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In Search of Infrastructure Visibility

As companies get comfortable with cloud technology, even smaller organizations are venturing into the idea of having their own private clouds. This fact was corroborated by a Unisphere Research survey of 267 members of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) at the end of 2010. The survey revealed that 29% of organizations had already deployed an internal cloud, while another 15% were piloting, planning or considering private clouds.

But "private cloud" also implies other changes for IT, such as developing chargeback systems for on-demand provisioning and service deployment for end business areas, and being held accountable by internal clients to strict sets of SLAs (service level agreements) that are not unlike those that commercial service providers are held to. The "sleeping dog" behind all of these is the ability for different combinations of IT staff to work seamlessly together in systems optimization and also problem resolution--with a unified, end-to-end view of every application they deploy, regardless of how many
different hardware and software platforms that application crosses.

This is easier said than done. Depending on whether they are database administrators, network administrators, applications specialists or help desk professionals, different departments within IT persist in their use of their own purchased and custom-developed tools and diagnostics. When an application problem in production develops and no one is sure what is wrong, each of these departments retreats into its own tools and diagnostics to see if the issue is in its area. All too often, the various parties meet in a "war room" setting and end up pointing fingers at each other, saying that their area of the trouble-shooting is clean. Meanwhile, the end users (and possibly their customers) sit without an application.

This is a situation that has been tolerated by internal enterprise users for decades, but with private cloud deployments and rigorous SLAs on the rise, IT can no longer afford to conduct business like this. Software management vendors also recognize this--which is why there has been a recent flurry of offerings that tout an over-arching management software that can follow an application end to end across every hardware and software platform it crosses, and also present a unified view of the application that everyone uses—with the ability to customize tool set dashboards to their liking.

The results can be compelling. For an etailer running an online shopping cart, if transactions suddenly are taking too long to complete and customers are abandoning their shopping carts, millions of dollars can be left on the table. The same can be said for banking, insurance and health care institutions running e-portal operations.

So the question becomes, is this enough for CIOs to elevate the importance of a somewhat invisible and behind-the-scenes function like system management sufficiently to get CFOs and CEOs to pledge budget dollars to it? With a move to private cloud computing on the horizon for many organizations, and the new visibility of application and workload performance that this software can produce for line-of-business managers to see how their business applications are running, the answer is moving to yes.

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