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Top 5 network management investments

IT managers under pressure to automate more tasks

By , Network World
August 23, 2010 06:03 AM ET

Network World - The proliferation of virtualization technologies is putting pressure on IT teams to start automating more processes. With little room in the budget for new products, it's critical that companies prioritize their investments.

The march toward greater automation in IT environments has been underway for some time, but virtualization is quickening the pace. Adoption of virtualization technologies is creating unprecedented complexity not only for systems administrators responsible for the infrastructure, but also for network professionals.

Why IT operations teams need automation technology now

"Virtualization creates new sources and destinations for traffic in a moment's notice," says Jim Frey, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. "Network managers in the past didn't have to worry about that rate of change. It's a much more dynamic environment."

To keep up with all the changes, IT teams need to be more rigorous about adopting standard processes, and they need management software to make sure the processes are executed consistently and automatically. But with little room in the budget for new products, it's critical that companies prioritize their investments.

"With tight budgets, we knew weren't going to get more staff, so we had to find a way to make our current technicians more efficient, make better use of their time and take away the drudge work from them," says Rick Harrison, MIS director for the city of Columbia, Tenn. The city chose the KBox appliance from KACE (now owned by Dell) to automate software distribution, configuration management and help desk functions. It's saving thousands of IT man-hours annually, Harrison says.

For companies looking to gain management efficiencies, here are five ideas for how to best allocate your time and resources.

1. Consolidate management tools across the enterprise

"Most companies have a lot of redundant tools. They've got to refine that portfolio of tools and get rid of overlapping tools," says Glenn O'Donnell, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

While companies will always need tools targeted at specific IT domains, in the bigger picture it's important to manage the broader IT services rather than specific technology silos. "Consolidating tools offers many benefits, including real tool integration, better service perspective, quicker incident resolution and higher service reliability," O'Donnell says.

Plus, there's buying leverage to be gained if IT groups can collaborate and agree on a single tool that satisfies multiple needs -- a log analysis tool for network, systems and applications teams, for instance. "Build your own social network at work, meet with your peers in other spaces," says Jasmine Noel, founding partner at Ptak, Noel & Associates. "It's more effective if you come together, figure out the features you each need, and see if you can get it from one tool."

Oracle just went through an ambitious project to retire piecemeal network monitoring and management tools in favor of a single, consolidated system from Monolith Software for tasks including syslog management, network fault and availability monitoring, and performance management.

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