Analyst's Corner

IT Management Takes Off

Today’s leading management tools work with the entire cloud lifecycle.

By David Baum

January/February 2012

Oracle Magazine spoke with Tim Grieser, program vice president of enterprise system management software at International Data Corporation (IDC), about the challenge of creating, managing, and provisioning enterprise information systems, on premises and in the cloud.

Oracle Magazine: What is the state of system management solutions today?

Grieser: Today’s system management solutions increasingly rely on automation and orchestration to help guarantee performance, availability, and security of highly complex, dynamic system infrastructures. Today’s management scope goes beyond component management to focus on service management and application management— especially the experience perceived by end users. Service levels such as business transaction rates, response times, and application availability are determined by quantitative measurements based on monitoring. These monitoring activities can be for synthetic transactions—standard transactions that are run periodically to measure performance—or real transactions based on end-user activities, often measured through network traffic events. Business-oriented metrics like online sales transactions are particularly important.

Oracle Magazine: What drives organizations to deploy automated management tools?

Grieser: IT infrastructures have grown enormously in terms of complexity and scale. Deployment of scale-out architectures means that IT operations often must manage many hundreds or even thousands of physical servers. Virtualization creates a new layer that must be managed and adds virtual machine images in ratios typically 8 to 10 times the number of physical servers. Dynamic management operations—such as moving virtual machine images between virtualized physical servers to achieve performance objectives—add even more complexity because you must manage a number of functions at different levels of the infrastructure stack. These functions include support for the basic virtualized server environment at the hypervisor layer; creating, configuring, and provisioning virtual machines; loading guest operating systems and applications; and ongoing management of the operational environment. Functions such as performance management apply to virtualized servers, virtual machines, and applications.

Oracle Magazine: How is cloud computing changing systems management?

Grieser: Cloud computing builds on automated virtualized infrastructures by using extended management software to deliver environments where users can define, provision, and operate their own services in service models such as IaaS [infrastructure as a service], PaaS [platform as a service], or SaaS [software as a service]. Management software enables cloud facilities such as self-service portals; service catalogs; and automated monitoring, metering, and chargeback. System administrators must focus on delivering and achieving service levels for cloud environments. This means ensuring service objectives for both cloud providers and cloud consumers and can include managing public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. Monitoring, metering, and chargeback let cloud providers measure and account for cloud resource usage and assign costs to users. Cloud consumers need to be able to understand the level of service they are actually receiving by having their own views of performance metrics and usage metrics based on monitoring.

Oracle Magazine: How are toolsets evolving to work with the cloud lifecycle?

Grieser: The cloud lifecycle involves a number of major stages including planning and setup; building and deploying prototypes for self-service provisioning of infrastructure, applications, and other resources; and operational management including monitoring, metering, and chargeback. While these activities can be performed using a combination of available management tools, there is an evolution toward integrated toolsets that support specific cloud lifecycles and platforms. At the user level, integrated management toolsets include common menus or graphical interfaces across functions and the implementation of a common master console or “single pane of glass” top-level interface. Between layers in the software stack, integrated toolsets connect service management, application management, virtualization management, and physical resource management components. Use of standards-based languages and APIs can enable the same set of management tools to handle both on-premises and cloud-based systems. For example, the use of Java for applications can help support portability and migrations across platforms.

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