Having been former athletes, my wife and I truly believed we were healthy and in great shape. We still average at least 6 or 7 hours per week running, cycling, playing soccer, teaching Zumba or TRX or lifting weights. We’ve worn heart rate monitoring straps for years to enhance performance but the chest-based straps were a pain (literally). So this year we invested in wrist-based heart rate activity bands. We still get fairly accurate HR tracking to quantify intensity. But we also gained additional features, including floors climbed, distance, sleep monitoring, etc. And we learned a few things in the process….things that required changes to our lifestyle.
The same can be said about protecting IT environments. Administrators generally have access to some details about system health, but often not all components at once, or in real time. And, much like personal health, what you don’t know CAN hurt you.
Think about it for a moment. I’ll bet your IT environment is not constructed of a single product from a single vendor. You probably have dozens or hundreds (maybe thousands!) of components and solutions from multiple vendors, and each product type has its own monitoring software. It’s virtually impossible to monitor each and every component in real time, let alone have visibility into all of them to understand overall status of the environment. If you’re not proactively monitoring your environment you’re already in trouble. Being reactive to issues is counterproductive and you’ll end up fighting fires every time a problem occurs. You simply can’t get an accurate picture of IT health this way!
So the question remains: what was the most important thing we learned with our HR activity bands? Simply that we weren’t getting enough sleep. Well, actually, we were getting enough QUANTITY. We made every attempt to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Rather, it was the QUALITY of sleep that was suffering. Out of the 7 hours of sleep per night, less than 1.5 hours of that was in a deep or REM sleep, which is the type of sleep vital to overall health, daytime alertness, muscle recovery, and much more. Sleep is your personal health protector, just like your IT infrastructure is the protector of your business data.
We had no idea. We figured once we fell asleep, we were getting good quality sleep all night unless we found ourselves tossing and turning. And as long as we made it through the following day without significant yawning we were good to go. Not so much.
Does this sound similar to how you’re monitoring, managing and protecting your IT environment? Assume all systems are “green” unless you manually check on yesterday’s processes and learn something broke? Or worse, you expected a pre-established protection policy to alert you if a backup process failed, but a later policy contradicted it, rendering it useless? It happens all too often.
The bottom line is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and a lack of insight can significantly affect us, whether it’s our personal health or our IT environment. Of course, we always have the option to blindly attempt to change any number of things in hope that something works. But we know that’s like trying to apply a Band-Aid to a bullet wound with our eyes closed.
Now that my wife and I understood the real issue, we’ve done some research on how to increase the probability of getting good quality sleep. We were able to make the appropriate adjustments and also attempted to increase our overall sleep time a bit. And even in the relatively short time since we started tracking our sleep and making these changes we’ve noticed improvements in athletic performance and energy levels.
The same goes for IT environments. You have RPO’s and RTO’s, service levels, and all sorts of performance goals to meet. The only way to achieve those objectives is to first gain visibility and insight into the entire environment, analyze what’s working and what’s not, and then make improvements with the ultimate goal of optimizing IT your operations.
“But where do I start?”
First thing to do is simplify. I’m not just talking about converged infrastructure here, though that’s not a bad place to start. Instead, consider simplifying the task of monitoring and managing your diverse IT environment. As I mentioned earlier, individual element managers won’t provide real-time views into the status of every aspect across the environment. There are many solutions to ensure your IT environment is protected, as well as tools which help keep IT environments healthy and optimized by streamlining the process of continuous monitoring, analysis, and management of IT operations.
Speaking of remaining healthy, Ochsner Health System truly knows how to deliver world-class healthcare despite business challenges associated with exponential data growth. As a healthcare organization, Ochsner was required to backup huge amounts of data, straining performance of production applications and exceeding backup windows. The impact was slow applications and user productivity. Sounds like a repeating theme. So Ochsner took a step back, looked at their IT environment as a whole, implemented a comprehensive and simplified solution and ultimately transformed their business. The icing on top was the ability to monitor and manage the entire backup and recovery infrastructure with a single solution.
So, go play doctor and make sure you know the pulse of your IT environment because you need to know.
As for me, I’m going to bed.