IT Pains Evolving: Where’s Holmes & Watson?

M. Spanbauer
M. Spanbauer

Summary Bullets:

  • Intelligent embedded network agents and sophisticated software heuristics provide key insights into information and performance patterns for predictable data consumption, but interpreting these requires talent
  • Humans remain the most valuable troubleshooting tool in the IT arsenal

Having worked in infrastructure in the ‘90s and I’ve done my fair share of troubleshooting vampire taps, thick-LAN, and eventually thin LAN (and those finicky terminations) I can say we’ve come a long way.  Granted at its most basic we’re troubleshooting low voltage electrical wires in most wired infrastructure.  Sophisticated tools are embedded in many switching platforms now which can immediately detect a link loss in addition to whether it’s a damaged cable or connector, or alert correlation from multiple devices to pinpoint the exact location of a ‘noisy’ device polluting the network.  Advances such as these have increased efficiency, reduced trouble ticket resolution times, and freed up valuable resources to work on more complex challenges.  With wireless access becoming the norm for clients as more and more devices go solely mobile, tools have generally kept pace and network management systems have slowly grown more capable and feature rich.  As cloud adoption rates increase and systems grow more diverse, the tools are likely to suffer a setback, though, with many disparate elements, both physical and virtual, contributing to a single application connection. Troubleshooting these will once again require a significant amount of technician involvement to determine root cause during an outage (and no, rebooting your client isn’t the answer, Mr. Helpdesk).  Physical and virtual agents must be deployed in order to collect statistics in real time and aggregate these bits into a collective perspective of the health of the network.  Whether this is done with one of the extensible “framework” NMS systems or via vendor element management systems does not matter, but at the heart of this is that enterprises need to embrace a more sophisticated management model than they have in the past.

In addition, talent management and retention is crucial to the success and growth of an enterprise IT function.  The ability to ascertain an issue rapidly, whether it be network, system, application, or something else, and then share that perspective with peers to resolve an issue collaboratively is what separates good from great today.  The cloud’s inherent complexity requires more cross discipline collaboration and exposure within the ranks of technicians and engineers in order to prepare for and deal with problems as they occur.  On-the-job training is how that gets done in IT, despite certificates on the wall or hours spent in courseware and books. Theoretical and academic knowledge only serves to give you basic tools. In the end, though, talent and insight may mean the difference of minutes vs. hours (or thousands vs. millions of dollars).


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