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July 18, 2014

Ten Tips for the App-Centric IT Pro

By TMCnet Special Guest
Michael Thompson, Director, Systems Management Business, SolarWinds

Today’s workers are increasingly – if not completely – reliant on applications to conduct business and perform their job. Whether applications are hosted on-premise or in the cloud, the pressure is on IT to deliver top app performance with little to no downtime, anywhere access and flexible architecture.

The ability to accomplish this is made significantly more difficult when the complexity of modern IT infrastructure is considered. According to a recent SolarWinds survey, nearly all IT pros agree that infrastructure complexity has affected their role over the past three to five years, with 52 percent saying it has “greatly affected” their responsibilities and another 42 percent saying it has “somewhat affected” their job.

This increasing complexity is also highlighted by the fact that over half of all IT departments now manage virtualization, mobility, compliance, data analytics, SDN/virtual networks, BYOx, cloud computing and self-service automation. Add to this that multiple service providers could be involved in the mix, each offering varying levels of visibility into the performance of their own infrastructure.

To troubleshoot issues between these many moving parts, IT pros need to be able to connect the dots between the full application stack (AppStack); that is, the application code, software, middleware (database servers, directory servers, application services, server operating systems) and hardware components required for an application to operate at peak performance. This also includes infrastructure such as virtualization, storage, server hardware and networks. 

With the high levels of complexity now common across the board, IT pros must seek a top-to-bottom view of the technologies supporting applications. In short, today’s IT pro must now become the app-centric IT pro.

Here are ten tips and best practices IT pros can follow to better meet the challenges of the app-centric world:

  1. Pay attention to the health and performance of the entire network.
  2. Break down IT siloes; systems, storage, network, virtualization and development teams need to work together.
  3. Have open communication with business units to identify their application needs; play an active role in addressing their pain points to reduce instances of line-of-business leaders “going rogue.”
  4. Train end users to file help desk requests immediately when they encounter an application performance or availability issue.
  5. Develop a plan of attack to determine the source of an issue, whether it be the application, the network or any other component of the AppStack.
  6. Implement a holistic, integrated monitoring and management system that provides visibility across the traditional siloes to reduce the time spent troubleshooting.
  7. Buy as you need. Avoid purchasing a “platform solution” for everything – instead, start with a flexible infrastructure that can work with multiple vendors and grow as evolving needs change.
  8. Maintain a database of vendor and service provider contact information for all technologies across the AppStack for quick reference when an issue is identified.
  9. Have a communication plan in place during an outage or ongoing latency issues to reduce duplicate help desk requests and complaints, and ensure end users and business leaders that the issue is being addressed.
  10. Anticipate current and future business needs; look at how IT can help meet business goals and drive revenue by increasing collaboration, speeding up business processes and reducing costs.

By taking these best practices into consideration, IT pros will not only be better prepared to face the challenges of today’s app-centric workplace, but also meet future demands as IT continues to grow in complexity. 

About the Author

Michael Thompson (News - Alert) is director of the systems management business at SolarWinds. Prior to this role, he served as principal, product marketing and director of business strategy for virtualization and storage. Michael has worked in the IT management industry for well over a decade, including leading product management teams and portfolios in the storage, virtualization and cloud markets for IBM (News - Alert). He holds a master of business administration and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. 

Edited by Adam Brandt

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