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Change control minimizes outages

By Jay Vaishnav, special to Network World
September 15, 2006 01:37 PM ET
This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Network World - For many IT organizations, firefighting is a way of life to ensure service availability. This is because availability is constantly threatened by changes to the infrastructure that don't conform to IT service management processes and policies.

Change control software links IT service management systems and processes with the infrastructure by providing real-time change tracking, validation of change activity against change tickets, and automated enforcement of change policies. By using change control technology to close the change gap, organizations can increase the availability of IT services, enable the successful implementation of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) projects and reduce the cost of compliance initiatives with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The people problem

Research has shown that as much as 80% of system unavailability is caused by incorrectly applied change. This includes changes made at unauthorized times or without approved change tickets, and can also include approved changes that are not properly executed.

Current change management processes designed to manage service availability rely heavily on people carefully following policy using manual methods, and are carried out with a limited understanding of the nature of change within the infrastructure. These processes cannot ensure that changes are applied correctly, as they would be if collection of data from the infrastructure and the application of control to the infrastructure were sufficiently automated. Changes often are applied incorrectly, resulting in costly service outages.

Change control delivers, integrates and automates the following capabilities:

•  Gaining real-time visibility into change.

•  Linking actual infrastructure changes to change management processes and systems.

•  Automating change policy enforcement.

IT organizations have typically used scan-based technology to troubleshoot service availability problems, running periodic system scans to analyze differences that might have caused an outage. Performance and operational overhead limit the frequency of scanning, resulting in an out-of-date view of the infrastructure.

Today, change control technology provides complete, up-to-the-moment information about changes to the infrastructure. As users implement changes to the infrastructure, change control software collects information in real time about what changes are being made, when changes are made, how they are made and by whom. This information is then sent to a central repository where an administrator can securely access the information to determine actual change behavior and quickly search for forensic information to resolve service interruptions.

Once changes are tracked and understood, change control software categorizes the information to determine how actual changes deviate from the expected process. The completeness of the change data collected, combined with the fact that it is collected continuously and not in snapshots, enables highly accurate reconciliation with the change process.

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