Capacity management: Must-have skill in down economy

* Capacity management skills could prove invaluable in the coming months as companies struggle to keep costs down

Capacity management requires IT to know the demands of the business, to equip the environment to support those demands and to do so cost-effectively while meeting pre-defined service levels. Such skills could prove invaluable in the coming months as companies struggle to keep costs down and drive revenue up.

Forrester Research defines capacity management as "a process aimed at controlling the IT infrastructure in such a way that resource shortages are anticipated and corrected before they occur, thus maintaining service-level agreements (SLA) contracted with business users." The IT discipline isn't new, but popular trends and technologies such as consolidation and virtualization are making the art of managing and optimizing resource utilization a very sought-after skill.

"Due to the current economic environment, downsizing (or rightsizing) of infrastructure, resources and capabilities is a top priority for IT," Forrester Senior Analyst Evelyn Hubbert states in the recent report "Role Overview: Capacity Manager".

Consolidation efforts won't reach success without a keen understanding of what resources are needed to sustain services to the business. And virtualization introduces more complexity to an environment and requires resources be closely watched to prevent what could be a cost-efficient technology from becoming the opposite. Even with the advantage of provisioning virtual resources quickly, performance problems can still crop up if capacity is properly planned and managed.

"Computing has always been a coordination of variables, bandwidth and performance characteristics, which continuously needs to be monitored and analyzed to avoid bottlenecks," the report reads.

Forrester advises companies appoint a person to oversee capacity management across various departments within IT. The individual in this role would also be expected to work closely with the business to map out resources based on need. Capacity managers must know the current requirements and forecast future demands of IT and the business. They must keep the plan updated and alter it as conditions change, Forrester says.

"The only way for capacity management to function effectively is to put a person in charge of that function, measure the progress and allow the function to integrate with the recipients or providers of capacity data," Forrester advises. "The capacity management needs coordination, correlation and mindful ownership to ensure that the business is not caught in a situation where inadequate capacity planning is to blame for an outage or disaster."

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