Article

Optimize IT Services with a Capacity Management Information System (CMIS)

Learn more about Vityl Capacity Management
Posted:
January 30, 2011

A good Capacity Management Information System (CMIS), combined with proven Capacity Management processes, can help you simplify IT Service Optimization; keeping your systems and applications running  efficiently and reliably. Done right, a CMIS can help reduce the time spent fixing performance problems, freeing up time for more fruitful work such as initiatives that improve service and increase business productivity.

This paper will explain what a CMIS is and how it provides a valuable foundation for performance and capacity management tools.

What is a CMIS?

A Capacity Management Information System or CMIS is a collection of IT infrastructure usage, capacity and performance information that has been gathered in a consistent manner and stored in one or more databases. It is the single book of record for all usage, capacity, and performance data, complete with associated business, application and service statistics.

Any IT staffer needing access to capacity management data can potentially use a CMIS. IT service management processes frequently accessing CMIS data are:

  • Capacity planning
  • Performance management
  • Service level management
  • Help/Service desk
  • Incident management
  • Problem management
  • Configuration management

The CMIS concept is new with ITIL Version 3. In earlier ITIL versions, the Capacity Management Database (CDB) was the central data store but ITIL proponents realized that it fell short of whatnwas needed to take Capacity Management to the next level. The CDB was a collection of data, but there were no standards regarding collection and archival nor integration between the different technologies. Different collection periods resulted in different capacity or performance numbers being communicated by different departments. Longer collection and reporting time frames smoothed the peaks, so the conflicting information confused management and made the accuracy of departmental statistics suspect. By devising the CMIS, all data is synchronized from a collection period perspective. It is scrubbed to ensure it is consistent and accurate.

Analysis and reporting is consistent so management sees similar statistics, fostering confidence in the reports.

Version 3 Capacity Management processes have new steps to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the data. While updating the processes, ITIL Version 3 also expands the breadth and scope of information stored, which now includes such additional items as business forecasts and metrics.

Example CMIS Contents

  • Business performance data
  • Financial data
  • Business transaction metrics
  • Infrastructure upgrade costs
  • Application transaction counts
  • Power & cooling costs
  • Invoices generated
  • IT budget information
  • IT service performance data
  • Component utilization data
  • Transaction response times
  • Server performance metrics
  • Transaction rates
  • Network performance
  • Workload volumes
  • Data storage measurements
  • Memory usage

The technological value of a CMIS

Probably the most important aspect of a CMIS is that it is the single book of record for all capacity and performance related information for IT infrastructure components. Instead of disparate platform-specific tools keeping inconsistent data in isolated silos, every environment being measured and analyzed has all of its metrics stored in one place. You always know where to find the performance data you need.

All data points in a CMIS are synchronized to the same time frames. Automatic processes ensure data integrity and accuracy. Because of the care given to the data, everyone reporting on a certain period of time should arrive at the same answer every time. Predictable results foster confidence in the work.

A CMIS provides a hub or integration point where a single set of analysis and reporting tools can be used by everyone involved with the capacity management process. This creates the possibility for tools that are technology agnostic–the same tools can be used independent of the type of infrastructure being analyzed or reported upon. For example, performance data regarding Windows, Unix, and Linux can all be coexistent and analyzed together using one set of tools accessing one CMIS. This means that performance analysts and capacity planners need learn just one set of analysis and reporting tools for use across the enterprise.

The business value of a CMIS

More precise, comprehensive IT infrastructure usage and performance information will lead to fewer mistakes, lower costs and better informed business decisions. Capacity plans based on accurate and reliable data will result in fewer surprises and less firefighting later. Because it provides better accuracy and consistency of data, a CMIS is useful for spotting operational inefficiencies and discerning the right corrective action when needed. This all leads to better use of expensive assets and saves precious time.

A good CMIS is able to analyze IT resource usage in business terms, facilitating an analysis that takes into account the resources consumed by IT or business services. Doing so helps IT and business management understand costs and business impact associated with a particular IT or business service. This can facilitate capacity planning that better optimizes IT for business results. The information can also help leaders understand where future bottlenecks in their business processes will occur, giving them precious time to make corrections before the business is impacted.

Charging business units for their actual usage of computing resources is just another way to ensure IT services are wisely used. With usage data broken down by IT or business service, business unit, or other business-relevant terms of your choice, CMIS data can feed your chargeback application. Since the data has been validated and screened, the business units can be assured that the allocation is accurate and equitable.

