With the emergence of multiple new communication services and a dizzying array of new devices, many corporate communication systems are exhibiting signs of choking on their internal comms. The challenge facing the typical IT manager in a geographically dispersed organisation coalesce around the use of many common web-based applications that run critical aspects of the business on top of the bedrock of corporate email and collaboration apps. The constant availability and performance of these applications has a direct impact on the corporate bottom line, so IT wants to be proactive in ensuring the performance and availability of these applications, and not be driven by angry end user calls to their help desk.
Many organisations rely on Microsoft Exchange to deliver the email, and SharePoint to house the information sharing and collaboration activities. There is clearly now an urgent need to make sure that these comms functions don’t get congested, and that the information queues never grind to a halt.
Not only is the volume and diversity of traffic flows expanding, so is the range of stakeholders who need to be kept informed. The technical admin will need details on areas such as how much space is being used by email boxes; the line of business (LoB) managers will want to understand how their employees are using the platforms, and what it’s costing them; the networking team needs to estimate future traffic volumes based on real-time analysis etc.
Admins and managers of large Exchange and SharePoint communities with 10,000 users and upwards typically rely on Microsoft’s Systems Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to provide them with the performance overviews they need. However, we have seen that they find this too complex, too difficult to manage and too time-consuming in its use.
Quocirca is about to release a report in conjunction with GSX on the needs that such organisations must address in order to fully understand how well their Exchange and SharePoint environments are working—at a highly granular, yet contextually meaningful level. What may be needed is a layered approach—something that overlays SCOM to give the information those individuals in different corporate positions need—rapidly and effectively—so that decisions can be made on what the individual sees.
SCOM provides a powerful set of System Centre tools for managing various aspects of the data centre, collecting and aggregating data on application configuration and performance, but leaves much to be desired in the granularity and usefulness of the information it provides relating to Exchange and SharePoint performance.
The Quocirca report identifies five keys areas of focus that need to be addressed to meet this challenge:
- Unified management of the messaging and collaboration apps: This has two separate aspects: a technical and an organisational. Centralising the monitoring of performance metrics across the company’s fixed and mobile collaboration environments on a single pane of glass makes tracking SLA compliance consistent and a lot faster. But that monitoring platform also needs to be able to provide performance data to different teams (Exchange, SharePoint and network teams typically). This is crucial, as these teams need to merge their efforts in line with Microsoft’s on-going efforts to merge its messaging and collaboration products.
- Real-time view of end user apps performance: The end user is the final judge of application performance, and so the enterprise needs visibility into the end users experience. Managers, application owners, and IT professionals all need to monitor the availability and performance of business-critical applications and to view the reported data on a single web-based interface.
- Ease-of-use and automation: It is widely reported that 70% or more of an organisation’s IT budget is spent on “keeping the lights on”. Tools that can automate everyday tasks and reduce errors can have a massive impact on this.
- Transparent implementation & upgrading: In messaging and collaboration environments, the server side upgrades should be fast and avoid new code being added. Upgrades should be invisible to the user population by avoiding the need to install any new agent software or require the user to change any configurations manually.
- Proactive analytics and reporting: With fast-paced technology developments and changing user behaviour, the ability to service a still more mobile workforce, conduct efficient resource planning and respond quickly to changing market conditions are premium qualities for any IT department.
So how will these best-practice bullets help Exchange sand SharePoint admins and managers—besides optimising comms processes, automating the routine stuff, and handling configuration and planning issues? More and more, they are being asked to reinvent themselves—and the company. In order to lead the market, competitive technology organisations must come up with perspectives on revenue generation and demonstrate how process improvements can enable cost-reduction. To do that the admins and managers need to get into the driving seat with a clear view of the road ahead and time to think about where they and the company should be heading.