Data Center Optimization: The Value of Business Service Management

Tips on using BSM to increase business value from the mainframe on down.

By Ralph Crosby, CTO, Mainframe Service Management, BMC Software
Tue, March 25, 2008

CIO — Consider this scenario. A fleet manager, under pressure to reduce costs, decides to replace his large, semitrailer rigs with less-expensive, smaller trucks.

Bad decision. The big rigs were designed specifically to haul extremely large loads over long distances. The smaller trucks are just not up to the task. They can't match the unique capabilities of the big rigs. What's more, the manager now has more trucks to manage and maintain. Dispatching has become a nightmare because it requires synchronization of several smaller trucks to carry all the loads that one big rig would have carried. Deliveries are suffering and customers are complaining.

Some IT managers who are under pressure to cut costs are making a similar mistake—moving mature and stable applications and databases off mainframes and onto smaller machines. And the results are not encouraging. Many have abandoned the projects after long and costly efforts because they simply didn't work. Others have achieved the migration but have suffered in performance or reliability. (Check out our mainframe resource center).

If you are considering moving applications or databases off the mainframe, keep in mind the plight of the fleet manager—degradation in performance can be far more costly to the business in the long run. It is important to consider the value of the business services supported by the applications or databases, and whether that value is increased or decreased by moving to other seemingly less-costly platforms. (Also read Maintaining the Agile Mainframe.)

When you truly understand the business value behind your technology, you'll find that the mainframe is irreplaceable when it comes to certain applications and databases, and you can readily justify its cost.

That's where business service management comes in. With an effective BSM approach in place, you can find the right platform for your data center and manage it with a business-oriented approach. By doing so, you'll increase the business value of your mainframes, as well as that of other platforms—and have the tools to demonstrate that value to senior management.

Assessing Value Beyond Cost

To determine the business value of a resource, it is essential to understand two factors. First, you need to know which business services, and hence which business processes, that resource supports. Second, you need to know the business criticality of those services as measured by the impact of performance degradation or temporary loss of those services. A server that supports online stock trading, for example, is of higher value to the business than a server that supports online access of employee benefits information.

Value assessment also differs depending on the industry. For example, in mutual fund companies, data is the core of the business. As these companies describe it, "Data is our business." The databases are enormous and include such vital information as customer account balances, securities costs and net asset values. Up-to-the-minute accuracy and immediate availability of this data is crucial. Even a small system hiccup could be catastrophic.

So a company in the mutual funds business places high value on the ability to handle huge data volumes with "always there" availability. That's why mutual fund companies have typically maintained their databases on mainframes, justifying the cost of the mainframe by its high value to the business.

Right-Platforming and the Role of BSM

Right-platforming means selecting the optimum platform for each job. The right platform must have the required processing and storage capacity to support business services. It must deliver those services at the required levels of reliability, availability and performance. In addition, the platform must have sufficient scalability to meet expected future requirements. And, the more mission-critical the application, the more important the unique characteristics of the mainframe become.

Beyond its foundational strengths, the mainframe is also increasingly adaptable. Its role has evolved from the standalone computer, isolated in the data processing center, to an integral and core component of the organization's distributed IT infrastructure.

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