IT management on a large scale requires tools to collect and process data. Recent years have seen the introduction of many new IT management software products, and the ongoing development of existing ones. Many shops now house multiple IT management suites, each deployed to patch a hole the others didn’t. In many cases, there’s overlap. The modern IT organization is swimming in a sea of data, longing for the solid ground of actionable information.

The Baby Out with the Bathwater:

IT management has become, in many cases, an exercise in guessing which alerts and advisories can safely be ignored. Stroll the floor of any NOC (network operations center) and see screens full of red alerts and “critical events.” Notice the network engineers and operators occasionally clearing them, disposing of them as meaningless annoyances.

Now and then, the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. Valuable, actionable alerts tumble down the hillside and are buried under an avalanche of warnings about file systems one percent over reporting threshold, which have been that way for three years.

The challenge of managing IT has now become the challenge of managing the tools used to manage IT resources. Entire departments within the IT hierarchy have been created with the charter to do just that. They’re usually called “tools teams” or “monitoring teams.” Their duties are deceptively demanding.

The Tools Team as a Critical Resource:

It’s probably one of the most challenging roles in the the entire IT organization. Not only must the tools engineer know how to work with the chosen IT management software, but he must also account for changes on the endpoints that affect how events are reported. Usually most systems share a template of basic parameters critical to stable functionality, but the thresholds for reporting often need to be tailored for each system. It might be fine for one system to have only 2GB available in the /tmp filesystem, while another might need much more. Changes to applications are constantly placing new and unexpected burdens on machines, which tend to make existing templates irrelevant, or even dangerous.

Added to these tasks is the challenge of keeping the monitoring agent up and running on the endpoint machines. This is usually a task left to systems administrators. Sysadmins often have more pressing duties than managing the state of monitoring software. They also frequently have their own home-brewed tools which they regard as more reliable.

Watching the Watchers:

Thus, the challenge facing any organization using IT management software is in managing the software itself, and working to ensure that it produces more than just a flow of data. It needs to produce actionable information. Without this constant vigilance and the associated expense in man-hours and training, IT management software can be much more of a hindrance than a help.

To learn more about IT management software, be sure to check out our other posts on IT Management Software

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