• 01/27/2015
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IT Monitoring Scalability Planning: 3 Roadblocks

Planning for growth is key to effective IT monitoring, but it can be stymied by certain mindsets. Here's how to overcome them.

As IT professionals, planning for growth is something we do all day almost unconsciously. Whether it’s a snippet of code, provisioning the next server, or building out a network design, we’re usually thinking: Will it handle the load? How long until I'll need a newer, faster, or bigger one? How far will this scale?

Despite this almost compulsive concern with scalability, there are still areas of IT where growth tends to be an afterthought. One of these happens to be my area of specialization: IT monitoring. So, I’d like to address growth planning (or non-planning) as it pertains to monitoring by highlighting several mindsets that typically hinder this important, but often surprisingly overlooked element, and showing how to deal with each.

The fire drill mindset
The occurs when something bad has already happened either because there was either no monitoring solution in place or because the existing toolset didn’t scale far enough to detect a critical failure, and so it was missed. Regardless, the result is usually a focus on finding a tool that would have caught the problem that already occurred, and finding it fast.

However, short of a TARDIS, there’s no way to implement an IT monitoring tool that will help avoid a problem after it occurs. Furthermore, moving too quickly as a result of a crisis can mean you don’t take the time to plan for future growth, focusing instead solely on solving the current problem.

My advice is to stop, take a deep breath, and collect yourself. Start by quickly, but intelligently developing a short list of possible tools that will both solve the current problem and scale with your environment as it grows. Next, ask the vendors if they have free (or cheap) licenses for in-house demoing and proofs of concept.

Then, and this is where you should let the emotion surrounding the failure creep back in, get a proof-of-concept environment set up quickly and start testing. Finally, make a smart decision based on all the factors important to you and your environment. (Hint: one of which should always be scalability.) Then implement the tool right away.

The bargain hunter
The next common pitfall that often prevents better growth planning when implementing a monitoring tool is the bargain-hunter mindset. This usually occurs not because of a crisis, but when there is pressure to find the cheapest solution for the current environment.

How do you overcome this mindset? Consider the following scenario: If your child currently wears a size 3 shoe, you absolutely don’t want to buy a size 5 today, right? But you should also recognize that your child is going to grow. So, buying enough size 3 shoes for the next five years is not a good strategy, either.

Also, if financials really are one of the top priorities preventing you from better preparing for future growth, remember that the cheapest time to buy the right-sized solution for your current and future environment is now. Buying a solution for your current environment alone because “that’s all we need” is going to result in your spending more money later for the right-sized solution you will need in the future. (I’m not talking about incrementally more, but start-all-over-again more.)

My suggestion is to use your company’s existing business growth projections to calculate how big of a monitoring solution you need. If your company foresees 10% revenue growth each year over the next three years and then 5% each year after that, and you are willing to consider completely replacing your monitoring solution after five years, then buy a product that can scale to 40% of the size you currently need.

The dollar auction
The dollar auction mindset happens when there is already a tool in place -- a tool that wasn’t cheap and that a lot of time was spent perfecting. The problem is, it’s no longer perfect. It needs to be replaced because company growth has expanded beyond its scalability, but the idea of walking away from everything invested in it is a hard pill to swallow.

Really, this isn’t so much of a mindset that prevents preparing for future growth as it is something that's all too often overlooked as an important lesson: If only you had better planned for future growth the first time around. The reality is that if you’re experiencing this mindset, you need a new solution. However, don’t make the same mistake. This time, take scalability into account.

Whether you’re suffering from one of these mindsets or another that is preventing you from better preparing your IT monitoring for future growth, remember, scalability is key to long term success.



Dollar auction is one of the point i guess is common for most of us, many organizations already have IT monitoring system in place, but simontaneoulsy i take this roadblock as oppurtunity as well, IT administartors tend work and churn more and more from existing system.

Re: Scalibility

You are right to a certain extent, but there are many small businesses that are either unable or just have no idea where to start when it comes to implementing a viable IT monitoring system.

Re: Scalibility

One problem I witness is not so much a lack of scale but of sophistication -- when the organization needs funtionality its monitoring tool does not provide, so it needs to either start bolting on other tools, or migrate to a whole new software system. Ideally, you'll want to predict the functionality you'll need without overspending -- any tps for that?

Re: Scalibility

@Susan it is an interesting idea and believe me I had any tips or ideas regarding how to improve this sector, it would be the basis of a new business that I would launch!

Re: Scalibility

@Susan: And that's what you call a Frankenstein system!  It's amazing how often compatibility and overall infrastructure are ignored in important IT procurement and structuring decisions.

Fortunately, some vendors are starting to actively market good alternative solutions for organizations for whom a vendor's primary fare isn't quite right for them (immediately coming to mind: on-premise turnkey "cloud-in-a-box" solutions for organizations that already have a great deal invested in their on-premises storage and are mildly nephophobic).

Re: Scalibility

Joe, cloud services are a great option here, assuming you can mix and match what you want to get the fit you need. I don't think that businesses that end up with the Frankenstein model usually ignore the ramifications out of ignorance; they are often faced with a need and have few choices, so they pick the lesser evil. I have been on several "platform evaluation" committees that never ended well.

Thanks for teaching me a new word. Had to look up nephophobic :)

Re: Scalibility

@Susan: I think it's a matter of a failure to plan in the long-term.  If you wind up faced with a sudden need like that that requires such subpar patchwork, it's usually (not always, but usually) because things were screwed up to begin with -- whether technologically or culturally.

Re: Scalibility

Joe, I have to disagree with that. Businesses are moving fast these days, and they don't have the long planning and aquisition cycles they used to. A lot of companies are trying to shrink the time ti takes them to respond to customer request and be more agile. They may run into opportunities that crop up unexpectedly, but are good for the business.

Re: Scalibility

@Susan: And is that not the trade-off?  And is not "trying" another word for "failing?"

I respectfully stand by my point.  Focus too much on one thing, you lose sight of other things.

Re: Scalibility

@david: I would deny the fact completly, but cloud is solution for small business. If i have small scale business running i would not invest high amount in IT just to create my own space for servers and that is where CSP will yield solution and $$$$.