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Today’s increasingly intense focus on customer experience makes unplanned activity even more commonplace for IT

What Can John Lennon Teach Us About DevOps?

"Life," according to a saying often attributed to John Lennon, "is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

Nowhere is this truer than in IT - especially in the world of ops. Operations staffs spend much of their time firefighting infrastructure emergencies. These unplanned activities drive up costs and keep IT from focusing on the support of new projects that have strategic value to the business.

And, according to numbers from IDC and others, things are getting worse - not better. IT's server firefighting costs have multiplied by 8-10x over the past 20 years, while spending on servers themselves has remained flat. So IT leaders have to more aggressively confront the issue of unplanned activities if they're going to survive the coming application onslaught.

Customer Experience Exacerbates the Unplanned Activity Syndrome
Today's increasingly intense focus on customer experience makes unplanned activity even more commonplace for IT. Why? Simple. When your applications were primarily inward-facing, you only had to worry about problems that jeopardized availability. When your applications are customer-facing - and as customer tolerance for application latency approaches zero - you have to scramble into problem-solving mode any time there is even the slightest degradation in app performance.

This will be a major problem for IT ops teams going forward. Customer experience sets off more alarms and makes it more critical to solve those problems quickly, because revenue and relationships are on the line.

So, yes, great customer experiences are essential for business success in the app economy. But the cost of attaining those great experiences is non-trivial. IT leaders must reduce those costs if their companies are to successfully compete in today's increasingly experience-centric markets.

So Does New-Plus-Old Infrastructure
The present morphing of enterprise infrastructure is also driving even higher levels of unplanned activity. Sure, cloud-based software-defined everything is great for reducing capex by creating environments that are much more adaptable to shifts in workload demand. But their fluidity and added layers of abstraction make them harder to troubleshoot. Just ask anyone who has done server virtualization. Their infrastructure can support more workloads with less capex. Some of that ROI, however, is always offset by management and firefighting.

The problem is compounded when next-gen infrastructure has to co-exist with older technology, as is often the case with companies whose transactional systems of record run on legacy systems. In these environments, technology debt adds to the complexity of troubleshooting - as well as to the diversity of skills that have to be brought to bear on any fire drill.

IT leaders that want their companies to thrive and survive in an increasingly app-centric economy must thus not only think about how their infrastructure can consistently and reliably deliver the best app performance. They also have to get strategic about minimizing unplanned activities in support of that infrastructure. Otherwise, life as Lennon defined it will drive up costs while undermining success.

And that's something none of us want to Imagine.

More Stories By John Smith

John Smith is the General Manager of the Infrastructure Management business at CA Technologies, responsible for managing the company’s broad portfolio of systems and network management offerings. He has extensive experience in IT management software combined with broad knowledge of both large scale systems and new business models and a proven track record of delivering innovation to market.

Prior to joining CA Technologies, John led product development at Nimsoft where he was responsible for product management, product marketing, architecture, engineering, support and Nimsoft on Demand operations. Earlier, he spent several years at HP as a member of the team that established the OpenView business and was instrumental in streamlining the product delivery lifecycle and bringing new products to market.

At Agilent Technologies, a spinoff from HP, he founded and was co-GM of the company’s internet service management business. He also founded Indicative Software, a leader in business service management. John studied computer science at Colorado State University, where he also received a Master of Business Administration degree. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and five-year-old daughter, skiing, golfing, hiking and traveling.

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