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Organizations have invested millions into the data center to make the transition from mainframe and client/server architectures to the new distributed computing paradigm. This seismic shift in how data center infrastructure is deployed and used has provided IT organizations with substantial cost and efficiency benefits. However, to make a truly meaningful impact on the business, organizations require a state where business policies and service-level agreements drive dynamic and automatic optimization of the IT infrastructure, creating a highly agile, business-driven IT environment. Unfortunately, the hard reality is that while this is a noble goal, a number of significant obstacles must be addressed before it can be attained. These obstacles can be categorized into three areas: exploding complexity and cost; inconsistent quality of service; and escalating security risks.

Exploding Complexity and Cost

Inherent to distributed computing architectures is an exponential increase in the number of devices, applications and configuration elements or "knobs" that needs to be managed as compared to the traditional client/server platform.

  1. More devices to manage- A single distributed application can span multiple types of servers, such as web, application and database servers. Consequently, with the ability to develop new applications far more rapidly, the total number of devices in the data center has increased dramatically.
  2. More complex configurations - Hundreds if not thousands of discrete configuration elements such as files, configuration files, vendor and OS-specific packages, and processes must be tracked and managed on an on-going basis. Moreover, since an application relies on multiple types of servers, making a change requires not only an understanding of the configuration elements and the associated dependencies across and within each server tier but also the sequence in which changes must be made to maintain application integrity.
  3. More specialization required - Distributed applications can extend over different devices with different operating systems. For example, a supply-chain application may have web servers running on Windows/Intel-based devices and databases servers running on larger UNIX machines. Managing these applications requires not only application-specific skills but also specialists in both Windows and UNIX operating systems. Consequently, an administrator today can easily cost an organization over $100K/yr in fully loaded salary and benefits. A major Wall Street financial institution estimates that the operating costs of managing a server is between 8-9 times the associated capital costs of that device.
  4. Strict regulatory requirements - Due to increasing regulatory pressure to implement strict management controls, requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley, SAS- 70, and HIPAA have put a significant burden on IT organizations to allocate resources to document and track what changes are made, and when, in the data center.


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