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Optimizing Applications on Cisco Networks: Beyond the Boundaries

Chapter Description

You may only operate (own) part of your delivery mechanism, relying on third-party organizations to deliver your application to both your internal staff and your customers. This chapter discusses approaches to this situation, covering ways to work within these confinements.

Meeting Service Needs

An accurately defined and monitored APM system can assist in the ultimate aim of effective delivery of the application, while providing sufficient data feedback into management tools that will ultimately assist in optimizing delivery.

Delivery criteria cannot be concerned solely with technical parameters, but must meet business objectives. The following three major factors differentiate an organization:

  • Product or service offerings

  • Customers

  • Delivery to market

Together these factors make up the organization's unique value proposition. Each organization's mission is to create and maintain the systems and processes to support its value proposition.

Business systems and processes operate under a combination of time, cost, and quality requirements that make it essential to use IT. IT reliability and flexibility are often the critical make-or-break issues behind business initiatives. Companies across a broad spectrum of the economy rely on IT to create competitive advantage and improve productivity, with business initiatives such as supplier and supply-chain management, business and logistics systems, customer relationship management, and e-commerce. IT supports data-driven decision making and synchronizes real-time activity between the managers, operators, and users of the business systems and processes.

To provide a better service to its customers and users, an enterprise needs to evaluate and manage technology at a business process level. This provides a business-oriented view of the enterprise's information systems, translating the traditional metrics into demonstrable measures that make sense to the company's senior executives.

Key business services supplied by an enterprise to its customers quite often rely on a number of business processes. For example, acceptance of a customer's product order will probably entail the delivery of product information to a company's website, the checking of stock availability, and the process of credit authorization. Each of these three processes will rely on combinations of multiple technology resources, including network devices, system platforms, applications, and databases.

For an organization to ensure its product ordering is functioning correctly, it has to collect and relate a large amount of availability, fault, status, and performance information that extends across the whole array of management systems. The information has to be put into context across the relevant business processes and then consolidated across business units and possibly companies.

IT organizations were traditionally managed based on the technical capabilities of underlying infrastructure such as networks, systems, storage, and applications. This silo-based approach to management, where each of the technologies is managed separately, evolved over time as various technologies were developed.

Today, most organizations have recognized that this approach is no longer viable. It fails to take into account the interrelated nature of individual components, and most importantly does not adequately address the business priorities of the firm. In response, business executives and IT leaders have begun to demand a more holistic approach for managing IT resources. This has led to the development of systems that take in the technical metrics and traps and assess them relevant to the unique business criteria defined by each organization, as discussed in Part II, "Aligning the Network's Business and Technical Requirements." This approach is known as business service management (BSM).

BSM is the logical progression of network and systems management and fits nicely into the emerging requirement to report business value. BSM brings into line IT services with the business processes they enable, and then manages these services in a way that is consistent with business priority. Many benefits result from this, including the following:

  • Investment in service delivery is appropriate to business benefit and overcapitalization is avoided.

  • Problem resolution is prioritized in line with business requirements.

  • Service-improvement programs are initiated only if there is a real payback to the business.

  • Business process owners are aware of service disruption and can take action to mitigate the consequences to the business.

  • Executives understand the value of their IT service provider.

To be accountable for the delivery of service, IT must manage simultaneously across business processes, management systems, and different business units, enterprises, and/or organizations. As the IT infrastructure has become so important to the enterprise's ability to conduct business, its complexity has increased dramatically, making it imperative for the business to understand the technology issues and consequences involved.

To gain this understanding, enterprises must view the infrastructure from a business service perspective. To achieve this, each line of business must be accessible with a degree of granularity that allows access to each individual technology element for diagnosis and repair—for example, access to an element manager to view infrastructure availability or an application analyzer to view the raw data of an application conversation. Lines of business services now tend to cut across the traditional management systems and business processes. They can also span organizations and divisions. An application such as supply-chain management can range across the functional organizations of sales, marketing, purchasing, manufacturing, and customer service.

A BSM system complements an enterprise's existing management systems to achieve this level of management sophistication. It operates as a top layer and provides a single, centralized method of command and control for the entire IT infrastructure.

This alignment is very simple in theory, and has been discussed at some length in Part II of this book; however, many organizations have been frustrated in their attempts to achieve it. A major factor is that the IT department is not aware of business strategies at a detailed enough level. They do not know what business strategies to align with.

Business activities that require IT support appear to be practically thrown over the wall, because IT becomes involved only after decisions are made and it is implementation time. The IT department will receive an application rolled out on their environment (or to roll out) with little or no information pertinent to its delivery criteria or its criticality to the overall business model.

Without a detailed business strategy, IT's ability to plan well is extremely limited, and the best IT can do is to execute rapidly and attempt to architect flexible enough processes and systems to accommodate change with little or no notice.

For IT management to succeed in becoming a key participant in business strategies, there must be open communications with the business groups for such alignment. Only then will the IT department be able to develop detailed metrics for managing internal IT processes and tracking workload fluctuation, resource availability, and service quality pertinent to the business requirements.

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