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IT asset management focus drives Toyota Motorsport

Based in Germany, Toyota Motorsport GmbH designs and manufactures cars that compete in Grand Prix races worldwide. Its production cycle typically lasts two to three weeks, and involves changing 10% and 15% of parts, as compared with about 3% for ordinary autos, according to Waldemar Klemm, senior manager of IT systems for the Toyota subsidiary. Add a tight budget, and there's little margin for error, both for production teams and the IT systems that support them.

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In 1999, the race car maker replaced its isolated IT systems and information silos with a consolidated, networked and virtualized infrastructure. Klemm's group then began looking for an asset management product that would "enable us to ensure we had enough but not oversized resources," he says.

In 2004, it went with Houston-based BMC Software Inc.'s IT infrastructure management platform, Business Service Management (BSM). The platform collects information about IT assets down to the physical level, and loads it into a configuration management database. The data can then be used to analyze and monitor relationships among hardware, software and business processes. IBM, CA Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Symantec Corp. are among the major vendors that offer similar platforms.

BSM has enabled Klemm's group to cut IT assets to the bone while ensuring that business processes and service demands are met, he says.

For example, the group was able to map Toyota Motorsport's entire SAP AG environment, including primary and backup servers, databases and network connections. The group then determined that it could significantly trim system redundancy, eliminating hot backup, without severely affecting business processes. This has saved the company about $450,000 (USD) a year in maintenance, contract and licensing costs, Klemm says. Furthermore, since installing BSM, the company has had no SAP downtime.

The IT staff has also been able to identify and eliminate underutilized and unused servers, cutting the number from 450 to 200. Even more impressive, the IT budget is a third less than it was in 2004, at a time when storage and other resources are growing, Klemm boasts. "And we've improved services at the same time." Total unexpected downtime was 35 minutes in 2007, as compared with 2003, when a critical email server was down for weeks, he adds.

Toyota Motorsport's businesses still use individual tools to track data center assets: "One for the mainframe, one for PCs, one for the network switches, and so on," says Patricia Adams, a research director at Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc.

However, more and more CIOs are discovering that the true value of asset management data "is realized when it's shared with other back-end systems, thereby providing a holistic view of how the environment is performing," Adams says.

In a survey of corporate IT executives conducted by Gartner last November, 36% of the 192 respondents reported that they had integrated their IT asset management (ITAM) systems with IT service desk applications.

Holistic approach to grunt work

Several trends are pointing CIOs toward IT infrastructure management. One is the growing tendency to treat the data center as a profit center. "You need to know who is using what, so you can charge them," Adams points out. Security and regulatory compliance concerns are also forcing IT to keep better track of resources. "Ghost" servers that sit in a corner, unused and unnoticed, are particularly vulnerable to break-ins.

The burgeoning green IT movement, combined with tight IT budgets, is putting pressure on IT departments to realize greater efficiencies in CPU utilization, power and cooling, Adams says.

All in all, "I'd say about 40% of the global organizations I speak with have good asset management process, policy and tools in place," she adds.

Many companies are looking to the IT Information Library, which provides best practices for IT infrastructure and service management. IT executives should be aware that ITAM "is about 80% policy and 20% tools," Adams warns. Change management policies, for example, are crucial: "You need to make sure the inventory database gets updated when someone adds a blade to a server."

Unfortunately, most firms have at least a few legacy systems that will not respond to queries from ITAM discovery tools. Someone still has to go around and manually scan those systems, says Steve Yellen, a vice president at data center management vendor Aperture Technologies Inc.

If you monitor and use services exactly as requested, you get an incredible level of stability.

Waldemar Klemm, senior manager of IT systems, Toyota Motorsport GmbH

Klemm estimates that Toyota Motorsport's inventory system automatically keeps track of 95% of resources. "But some devices connect to the network only randomly and have to be done manually."

Virtual machines (VM) can also be hard to track. "You might have one standard image and 10 instances of that virtualized operating system," Gartner's Adams says. "VMs come on- and offline very quickly, so it's hard to track them." ManageIQ Inc., Nimsoft Inc. and Embotics Corp. are among the vendors that specialize in managing virtual resources.

The long-term rewards of holistic ITAM are well worth the grunt work, according to Adams. "Once you know where everything is, asset management tools help you track the day-to-day IT lifecycle, what's being used, what's installed on what devices, and how much it's costing you."

Toyota Motorsport's Klemm agrees: "If you monitor and use services exactly as requested, you get an incredible level of stability; and if you know the consequences if something happens, which services and people are affected, you have flexibility in how you allocate resources."

Which is pretty much every CIO's dream.

Elizabeth Horwitt is a contributing writer based in Waban, Mass. Write to her at editor@searchcio.com.

This was first published in June 2008

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