CMIS Business Value

  • Increased accuracy for better business decisions
  • Business-aligned capacity management
  • Accurate chargeback and cost allocation
  • Increased performance and availability
  • Reduced personnel and training requirements
  • Improved IT efficiency!

A CMIS can reduce down time, minimize bottlenecks, and increase availability. When failures occur, a CMIS can enable all involved support teams to look at the same accurate data with the same tools. Since the data can be analyzed in business-relevant terms, the support teams can more quickly understand impacts to the various parts of the business. This permits them to better determine priorities and solutions to minimize impact to the business while more quickly restoring mission-critical IT services. Important business services are more quickly restored, improving service availability.

Technology agnostic analysis and reporting tools deliver a common look-and-feel across technologies. Having a single tool reduces training costs, permits management to leverage fewer Capacity Management technicians across many different technologies. A highly functional CMIS facilitates analysis among and between support groups, speeds capacity planning tasks and permits rapid development of reports. Since reports of similar metrics have the same format independent of infrastructure components, leaders no longer have to struggle with how the information is presented so can focus all their attention what the content means to them.

What should I look for in a CMIS?

It is critical to pick out the best CMIS for maximizing the efficiency and performance of IT services. Some of the most important characteristics to look for when shopping for a CMIS are:

Openness

The goal is for your CMIS to become the central hub for all performance-related data. To fulfill that goal, a good CMIS needs to make it easy to get information in and out. You want comprehensive performance data regarding your infrastructure going in, and efficient access to that data for analysis and reporting purposes.

  • Data collectors use the CMIS to store information.
  • Performance and other systems management tools use it to access data and share analysis results.

It should be possible to effectively instrument all of your critical applications, including custom applications. You want to be able to implement custom analysis and reports. The CMIS should facilitate information sharing with Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs), chargeback applications and other tools. A CMIS should be able to alert event consoles and Service Desk tools when adverse events are detected.

Business-relevant views

 A CMIS should let tools analyze and report on enterprise IT infrastructure from a component view, an IT service-based view, or a business process view. These views allow you to relate operational and planning results at many different levels. Business process and IT service views can help facilitate business-aligned analysis and reporting. Component views are useful for problem solving and technology-specific detailed planning.

Real-time data

Historical data is important, but don’t forget that you also need real-time views as well. Your ability to detect and respond to performance bottlenecks will be hampered if your CMIS is unable to collect and deliver performance data in real-time.

Heterogeneous coverage

Most data centers use multiple technology platforms to deliver services. One of the big advantages of a CMIS is being able to manage the performance and capacity of all those platforms from a single repository. So be sure that your CMIS can handle data from the key platforms in use within your data centers.

Automation

There are many mundane tasks need to be accomplished to configure a CMIS, manage the data, and keep CMIS software current. Many of these tasks are excellent candidates for automation. Good CMIS offerings have built-in automation to handle most of the repetitive tasks and provide interfaces where you can automate other related tasks that are specific to your organization’s needs.

Scalability

It is important for a CMIS to have the ability to scale up or down to meet the growth needs of your organization. If you have thousands of systems in your datacenter, check to be certain that the CMIS you are considering has been successfully deployed on that scale. If your CMIS can’t scale, you could end up in a situation where you can only analyze and report on portions of your enterprise and not be able to get a true enterprise-wide view.

Efficiency

A tool is of limited use if it uses more computing resources than the problems you are analyzing. The best CMIS tools minimize their use of computing resources, networking bandwidth, and require less data storage to perform their work. When comparing CMIS options, be sure to compare computing, networking, and data storage needs as these can be hidden costs you may not anticipate.

Security

Without robust security within a CMIS, data integrity cannot be guaranteed. Security prevents unauthorized changes or deletion of historical data. It also permits you to restrict access to proprietary data stored in the CMIS, such as business plans, where need-to-know access is mandatory to preserve competitive advantage.

Support

Your CMIS is a key element in your IT service optimization toolkit, so you will want to be certain that there is a capable support team available to assist you with implementation and ongoing maintenance of your CMIS.

Tips for implementing your CMIS

Once a CMIS is selected, implementation follows. As with any new technology or procedure, you start with little prior knowledge or experience to guide you through an initial implementation. After working together with many enterprise IT professionals and seeing how they have implemented and maintained their CMIS, we have collated a collection of tips and best practices to help you on your way.

Before you start collecting, decide what data to keep and for how long.

