Calling all CIOs: would you like some software designed just for you?

Written By: Peter Williams
Published:
Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Who’d be a CIO? He
or she has to be a special type of person—who understands the technology used
by the business, what it can and cannot do, and
be able to give a technical lead to the Board—while also taking the flak from
the Board for IT not meeting their business needs.

CIOs need to turn
the business policies into IT reality if they can, something getting ever
harder to do with the growth of regulatory compliance and security concerns. IT
is always under the spotlight; costs are high and rising, while issues include
retention of IT staff with appropriate skills, retraining costs and salary
bills. Still, CIOs worth their salt will at least have their fingers on the
pulse of the IT infrastructure…won’t they? Well no.

Much of the IT
infrastructure management software available provides masses of information—but not actually the “step back” overall trend stuff that the CIO needs to let
him or her see the wood for the trees—to take wise actions and present
meaningfully to the Board.

So I found it very
refreshing to talk to BDNA (stands for Business DNA) last week. Here is a
company that has ploughed its own software furrow, focusing explicitly on the
sort of information the CIO is looking for.

BDNA’s Insight
software does not compete with the likes of IBM, CA and HP with their
mega-management solutions, and does little or nothing in real-time. Instead it
simply takes regular checks on the infrastructure assets to show what is happening
where—and enriches them for the CIO to be able to visualise and then explain
the IT situation in language and graphics that are meaningful to the corporate
business executives affected by what is happening.

Once you know what
the problems are—performance, energy costs, utilisation, gaps in business applications
and so on—then maybe you can address the real business needs. Yet the 24/7
real-time IT infrastructure world is often too involved in fire-fighting to
stop and deliver the appropriate answers.

At its heart,
Insight has an agentless discovery engine which will pick up operating systems,
databases, applications, layers and multiple protocols from the whole corporate
infrastructure. (This might be run, say, monthly or quarterly; not being
real-time it will typically use less than 0.1% of the bandwidth.) It will also
go on to run the results against its product catalogue to auto-add vendor
content automatically; so the first the CIO sees is when this has been done.

So, you may think:
“My IT infrastructure management software does real-time discovery of
everything as it changes; so why would I bother to repeat this process?” Here
are a few good reasons…

  • All these IT assets can be presented
    by business function to show the line managers what is happening.
  • They can, in true asset management
    style, be highlighted in business terms against what operating systems or
    applications are out of date, unlicensed, not being used but being paid
    for and so on. (Who knows, for instance, how many “free” downloads of
    Linux are in use—even in production systems, let alone why?)

As BDNA’s CEO Ray
Homan told me, “This answers the simple question of what are you using it [an application,
operating system etc.] for?” This information is often a rich seam for revenue
retrieval in things such as: deleting unused software, cancelling unnecessary
licenses and negotiating better licensing deals with vendors. Major IT
management systems providing lots of detailed information do not always provide
straightforward answers to simple questions like these.

  • Then,
    if this process is run, say, a week or month later, this builds up trend
    information, showing clearly at fixed points in time, what has changed, got
    worse or improved. It also provides some clear evidence for the CIO to take to
    the Board about the progress on requested actions the IT department—or maybe
    a department that is a heavy IT user—has made since the last check.

In ITIL v3 there
is a best practice recommendation that users should do a regular reconciliation
of their configuration management database (CMDB) using an external source. One reason is that the CMDBs the major vendors
provide and update in near real-time will typically “age adrift” of the true
over time. Vendors may deny this ever happens to their CMDB of course. OK, then run Insight against the CMDB as the
external check—and see what it throws up. The results might surprise—and
reveal more IT asset savings or improvements to be had.

This is hardly
rocket science. Yet it is a practical, commonsense approach. CIOs who use it
seem to love it—perhaps because it is the only show in town that really helps
them.