Tech industry publications like this one usually report on the newest technology out there--servers, software, switches, processors, and so on--but, in fact, many data centers running today are seven to 10 years old, and some are even older. When new applications enter the picture, the process of identifying existing applications and their dependency on other applications and the overall IT infrastructure can be daunting, and errors can result in costly downtime. That's why a critical part of a data center transformation project is the use of application discovery and dependency software.
"What data center transformation comes down to is risk management," says Jimmy Augustine, group product manager of Configuration Management Database (CMDB) products at HP Software. "It’s important to have the visibility in terms of where the applications reside and what dependencies they have on other applications [and] that you are doing it in a way that doesn’t impact your business."
Software such as the HP Discovery and Dependency Mapping Advanced (DDMA) edition search throughout the data center to inventory all the applications running and their dependencies, such as on a database or storage array, Augustine said. An order fulfillment application, for instance, may depend on an associated accounts receivable app.
DDMA tools can also discover rogue servers running rogue applications that someone set up without informing IT, he says. Also, in virtualized environments, physical servers may house dozens of virtual servers, and virtual workloads are often moved from one physical server to another, making them difficult to track. Other vendors in the DDMA space include OpTier, BMC Software and Pathway Systems.
A health insurance company in a populous state undertook a data center transformation project using the HP DDMA product. Both the name of the company and of the IT manager who was interviewed are being kept confidential. The manager said that before automated software, an understanding of what applications were running where was incomplete.
"The application team knows their servers and they know the databases that they use for the application, but don’t know what storage arrays or what network cards they are plugged into, what building they’re in and what row they are on in the data center. We have built that association," he says. The insurer has been using DDMA software for about eight years, and the IT manager has seen improvements in ease of use and efficiency with each new release. "They have wizards for performing certain tasks to do impact discovery," he said. "It’s more out of the box instead of having to do your own custom coding."”
Another HP customer, a consumer packaged goods company whose identity is also being kept confidential, used DDMA software it purchased earlier this year to manage the replacement of an existing data center with a new one being built in another state. The old data center will be maintained as a backup data center for disaster recovery, Augustine says.
"They now have a view of what applications they have in their data center, which servers they sit on and what network devices they communicate with so that when they go to move the applications--physically or virtually--they know that the first group is going to include this number of applications and associated with those applications are going to be these dependencies," he says. In the aftermath of the transition, the packaged goods company says its top five IT-delivered business services are running 19% faster than they were from the old data center, and that the number of error-free configuration changes has increased by 40%.
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