Holistic Enterprise IT Management: A Pipe Dream?

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Can holistic IT management of the enterprise be achieved? This question came to mind during the keynote address that Rupert Brown, principal architect at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, delivered at the North American Trading Architecture Summit this week.

What I took away from the conference is that it is physically possible monitor and manage enterprise infrastructure from the network up to the application level, but the human element seems to be the sticking point.

The old saying that “perfect is the enemy of good enough” comes to mind. Right now banks are still making profits with their current infrastructure that is good enough. It is easy for each siloed business unit to optimize its specific performance, but orchestrating and optimizing across the enterprise is difficult to accomplish.

The first challenge is knowing what the enterprise looks like. There are tools that will auto-discover network and server infrastructure, but when it comes to applications and how they interact with one another, it's a mystery. How many firms are needlessly duplicating databases and data feeds simply because they are not aware of how different business units use the data?

One senior IT executive at the conference joked that his firm plans to give a summer intern a clipboard so that he can inventory all the applications and how they interact. It might have been a flippant answer, but judging by the audience laughter, it seems to ring true for many firms.

Considering the ever-growing and changing nature of enterprise infrastructure, creating a realistic map of it would be a long and expensive project with a delayed return on investment (ROI) for most firms.

However, there is hope. New regulations, such as the change in the reporting standards from the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA), forced firms to address their data handling and management issues. Then there are the technological issues. When firms were preparing for Y2K, they needed to take complete inventory of their applications. But since then there hasn't been a crushing need.

The next industry-technical issue that will give firms a chance to inventory their infrastructures will be the movement from version 4 to version 6 of the IP networking protocol. I'm sure, however, that they will deploy some sort of workaround and delay the migration as long as humanly possible.

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