My previous articles referred to the infrastructure support group as infrastructure development and support. (Labeling this organization as support only is not painting the proper picture.) Officially, I refer to this group as Enterprise Infrastructure Services (EIS).
The number one responsibility of EIS is ensuring reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS). Sure, every group within IT is involved with RAS, but someone needs to own RAS! This responsibility translates into several stages of support, starting with the RAS services, which include hardware and software maintenance, processing control for managing disk and tape storage media, systems security, and access controls over networks and data. Among other things, EIS is responsible for maintaining online access (security, performance, and availability) and capacity planning. The lists in this article portray the main groups and some of the responsibilities that fall under EIS. Please note that there is more than one proper structure for an IT organization, but we have found this one to be very effective because it addresses some of the biggest problems with infrastructures today:
Technical staff is always in a reactive mode. As I've discussed in previous articles, senior technical staff is spending at least 90% (closer to 98%) of their time fighting fires—always fixing production problems. Instead, these valuable resources (senior technicians) should be spending at least 80% of their time designing and building the proper infrastructure.
System management tools are not fully implemented. Same reason as above.
Point fixes versus enterprise solutions. When technologies are separated by walls, it costs the IT department dearly, as each group tries to resolve its own issues without looking at the big picture.
Organizations structured to focus on technology versus RAS. Putting RAS on the back burner causes an unstable infrastructure with unhappy customers.
RAS processes (change management, problem management, and so on) are missing or ineffective. No one makes time for this, or has the resources. It's never a priority until things are broken.
Lack of RAS process ownership/accountability. No single group is accountable for enterprise-wide IT processes.
A previous article showed three organizational structures for the infrastructure development and support organization. These structures have proven to be effective in shops I've consulted with. The following list shows some of the key groups within EIS and their functions:
Technical Services (for all mission-critical platforms)
Data Center Operations (for all mission-critical platforms)
Service Center (Help Desk)
Desktop Architecture and Customization
Infrastructure Technology Consulting
Development (infrastructure only)
IT Security Services
Technical Services is responsible for infrastructure development and production support functions. This group maintains the operating systems and production databases, as well as developing and implementing systems administration and systems management software for all mission-critical computer platforms. The professionals in this group are ultimately responsible for designing and implementing the heart and soul of your infrastructure.
Technical Services' charter is to perform systems administration for an organization's mission-critical (24x7) production servers and, when needed, development servers. In many organizations, Technical Services also oversees the corporate wide area network. The group provides a consistent, reliable environment, thus ensuring maximum server and network uptime in support of maximum application availability in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Technical Services provides these services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with on-call support for servers in the production environment.
Measuring systems and network performance, recommending and implementing performance improvements (performance and tuning).
Evaluating new products and recommending updates and upgrades.
Performing capacity-planning studies and identifying capacity shortages.
Supporting mission-critical business systems by providing reliable system software, including operating systems and associated applications.
Diagnosing and resolving unique and complex systems problems.
Installing related program products and support tools.
Responsible for configuration management.
Developing standards for the mission-critical production environment.
Architecting and designing the infrastructure (design system management schemes).
Participating in the disaster-recovery process.
Performing as webmaster.
The Database Administration group implements and supports the organization's databases, database-management systems, and software in a manner that provides a highly reliable, available, and supportable production environment.
Responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the database environment, including system and application software support.
Responsible for planning and configuring the database environment.
Evaluating and making recommendations on purchase and utilization of software products.
Performing installation and maintenance on database management systems.
Performing problem diagnoses and determining resolution for application and system software.
Coordinating and providing support to applications programmers, system programmers, users, and computer operations personnel.
Developing and maintaining standards and procedures for the database environment.
Measuring database system performance and tuning where applicable.
Installing and upgrading database management system software with new releases and maintenance releases.
Installing DBMS patches as supplied by the vendor as needed, in coordination with Systems Administration.
Providing consultation support to Systems Administration regarding operating system release implementation.
Providing 24x7x365 on-call support for production DBMS problem resolution.
Responsible for design procedures for business continuation planning (backup and recovery) as required by system-availability agreements for each application.
Responsible for verifying and correcting errors on non–production-status databases on an as-requested basis.
Consulting with application developers on designing security methodologies to establish end-user access to the database.
