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Systems Management Best Practice: Harnessing the FCAPS Model

If the unprecedented and accelerating proliferation of Linux servers within the market is mirrored within your organisation, you may already, or certainly will at some point, find them unmanageable unless you apply best practice systems management today.

The increasing reliance on Linux in a mission critical capacity means that more and more Linux servers are required to keep organisations operating to full capacity. One Linux server is simple to manage, but 100 Linux enterprise servers can fast become unmanageable unless proven best practice systems management is constantly applied to keep everything under control.

Systems Management Best Practice: Harnessing the FCAPS Model

The problem

“IT Directors have not had access to a best practice standard for Linux and this is a weakness of the Open Source model because no one owns the technology”, says Simon Mitchell, Executive Director of Linux consulting firm LinuxIT. He adds that “It can be developed to a high standard but some of the important policies and processes aren’t applied as usual.”

He explains that in the early days, Linux was predominantly used for tactical and non-strategic reasons. And because the standard commercial model and associated costs didn’t apply, it wasn’t always evaluated with the same rigour as a proprietary technology. Due to the investment required of proprietary software, ROI calculations, POCs, pilots and security assessments, for example, form part of the standard process of adoption. Linux didn’t always get put through these filters – it very often got in via the back door. What that means is that there is rarely any explicit strategy for selection, design, build or management of these servers. Instead, there is all too often a patchwork of disparate Linux distributions, configurations and management processes with little or no documentation. That spells real risk, especially if the engineers who installed it and manage it leave the business. So it’s imperative to identify and apply best practices against Linux as soon as possible. Otherwise, at best Linux will not deliver the full potential of its inherent advantages, and at worst disaster could be looming.

Best practice

Considering Linux through the lens of ‘best practice’ allows IT directors and CIOs to identify whether the strategy, architecture, service and systems management are congruent with their standards and fit for purpose. With this understanding they can evaluate to what extent Linux successfully underpins their mission critical applications so as to deliver value and competitive advantage to the business. But who offers any best practice Linux advice in general, let alone specifically around systems management? An Open Source software vendor will offer some best practice advice around Linux systems architecture and management, but they are limited by their portfolio of technologies. Linux does not operate in isolation. Rather, to be optimised as part of an Application Ready Infrastructure (ARI), it must be integrated with other Open Source and proprietary technologies which they are not skilled in. What is required is a specialist consultancy firm like LinuxIT that can help you ensure that your strategy, design implementation and management of Linux as part of an ARI are strategic – focused on business performance and risk mitigation.

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LinuxIT delivers holistic best practice for Linux that includes strategy, architecture, service and systems management. FCAPS is the best practice systems management approach delivered by LinuxIT. It stands for Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance, Security. It was historically designed for telecom companies, but LinuxIT advises that it “Encapsulates the key areas you should think about when managing IT. LinuxIT recommends the FCAPS model because it is applying best practices systems management to Linux, and this is important because Linux has not been attributed to any type of best practice for systems management in the past”. There just hasn’t been any other organisation with the focus, breadth of knowledge, expertise, reference architectures, industry experience and partnerships required to do so.

Organisations understand that more value will be derived from their investment when they apply best practices and as a result they will gain from reduced risks, increased productivity and lower costs achieved by creating economies of scale. Organisations that haven’t followed best practices, like documenting build and following change control policies or implementing proper security measures and monitoring capabilities leave themselves vulnerable to absolute chaos if they lose the knowledge set locked inside someone’s head.

“The very strengths of the Open Source development and business model have often generated their weaknesses”, explains Mitchell. Because it was often free and invariably very stable, the same need for rigorous policy and process to be applied was not always appreciated. He firmly believes that Linux should be applied to the same standards as those used with UNIX and other technologies.

Mitchell adds: “IBM and HP, for example, have developed best practice over time by refining reference architectures and systems management models. Enterprise quality Linux is comparatively immature and so is has not had the same ecosystem of professional services around it. What it now needs, and CIO’s are crying out for, is the development and application of best practice standards to the extent you would see within their UNIX estates.”

Questions to ask yourself…

So how does one start to understand what best practices are available for Linux and to what extent they are being followed within their business? LinuxIT suggests you start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What’s your Linux strategy, i.e. how does it deliver superior value and competitive advantage to your business?
  • Where are you in the cycle of adoption of Linux, i.e. are you applying a best practice service management approach such as ITIL and where are you in that cycle?
  • Against what best practice standards have you designed your architectures, i.e. how is Linux designed and implemented as part of an optimised Application Ready Infrastructure (ARI)?
  • Do you have a policy for best practice systems management, i.e. to what extent are the bases covered in managing Linux in relation to faults, configuration, performance and security?

If you are unable to answer all of these questions to your satisfaction you are potentially at risk; best case scenario at risk of not earning the full return on investment possible from Linux, worst case of a systems failure and business disaster.

LinuxIT can assist organisations by helping their IT directors and systems administrators to answer these questions and by working with them to apply the FCAPS model and industry standard best practices. Then, no matter how many servers your organisation has, Linux won’t get out of control and your IT will be highly efficient and manageable.

To find out more, download our eGuide Key questions CEOs should ask their CIO now!

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