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Martin Atherton

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DVD it in many colours

Bring your own PC

Workshop The rise of ‘consumer’ expectations in the workforce is driving some organisations to think up ways of giving their employees more choice when it comes to personal computers. ‘Bring your own computer’ (BYOC) has quickly become an umbrella term for employees, erm,.. bringing their own computer into the workplace. But just how …
Martin Atherton, 23 Jun 2010
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Making sense of the new business of IT

Lab You may be heartily sick of hearing that ‘change is the only constant’, ‘everything’s getting faster’ and ‘business is more competitive than ever’. However, a direct consequence of what’s happening today is that the expectations placed on IT to help the business thrive in the midst of all this ‘change’ has never been greater. We …
Martin Atherton, 21 Jun 2010
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Holistic, end-to-end, consolidated service management-itis

Lab Many IT professionals see ‘service management’ (or ‘managing services’ if you prefer) as a simple phrase which describes what they do. Some see it as ‘doing the job properly’. Others do not like the term because it overstates what they do, or they do not consider IT to be a custodian of ‘services’. However, most IT professionals …
Martin Atherton, 10 Jun 2010
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Delivering on data governance

Lab Data governance can be dismissed as ‘applied common sense’, or balked at as an impossible endeavour which once embarked upon, will never end. The fact that one end of the data governance spectrum can seem a bit frightening means many organisations tend towards the other, and wind up doing the absolute minimum in order to get by …
Martin Atherton, 04 Jun 2010
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Information versus the silos

Lab The idea that ‘information is important and we want to do more useful things with it’ transcends technology by virtue of it having been true long before IT vendors wanted to talk about it. However, technology does have a key role to play in helping us exploit the information in our businesses, not least because of its ability …
Martin Atherton, 27 May 2010
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Service management best practice

Whenever IT best practice for service management gets a mention, we tend to think of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). A much longer list of them exists, however. Here’s one I found earlier: ITIL, Application Service Library (ASL), Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), CoBIT, ISO/IEC 20000, Agile, SSADM, RAD …
Martin Atherton, 14 May 2010
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IT governance: Making the case without cutting your throat

Lab ‘IT governance’ sounds like a grandiose idea, but what is it? In simplest terms, it’s a subset of the (even more grandiose sounding) discipline of corporate governance, focused, unsurprisingly on IT. The idea is to reduce the ‘black box-ness’ of IT by guiding the way it is approached through taking the requirements of …
Martin Atherton, 06 May 2010
Broken CD with wrench

The desktop provisioning palaver

Workshop Setting and maintaining desktop policy and provisioning equipment and software sounds like something that should be done once and then left to gather dust while people just get on with things in the knowledge that it’s all been agreed. Perhaps this would be practical if such interesting developments weren’t afoot in consumer …
Martin Atherton, 04 May 2010
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The IT management dashboard

Lab Our research in the IT management domain has helped us establish a few basic truths. Most IT professionals agree that IT does an adequate job of supporting the business across a range of areas, but also that it could do a better job if was managed more effectively. ‘Historical’ shortcomings, such as the heavy focus on …
Martin Atherton, 27 Apr 2010
Cat 5 cable

Server patching principles

Workshop In the imperfect world we live in, patching stuff, be it desktops, software or servers is a fact of life. We do it or we risk being exposed to the latest security threat, missing out on new functionality or suffering performance degradation. We discussed desktop client patching over in the desktop management workshop. In this …
Martin Atherton, 23 Apr 2010
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The user view of IT delivery

Lab It would be odd to hear from an IT pro who didn’t have ‘demanding users’, regardless of which decade of business computing we care to examine. However, the nature of the demands and the expectations of today’s users are changing. We could cite popular culture, consumer behaviour, freely available services and the ‘disposable’ …
Martin Atherton, 22 Apr 2010
Broken CD with wrench

Supporting the teleworkers: Redux

Workshop The issue of providing IT support to home-based users always attracts a lot of responses from the IT pro readership on El Reg, as illustrated by Jon Collins’ recent article. The bottom line is that most of you who expressed an opinion think that supporting teleworkers is not actually that big of a deal, as long as some sensible …
Martin Atherton, 21 Apr 2010
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Exploiting the new dynamism

