Managing Application Complexities

by Hanil Manghani    Dec 13, 2005

CXOtoday hosted a thought leaders forum on 28th November, at the Park Hotel, its first event in chennai. The subject was “Managing Application Complexities”.

Ivor Soans, the Editor of CXOtoday, set the tone by saying that CXOtoday believes that by that the marriage of IT and strategy could enable a CIO to become a CEO. Also, he opined that IT is no longer just a business enabler; rather it is the business itself.

The first speaker was R. Vaitheeswaran, Practice Director - IT infrastructure services, TCS. He spoke on three main subjects:

* End user enlightenment
* Applications management - should CIOs opt for new applications or use existing applications?
* How could CIOs keep CEOs happy about the performance of the entire IT structure?

He held forth on challenges and issues faced by the CIO.

One was a heterogeneous environment. “Giants from different companies come up with different equipments, but we don’t have one single standardized hardware. Though open systems were the order of the day years ago, we do have heterogeneous equipments, but don’t know how to operate them,” he said.

Security wise, an issue was the integration of different software with existing firewall. Also on expenditure, he pointed out that CIO’s tend to buy a lot of hardware, and then use only 30% to 40% of their capacities.

Placing emphasis on performance analysis, he said, “If you do performance analysis with downloaded software, you can’t find the trending. Business impact analysis is important. If an enterprise faces a downtime of three or four hours, does the CEO find out he lost so much in rupees or dollars?”

He illustrated different methodologies of IT management. In the basic scenario, systems are purchased and installed, but when problems are identified and escalated, nobody can predict the downtime involved, or how it could be fixed.

The next scenario is a managed one, where products like MITG or Nagios are deployed for monitoring, which enables one to get pro active, in that these systems tell when something is down, though it doesn’t provide you the trending or performance.

The next stage is getting predictive - whenever there is problem, system recognizes and gives you solution.

One stage further goes from being predictive to adaptive. This is done by installing grid computing or utility computing so that the system can grab whatever it wants and execute it.

Finally, the autonomic stage - a term coined by IBM, meaning it does everything by itself, is dynamic and no longer a status quo and is adaptive. It will also cure itself, and the problem solves itself.

If such a system comes, said Vaitheeswaran, it would be nirvana for CTO, since all business processes and policies set by organizations will be delivered to full satisfaction of senior management,

Speaking about ESM, he said that a lot of due diligence was needed and there were different approaches to get into it. It could either be developed in-house, or point products purchased and integrated with existing products or thirdly, have strong integrated products for the top tier - which needed heavy investments to have implemented.

Next was the keynote, delivered by Mukund Mohan, Director - Products, Mercury. Mohan concentrated on three aspects - specific challenges, implementation concerns and delivery models and thirdly standards.

According to him, three challenges seen consistently by customers are:

* Measuring and managing service levels that matter to business as opposed to services that are just operational
* Managing change in configuration to measure the impact before and not after implementation
* Measuring from users viewpoint

Mohan stated that it was important to concentrate on the Mean Time To Resolution (MTTR), which is the time taken from the identification of the problem to its resolution.

On the subject of management critical applications he said, “Costs to maintenance for these, problem changes, incident management, availability and application management, choosing standards that are relevant to you are important, since there are multiple standards. One approach is to manage what really matters.”

This, he said could be accomplished by:

* Getting a perspective of your mission critical applications
* Getting a perspective of what the user goes through as opposed to systems
* Mapping what applications look like, so that reports of infrastructure spend to support them can be made

Finally, the evening was rounded off by T. Srinivasan, MD, Mercury India, who gave a profile of Mercury’s efforts in India.

Srinivasan informed that Mercury had made great strides in three arenas:

* Testing
* Application Management
* IT portfolio and Project Management - also called IT governance in Mercury parlance.

“CIOs are always under pressure and expected to do more with less. Businesses care only about outcomes - improve end user experience, faster time to market, time to business benefit, increased competitive advantage etc. Hence it is imperative as CIOs, to look at tools that will enable you to transform IT measurements into business outcomes, so as to deliver business outcomes from IT and not just IT for IT’s sake,” he said.

In order to enable the above, he stressed upon the importance of quality tools to serve as enablers.

He also elucidated on the importance of testing for function and performance before going live, saying that research has shown that products had to be rolled back because they had not been tested for performance. He cited Mercury’s offerings Quality Center and Performance Center for application delivery.

Srinivasan said that application management was about looking at performance postproduction, testing needed to be done pre and postproduction and the ability to share scripts pre and postproduction was the performance lifecycle

Finally, when asked what was the best stage to go in for a mercury involvement and pricing structure, he informed, “That can happen anytime and at various levels, even post implementation. Change happens all the time, and with each change one needs to ensure that quality process is adhered to. As for affordability, there was no bar, since we have users from medium to large enterprises, and are flexible in terms of pricing to get it done.”