Almost since the world was created, at least the IT world, computer systems and all the associated, and increasingly complex, plethora of associated equipment has required feeding and watering. Few systems, with perhaps the notable exception of the AS/400 sorry System i no wrong again the i, manage to keep themselves functioning efficiently, if at all, without the care and attention of skilled IT professionals. As the number of systems to be controlled and looked after increased the gods of IT, better known as the software vendors, started to build tools to monitor the condition of servers and storage. Strangely these monitoring tools were called “management” systems.

Today with every organisation seeking to optimise both the availability and effectiveness of its IT systems the demand for true systems management tools has never been greater. The increasing deployment of virtualised systems adds further to the need for tools that really help with the automatic management and administration of systems. Just in time many of the tools that have previously only provided capabilities to monitor systems have moved forward and, at last, are bringing to market true management functionality and options to automate many tasks that until required the undivided attention of sys admins.

Now it is interesting to note that it is not just the vendors who have traditionally supplied monitoring / management tools that are bringing updated offerings to market. Alongside IBM Tivoli, CA Unicenter, HP OpenView and BMC Patrol, the management giants,can now be found a range of newer, though not new, entrants. Amongst these is the industry behemoth that is Microsoft and it is interesting to note that the company is rapidly developing not only management tools to help automate the administration of Windows systems but is actively developing capabilities to manage virtualised systems, including those running on their hypervisors supplied by other vendors.

Then there are other suppliers such as Quest and EMC amongst the raft of virtual system management specialists who are putting together strong offerings. The management space is finally able to deliver, at least from the software supplier side of the equation, management and automatic administration capabilities; it is no longer just concerned with monitoring.

This situation then raises the obvious question, namely are IT professionals ready to exploit the management and automation capabilities that are now becoming available? I hope that the take up of these capabilities will be rapid although I do detect that many system admins still consider any management automation capability with more than a little scepticism, and perhaps with some concern over their job security. Granted these management tools need to prove themselves in the real world and that the vendors have a duty to deliver them with some idea of how they can be best exploited. They must be utilised as widely as possible if IT is help its business customers to exploit as fully as possible the benefits that IT delivers.

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