What is baselining

The data center baseline: Phase 0 of any big project

No large IT project, especially one that will affect hundreds or even thousands of servers, can be started without a baseline. Baselines for this purpose are also referred to as "IT audits", and generally involve an in-depth investigation into the IT infrastructure to discover:

  • Its extent: Are there hosts that you're not aware of? The answer is invariably "yes". What are they doing?
  • Inventory: What hardware and software are the hosts running? Are they physical or virtual? Where are they located?
  • Dependencies: This is the longest, most complicated and expensive part of the baseline.
    • Which hosts and software provide which services?
    • Which IT staff own and operate the hosts?
    • Which business services (business applications) are provided by which infrastructure?
    • Which business units rely on which business applications?
    • What are the interdependencies between hosts, and therefore between business applications?

Virtualisation and consolidation projects also require an understanding of the performance of the infrastructure: how busy the hosts are, how much power and cooling they require and if there are any reasons why they should not be virtualised/consolidated.

Where BMC Atrium Discovery can help

BMC Atrium Discovery gathers essential hardware and software information quickly and accurately.

BMC Atrium Discovery's Baseline Dashboard tells you the progress of your baseline at a glance; how much of the estate you have gathered information about, what the spread of operating systems is on the hosts discovered so far, how many are virtual, graphs of the progress you're making and more. You can display information on a Baseline Dashboard to easily help you baseline your project, such as a data center consolidation. Addtionally, BMC Atrium Discovery helps you determine the relationships and dependencies in your estate only hours after deployment.

Client workshops, interviews and ad-hoc conversations with technical staff are the most common techniques for finding the business dependencies in and on your data center. Before taking up these people's valuable time, you must know which questions to ask to whom. You have to have a lot of detailed starter information about how the estate is structured: which hosts are communicating with which others (with a rough idea of why), which hosts seem to be working closely together, which hosts seem to be relied on by a large proportion of the estate and so forth.

Normally, this initial analysis is done manually by examining lists of processes, the network communications on which the processes are involved in, and the host communications for hundreds or thousands of hosts, which can be a tedious, error-prone exercise that can take considerable time.

Once the initial analysis is complete, the workshops are conducted. These involve talking to on-site experts about your conclusions from the analysis. These conclusions will often be challenged; either your expert is aware of a subtlety that you hadn't picked up on, or the environment has moved on a bit and they're not aware of some new condition. Either way, you need a way to present your conclusions to them with clear supporting evidence that can be discussed and further analysed. Frantically cross-referencing reams of reports under the gaze of an impatient technical architect wastes time and precious good-will.

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