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Series: Issues facing today’s IT operations and maintenance teams

[ Nov 16, 2017 ]

The number and complexity of IT systems used by an organization inevitably grows as the business expands. This growth puts pressure on the IT departments tasked with daily operations and maintenance to do more with the same resources. IT budgets do not always stay in step with the growth in workloads and skilled operations and maintenance engineers cannot always be hired to take on the additional work. How does an organization manage this increase in workload without sacrificing other important tasks that arise from business expansion, such greater IT governance and improved security?

Trouble in the IT department

Understanding the specific issues troubling today’s IT operations and maintenance departments is essential if we are to find long-term solutions. To discover more information about these issues, NTT Communications surveyed the IT departments of their clients and asked “What major issues do IT departments face today?”

What major issues do IT departments face today?

Based on answers to a survey by NTT Communications

  • The operations and maintenance workload, including applying application patches and monitoring logs, is large.
  • There is a shortage of skilled operations and maintenance engineers in the organization.
  • Skills and know-how are concentrated in specific individuals, potentially leaving the organization exposed when these employees retire or take vacations.
  • When trouble does occur, it is necessary to liaise and coordinate with multiple vendors and this extends the time it takes to restore services.
  • The same vendor has carried out operations and maintenance for many years, and there is a declining trend in service quality.
  • It can take a long time to restore systems after a failure because vendor and carrier support content has become disconnected.
  • The skills of different IT operations and maintenance teams differ depending on location and this increases the risk of system outages due to human error.
  • We often need to allocate operations and maintenance engineers for specific overseas projects, but we lack flexibility in human resources.
  • The need to support user departments interferes with our ability to concentrate on more strategic tasks.
  • Asset management workload, such as checking PC software versions, is large.

The answers to the NTT Communications survey point to three key problems facing IT departments today:

  • IT operations and maintenance teams are very busy and there is a shortage of skilled staff.
  • There is a lack of available training to enable engineers to acquire needed skills.
  • IT operations and maintenance skills and know-how are often concentrated in a few specific staff members.

The findings of this survey are similar to those in polls conducted by IDC, a major US IT research organization. When asked about issues in systems operations and management departments, IDC surveys found “staff members lack skills” was the most common response. Thirty-two percent of companies surveyed by IDC experienced trouble resulting from human error associated with lack of skills.

Reviewing the current state of IT operations and maintenance

IT operations and maintenance engineers are expected to do more than simply perform system construction and operations. They often play a role in solving larger business issues. This newsletters will review some of these issues and introduce solutions, giving operations and maintenance teams an overview of some important factors to address before problems occur.

[Part 1] Network optimization
Addressing the issues and risks of an infrastructure that has become intricate and complicated due to business expansion.

[Part 2] Network monitoring
Using continuous monitoring to avoid incidents before they happen.

[Part 3] Server migration
Constructing a flexible infrastructure that adapt to a variety of business formats.

[Part 4] Network virtualization
Improving flexibility and extensibility in your network infrastructure.

[Part 1] Network optimization

Streamlining network management is a big issue for IT operations and maintenance departments. As a business grows, network infrastructures become more intricate and complicated. In the first newsletter in this series we will take a look at network management issues and proposes solutions, using examples from a major manufacturing company.

Issues arising from intricate and complicated network infrastructures

A major manufacturing company had expanded over a number of years to more than 2,700 locations. This expansion made it necessary for the company to contract with more than 10 telecommunications carriers to provide network coverage for each business location. The company ran a network operations center (NOC) to manage each of the telecommunications service providers, and this was increasing the workload for the IT department.

Customer environment

  • Expansion of the business had increased the number of business locations. It was necessary to link 2,700 business locations through more than 10 telecommunications carriers.
  • The company managed its own NOC, providing operational support for all users and performing background maintenance.

Problems

  • With multiple carriers providing network services, an interruption to any single carrier would often shut down all communications. This would require a significant period of time to recover.
  • Once an incident occurred, it took time to restore normal operations.
  • Even highly-skilled NOC engineers found it challenging to manage the complex network configuration.

Transforming infrastructure through specialized outsourcing

To solve their networking issues, the manufacturing company turned to an outsourcing service provider. Through outsourcing, the company was able to integrate management of multiple network carriers, reducing communications shutdowns and simplifying network operations.

Solution

  • The manufacturing company turned to NTT Communications to resolve their complex network management issues and concluded an agreement for Nexcenter data center services.
  • Nexcenter data centers are carrier neutral, enabling network communication lines to be sourced from multiple service providers. Nexcenter also provides the operational capacity to facilitate integrated management of the various telecommunications carriers.
  • Nexcenter offers comprehensive network monitoring services. The manufacturing company developed a system for monitoring network communications around-the-clock, 24x7x365.

Benefits

  • The first benefit to accrue from moving to Nexcenter was the consolidation of more than 10 telecommunications service providers. Consolidation substantially alleviated the IT department’s workload and simplified the network infrastructure.
  • Integrated management of the telecommunications carriers and the addition of redundant communications lines stabilized the manufacturing company’s network, reducing network downtime.
  • The Nexcenter network monitoring service enabled the company to improve maintenance services, including device procurement, to significantly reduce recovery time.
  • Outsourcing data center services to NTT Communications has enabled the IT department to significantly streamline its workload.

Outsourcing frees engineers to work on strategic IT projects that will benefit the business

In addition to streamlining the IT department workload, outsourcing has given IT managers greater insight into the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the network infrastructure. Unlike previous in-house solutions, where service provider fees were dependent on the incident, the outsourced solution from NTT Communications has a uniform fee for services. This, along with well documented frequency of incidents and recovery times, has eliminated the fluctuation in fees and enabled greater visualization of workloads that were previously hidden.
The ability to visualize TCO also enables IT planners to apply quantitative metrics to future budgeting. Analyzing TCO lets planners determine whether costs are high in relation to service quality and whether the business has become more efficient when compared to previous fiscal years. This data then informs and optimizes future IT budgets.

Tips: Thailand

Many companies in Thailand meet the power failures problem many times including Bangkok area and some time they face the domestic link outage problem. Each outage may last from 10 minutes to more than an hour. It causes of business interruption and the company cannot do the business continuously.

Comment from Kriengsak Charoonsrisawat,
Senior Director, Data Center Business Department

"There are many companies in Manufacturing Industry meet the network and power failures problem because of lack knowledge of network management to manage the network. NTT Com supports to give the consult and manage the networks for many customers in Thailand and make the effectiveness network management for the enterprises. Moreover, Thailand Bangkok 2 Data Center is carrier-neutral policy data center, so, the customers can connect to multiple carriers. If any network or power failures happen, the customers can switch to use any carriers to avoid business disruption."

What did you think of this article? The next theme is as follows.
[Part 2] Network monitoring

Related Articles
[Part 2] Network monitoring
[Part 3] Server Migration
[Part 4] Network Virtualization
[Part 5] BCP (Business Continuity Plan)

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