As a technologist, it’s easy to focus on technology–-the servers, storage, networks and other hardware that make IT work. The problem that technologists face is that technology simply isn’t enough. The drive to manage an ever-increasing number of systems with fewer staff and tighter budgets has a point of diminishing returns.
Vendors tout tools like systems management and automation as vehicles to handle this burden, and it’s the right end game. But, unfortunately, it’s not enough by itself. Systems management, automation and other IT tools are just too complicated. Just consider how long it took your organization to select, deploy, configure and use that last software investment productively. It’s not uncommon for a software framework to take six to 12 months before an organization can use it productively. And even then, inevitable changes and reconfiguration (even patches and updates) can prove disruptive, leaving the IT organization vulnerable.
There are many innovations on the horizon for IT, but few innovations hold the promise of “people-centric software design.” IT management software designers need to take a page from other aspects of the mobile intelligent application industry and focus their efforts on context-sensitive computing. I’m not talking about a fancy new user interface. I mean software designers must rethink the way that they approach design and create a new generation of management tools with the high-level intelligence that can multiply an IT administrator’s efficiency.
We see this in the future of commercial applications. Take a picture of a gadget on a store shelf with your mobile phone, and quickly see the specs and reviews for that device, and then (based on your inquiries) receive coupons or links to other devices. There are countless other examples where application designers are developing software that makes decisions based on factors, like location, user activity patterns or search habits, and even gathers information from social media sources.
Consider an administrator responsible for 1,000 servers across three data centers. A new reporting application might look at the administrator’s location and present status information on the systems in the closest or current facility. That administrator might run performance analyses much of the time, so the new app might also present performance data on those local servers, identifying poor performers and suggesting potential fixes without being asked. Quick links to server manufacturers’ forums or social media outlets might then allow the administrator to share concerns or ask questions of the user community.
Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that IT administrators start managing their global server farm through Facebook. But, IT administrators must manage a spiraling amount of infrastructure using a greater diversity of devices. Software makers absolutely must re-imagine their IT management products in order to simplify it, make it smarter and allow busier administrators to handle more information using a greater array of mobile and tablet devices.