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Unix Enterprise by Harris Kern & Randy Johnson

Randy and Harris' ten commandments for today's IT

We collect our teachings into an easy-to-remember form
Follow these commandments to achieve IT perfection

November  1996
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As we tour the IT lecture circuit, our speeches include our core beliefs and methods that describe how to implement and manage the proper infrastructure for the new enterprise. We call them "R&H's IT Commandments" (1,200 words)

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All great organizations infuse their people with elemental guidelines for proper behavior. Perhaps the oldest code of conduct is the Ten Commandments. Almost since the day Moses stumbled off Mount Sinai, people have applied the idea of condensing their groups' rules of conduct into ten, easy-to-remember sentences. Knowing a Good Thing when we see one, we've distilled our teachings on today's New Information Technology into R&H's IT Commandments. We've covered many of these themes before, while the rest are fodder for future columns.

1. Treat thy network as thy data center.

In other words, "The network is the data center." But isn't Sun Microsystems famous for the slogan "The network is the computer"? Yes, and it turns out Sun's marketing department was right. But now a couple of old data center guys come along and say "the network is the data center." What gives?

Ask yourself: What is the most secure and reliable environment in data processing? Every IT professional can answer that one -- the data center! It's your company's security blanket for essential, mission-critical, bread-and-butter financial, manufacturing, and human resource business systems. We can hear those desktop cowboys stirring right now. Yes, there are some desktop apps that could be considered mission critical. And we agree to a point, but are steadfast in our belief that desktops do not form the central nervous system of major organizations.

As you deploy the proper infrastructure, your objective should be to make the network as reliable, available, and serviceable (RAS) as the data center. This requires processes, standards, and procedures, which leads us to our second commandment.

2. Honor thy mainframe disciplines, and keep them holy

Mainframe disciplines: We can't live with them and can't live without them. In the age of distributed everything to everywhere, disciplines are more important than ever. But you cannot simply transplant mainframe disciplines with all their bureaucracy on client/server technology. You need to customize and streamline these disciplines so they can manage a modern, chaotic, heterogenous infrastructure. We grew up with these processes in the legacy environment, which included change management, capacity planning, disaster recovery, and so on. Today, we need these disciplines more than ever.

3. Thou shalt keep minimum yet sufficient architectures.

Develop organization-wide standards for each areas of the infrastructure, including the network, data center, desktops, development tools, nomadic computers, servers, and so on. You need standards for today, and clear statements of direction for your standards, environments, platforms, or architectures (you pick the buzzword) for five years in the future. For example, your desktops today could be Windows 3.1.1 boxes on 10BaseT. Your five-year plan could call for NCs running on 100BaseT.

4. Thou shalt maintain centralized control with decentralized operations.

Implement the new enterprise with a mixture of centralized control and decentralized operations. Centralized control means to control costs, you need to develop architectures, and deploy standards and guidelines from a central location. Decentralized operations means it doesn't matter where your IT support personnel are located. They can be placed to best support networked computing in general and your customer specifically.

5. Honor thy users and communicate with them often.

The failure to communicate is a big problem. Generally speaking, IT professionals would rather string cable and write code than hang out with users and listen to their problems. This failure is wired, as it were, into IT people, and supported by the culture of IT organizations. To make matters worse, IT itself can't seem to communicate within its own borders. Back in the mainframe days, we enjoyed a clear demarcation as to who did what to whom. Everyone's responsibilities were clearly defined. DBA's knew exactly where their roles started and ended. Ditto for systems programmers, and so on.

Here comes this crazy world of client/server without any clear boundaries and everything spread across the network. We need a process that promotes and instills communication between IT and it's customers and between the different groups within IT. This process should spell-out everyone's roles and responsibilities clearly. See last month's column for our solution.


6. Keep all production systems equal in the eyes of the IT staff.

From a hardware perspective, today's enterprise consists of mainframes, PC's, Macintoshes, workstations, and servers. You might be tempted to create separate support groups for each. Wrong! Do not build silos surrounding technologies. Your support team should be called Technical Support (no more and no less) and all its staff members should be cross-trained on as many platforms as each can handle. Separating support along technologies results in inefficiencies, political problems, poor communications, and morale problems. Never reorganize due to technology. In this day and age with just about everything being distributed, treat everything equally!

7. Measure all; verily, you can not manage what you do not measure.

Think back to your legacy environment and how you were able to measure every aspect of the infrastructure. Some of the metrics that we gathered included: Ask any executive in the 1970s and 1980s about their system availability, and they were proud to respond with 99.5%, 99.8%, and so on. With today's networked enterprise -- forget it. Who has the time to collect all this trivia? We're the first to agree it takes energy to establish metrics. It took time, a lot of time, to collect uptime statistics in the mainframe era, but it was one of the reasons the legacy world was so reliable. We knew the numbers. We could manage. Crunch your uptime numbers, hold people accountable, and your managers will somehow find a way to run your shop more efficiently.

We will discuss uptime metrics in a client/server world in a future column.

8. Thou shalt build an attractive IT service, and users will come.

Once you get your house in order your customers will return. But most IT shops are far from getting their houses in order. In the 1980s, most of IT's customers abandoned the centralized support group to develop and deploy client/server applications. Centralized IT was too bureaucratic and costly.

Today, those same customers have felt the pain of trying to support their own mini-IT operations. They need help, but centralized IT still has not got its act together. Last month, we discussed the top priority and the No. 1 process to implement for building the proper foundation. This process happens to be the largest piece of the puzzle, but there are many others as well. Processes, standards, and guidelines will become the foundation for your house. Once these processes become streamlined and cost efficient, your house (infrastructure) will support the New Enterprise. Then you need to trumpet your services.

9. Thou shalt share the good news of thy services.

In the before time, mainframers would sit in our data centers in lofty ivory towers. The only time we we would interact with common users is when the help desk would beckon with an unusual problem. We operated in reactionary mode.

Today, IT professionals need to walk with the great unwashed and communicate with customers. We need to shmooze, sell, and otherwise promote our services. Next month, we will dedicate our column on how to accomplish this. In the 1990s and beyond, IT's role needs to change in a major way!

10. Know that success equals the change thou manages.

Change will not stop. In fact, we are all now running on Internet time, even if our companies do not sell products that operate on any network. Technology is evolving and shifting faster than ever. Follow the first nine methodologies to manage the New Enterprise and you will find success.

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