In the previous chapter, I proposed that one of the biggest problems in modern IT is the fact that we manage our environment in technology-specific silos: database administrators are in charge of databases, Windows admins are in charge of their machines, VMware admins run the virtualization infrastructure, and so forth. I’m not actually proposing that we change that exact practice-having domain-specific experts on the team is definitely a benefit. However, having these domain-specific experts each using their own unique, domain-specific tool definitely creates problems. In this chapter, we’ll explore some of those problems, and see what we can do to solve them and create a more efficient, unified IT environment.
Too Many Tools Means Too Few Solutions
“Comparing apples to oranges” is an apt phrase when it comes to how we manage performance, troubleshooting, and other core processes in IT. Tell an Exchange Server administrator that there’s a performance problem with the messaging system, and he’ll likely jump right into Windows’ Performance Monitor, perhaps with a pre-created counter set that focuses on disk throughput, processor utilization, RPC request count, and so forth.
If the Exchange administrator can’t find anything wrong with the server, he might pass the problem over to someone else. Perhaps it will be the Active Directory administrator because Active Directory plays such a crucial role in Exchange’s operation and performance. Out comes the Active Directory administrator’s favorite performance tool. This is truly a domain-specific tool, with special displays and measurements that relate specifically to Active Directory.
If Active Directory looks fine, then the problem might be passed over to the network infrastructure specialist. Out comes another tool, this one designed to look at the performance of the organization’s routers.
Combined, all of these tools have led these three specialists to the same decision: Everything’s working fine. In spite of the fact that Exchange is clearly, from the users’ point of view, not working fine, there’s no evidence that points to a problem.
Simply put, this is a “too many tools, too few answers” problem. In today’s complex IT environments, performance-along with other characteristics like availability and scalability-are the result of many components interacting with each other and working together. You can’t manage IT by simply looking at one component; you have to look at entire systems of interacting, interdependent components.
Our reliance on domain-specific tools holds us back from finding the answers to our IT problems. That reliance also holds us back when it comes time to grow the environment, manage service level agreements (SLAs), and other core tasks. I’ve actually seen instances where domain-specific tools acted almost as blinders, preventing an expert who should have been able to solve a problem, or at least identify it, from doing so as quickly as he or she might have done.
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Tags: IT silos