Lab A combination of today’s fast moving, interconnected trading environments and economic uncertainty drives the need for robust yet flexible business support from IT. Yet many IT departments are constrained in their ability to respond to changing business requirements because of the relatively static way in which IT has …
Martin Atherton, 20 Apr 2010

Change management in x86 server estates

Workshop Changes to the IT environment are the source of some of the biggest headaches for the IT pro. They probably always will be, for the obvious reason that accidents aside, the most straightforward way of destabilising an IT system is to change it. However, change is inevitable: by and large, dealing with such changes, and …
Martin Atherton, 16 Apr 2010

Consumerisation and client computing

Workshop The Apple Mac is an appropriate candidate for the ‘I want one of those because he’s got one’ poster child. However, the creep of consumerism and its impact on the range of computing devices which find themselves inside organisations goes beyond mere executive envy. The consumerisation phenomenon is a little tricky to pin down, …
Martin Atherton, 14 Apr 2010
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Is IT service delivery really changing?

Lab The new world we’ve been hearing about for years is slowly drifting into focus. Globally distributed businesses demand round the clock access to services, and new technologies (or updates of old ones) provide an expanding number of choices for building and consuming them. Consolidation, convergence and virtualisation - there’s …
Martin Atherton, 12 Apr 2010
server room

Patch Management: Should it even exist?

Workshop From the outside in, it’s easy to question the need for software patching. “Surely,” some might ask, “If software was written properly we wouldn’t need the IT department to spend time patching it?” The even more cynical might suggest that the whole thing is a money-making ruse – without the need for patching, we wouldn't have …
Martin Atherton, 30 Mar 2010
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Choosing an ERP implementation partner

Workshop Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has been around for a long time, yet there is no de facto guide to making it work or any guarantee that you'll get what you want if you invest in it. Yet many thousands of instances of ERP from a range of software vendors are in play today. Despite the uncertainties, businesses make it work. So …
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Dealing with the virtual hype

Lab There are few if any technologies that have garnered as much industry coverage as virtualisation has enjoyed over the last few years. Okay, maybe ‘Cloud Computing’ has too, but that’s more vendor talk than action right now. As far as real-world activity goes, virtualisation is a hotbed of activity and a magnet for vendors to …
Martin Atherton, 18 Mar 2010

Desktop refresh cycles: How long is yours?

Workshop Depending on the organisation you work in, the notion of ‘desktop refresh’ will have taken one of several forms. At one end of the spectrum, major ‘one-off’ upgrades can be the norm. The other end may involve nothing formal in the way of a modernisation program, relying more on individual employees making the case for a new …
Martin Atherton, 17 Mar 2010
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Virtualisation and vendor support

Lab You may be playing around with virtualisation on the edges of your IT environment or be well down the road to making it part of the furniture. But what happens when something goes wrong and it’s not immediately obvious what the problem is? If the issue looks as though it is related to a software application provided by a third …
Martin Atherton, 12 Mar 2010
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Getting there – the road to virtualisation

Lab Despite the annual technology prediction-fest that pollutes the airways each year, it’s fair to say that nobody really knows ‘where it’s all going’. And that’s good, because the world would be a bit boring otherwise. What we do have is a reasonable understanding of the direction in which things are going in general in IT. Plenty …
Martin Atherton, 02 Mar 2010
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Virtualisation and management frameworks

Lab Our research in the field of operational IT management has yielded much in the way of rich, down to earth insights into day to day realities, thanks to the readers of El Reg. As part of this ongoing exploration, we’ve had the opportunity to dig around a bit on the topic of best practice frameworks. What we found would not …
Martin Atherton, 01 Mar 2010
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How do you manage your virtual environment...

Lab A study (pdf) we undertook in 2008 with the help of the Register readership acknowledged what you all knew to be true: contrary to the hype, IT wasn’t in fact broken/on-fire/rubbish, it was actually doing OK. However, those working in the field happily acknowledged that things could be better. The burden that IT works under …
Martin Atherton, 19 Jan 2010
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How do you manage service levels in a virtualised environment?

