How to remove blind spots from your network

If you’re a CIO or an Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professional, you don’t need me to tell you how complex and dynamic your network is. And even though you probably don’t know where they are, you’ll be aware that you have blind spots on the network.

Can you answer with confidence that you know:

  • The total number of laptops and desktops on the network?
  • How many devices and apps are deployed in the datacentre?
  • What software is being used and what is lying redundant?
  • Which employees are using mobile devices to access enterprise applications?
  • What printers, routers and other network devices are critical to the smooth running of IT operations?

It’s almost certain that you have some visibility of what’s on the network, often from a number of different and disparate sources. But what you really need is a single source of truth to give you a complete and consolidated view across your entire IT environment.

You need to change your ‘unknown unknowns’ that pose a massive risk to your organisation, into ‘known knowns’ that you can proactively manage.

Why is that important?

Whether by design or not, Gartner predicts that “by 2020 large enterprises with a strong digital business focus or aspiration will see business unit IT increase to 50 per cent of enterprise IT spending.” And, according to Forrester’s recent publication of its Midyear Global Tech Market Outlook, the trend for Cloud Adoption is accelerating (to 5.6 per cent) as well as software being the second-largest category of tech spending (after telecom services).

You need to look at your own organisation and ask a few questions. Do you have business units procuring their own IT? Are you ramping up adoption to the Cloud? Can you hand on heart know what’s on your network? Let alone the known unknowns, what about the unknown unknowns? And what are the potential financial risks?

Infrastructure & operations don't come cheap

Let’s consider the combined costs of hardware and software assets – naturally every network environment is different – but taking some average costs that Gartner recently computed, covering the four different domains of datacentre, networking, client computing and service desk, (and apart from expenditure on staff, facilities and power) there are hardware and software costs to account for.

Not surprisingly, datacentre costs are high – For a Windows Server platform, the average datacentre total cost of Infrastructure and Operations (TICO) is $5,562, no. of OS instances (installed) with an average number of OS instances per physical machine being 3.7. For Linux it’s higher at $8,454 (av. 2.9 OS instances) and Unix much higher at $27,483 (av. 3.8 OS instances). So it’s easy to see how costs can quickly escalate.

Looking at the other side of the estate, Gartner estimates the non-datacentre TCIO average cost of a client computing device is $1,015, and that data networks average at $780 and voice networks at $622. So for an enterprise running, say 3,000 servers with 30,000 users (using the industry average of 10:1), we are already talking millions of dollars. For smaller companies, software and IT are the second-most expensive expenditure after its people, and can still set them back hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s even before you factor in the number of devices per user (today’s average is 3.6 per user and is set to grow to 4.3 by 2020) or how cloud technologies, which promote insatiable consumption, often create unused cloud licenses and virtual hardware which are left running – yet another major cause of overspend.

Understandably it’s an imperative to get a handle on these costs, and discover and inventory your full estate. Without the essential information it will unearth, you won’t be able to make decisions on future plans and budgets or indeed have the ability to optimise the estate in order to fund investment elsewhere.

Robust discovery and inventory

In order to discover your blind spots and bring them into the light, you need the new generation of multi-platform inventory solution that will help track all of your assets within your organisation. From computers to servers, mobile devices to all connected network devices such as routers, printers, and firewalls, they are discovered and reported in inventory solutions.

Inventory solutions enable the tracking of all assets, their hardware configuration, software deployments and usage regardless of platform or location. Even devices that are currently unreachable are reported on, so you can take action to manage them and mitigate the risk of these unknown devices on the network. We’ve also identified the importance of controlling the Cloud and virtual environments. As mentioned earlier, moving towards the Cloud or virtualising certain environments may be part of your IT roadmap moving forward.

Of course in today’s fast moving agile world inventory data can quickly go out of date. Technology changes, vendor licensing and delivery mechanisms change rapidly and you need the ability to quickly adapt the inventory gathering processes. Inventory configurations can now be fully automated and new versions automatically downloaded so that updates can be easily and quickly distributed to the full estate, offering complete change management control to avoid time-consuming agent rollouts. With the level of insight obtained in establishing a single source of truth across your network you’ll be able to fully manage the licensable applications and hardware assets discovered and create realistic plans and future budgets based on actual usage and real needs.

This will enable you to make informed, accurate decisions that will help your organisation achieve its overall goals and objectives. Oh, it also banishes the old mantra of ‘garbage in, garbage out!’

Per Skanne, Product Manager at Snow Software

Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock