Spring cleaning your data center: start with your discovery tools

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With spring now upon us, it’s a great time to look around and see what sort of “spring cleaning” projects you should undertake.  A good place to start is to clean up the database of components that make up your data center environment.  And to accomplish this successfully, you need to make sure you have all the right tools at your disposal to start the cleanup process.

It is important to remember that environments are not “one-size-fits-all”.  With some tools, you’re forced to use a single account to discover components and their related dependency mapping.  However, that account might not be distributed to all servers in an enterprise environment, or your security environment does not allow the use of generic accounts.  To be truly effective, you must be able to manage discovery within any security policy and even exist within environments that have multiple security policies. 

Here’s a list of important points to understand about discovery, as well as the questions to ask your sales rep, to ensure you have the right tool for this job

Cloud technologies are an increasingly valuable source of cost effective resources.  The proliferation of different cloud technologies is the challenge arising, each capable of integrating into a traditional on-premises data center.  AWS, Azure, Google Cloud are examples of public cloud solutions that are available today and can be mixed and matched.  There are also cloud solutions you can deploy on-premises, such as OpenStack, Cloud Foundry and vCloud.

So why is this a big deal?  Imagine that your company has different agreements with the cloud solutions mentioned above.  If you are in charge of tracking assets (servers, software, relationships, etc.), does your current discovery solution have the capability to scan across each of these platforms?  If not, entire chunks of your data center might be completely invisible!

Next, “how you discover” is just as important as “what you discover” - especially when you consider security and other network restrictions such as firewalls and VPN.  PowerShell, as an example, is a useful tool that many discovery solutions use for their means of discovery.  But what happens when PowerShell is not enabled on some servers or is behind a firewall preventing PowerShell access?  How do you discover those items that are not accessible? In order to see ALL of your inventory and details, it’s important to have multiple options for discovery. Here is a short list of protocols your discovery solution should support across both Windows and Linux platforms

  • WMI (without reliance on PowerShell)
  • SSH
  • Windows Shell
  • PowerShell
  • PowerCMD
  • Agent-based

What happens if you decide to use multiple protocols and multiple cloud solutions?  What if you have different software applications that can float across these different environments?  Normalization is the key to keeping track of your environment and where your software applications live, even if they are constantly on the move.  Simplistic discovery tools can track when an application is installed and will assign an IP address that is stored to keep a “location” for it.   However, with IP address changes due to moving your laptop to a conference room, or a virtual machine getting assigned a new IP when it is started up, your system might mistake it for a new configuration item and create a new record for it.  Worse, if this application moves every few hours or even minutes, your database could have dozens or even hundreds of the same instance.  Normalization can be used to help standardize the categories or grouping of data across multiple data sources.  Reconciliation is then used to compare the data across said data sources to create a single complete and correct dataset. 

What about requirements that change over time?  You may be using one solution now for your service management needs today, but in two years, does it still provide the same standard of excellence? This can be made possible if you standardize on a discovery tool that can grow with you regardless of what tools are used to consume the discovered data.  The key is integrating to third-party products.  Getting locked into using a single-source vendor discovery solution where you can’t integrate into other solutions, could cause unforeseen problems down the road.  Keep in mind that you don’t have to settle for a lower-quality discovery tool, just because it happens to be created by the same vendor of your service management tool.

Another reason to play well with third-party software is easily maintaining government, industry or other regulatory compliance.  One such case is with Oracle audit reports.  Oracle LMS discovery can generate Oracle-certified audit reports for each database used in your enterprise, regardless of how you have it deployed (physical, virtual, cloud) so you don’t have to deploy Oracle audit scripts manually across your enterprise.

Knowing your environment, including how it works and what security models are enforced, is the first step in the selection process. It is also important to keep an eye to the future of where your business may go.  You can accomplish this by asking the right questions on how prospective solutions might fit your needs. This simple step is key to making the right choice for all your business and discovery needs, and that choice is Universal Discovery by Micro Focus

About the Author
I am the Sr. Technical Marketing Manager for MF's IT Service Management suite. Follow me on twitter @JasonOdorizzi
The opinions expressed above are the personal opinions of the authors, not of Micro Focus. By using this site, you accept the Terms of Use and Rules of Participation. Certain versions of content ("Material") accessible here may contain branding from Hewlett-Packard Company (now HP Inc.) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company. As of September 1, 2017, the Material is now offered by Micro Focus, a separately owned and operated company. Any reference to the HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise/HPE marks is historical in nature, and the HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise/HPE marks are the property of their respective owners.