IT Management: Are You Old School Or New School?

IT management flounders today in the midst of a dramatic shift in mindset and process. That's evident in the tension between old school IT know-how versus new school IT policy.

Kong Yang

May 11, 2015

4 Min Read
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Old school IT management is built on IT professionals and the experience gained in their own data center environments. It leverages the following practices: collect, create alerts, and visualize the performance data. On the other hand, new school IT management relies on policy-based management and analytics engines that leverage knowledge bases and learning algorithms. It is best represented as collect, analyze, and predict based on the performance data.

The shift is not without inertia, as IT professionals prefer the principles of tried-and-true and trust-but-verify before implementing anything in their environments. Moreover, the decision to evolve will likely require a heavy dose of internal discussion. Balancing business and IT operational needs is less about technology and more about aligning people and process.

IT is viewed as a slow and inefficient bureaucracy by developers and end-users; and yet, IT needs to perform due diligence and impart rigor and processes for compliance, governance and security. Policies and analytics engines are derived from well understood problem-solution data sets, while IT pros are hardened through trials and tribulations when they are tasked to quickly resolve issues.

So what's driving the shift to new IT management?

Agility, availability and scalability

The adoption of new school IT management is being driven by the desire to uncover disruptive innovation in all phases of the application lifecycle. And the application layer is a prime candidate, with its fertile grounds where disruptive innovation is expected to be reaped and sowed. Agility, availability and scale throughout the application lifecycle gives IT and business leaders more opportunity to tap into disruptive innovation. Agility, availability and scalability are the means to justify the disruptive innovation ends.

Sounds like cloud nine, but the reality is that disruptive innovation is not always achievable. Instead, we must understand that the infrastructure stack is converging toward a commoditization limit, and value-added differentiation in applications must be targeted. These differentiators manifest as:

  1. Better data center efficacy, especially around resource availability and auto-scaling

  2. More efficient IT professionals via automation and orchestration of workflows

  3. More application agility with shorter application development and release cycles

  4. Better adaptability to change management in data centers

So why not just go all-out with new school IT management?

Know how, automate and orchestrate at scale

Best practice workflows capture the extracted essence of an IT professional from their experience and expertise. Workflows form the foundation for knowledge bases that seed and feed the policy and analytic engines. In the IT-as-a-service world, policy and analytics engines enable auto-scale and auto-remediation in the data center environment.

Old school experience shapes and molds new school policies and intelligence, but new school aims to retire old school methods. New school management talks the talk, but still needs to earn the trust that old school holds. The only way it can do that is to walk the walk in a live environment. IT management comes full circle, and it's all connected to change.

Whether it's old school or new school, IT management is tasked with effective and efficient change management. And the two key variables are the frequency and the magnitude of change, which will dictate the people and process requirements for a successful application lifecycle.

So what's the most important thing in IT management?

What matters is the application

In both cases, the most important thing is the application. The real measure of an IT professional is during troubleshooting -- when applications break and misbehave. The IT professional is valued on how quickly they can perform root-cause analysis and bring the application back to working order.

There are also specific issues that always require a series of well understood steps to remediate. These are the opportunities to automate and orchestrate workflows that self-remediate and self-optimize the data center environment.

Understanding the connected context of the entire application stack with a single point of truth is paramount to success. Otherwise, it's a whole lot of wasted resource and action for little or no return. So this single point of truth for any given application is where old and new school IT management will converge.

The right management plan

What's right for an organization? Is it complete automation and orchestration of IT management, another hybrid model to match the hybrid cloud model or manual know-how? Organizations need to align their business objectives with IT management to match the delivery cadence and scale.

The most effective and efficient organizations are the ones who sync their business and IT operations with the right mix of old school know-how and new school policy in order to deal with the changing needs of their business. 

About the Author(s)

Kong Yang

Head Geek and Sr. Technical Product Marketing Manager, SolarWinds

Kong Yang is a Head Geek and senior technical product marketing manager at SolarWinds, an IT management vendor based in Austin, Texas. With over 20 years of IT experience, he is passionate about the entire IT ecosystem, but with a particular focus on virtualization and cloud management, as well as qualifying and quantifying results to support organizations' bottom lines. He is a VMware vExpert and Cisco Champion.

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