What Brexit teaches us about IT infrastructure
Author — Marcel den Hartog
In my daughter’s final year at university, she wrote a thesis on how well prepared small and mid-sized companies were for big changes. For me, it was no surprise that she found very few of them actually had strategies that would help them cope with significant change. And I have no doubt that many larger enterprises are, to this day, similarly unprepared.
Having said that, how do you prepare for the truly unexpected? It seems like very few people actually believed a majority of Brits would vote to leave the EU in the recent “Brexit” referendum. Consequently, the British government and people now appear rather uncertain about what is going to happen next.
I have personally experienced this kind of unexpected change at a number of companies and have learned a lot from witnessing the effect it has had on IT departments.
Design IT infrastructure for change from day one
Early in my career, I worked for a small airline in the Netherlands. Its fleet was 100% McDonnel Douglas models and all our IT systems reflected this. When management decided to buy three Boeing 747s, we had to change almost 60% of our applications so they’d be flexible enough to support aircrafts from two different vendors. I can still feel the panic!
I learned that any big change will add complexity to an IT environment. So, the simpler and more unified that environment is today, the easier it will be to add the new technology that every major change will require. Because once change starts happening, it’s extremely challenging to simplify and unify IT infrastructure.
At the airline, so many new technologies had to be added in such a short timeframe that we never really found the time to simplify and unify. And many of the new technologies we had to adopt came with their own isolated management and monitoring tools, which contributed to an ever-more complex environment.
The only way to really prepare for the unexpected is to build maximum flexibility into your infrastructure―from the ground up! This means infrastructure built on solutions that support a variety of hardware platforms, databases and applications while offering as much out-of-the-box integration as possible.
Implement analytics for automated monitoring
Even after a unified infrastructure of this kind has adapted to some big changes, it will still need to be continuously monitored in order to detect and counter the effects of any further unexpected changes that might affect it, from inside or outside the organization. And this is an inherently complex task.
Every transaction touches many components, every “touch” generates many events and all these events must be monitored to ensure IT is notified when things go wrong. IT departments are finding it humanly impossible to monitor, correlate and automate responses to all the possible outcomes of these events. Which is where analytics come to the rescue.
Implementing analytics without a unified Infrastructure is like herding cats. But in a unified infrastructure, analytics tools can now be used to automatically discover anomalies, dependencies and correlations before adjusting systems to prevent the nightmare scenario of slow performing applications, unhappy customers and lost business.
By the very nature of unexpected change, there’s no way you could be 100% prepared. But a well-implemented, unified monitoring and management solution will help lay the foundation of an adaptive IT infrastructure. And the right analytics technology will spot problems and take corrective actions much faster than any human ever could.
So, while there’s no silver bullet for any change as big and unexpected as a Brexit, IT pros should know that the right approach to infrastructure could make all the difference.
Originally published at blogs.ca.com on September 1, 2016.