Uptime is a matter of perspective. Ask your average IT manager about the uptime of a particular application server,
and you might hear "Great, it was up 99.9992 percent last month." Then ask a call center manager about uptime. "It stinks. My people were staring at blank terminals for four hours last Thursday.
That's $150,000 in lost sales."
Why the disparity?
It's simple. When many IT organizations say "uptime," they mean that the hardware was running. When a line of business says "uptime," it's really looking at utilization and availability. The server can be fine, but if the T3 pipe back to headquarters is down, the call center is offline.
How can you manage invisible assets?
We do a good job tracking our data assets –- host computers, servers, desktops and laptops. That's probably because they are what we can "see" through the keyhole provided by typical asset management tools. What causes frustration and hair loss is our blind side, the infrastructure we can't see -- voice assets, network assets, the cable plant and software. In a Fortune 500 company, that could be tens of thousands of potential failure points in networks alone.
Stop muddling and start modeling
You need data to do your job properly. That takes tools that capture all of the hard, soft and logical assets of the enterprise infrastructure, which includes the relationships among them. This data would allow you to judge each asset in its own framework. Once you can do that, you can deliver services against the reality of what's really out there.
For instance, suppose you can see that the server is running U rev. of software and is connected through V and X premises devices and know that Y bandwidth and Z% redundancy is available. With this knowledge, you could model your hypothetical channel between headquarters and the call center. You could anticipate failures and model your response to them.
Making dollars and sense
By better understanding your assets, you create the opportunity to add value to your company by reducing operational costs and maximizing support for revenue streams. Your trouble systems can be set up to run diagnostics based on asset profiles automatically, before a human even sees a trouble ticket. Your system could also kick off a predetermined, coordinated response by service techs and vendors who have access to pre-stocked critical spares. By shortening repair times and having pre-assigned workarounds in your back pocket, e.g., sharing prioritized bandwidth on another broadband line, you could minimize the impact of outages.
I know I'm preaching to the choir here. However, chances are you've had to back away from doing anything about it because of the complexity of bootstrapping such a solution without a total view of the assets in your infrastructure. What you need to know now is that new tools are available that deliver on the vision I've described. I encourage you to take another look at the asset configuration solutions out in the marketplace.
Your lines of business -- and your CFO -- will thank you.
Greg Lenox, an expert in the processes, methods and practices of IT operations for customer support, help desk, asset management, inventory management, telecommunications management and change management, is president and CEO of Entuition Inc., a maker of operations management solutions in the infrastructure logistics marketplace. At Entuition and in previous positions, he led several major re-engineering projects. His clients included SunTrust Banks, Citibank, Target, GlaxoSmithKline, Baxter Healthcare, Nations Bank, Wachovia Bank, First Union Bank, BB&T, CCNB, CNA Insurance and others.