Performance Management Simplified by MSPs

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Performance Management Simplified by MSPs
J. Dowling - January 24, 2001


IT infrastructure consisting of networks, servers, databases, and even parts of application systems forms a networked computing system (NCS) whose performance must be actively managed to ensure continual business support. But the skills and tools necessary to ensure that network and server systems provide adequate levels of services and performance are expensive and scarce.

Unfortunately, NCS performance management is frequently broken into a number of processes that are even more frequently well intentioned but nonetheless neglected. More often than not, an IT organization will have some form of network monitoring system, but few have network performance measurement tools. Similarly, relational database management systems (RDBMSs), server operating systems, and application system performance management is usually conducted as a part-time (often reactive) activity of the associated technology administrator. However, management service providers (MSPs) that specialize in performance management can apply expert personnel and 24/7 monitoring at a fraction of the cost required to staff the function internally.

Note: This note first appeared in a column by James F. Dowling in Mid-Range Computing. Look for other previously published Mid-Range Computing columns by Mr. Dowling at this site or visit Midrange Showcase at

What's Involved?

A comprehensive networked computing performance management program encompasses the following:

  • Architecture to establish a plan for how NCS components are interrelated

  • Service level commitments to link NCS and business performance measures

  • Availability measures to record uptime

  • Activity measures to record resource consumption

  • Performance measures to record quality of service

  • Event management and response escalation to reduce downtime/poor performance time

  • Fault isolation to pinpoint performance fault cause

  • Capacity measures to record resource availability

  • Capacity modeling to plan for resource expansion

  • Data integration and reporting to bring various infrastructure component data into a cohesive, business-relevant picture of the NCS's historical, current, and future capacity to support business needs

NCS performance management systems are composed of knowledgeable technology administrators - who understand each of the NCS components well enough to prevent, identify, diagnose, and plan resource performance - and tools to assist them. Although performance measurement and event management tools are costly, the human resource costs make comprehensive programs prohibitive for many. This is not to say that such systems are not cost-effective. Rather, cost justification is extremely subjective, based on projected faults and business loss estimates. When coupled with high capital and human resource expenditures, such ROI presentations are not well received unless a recent catastrophe can be used as a case in point.

That's where the MSP comes into the picture. Entuity, InteQ Corporation, iSharp, Luminate, and Manage.Com are founding members of the MSP Association, a consortium of companies that will define and promote the emerging management service provider sector. Information on the MSP Association is available on the Web at; from Association headquarters at 401 Edgewater Place, Suite 500, Wakefield, MA 01880; via telephone at 781-876-8830; or by sending email to

MSPs bring component expertise, measurement, event management, and reporting capabilities to bear on the networked computing systems of multiple companies through a single infrastructure investment. This allows MSPs to provide 24/7 monitoring and event management coverage with technology component experts for analysis and planning. Clearly, this is a program that every IT manager wants but one that most cannot afford. The principle advantage of the MSP approach is that a company has access to performance management experts and integrated monitoring at a fraction of the cost of in-house staffing.

Two Players' Approaches

The MSP approach is a new business model, and every situation presents unique challenges to designers of monitoring and measuring systems. However, two companies have made significant headway in this marketplace. I present their offerings here as representative examples of what is to come and what every IT manager must consider.

Luminate ( takes SAP R/3 performance management from the level of drudgery and mysticism to that of fact-based decision-making. The company's operating model is simple. The client downloads and executes a free monitoring module for SAP R/3 and authorizes it to commence data collection and transfer to Luminate's Intelligence Center. From this point on, serious performance problems will be routed back to the client via email with appropriate response advice provided. For proactive reporting, capacity planning, and other analytical services, the client contracts an appropriate service package. Other monitoring modules are available that cover a broad spectrum of infrastructure components.

It is easy to discount the value of being told that everything is all right 99.999 percent of the time. But it is hard to overestimate the value of having trend data collected, analyzed, and reported without having to think about it or being able to reassign an SAP R/3 BASIS System Administrator to an activity with more apparent business value contribution without losing management continuity

InteQ ( presents an operating model that mirrors Luminate's simplicity while broadening services. InteQ provides a complete outsourced infrastructure for monitoring, measurement, and event management of complex networked computing systems. Instrumentation, using commercially available tools such as Hewlett-Packard's OpenView, BMC Software's PATROL, and Remedy Corporation's ARS among others, is networked to InteQ's Network Operations Center, where it is monitored in accordance with predefined service level agreements. Inteq's consultants can deliver a full IT infrastructure life cycle from architecture design to monitoring and management in an effort to ensure that the infrastructure is well engineered, measured, and managed.

These two companies, along with their partners in the MSP Association, are making what has been possible yet virtually unobtainable for quite some time into a turnkey service that brings many IT managers' vision to reality.

This column will continue to explore the change/size paradox-big companies desiring speed and growing companies desiring stability. The author would appreciate feedback on material presented as well as suggestions for future study and reporting. The general theme is IT management and the goal is to make it easier to get clients what they want and what they need to succeed.

About The Author

Jim Dowling is VP of the Alignment Consulting Practice at TechnologyEvaluation.Com, Inc. located in Woburn, Massachusetts. TEC researches IT products and suppliers as well as the ways companies obtain business value from IT. TEC's consulting services remove time, risk and ultimately cost from IT related decisions.

Jim can be reached at jdowling@TechnologyEvaluation.COM.

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