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4 Popular Server Management Approaches that No Longer Work

Agent Management

Let’s look at four ways IT Ops and Infrastructure teams currently deploy and maintain software on physical and virtual servers and examine why each approach has diminishing success as scale and complexity increase.

Over time, IT teams have developed a number of server management processes and approaches. They include:

1. Manual processes

2. Custom scripts

3. Generic configuration management

4. Outsourcing

Essentially, each approach aims to address two main challenges:

  1. Deliver new server deployments on on-prem or in a public cloud; and
  2. Ensure “day-2” maintenance and upkeep of all the server management solutions added to servers (e.g., to provide back-up, monitoring, analytics, security, etc.).

Unfortunately, processes that were previously adequate in more homogeneous computing environments are today proving to be too slow, too complex and too expensive to use for thousands of servers in modern mixed infrastructure environments.

 

Policy-Driven Configuration Management and Compliance Control
Figure 1. Today’s IT Operations Model: Complex Interactions Lack Unified Visibility and Diagnostic Access

 

The diagram above outlines some of what’s involved to deploy and maintain the myriad of server management solutions that servers require.

In an earlier blog (Three Server Management Problems that Enterprise IT Needs to Solve) I wrote about three root issues that cause server management processes to fail:

  1. Lack of visibility and control
  2. Agents can cause problems
  3. Cloud complexities and web scale

So, let’s take a look at each of the four popular approaches, and identify weaknesses that are causing problems for IT Ops and Infrastructure teams.

Manual Processes

Many organizations try to maintain a centralized view of their server management solutions through various manual procedures. IT administrators collect information by logging into multiple management tool consoles and endpoints, in an effort to keep track of constantly-changing states. This is done on a periodic basis (e.g. weekly), meaning issues are identified with significant delay. When problems are uncovered, the same IT teams need to manually log into individual servers and fix them, often by performing simple, mundane operations such as restarting a service. Not only is this a very slow process, it is also often incomplete. Manual processes can easily miss servers and individual server management solutions, or fail to identify problems such as outdated software versions and user operations that unintentionally interfere with performance of a particular solution.

Today IT can “spin up” virtual servers in minutes and this highlights the inefficiency of manual processes that take hours (or days) to add various server management solutions for back-up, security, monitoring, etc.

Custom Scripts

Some organizations try to automate tracking the state of their server management solutions by developing custom scripts. But, in order for such script systems to be effective, they need to be feature-rich and high-quality. More often than not, this is beyond the development skills and capacity of the IT Ops and infrastructure teams. This leaves scripts incomplete and the team frustrated. Whether done in-house or outsourced, creating custom scripts to tie your sever management solutions together can be extremely expensive, difficult to maintain and ultimately may not result in the seamless experience that the IT teams intended.

Generic Configuration Management Tools

Some organizations try to automate the “stack” of server management solutions using generic configuration management tools such as Puppet, Chef or Microsoft SCCM. These alternatives require extensive training and expertise to operate properly. While useful for deploying application software, unfortunately these tools do not provide a complete solution to manage and maintain server management solutions. Nor do they provide a holistic, actionable view of the entire stack of server management solutions in operation, across all servers and classified by role, location, business-line or other groupings your IT team manages.

Another problem is it’s very hard to use these generic configuration tools to orchestrate the configuration of a management agent and register the agent in the management solution’s console server.

Generic configuration management software also does not allow different tools to be administered by different IT teams using role-based access control (RBAC). For example, RBAC allows server tool SMEs to centrally configure and administer policies and then delegate day-to-day operational responsibility for the tool to others in the organization thereby delivering scale and speed.

Outsourcing

Rather than dealing with tedious daily chores and manual processes, some IT managers send the work to a remote team. These teams are may not be as well trained on company systems. They may also lack knowledge of what the organization needs to succeed, what applications are most important, and what performance levels the company’s users expect.

The Result

The various weaknesses inherent in each approach can lead to two potential outcomes, both of which raise security and compliance concerns.

  1. “Avoidance”
  2. Shadow IT

Avoidance

Rather than deal with the complexities associated with managing so many server management solutions across so many environments, some IT organization succumb to the temptation of keeping complexity artificially low by blocking innovation and agility. For example, they may settle for mediocre server management solutions that aren’t necessarily appropriate to their particular application needs – such as agentless tools that don’t require installation, but also lack functionality – just to ease the pain. Imagine if your servers are ever breached and it comes to light that an available patch or update had not been deployed uniformly across all pertinent servers. Complex or incomplete processes will not seem like an adequate explanation to various auditors.

In other instances IT teams may pull back from harnessing the public cloud, because adding more environments with different characteristics and requirements actually adds parallel and separate server management processes. A lack of common processes and centralized visibility in turn makes managing the lifecycle of server management solutions across infrastructure all the more time consuming and complex.

Shadow IT – When Enterprise IT Can’t Satisfy Users

If IT organizations don’t provide the level of service users’ expect or require, then users will go their own way and use public cloud computing options. In many situations, IT organizations can’t stop users from going directly to the cloud to get the resources they need. That’s why there is an increasing “shadow IT” problem in so many businesses. To minimize the chance of business users bypassing IT on their way to the cloud – and leaving the IT organization powerless yet still liable for security and compliance risks – IT must find a much more efficient, easy and fast way to handle the deployment and maintenance lifecycle of every server management solution.

What Next?

Where does this leave us? Each of these different approaches has its problems. So, how can we simplify, accelerate and modernize the deployment and maintenance of agent-based and agentless server management solutions across 1000s of servers and hybrid infrastructure?

This is what Jetpatch solves these customers. Our out-of-the-box software transforms the entire server deployment and “day-2” management process. Jetpatch unifies processes and stakeholders across both on-prem and hybrid cloud environments to ensure complete visibility and control of all server management solutions.

If you’d like to learn more about Jetpatch, I invite you to check out some recent whitepapers.

Oran Epelbaum
Oran Epelbaum
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