Saturday, August 8, 2015

Infrastructure Measurements

IT infrastructure measurements, if performed well, can provide clarity to IT and business leadership of the infrastructure resources supporting business applications. This type of transparency helps IT operations build credibility with business unit leaders; unfortunately in most organizations IT operations does not have meaningful measurements and they can't correlate the growing infrastructure expense to business outcomes.

In my previous role as an IT manager at a Fortune 250 company, I was responsible for helping to determine the budgeting of infrastructure resources that were going to be required the following year. In most instances, it was a guess, no better than blind folding me and asking me to hit the bull's eye on a dartboard. I decided to implement a standard, repeatable report that would show me growth trends of my virtual machines, host servers, and FTE to virtual machine ratio. After a few years, I was able to use this data to predict next years growth rate for budgeting and leverage the report to show staffing deficiencies.

Value from IT infrastructure measurements is gained by analyzing the data, reporting it to senior leadership, and taking actions to improve day-to-day operations.

When I joined VMware as a Technical Account Manager, I took these same dashboards and applied it to monthly IT infrastructure measurement reports that I produced for my customer. VMware TAMs have a tool called the VMware TAM Data Manager (TDM) that they use to gather information about a customers environment, and while not all customers allow TAMs to run the appliance, providing the data affords the TAM the opportunity provide a wealth of information.

I am going to walk you through a sample IT infrastructure measurements report that I created on a monthly basis. 

To start, I provide the growth rate for virtual machines. We can see that in December 2008 I had 400 virtual machines and over the past seven years I have increased to 4,173 virtual machines. A substantial amount of growth, this chart visually demonstrates to IT and business leadership the number of virtual machines in the environment supporting business applications.  

Our next chart shows monthly growth rates, we can see that in April we had a significant amount of virtual machines added to the environment to support a business project and for application migrations due to Windows 2003 Server end of life.

Next, we can look at the quarterly virtual machine growth trend. 

IT staffing ratios should be on every IT leaders mind. It is critical making certain you have the right amount of staff to maintain IT infrastructure, while leaving room for strategic projects. In my opinion, one item that always gets lost when managing IT operations, is the fact that even though virtual machines are easier and faster to deploy, Windows and Linux server guests still require the same amount of support.

Windows still needs to be patched, applications deployed, issues resolved, and proactive monitoring completed. As we notice below, we have had a steady FTE ratio of 8 infrastructure engineers supporting the environment, and over that period of time they went from supporting 51 virtual machines each to 522 virtual machines each.

When you have this amount of growth and you don't adequately staff your operations team, you are in constant fire fighting mode, your team never has time to do preventive maintenance and monitoring. This becomes apparent to business users and customers as application performance is routinely slow or down; which makes them distrust ITs ability to meet business needs, never mind innovate.

Of course there are steps you can take to help increase FTE to VM ratio, that would include automation, proactive monitoring, and purchasing converged and hyper-converged platforms to simplify deployments.

I would sum up this information on a single slide.

With all that information in hand, I could then look at yearly growth trend percentages and predict next years growth rate and FTE ratio. My year-over-year growth rate is 19%, the projected server amount for Q1 2016 at the current trend is 4,693, with an FTE ratio of 587 virtual machines being supported per IT infrastructure engineer.

This type of information is invaluable to IT leadership. If you are with the VMware TAM Program, this type of reporting can be provided if you allow the TAM to run the VMware TAM Data Manager (TDM).

I want wrap up the post with a few more items I created with the infrastructure measurements data for the Deputy CIO, in the slide below I combined all the elements above into a single slide showing the 47% virtual machine growth rate from 2013 to 2014, demonstrating the various growth rate periods, and showing that the FTE ratio over that period of time stayed flat. It was a very powerful slide that was presented to the senior business leaders.  

I also created the following two slides demonstrating the savings in licensing and power with virtualization.

The value of measurements is derived from routinely benchmarking growth, providing visibility of this information to leadership, and helping to be more prescriptive about infrastructure budgeting.
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