Lab In previous research projects we’ve examined the impact of service level monitoring and management, and found positive benefits in having a range of associated SLAs in place. No surprises there of course. However, the main finding was that beyond a certain number, it didn’t matter how much ‘extra agreement’ you have: there was …
Martin Atherton, 07 Jan 2010
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The double-edged sword of virtualisation security

Lab A quick search will provide ample warnings of the risks of adding virtualisation technology to the business IT mix without due care and consideration to security. Whether such risks are inherent in the use of virtualisation technology itself, or arise when standard security practices are not extended to include virtual …
Martin Atherton, 17 Dec 2009
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Never mind virtual desktops - what about the apps?

Lab Conventional wisdom says that when planning an IT project, the things to get right before you start are less about ‘the thing’, and more about what the thing has to fit into, who's going to use it and who needs convincing of its value in the first place. Somewhere along the line ‘the thing’ gets some attention, but when it comes …
Martin Atherton, 04 Dec 2009
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Is server virtualization ready for production?

Lab The adoption of server virtualization technology follows several trajectories. We could consider the breadth of its penetration in terms of the number of organisations using it today, or we could consider the depth of its use in individual organisations, in terms of what they actually do with it. The latter is of more relevance …
Martin Atherton, 24 Nov 2009
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We're going for optimised workload delivery...

Workshop Who wouldn’t want IT to be delivered in a more dynamic, flexible, agile, [insert your least detested buzzword here] way? Optimal configurations for server and desktop workload delivery have been discussed, and indeed, attempted, for many years. So how close are we to really nailing this? The answer to this question may depend on …
Martin Atherton, 23 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

Software apps and the server room

Workshop As mentioned in last week's Reg reader server management poll results, one of the curses of the IT industry is the ease with which we can remove the working context between things and talk about them, as though they exist in isolation. Pundits, analysts and anyone with a point product to sell do this with ease. But it doesn’t …
Martin Atherton, 16 Nov 2009
arrow pointing up

Reg readers on: Stuff you run vs stuff you run it on

Workshop Thanks to everyone who took part in our latest mini-poll, which teased out some insights on how you balance the requirements of the teams that build and operate the resources and capabilities running in the server room. On the face of it, the overall relationship between software developers / procurement and those tasked with …
Martin Atherton, 13 Nov 2009
SGI logo hardware close-up

Remote IT support 'is harder'

Poll Results Perish the thought that we at Freeform Towers should try to over-simplify things, but from the whopping 465 of you who responded to this week's Reg survey, it is clear that there is more to 'remote support' than meets the eye. In analysing the responses we agreed with comments from Reg regular Trevor Pott, that "a true 'remote …
Martin Atherton, 23 Oct 2009

Securing the remote estate

Workshop One of the challenges of managing a remote desktop estate is security. It’s not a new problem, but it has been raised higher in the collective consciousness in the last few years, thanks to the proliferation of smaller, cheaper and more portable devices. Its not enough to blame human nature - although sitting here as I type I …
Martin Atherton, 21 Oct 2009

What is it about supporting remote workers?

Mini Poll Thanks for your feedback on this week's workshop topic, which could loosely be defined as 'remote desktop support' but actually translates more into 'trying to explain how to put out a fire using a periscope, tin can and string'. As usual we're interested in bottoming out your views, particularly to gauge whether providing IT …
Martin Atherton, 20 Oct 2009

When PCs went mobile

Workshop Do you remember the first time you saw a laptop? Shiny bright LED screen, pixels individually visible, about the size of a breeze block. Portability probably didn’t concern the IT department because nobody in their right mind would try to carry one out of the office. But they did. Quite quickly, laptops became smaller and …
Martin Atherton, 19 Oct 2009
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Try these beans: Business Service Management

Workshop In recent weeks we’ve received plenty of meaty responses in roughly equal measures (positive and negative) to the questions posed in this workshop. For many, service management is seen as simply doing the job properly, regardless of the tools / politics / obtrusive management and so on. Others do what they do but really don’t …
Martin Atherton, 14 Oct 2009
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Who does the helpdesk really help?

Workshop Who does the helpdesk help - IT or the business? Many people (users) think the helpdesk is ‘what IT is for” where as in fact it may be the very thing stopping IT from being a more valuable partner to the business. Is this status quo simply the way things are destined to stay or is there more we can do with this frontline service …
Martin Atherton, 07 Oct 2009
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Service management strategies

Workshop One of the most universal findings we encounter on our research travels is that, contrary to what we may hear from elsewhere (IT vendors, subject evangelists), IT professionals generally want to deal with fewer processes, not more. Or to be precise, they want ‘just enough’ process. This idea is firmly rooted in practicality and …
Martin Atherton, 02 Oct 2009
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The tools of the trade: Cutting edge or a bit embarrassing?

