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sig·nif·i·cance – IT Disciplines

December 05, 2016

This week, I’m continuing the series on significance (the quality of being worthy of attention or importance). For this post, I want to focus on the well-formed and innovative ways that humans manage enterprise systems, network and applications. I will also survey the notion of a comprehensive list of all services provided by IT, an inventory of enterprise capabilities.

Systems
Once computer systems were put in place, people started to try to manage them. When things went wrong with hardware and software, IT personnel with support from the supplier went to work to fix them. Many soon realized that it was necessary to track failures and fixes—incidents problems and changes—so that availability of precious computer resources could be maximized. It was a simple matter of managing an expensive and complex resource. The complex part made the management aspect challenging.

In those early days, the notion of a discipline evolved. They had names like performance management, configuration management, operations management, problem management,  storage management and change management. Later others joined the list like workload management and security management when  challenges and opportunities in these areas became more important. The System z introduction to the new mainframe course materials, chapter 7, “Systems Management,” covers this topic in good detail. Over the years, the concepts have been expanded and updated and are now being taught to a new generation. 
 
Networks
In early enterprise computing, we had basic networks. Initially, they were local to the mainframe then remote networks developed. They failed and needed to be fixed but there was not a significant focus on networking until the mid-1970s when SNA was announced and began to be supported by devices.

From the late-70s forward there was an explosion of network activities and network management as a serious enterprise computing discipline was born. When remote users couldn’t get access to their applications, an operator (now specialized to networking) had to try to figure out why and get them up and running again. An array of management tools were used with names like NCCF, NPDA and NLDM that later were consolidated under one product called NetView.

The next big event was the emergence of IP networks in enterprise computing. Enterprise computers were sometimes used for web hosting but more often were in a support role with multitier hosting environments with zones separated for security purposes by firewalls. Firewalls and switches, used to provide security and connectivity between components, became a part of the network fabric that needed to be managed. Network management became critical in this environment because there were now so many network-related potential points of failure. Failures were common and put pressure on network hardware and software suppliers to create much more robust solutions.

Applications
Application management emerged in the 1990s when client/server computing exploded. Suddenly there were application problems that couldn’t be directly handled through systems and network management tools. Sure there were problems caused by network failures between components in a client/server based application but there were many others related to distributed programs and databases that would stop an application cold and could not be detected by existing tools.

Software companies rushed to fill the gap with a variety of approaches and tools. One idea or approach was for applications to be instrumented for manageability and this tooling allowed it to communicate with the application management system. Another approach was to monitor all the different components of an application and aggregate the results to a dashboard. The idea was if all the components were working then the application was working. Still others used recorded keystrokes to run through typical transactions to simulate (or actually) purchase goods. I know of several companies that employed human monitors to run sample transactions to ensure the availability of key application functions.
 
A Comprehensive List of All Services
Systems, networks and applications management is an understandably simplistic view of the world of IT disciplines. The International Foundation for Information Technology (IF4IT) has identified and documented over a thousand individual disciplines from account management to workflow management. This is an excellent starting point when you are perhaps put in a new situation, for example asked to help review a vendor service management process. The IF4IT has details on this discipline and over a thousand others they you are likely to find useful.
 

Posted December 05, 2016 | Permalink

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