IT's Usability Problem
Just as expertise in capacity planning starts to disappear, the field of IT itself is becoming too complex to be usable. Professionals need top-to-bottom tools that simplify the universe of IT.
IT experts love to talk about themselves as a vanishing breed, the last members of a group who, by pulling systems apart and tinkering with them, understand IT systems inside and out.
While expertise in capacity planning is, indeed, disappearing, IT itself is undergoing a radical transformation, altering the ways and means of capacity management. Traditional tools and methodologies are fast becoming ineffective at dealing with the vast complexity of today’s IT systems. It may be that there isn’t a shortage of expertise, but rather, a surplus of the wrong kind.
This is IT’s usability problem: it’s become too complicated for professionals to manage and understand. In order to effectively tackle problems on a massive scale, IT professionals need new tools that simplify IT’s universe. Whereas IT’s vanishing breed tackled the whole of IT at once, a new generation must divide and conquer to be successful.
Let’s take a quick look at how we got to where we are today. It’s not hard to remember a time when the IT market centered around data centers (it still does, technically), filled with, say, five massive, mid-range servers. Five is a nice, palatable number.
But soon, those five servers multiplied into dozens. Easier to upgrade and acquire than the big machines, smaller servers were adopted at an accelerating pace. Before long, IT made the switch to client-server models, web-based servers, three-tier applications, and, finally, virtualization, requiring clusters of servers and data centers. Dozens became hundreds, and with today’s cloud and on-demand compute, hundreds are becoming thousands. And so on.
And that’s to say nothing of other variables bearing down on the problem, such as maintaining complex SLAs with businesses and consumers and integrating the many software components required for them to function.
Telecommunications companies require many hundreds or thousands of servers to operate. But that barely scratches the surface of the problem.
For millions of discrete customers, they have to solve massive capacity issues for billing and accounting, renewals, order management, procurement, and so on. That’s aside from maintaining actual Telco products, like connectivity, internet accessibility, and mobile services, as well as B2B services like hosting, which require hundreds of data centers in their own right.
It’s safe to say that the complexity of these systems, in aggregate, goes far beyond what any one human can comprehend on their own — even the savviest tech professional. And increasingly, these problems are cropping up outside TelCo, especially in places like financial services and the supply chain.
To make IT usable, today’s IT technician’s need a two-pronged solution:
Rather than check 2,000 servers, IT experts need a tool panel that condenses the aggregate system data into a few simple watch lists, in categories like health and risk. At a glance, they must be able to see which problems are mission critical, as well as which applications are dependent on fast response times or require low latency. They must also be able to translate that information into business terms for executives, enabling them to make proactive and sensible buying decisions.
That’s the impetus behind TeamQuest’s new Vityl software suite, which empowers IT professionals to easily grapple with dense systems, make sense of risk factors, and comfortably discuss tricky problems with management. In a sense, they allow traditional IT experts to make the same kinds of decisions they did in the past by backing up or challenging their intuitions with (now accessible) concrete data.
The usability problem is a familiar one for IT — just as new operating systems were developed to cope with new capabilities — and like in past iterations of the issue, it isn’t the people that fade away, it’s their outdated tools.