Workshop Do the phrases ‘cutting edge’ and ‘your IT shop’ constitute a contradiction in terms, or do you work in a sleek and streamlined vision of sci-fi IT? When we asked you about this last year we got the impression that for most organisations it was more the former than the latter. That’s not to say you told us things were falling …
Martin Atherton, 30 Sep 2009
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Automated out of existence?

Workshop If your job involves managing IT, IT services or business services it’s probably not escaped your attention that for better or worse, your job entails working with other people. Whether strong demarcations between “IT” and “The Business” exist, or whether your firm takes a more ‘progressive’ approach, there are numerous …
Martin Atherton, 25 Sep 2009

What’s important in service management?

Workshop In its broadest sense, service management goes beyond IT service management and looks to influence many of the processes which underpin the activities a business engages in. Previously, we asked how you thought service management had changed in your organisation in recent years. Let’s dig around a bit further. One of the major …
Martin Atherton, 23 Sep 2009
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Service management: A million jobs or a job with a million parts?

Workshop Not so long ago there was the stuff that IT folk did, and there was stuff that non-IT folk did. The business was run by business people, and the IT department was run by IT people. Of course it made sense for the two sides to interact. To the outsider, it may have looked like the IT folk needed some business sense to help them …
Martin Atherton, 21 Sep 2009
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The application platform’s in play. But where’s it going?

Reg Tech Panel This application platform thing looks like it has legs. A few weeks ago we asked the Reg audience at large if they ‘got’ the idea of the application platform, and, practicalities aside, most said ‘we do’. Around a quarter said they had already adopted one. Digging a bit further, we see that of those that are ‘somewhere’ with …
Martin Atherton, 22 Dec 2008
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Supporting the application platform

As our discussion around the role of the application platform continues, a quick look back shows us that the Reg reader jury is still out when it comes to deciding on the capabilities which deserve or need to be included in one. The other side of the coin to ‘what’, is perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘how’. If you are going to develop …
Martin Atherton, 18 Dec 2008
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The role of the application platform

The application platform (as described here) has become a reality for a decent proportion of the El Reg audience, but what is not so clear yet is where it’s all going, or if it’s going anywhere at all. Simply having an application platform in place is an achievement; even more so given the concept isn’t solidly ‘baked’ yet, so …
Martin Atherton, 15 Dec 2008
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Application platforms: different stuff, same story?

When it comes to IT, the build versus buy argument is part and parcel of the industry. We know from the last Barometer study that custom application software development is just as important for many of you as packaged application software. The notion of an application platform (aka ‘the bits between the app and the server’) …
Martin Atherton, 12 Dec 2008
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A last hurrah: Matching info challenges with functional capabilities

Over the last few articles, we’ve talked about the pain of getting information to the people that need it, and discovered that most of you don’t consider information or data management/delivery capabilities as a high priority when thinking about components to include in an application platform. Many of the comments to the …
Martin Atherton, 04 Dec 2008
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An information delivery pipedream

According to the findings from our recent Platform and Operations monster survey, most organisations told us they ‘get’ the notion of an application platform. Around a quarter of respondents told us they have formally adopted one, and over a third said that they had adopted one in the sense of having a natural tendency to re-use …
Martin Atherton, 02 Dec 2008
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Who's kicking whose ass when it comes to information delivery?

Mini Poll When it comes to systems and processes for handling data and information, we've all heard about 'BI', data warehousing, content management, work flow and so on. However, if the challenge of 'exploiting information' were so easily dealt with, we'd presumably not be talking about such things so much. Except we are, and all the …
Martin Atherton, 01 Dec 2008
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Why is information delivery so bloody hard?

Are you frustrated with how difficult it can be to find information? What makes this more irksome is that the vendor community seems to have just woken up to the fact that there's a lot of information 'out there' to manage. Translated, this means that some of the larger vendors have recently got their act together with …
Martin Atherton, 28 Nov 2008