IT Management

You can benefit from a review of your hardware inventory. Often, you can solve problems by reconfiguring what you already have, sometimes in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. Some CIOs plan to consolidate data centers to reduce costs. However, there can be significant advantages from other types of integration as well as from its opposite, isolation. I will list pros and cons of integration and isolation and describe how to analyze your own configuration from a non-conventional point of view. You might want to ask your sharpest managers to take part in the analysis with you.

Once a year, it makes sense to list and review all your hardware platforms (that is, each mainframe Central Processor Complex [CPC], distributed server, outsourcer, or cloud configuration). For each platform, list the two or three major problems it causes you. These might include cost, user satisfaction, extremely high or low utilization, administration and maintenance, staffing difficulties, reliability, environmental issues, number of problem incidents, or other irritations.

You might also have available for each platform its location, the applications that execute on it, a summary of its security, its utilization (for example, percent CPU busy), the other platforms it communicates with, and the networks it connects to (TCP/IP intranets, TCP/IP Internet connections, and SNA connections).

You can evaluate this information in the light of the two or three top problems and also in the light of two opposing concepts: integration and isolation. You might, for example, integrate several distributed servers into a blade server with savings in hardware, administrative overhead, and environmental costs.

You might isolate the database server, which houses the customer master file and credit card information in order to protect them from hacking attempts over the Internet. You can isolate the server physically by removing all other applications from it and putting it in a separate room. You can isolate it logically by, for example, inserting a well-configured firewall between it and the complexes that communicate with it.

Don’t forget that sometimes the best solution is to eliminate something rather than try to fix it. When you see the results of some possible reconfigurations, you may find that you can eliminate hardware, software, staff, or even applications.

Advantages of integration can include hardware cost savings from load balancing, fewer peripheral devices, reduced administrative and operations costs, environmental savings, centralized security and control, lower software fees, increased reliability, and single sign-on.

Disadvantages of integration can include increased reliance on a single point of failure.

The chief advantage of isolation is that it’s the simplest form of security.

Disadvantages of isolation can include single point of failure and the extra cost of dedicated hardware and the administrative overhead of managing the firewall.

If once a year you re-examine your hardware from this different perspective, you’re likely to discover several reconfigurations that solve major problems for you. Examples of what others have done include integrating Linux servers into VM virtual machines; integrating TCP/IP networks and cross-training the mainframe and distributed network technicians; and integrating mainframe and distributed administrative staff.

Examples based on isolation include moving unrelated CICS applications to separate regions (to prevent them from interfering with each other in the same address space); separating test from production by moving them to separate LPARs; protecting an essential application by moving it to a server with no connection to the Internet; and using VTAM and the security software to isolate the Accounts Payable (AP) terminals so AP staff can do their jobs only in the AP department behind a locked door.

You will likely discover other ways to re-configure your hardware if you take the time to look at it in the light of these concepts and your biggest problems. Let me know what you come up with.

Future columns will discuss similar management information regarding your network inventory.