The amount of data coming from infrastructure components can be huge if you collect everything. Collect only what you think you need. Only keep very detailed data for the minimum amount of time needed to investigate problems. Remember, if you selected a highly flexible CMIS, it will be easy to add statistics later.

Synchronize data capture.

As you review data capture across the infrastructure components, synchronize your capture periods to the same collection interval. Doing so will permit you to more easily track end-toend usage across the various application and system tiers within your infrastructure.

Set up maintenance processes.

The work is not over once a CMIS is installed and operational. It still needs to be maintained. Automation will reduce the work but even automation needs to be monitored to ensure it is operating as designed. Maintenance processes should be put in place soon after the CMIS is put into production. The processes should identify roles and responsibilities for the support staff and day-to-day tasks such as upgrade and break-fix schedules, license management procedures, backup and recovery plans, and data import/export schedules.

Automate, automate, automate.

The more work you can set up to run automatically, the more time your people have to do important analysis and reporting work. Data maintenance and regularly scheduled reports are probably the easiest pieces of work to automate. The earlier you automate work processes, the easier it is to accomplish. Once a sub-optimal process has been in place and operating for several years, interdependencies can develop with entrenched processes making it extremely difficult to make improvements.

Establish security rules and processes.

Security rules and procedures can be important to maintaining data integrity and confidentiality for the CMIS. Since a wide range of proprietary data including business data is stored in the CMIS, access should be restricted. In addition, the integrity of the data contained in the CMIS can only be ensured by preventing unauthorized changes. Therefore you need to understand security needs and develop the rules, policies and procedures needed to protect data and access before the CMIS is widely available to your IT community.

Start small and then expand.

Don’t try to attack the entire infrastructure at once. In almost all cases, the amount of work will be insurmountable. Pick out one or two significant infrastructure components to start; maybe a few servers supporting one or two mission-critical applications or services. Once the data is being gathered, reported upon, and you have confidence in the results, build on your successes and add more infrastructure components to the CMIS.

Configure the CMIS for business-relevant analysis.

By configuring your CMIS to track how much of each infrastructure component is being consumed by each service, you can track usage during the life of a transaction. Armed with end-to-end views of performance, support personnel can quickly locate the cause of bottlenecks and outages, permitting improved service quality and reliability. Reporting can be customized to focus on specific transactions and services. This allows you to tailor information to a specific business unit or department; giving each of them concise information that only applies to them. You can also use this information for chargeback applications to equitably allocate their cost of computing to the departments using the services.

The ability to configure your CMIS to analyze the utilizations resulting from each business service will allow you to develop reports that are more meaningful to business leaders and help you express results in business terms instead of technology terms. Because the information is organized by business process, costs can be broken out along those same lines, permitting you to reveal the actual IT costs of specific business transactions. Business leaders will better understand IT costs, and conversations about increasing capacities and capabilities will be transformed from ones of expense to those of investment.

Implement analysis and reporting tools.

Having data stored in a database is of little use if you don’t convert it to usable information and communicate the results. Early in your CMIS implementation process you should configure your chosen analysis and reporting tools and publish needed reports. As examples, you might configure reports showing actual service results against Service Level Agreements or the capacity positions of all infrastructure components supporting a particular business process.

Share information across the enterprise.

The intrinsic value of a CMIS is that it is single source of information that can be used by anyone in the enterprise. Using tools that all get their data from one CMIS ensures that the same results will be obtained no matter who runs a report against the same data with the same parameters. Therefore once your CMIS is stable, its use should be promoted across the IT community and training provided.

The HelpSystems Solution (Formerly TeamQuest)

The CMIS inside Vityl Capacity Management uses a distributed approach, allowing you to store detailed data close to the source for shorter retention periods while summarizing data centrally. It provides seamless access to data, regardless of where it is stored, meaning that you have all the detail you need for troubleshooting, without placing undue burdens on your network infrastructure. Performance data is synchronized to identical time frames and collection durations. Additionally, there are capabilities for tracking resource utilization by business or IT service and for collecting business data to allow for more business-relevant reporting. The same CMIS and the same analysis and reporting tools can be used across diverse platforms. Vityl Capacity Management allows you to standardize on one tool set and integrate data from various technology silos, providing a single point of reference for information regarding every platform type. A single tool analyzing consistent data and implementing standardized capacity management processes creates a strategic advantage, potentially helping you to replace wasteful chaos with optimized order.

Learn how Vityl Capacity Management can help your business

Not only does Vityl monitor your entire hybrid IT environment, but HelpSystems has top-notch support and can help you implement the solution quickly and easily.