscape extends into the cloud, security will become an even more critical aspect of this emerging landscape.

Today, IT pros have identified cloud computing as the most important technology investment needed for competitiveness and 2015 will be dominated by a combination of virtualization and private clouds to help support a data focused and more fluid IT environment.

As we know, virtual environments consist of many moving pieces and are generally complex to setup. Typically, IT environments, depending on the size of the organization, can have several hundred virtual machines (VMs) down to a handful of VMs. This is where performance monitoring is essential; ensuring the health of virtual appliances and enabling the organization to know immediately when something goes wrong. Which brings us nicely on to alert management. It’s so important to have complete visibility of the IT infrastructure but it’s equally important to manage alerts especially when they’re not critical.

If you listen to the big vendors like VMware and Microsoft, you would think that virtualizing mission critical applications like transaction processing, reservation or sales applications would be an easy decision for companies, given the improved hardware utilization and increased flexibility that virtualization provides. But still, IT and business leaders are cautious about the change. One reason is that both IT and business leaders understand that IT systems go down, and that downtime can be expensive.

As more devices, applications, and cloud services are introduced into the network for productivity and collaboration, technology management is becoming more complex and increasingly difficult. This is why security skills to calculate risks and mitigate the ever-shifting threats that 24/7 connectivity and accessibility create are the top skillsets needed over the next three to five years.

What we expect from networks in an IoT age

As we continue to simplify and speed up network management, planning, configuration and optimization, interest in software defined networks (SDN) has continued to grow and finally become truly application centric with self-organizing networks (SON). It’s the end benefit to the enabling technology of SDN when an application can simply express its desired network service requirements and let the SON framework sort out the configuration. It’s a great day, and longer weekends, for IT admins.

What’s lacking in current SON is acceptable security and auditing. We already have enough problems achieving policy compliance with CLI-based policy. Migrating to virtual dashboards requiring entirely new management skillsets creates vulnerabilities that must be mitigated if we want SON to succeed and make IT admins' lives easier.

The pressure on IT admins continues to increase with evolving end user expectations. In 2015, IT admins should consider performance as much as finances when it comes to compute, storage and networking technology, to avoid hassles later on.

With more and more businesses transitioning to the cloud, understanding the app centric environment is essential. By breaking down traditional IT silos and understanding how critical apps are becoming for business, IT admins can transition into the full application stack view to truly optimize performance: not only for IT, but the business as a whole and in the future. In an app-centric world, complete visibility of network performance is a no brainer for 2015.

The author

Patrick Hubbard is technical product marketing manager and head geek
at SolarWinds, an IT management software provider based in Austin, Texas.

•Date: 3rd December 2014 • World •Type: Article • Topic: ICT continuity

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