Infrastructure Services are definitely undergoing a major transformation. How does one navigate the web of emerging technology trends and stay ahead of the game? Read on to learn more on our Infra Matters blog.

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March 28, 2012

What you (want to) 'Know' is what you (want to) see!

As experience always dictates and what typically people with grey hair always say - 'Knowledge is present everywhere. It is up to an individual to learn and understand.' But in today's world, knowledge is essential; knowledge is solution to an issue which in turn means that knowledge is customer satisfaction. The one who has more knowledge actually is better-placed to excel. It could be as simple as possessing a word document that everyone is searching for or as complex as understanding a concept that others are finding it difficult to grasp! To know more, read on. 

As much as availability of knowledge is a challenge, in an IT Organization, retaining available knowledge is a bigger challenge (what with attrition, recession and other such keywords). But retaining knowledge has a key pre-requisite, i.e. recognizing existing knowledge and consolidating it for reference across the organization. Seems a mouthful, eh? So let us break this up into clear steps:
 

Step 1: Recognizing availability of knowledge (internally as well as externally)
Step 2: Consolidating knowledge from all sources to be located centrally repository
Step 3: Identify areas where knowledge is not available
Follow Step 1 again

 

So what is the key take-away from the above procedure? Well, what it tries to say is that (a) knowledge management is a never-ending process and (b) knowledge is always available somewhere!
 

Perhaps that's the reason for the old adage - if you don't know the answer, you haven't looked enough!
 

The other key component of effective knowledge management within an ITSM Organization is to present knowledge in the right format to the right set of audience. This is primarily because knowledge is required everywhere but at varying depth at each level. Most often, data is available in the form of reports, but it takes a bit of thought to convert that into knowledge and it is this knowledge that drives decision-making.
 

Let us explore this statement a bit more: Consider the premise as knowledge about an application. While the CIO/Director would need information about the competitor landscape and strategic ties to decide whether to replace an application suite, the Service Delivery Manager would need information about the performance of the current application and its major pitfalls. The Level 2 and Level 3 support would need to know workarounds for major incidents and the helpdesk would need a list of issues that normally crop up for the application and the respective point of contact. So knowledge is required at all levels, it is the depth and focus that varies.
 

So now that we have an understanding on the key tenets of knowledge management and its importance in an organization, in my next blog, we will delve deeper into some ideas around how knowledge can be managed in current ITSM organizations across the world who have to deal with issues such as multiple vendors being introduced to support a portfolio of IT applications and infrastructure or a single vendor being introduced to manage tasks being performed by multiple vendors.

March 21, 2012

Is System z an unexploited platform for Cloud solutions..?

 

Having been in the Mainframe space for many years and having worked on one of the most scalable and secure computing environments, I was thinking - is System z missing the Cloud buzz?
The current platforms from IBM such as zBX and zEnterprise servers are able to support heterogeneous work loads of Mainframe, Unix, Java etc., have a seamless capability to upscale or downscale and are packed with ability to create new images without system down time. All this with unparalleled security of EAL5 level!
Given all of this, would System Z be a competitive platform for Cloud environment? What do you think..?

ITSMF Australia "Cloud Service Mgmt SIG" launched in Victoria

ITSMF Australia SIG on "Cloud Service Management" was successfully launched on 14th March at the Infosys Docklands office in Melbourne. We had a great group of around 25 participants gathered to share their experiences on cloud service management. Topics discussed were various cloud service models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, BPaaS!!), their impact on Service Management functions such as financial management, compliance issues and participants experiences of cloud services among others. What a session it was !

To note just a couple of interesting points that the group discussed ...

On configuration management - what CIs will CMDB capture for elements on Public Cloud Infrastructure? One way is to capture public cloud infrastructure elements as "Service CIs" in the CMDB with the relevant CI attributes. However, the challenge to discover and track them needs to be addressed. On the other hand - do the public cloud elements of infra / service really need to be captured into the CMDB, given that the resolution liability will be with the public cloud provider along with the SLAs. In which case, the only requirement would be to provide Cloud Service Reports for transparency and tracking.  
 

On roles - if in future all the services, applications and infrastructure will be on the cloud, then predominantly the roles of internal IT would be that of service integrators. Interesting thought ! One insightful experience quoted from an organisation was where specific service roles such as cloud service architect and cloud service packaging were defined for greater focus on initial private cloud capability building.
 

Potential topics for next SIG session noted were - Financial Management, Cloud Skills for Service Managers or Fundamentals of Cloud Technology for effective cloud service management. Keep watching the ITSMF Australia Events page for the exact date and topic for "Cloud Service Management" SIG.

March 13, 2012

Depleting IPv4 addresses: Is it time to start transitioning to IPv6? - part 2

In my previous post , I was discussing some of the probable solutions to tackle the IPv4 address depletion problem. In this blog, I would like to list down some of the most popular alternatives being adopted and try to arrive at a best fit.

a .Carrier Grade NAT (CGN): Traditionally enterprises have used NAT (Network Address Translation) as a mechanism to allow multiple internal "private" machines to share a unique public IP address.  This 'blankets' the enterprise network from the internet and provides a layer of security. The same concept is replicated in CGN on a larger scale, where the ISP assigns a single public IPv4 address to multiple clients, and the customers in turn share this address between the systems in their local network. Even though this might provide a temporary stop-gap solution, in the long term might not be scalable and result in increased levels of complexity and overhead in managing the networks.
b. Purchase additional IPv4 addresses: By the looks of it, this doesn't seem to be a very encouraging alternative.  The lack of IPv4 addresses has given rise to a vibrant market for trading addresses and efforts are on to put in place policies for legitimate address trading. The fallback is that, there is a possibility that organizations having more IP addresses than they need, can hoard the addresses. Again, this would only offset the crisis till a more viable long term solution is available.
c. Migrate to IPv6: During the early 1990's when it was realized that the IPv4 would eventually run out, work was started to develop a new version of the IP protocol and in 1998 IETF(Internet Engineering Task Force) came out with the first version of the new IPv6 protocol. An IPv6 address is 128-bit long and approximately 3.4 x 1038 addresses. To simplify understanding, we can do with an analogy. If we assume that total IPv6 address space is the size of the earth, two IPv4 addresses spaces would fit inside a single tennis ball! So this is literally a limitless supply of IP addresses.