Providing problem resolution support for DBMS-related and application-related errors.
Supporting impact-analysis activity related to application design and modification.
Providing consultation for system configuration of new applications, such as use of raw partitions versus filesystem, client/server architecture.
Providing consultation for selection of the DBMS.
Enforcing conformance to database and Data Center standards in application systems prior to production implementation.
Providing consultation and development support for the physical database design for database applications in production and development environments.
Providing consultation support for logical database design for database applications in production and development environments.
Acting as interface with DBMS software vendors and other internal support groups.
Responsible for physical integrity of the production databases.
Responsible for monitoring database user access.
Responsible for monitoring physical capacity.
Responsible for maintaining and providing DBA-level access as required for all production-status applications on production and support/staging environments (DBA-level access in a development environment is shared with the development staff).
Monitoring informational/error logs for messages specific to system operation (share responsibility for monitoring with Systems Administration and Production Control).
Providing database device configuration data (hardware and software) for Systems Administration, such as disk usage, memory, etc.
Maintaining system runtime configuration information to define DBMS execution.
Performing database modification function against production applications, such as altering table support for non-production status applications as requested by the support staff.
Providing database support for disaster recovery, in conjunction with Systems Administration.
The network is the most critical piece of the infrastructure. Depending on the size of your network, the Network group could be split into two subgroups: Network Architecture and Network Services. They manage the development of communications, networking, and systems standards and policies for connected computing environments. They also manage the development and implementation of company-wide short-range and long-range data communications, networking strategies, and deployment plans.
The professionals responsible for network architecture are in charge of planning and designing the network, as well as coordinating network functions. They are responsible for the technical service of the network, including planning, implementation, and operational support. The Network Architecture group is responsible for technical consulting and systems design for implementation, management, and operational support of information network communication systems.
The functions for the Network Architecture group include the following:
Defining network requirements.
Developing network strategies, plans, and designs.
Evaluating new network technologies.
Developing and implementing network standards and procedures.
Ensuring network capacity.
Testing new network technologies.
Managing network configuration, names, and addresses.
Configuring and installing inter-network devices such as routers and gateways.
Analyzing complex problems and coordinating resolutions.
Performing communication and networking systems analysis and design planning for integration of computer systems into a local/wide area network based on business-analysis research.
Evaluating customer requests or projects; analyzing requirements and pertinent technical information; developing and implementing quality, cost-effective solutions.
Installing, customizing, and testing network communications and desktop workstation systems.
Evaluating enterprise networking components and infrastructure.
Developing detailed analysis reports and recommendations for network and data communications systems.
Analyzing and participating in the development of security standardization and implementation of security controls for local and wide area networks.
Participating in the development and enforcement of communications and networking systems, as well as desktop workstation standards and policies for connected computing environments.
Participating in the development and implementation of company-wide short-range and long-range data communications and enterprise networking strategies.
Assisting in preparing budgets for data communications systems and desktop workstations.
Coordinating system changes with appropriate support staff to ensure uninterrupted computer services to the affected enterprise departments and responsible executives
The responsibility for implementation and operations of the network lies with the Network Services group. These professionals are also responsible for planning, implementing, and coordinating the installation, enhancement, or operational support of simple and advanced information network systems and desktop workstations. The functions of the Network Services group include the following:
Configuring and installing data communications equipment.
Acting as initial point of contact for network problems.
Configuring and installing concentrators.
Connecting desktop systems to the network.
Maintaining and documenting the structured cabling system.
Implementing network standards and procedures.
Monitoring and reporting network problems.
Maintaining inventory of spare equipment.
Maintaining purchase orders and maintenance agreements.
Interfacing closely with other operations staff.
Monitoring current network and computer-system configurations and performance; creating technical reports, recommendations, and solutions to meet short-range and long-range goals.
Providing operational and technical service for advanced information network hardware and software.
Maintaining inventory-control system and network-connection inventory to ensure proper asset management.
Coordinating system changes with appropriate support staff to ensure uninterrupted computer services.
Reviewing problem-reporting and customer-request systems and updating status or resolution text with current information.
Keeping professional skills updated and consistent with current information-systems networking technology and desktop workstations.
Providing problem determination, repairs, or upgrades to desktop workstations and peripheral devices at customer sites.