Businesses demand flexible computing power in the 21st century. IT managers must implement new systems and advance existing hardware and software that provide a manageable, secure, and scalable framework for their companies. Further, they need to develop a framework that they can change easily and quickly. Vendors are now developing framework management software designed to give IT managers an edge in the battle to stay ahead of the curve.
Obviously, the nature of supporting corporate systems changed. IT managers used to carefully plan each upgrade. Now they need to anticipate future applications that will keep their companies competitive. That does not mean that they no longer need to provide careful needs assessment and to develop solid convergence and upgrade policies. Rather, IT companies require the same careful planning in less time.
This comes at a time where the cost of supporting each workstation continues to climb. The cost of networking, workstations, and applications software is dropping, but each change requires people to support the systems, install the software and upgrades to existing software, and configure the network. Users complicate the task as they introduce applications that the company may not support. In essence, this creates a custom workstation for each workstation, introducing potential conflicts to the overall network, and it makes the job of supporting workers more difficult.
It is time for IT managers to take more control, and a few software vendors are addressing the task of managing the framework. Generally, these products are integrated suites of software that provide a selection of services, including inventory management, compliance verification, application software monitoring, automated software distribution, remote management access, and diagnostics.
- Inventory Management -- Maintaining an accurate inventory of hardware and software represents one of the most challenging tasks in managing an infrastructure. IT managers know that a manual inventory becomes inaccurate before they can complete it. Framework management packages can automatically survey the network, identify the attached devices, and determine what software exists on each workstation. This capability can save time and money by helping the IT manager track workstation upgrades and the addition of unauthorized applications.
- Compliance Verification -- Using a framework manager, IT departments can flag any hardware or software installation that falls outside of the company's standards. This allows the IT manager to prevent the introduction of devices and software that may conflict with the existing framework. Without compliance verification, users can add software that creates a conflict with existing software, and the IT department must assign scarce resources to troubleshoot the problem.
- Application Monitoring -- Some framework managers allow IT managers to assess how well he software and network operates. Initially, this allows managers to determine if there are conflicts or bottlenecks and allows the IT department to anticipate problems with the network. In turn, this permits proactive planning and delivers better service to the users.
- Automated Software Distribution -- Maintaining workstation software is a time-consuming task. IT departments need everyone in an organization to run consistent software versions. However, the cost and time it takes to upgrade every workstation frequently precludes those activities. With automated software distribution, IT managers can install and configure applications from a central point. Depending on the framework management application, these installations can be scheduled and run automatically while the server and the workstation are unattended. In addition, some vendors offer rules-based installation routines that provide more flexibility and automation.
- Remote Management Access -- Managers require the ability to work with framework management software from multiple sites. Limiting access to a local terminal diminishes the software's usability. Remote access allows managers to connect to the framework management software from outside of the network. Once connected, the manager can configure systems and troubleshoot problems.
- Diagnostics -- As framework management software collects performance data for workstations and servers, it can build a history. Anything that differs from that history may indicate a pending problem. If the management software can flag those differences, IT managers can prevent errors and keep the network working efficiently. This type of feature also helps IT managers plan for future expansion.
Keeping the Data
Reporting and user interfaces remain important functions. Software can perform flawlessly, but if it is not easy to use, it will not provide full benefits. Similarly, weak reporting that does not allow managers to customize output and manipulate data limits the application's usefulness. IT managers need to ascertain how robust the reporting is, and they should be comfortable with the interface.
In addition, IT managers must verify the security features in any framework management product. These products collect important information about the company's network and its workstations. They also provide a direct route to each workstation on the network. Managers need to protect the application from intruders and guard the data the application generates.
Know the Vendor
Networks will continue to expand, and IT managers will have less time to adapt to new business demands. Framework management systems can help, but managers should require the system to support a broad range of computing platforms. The framework management system also must be scalable to support additional functions and network additions. Therefore, the vendor's ability to deliver quality packages and update those products in a timely, responsive manner becomes critical. Running a network is hard work already. No one wants to convert to a new framework management system each time the network changes. That would only add to problems and obscure the benefits of framework management.