Running through some of the parameters like capex, opex, scalability, flexibility, long term growth and extensibility, NAT (Network Address Translation) appears to be the least appealing, probably only scoring as far as capex is concerned. Evaluation of the second option - 'Purchase of additional IPv4 addresses' doesn't tip the scales on either side after taking the parameters into consideration. The only option which fits the bill now is the IPv6 Migration.

Since early IPv6 days, network equipment vendors had started work on incorporating support for IPv6 in their product suite. The major players continually released newer versions of their products with built-in IPv6 support. But the end users/enterprises were mostly unaware and complacent. Unless there is a compelling reason to shift, most of them would rather stick to easier alternatives. This is what has happened, and there is no real demand for IPv6. If the Equipment vendors are IPv6 compliant but the service providers/enterprises that deploy this equipment are not ready to migrate, it does not make sense at all. It would be like fighting for a lost cause unless there are collective efforts from all quarters. So it is pretty much like a vicious circle, with each waiting for the other to make the move, the IPv6 implementation taking a beating in the long run.

In the next blog, I would wish to explore more on the common IPv6 transition techniques and methodologies.

March 12, 2012

ITSMF Australia, Victoria Chapter, launching new Special Interest Group on "Cloud Service Management"

Cloud has started to become ubiquitous in the world of technology and none of the practitioner discussions or plans are complete without keep cloud technologies on the horizon. Till a few years back, Service Management professionals were busy in discussions on - how do they need to change their management methods in order to manage the cloud? Compare that with the present, where the cloud technology has matured such that it is being used as one of the critical vehicles to deliver service management.

 

With a view to enable experience sharing within the community and for service management professionals to take advantage of peer knowledge, ITSMF Australia Victoria Chapter is launching a Special Interest Group (SIG) on Cloud Service Management. The first SIG will be held on 14th March 2012 in the Infosys Docklands office at Melbourne, Australia. Topics of interest for discussion are quite open and some of topics to be discussed may be Service Management for Cloud, Impact of Cloud on Processes, Cloud use cases for efficiency and effectiveness, Skills and trainings for Cloud readiness, etc.

 

Join us at the launch of this "Cloud Service Management Special Interest Group", an open discussion moderated by me and my colleague Rishi Pattnaik. Visit the event page to register and find more details on the session.

March 1, 2012

Depleting IPv4 addresses: Is it time to start transitioning to IPv6? - part 1

The other day I was searching for something on the internet and just when I thought that I'd found what I was looking for, the website I opened threw a '404 -Page not found error'.
This got me thinking, what if you woke up one morning and tried to connect to the internet and you find that everything is down. I know this sounds extremely far-fetched, but there is no denying the fact that the internet is so closely intertwined with our daily lives that even small glitches/changes have the potential to snowball into major disruptions.

The Internet is not same as it was a decade ago or even a couple of years ago. It would've been hard to imagine in the days of the ARPANET, that the internet would grow into the giant mesh that it is today. In the last 5 to 10 years there has been a profusion of 'always on' internet enabled equipment requiring a public IP address. As the numbers of devices grow, so does the need for the 'limited' public IP (basically a protocol/language addresses for communication across networks) addresses.  Also the evolution of newer technologies like cloud computing, IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) is only going to drive the demand for IP address even more.
An IPv4 address is 32-bit long and so the total number of IPv4 addresses work out to be roughly around 4 billion addresses. Large as this number might seem to be, the address pool is now on the brink of exhaustion. Warning bells have already started ringing, with APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Center) which is the Regional Internet Registry (RIR)-(authority for distribution and allocation of IP addresses and AS (Autonomous Systems) numbers) already out of IPv4 addresses (which doled out the last address in April 2011). The rest of the RIRs are well on the path of exhaustion with conservative estimates pegging the final depletion of the address pool to occur within the next 1.5-2 years.

Just as back in the 90's when the Y2K bug was seen as the precursor to impending doom for IT systems all around the world, IPv4 address depletion/exhaustion is viewed as a crisis on similar line . But on the contrary, the similarity ends there.  IPv4 users will continue to browse the internet and perform all the functions but further scaling would be a real problem with the lack of additional IP addresses. As long as IPv4 is in use along with NAT(Network Address Translation) it would be smooth sailing all along until ISPs start forcing IPv6 adoption to continue normal functioning.
 

Organizations who are rapidly scaling up and expanding, users connecting via new IPv6 internet connections to unprepared online applications, government agencies making it mandatory for contract bidders to be IPv6 ready(U.S government already require Federal agencies to be IPv6 ready) are just some of the sample cases which highlight the urgency to look for alternatives to counter IPv4 depletion.


In the next blog, I would like to explore more on some of the options which can be considered as prospective solutions and do a comparative analysis to find the best fit.