NASA’s Mission Control Center (MCC) manages very sophisticated technology, extreme remote connections, extensive automation, and intricate analytics – in other words, the most complex world imaginable. A staff of flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center, manages all aspects of aerospace vehicle flights. Controllers and other support personnel monitor all missions using telemetry, and send commands to the vehicle using ground stations. Managed systems include attitude control and dynamics, power, propulsion, thermal, orbital operations and many other subsystems. They do an amazing job managing the complexity with their command and control center. Of course, we all know how it paid off with the rescue of Apollo 13. For sure all astronauts appreciate the high service quality MCC provides.
The description of what they do sounds a bit like the world of IT management. While maybe not quite operating at the extreme levels of NASA’s command center, today’s IT managers are working to deliver ever higher service quality amid an increasingly complex world. Managing cloud, mobility, and big data combined with the already complex world of virtualization, shared infrastructure and existing applications, makes meeting service level expectations challenging to say the least. And adding people is usually not an option; these challenges need to be overcome with existing IT staff.
As is true at NASA, a centralized IT command center, properly equipped, can be a game changer. Central command doesn’t mean that every piece of equipment and every IT person must be in one location, but it does mean that every IT manager have the tools, visibility and information they need to maximize service quality and achieve the highest level of efficiency. To achieve this, here are a few key concepts that should be part of everyone’s central command approach:
Complete coverage: The IT command center needs to cover the new areas of cloud (including IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), mobility (including BYOD), and big data, while also managing the legacy infrastructure (compute, network, storage, and clients) and applications. Business services are now being delivered with a combination of these elements, and IT managers must see and manage it all.
True integration: IT managers must be able to elegantly move between the above coverage areas and service life-cycle functions, including discovery, provisioning, operations, security, automation, and optimization. A command center dashboard with easy access, combined with true SSO (Single Sign-On) and data level integration, allows IT managers to quickly resolve issues and make informed decisions.
Correlation and root cause: The ability to make sense of a large amount of alerts and management information is mandatory. IT managers need to know of any service degradation in real-time before a service outage occurs together with the root cause. Mission critical business services are most often based on IT services, so service uptime needs to meet the needs of the business.
Automation: As the world of IT becomes more and more complex, it is impossible to achieve required service levels and efficiency when repetitive, manual, error-prone tasks are still part of the process. IT managers need to automate everything that can be automated! From software deployment and patch management to client provisioning and clean-up, automation is the key to higher service quality and substantial improvement in IT efficiency.
In addition to these requirements for central command, cloud-based IT management is now a very real option. With the growing complexity of cloud, mobility, and big data, along with the ever increasing pace of change, building one’s own command center is becoming more challenging. IT management in the cloud may be the right choice, especially for MSPs and mid-sized enterprises which do not have the resources to continually maintain and update their own IT management environment. Letting the IT management cloud provider keep up with the complexity and changes, while the IT operations team focuses on delivering high service quality, can drive down TCO, improve efficiency, and increase service levels.
Author: Tom Hayes