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Entries in Inventory Management (2)

Monday
Oct312011

Guest Post: Manage your Network like it’s being Monitored by Inventory Management Software

IT companies across the globe establish their networks with hopes that they will be able to manage them efficiently and without issues. However, most of the time, this isn’t the case. Managing IT networks can be a difficult, especially if the software that that’s being used to manage servers across your network is buggy and inefficient. IT professionals drool at the idea of having software similar to that of inventory management software in retail stores. But sustaining servers within multiple networks is much more complicated than track inventory in a retail store.

One of the first things that you can do to manage your network a little more efficiently is keep your management toolsets up to date. Often, networks will grow so rapidly that they exceed the capabilities of your current toolset. Furthermore, as your network continues to expand, you will need to scale efforts accordingly. This means analyzing the growth and determining what kind of efforts you need to execute. This could mean things like hiring more individuals, further educating your current staff, and gaining a better understanding of your virtual and physical networks. Lastly, I would be remiss in not mentioning that you need to assess the problem fully. More specifically, understand problems with accurate diagnostics and root-cause analysis.

Another way to increase network management efficiency is to automate network processes. Find ways to automate your network configurations, data tasks, and network compliance tasks. By automating your network, you save yourself a bunch of time and you also avoid a bunch of potential network errors. Some things that you should automate are simple tasks such as access and password changes, network information audits, log changes, and policy reporting for auditors. A few simple automated tasks can free up a lot more time for your network team to work on strategy and planning rather than maintenance.

Something that is regularly overlooked is the power of information. Disseminating information to your network specialists and support team can really help you ease many different issues that arise. And make sure that you’re communicating in-depth information to these departments. Giving a bare description of your network issues is inadequate. The more that these departments, specialists, and support teams know, the quicker the problem will be solved.

Margot McClelland is a guest post writer.  © 2011 Blog Content Guild

Monday
Feb212011

Inventory Management in Data Centers

We are seeing a large number of companies re-engaging in data center construction activities after the Great Recession of 2008-2010. After putting large expenditures on hold, companies are finding data center environmental constraints (power, cooling, and white space) are requiring infrastructure upgrades and/or relocations.

We are finding many companies would benefit from inventory management disciplines typically found in retail or manufacturing environments.


 

Many IT organizations have “lost control” of their inventories because of parochial approaches in departments managing the underlying information. In other words, they are suffering from an overwhelming amount of data!

In a retail or warehousing environment, every item (or Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)) is tracked closely in a master catalog, with annual physical inventory and/or cycle counting approaches used to maintain a key understanding. There is often one number universally used through the organization (sales, distribution, warehousing, manufacturing, design, sales administration, etc.). Each department can then use their own systems for understanding products. These approaches are well understood in the arguably more mature retail/warehousing environments.

Information Technology departments often suffer from a hubris preventing a shared perspective. Each department uses their own view…often with overlap, and not uniformity. Each department manages “their data”, often creating different indexing inhibiting sharing for the total organization’s good.

For example, an IT organization may use the following “keys” for storing their data:

Department

Key

Issue

Data Center

Server Name

Process breaks down if server upgrades use same name

Networking

IP Address

Does not uniquely identify a machine.

Server team

MAC Address

Not externally identifiable


 

Obviously this is a contrived example. In the real world, organizations use a combination of identifiers to uniquely track an environment. Unfortunately, these schemes often break down and, are not maintained, and often struggle to reflect a virtualized environment.

That said, how can we leverage this parochial view for a breakthrough in understanding.

What’s a company to do?

Many companies start down the path of an iron-clad asset management initiative. Often a czar of asset management is appointed, and new processes are introduced. Some companies even go so far as to place RFID tags on servers. As a place to start, Asset Management will make a marked improvement.

The real answer may be more subtle.

A configuration management data base (CMDB) is a repository of information related to all the components of an environment. The CMDB is a fundamental component of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework’s Configuration Management process.

One could argue CMDB is a fancy way of doing asset management. The key difference is CMDB repositories frequently involve federation, the inclusion of data into the CMDB from other sources, such as Asset Management, so the definitive source of the selected data retains accountability for the data.

In the retail/warehousing environment, the individual areas are responsible for their data and have “figured out a way” to share (federate) the data so the organization has a single shared view.

Our recommendation to companies beginning any data center process is spend the time “up front” understanding their data, and rationalizing into a system transcending the data center construction effort. Since a data center effort requires a solid inventory, enter into the discovery effort with an eye towards all the data needed…not to derail the migration effort, but to accelerate it during the move and beyond.

As a side benefit? You will find servers that can be repurposed or decommissioned…better leveraging the strategic IT investment with savings in complexity, license and maintenance costs, repairs, etc.