The question that gets to the heart of this is: “Are you confident you know what you’ve got lurking around your networks, and where?” However, this risks oversimplifying what is an incredibly versatile business asset. Let’s examine where we are today, and why Discovery is a tool you should be relying on. So what are typical use cases for intelligent discovery software?
Why You Need Discovery
1. You don’t have an up-to-date asset map
None of the value-add benefits of asset discovery can take place without an accurate asset map. Smart discovery software can link infrastructure to software, enabling rapid discovery, relationship modelling, correlation, visualisation as well as root cause analysis in networks of hundreds of thousands of servers spread across different continents. It’s a world away from relying on junior staff filling in complex spreadsheets that are outdated as soon as they’re updated.
Accurate asset maps are transformational when it comes to preparing for and undertaking software and other audits. With a reliable register of which servers are where, and what each is used for, you’ll need to hand over less valuable staff time each year preparing for and carrying out complex reviews, as well as minimising the high costs of failed software audits. Possibly for the first time, you’ll be able to accurately apportion hardware and software to each business centre that makes up your organisation. Similarly, asset mapping is a crucial first step when it comes to ensuring regulatory compliance. Without a full picture of your entire IT infrastructure estate, how can you possibly be sure whether you’re fully compliant or not?
2. You’re not as secure as your CISO would like you to be.
Joking aside, we all know, the consumerisation of IT is creating end-users who are much more demanding, who are far less compliant with corporate policy and usually through no deliberate fault of their own, expose their organisations to all manner of security risks. Likewise, the rapid proliferation of datacenter resources, hardware platforms, operating systems and enterprise applications not only increase the complexity of IT operations, but dramatically increase the risk of security attacks. All it takes is one exposed security vulnerability on a single system to compromise sensitive corporate data as well as allow unauthorised entry into the company’s entire network.
Intelligent discovery permits your SecOps teams to perform essential prevention and detection, including locating servers that could be back door entry points, quickly identifying applications affected by a breach, and running a quick scan for OpenSSL. Rapid resolution to such threats is challenged by the inability to sufficiently understand the entire datacenter landscape. Understanding risk impact is challenging when there is limited or no understanding of where the assets reside and precisely how the assets support the business.
3. It takes you five weeks to install a patch
Let’s move on to patch testing. We’ve all been there - you’re up against the clock, you’ve just realised you have a stack of production servers running an OS that is now two major revisions out of date and there is talk on forums of a pretty serious vulnerability. Rather than taking them offline for the afternoon to run testing, you’ve just installed the patch and restarted them. Now, with discovery, you can quickly scan your estate to find another server running the same OS that’s not as mission-critical - what about the payroll system, for instance? That’s only in use once a month really.
As you can see, Discovery enables your patch management tool to be more efficient, freeing up huge amounts of time. Time pushed IT staff are able to quickly isolate any device in their estate running outdated software and take measures to secure them. Most importantly, it lets them focus on other, more productive areas of the business. Rather than laboriously combing through update lists, they can be working on ways to get the most business benefit from existing systems, or modernising IT deployments through digital transformation.
4. You think you’re over/under-using your capacity.
In many multinationals, the organisation has grown organically steadily, and then quite dramatically expanded through acquisition, and then grown a bit more, and so the cycle goes. Even discounting radical growth, it’s very easy for businesses with just a handful of offices to become rapidly siloed, with teams across different locations buying different hardware or software tools to accomplish the same tasks.
Intelligent discovery helps your business stay agile, which is becoming an increasing battleground for competitive differentiation. For organisations to be agile, they need to be able to plan for future infrastructure resources as well as optimise the use of the ones they currently own. By having a true understanding of the size and makeup of your current IT infrastructure, you’re better able to plan, manage and optimise resource utilisation. Balancing cost and performance so that application performance stays high and infrastructure costs stay requires effective insight into the current and future usage of processing power, storage and network resources. It’ll help identify and remove old, inefficient servers, and helps improve the carbon footprint of your organisation as you replace the most power-hungry.
5. You’re thinking of cloud migration
Cloud-first does not have to mean cloud-only. In many cases application performance can be faster, or deemed to be more secure, or simply more cost-effective, to run on-premise deployments. Regardless, it is highly unlikely that an organisation’s IT infrastructure is confined to on-premise only, or even in just one cloud. Now that we’ve convinced you of the need for a discovery solution, when you’re shopping around and comparing providers, make sure that each platform or cloud in use across your estate is supported. While getting to 100% transparency is pure fantasy - in large organisations, your environment changes almost every day, you don’t want to buy a solution that will give you only a partial view of your infrastructure.
Increases in hard drive storage are roughly on parallel with a growth in bandwidth capability - at roughly 50% year-on-year. However, this has meant that businesses are increasingly adopting rich media content like video, PDFs and PowerPoint presentations instead of text-based emails and lengthy Word documents. This has caused an explosion in the amount of unstructured data businesses are being asked to store. We are at the beginning of mainstream adoption of big data solutions and eventually every organisation will want to benefit as the lines of business push for better access to big data. Smart discovery not only enables rapid cataloguing of and access to your unstructured data, but also intelligent de-duplication of data, which could potentially reduce your storage needs by anything up to 30-50%. Cloud migration offers the perfect opportunity to critically assess how much data you’re holding, and the business value of that data. Reducing the overall data footprint in your organisation allows you to reduce hardware costs, backup costs and disaster recovery/business continuity, as well as increase the storage and network efficiency.
6. Your team are bogged down in change impact assessments
While impact analysis can seem like a tick-box exercise carried out in a hurry before the real work starts, in complicated multi-site, multi-vendor, hybrid or multi-cloud environments, it’s vital to understand exactly what lies where in your environment before you’re able to accurately predict what impact a proposed change will have on it.
It only takes one well-intentioned update that takes a production server offline to realise the worth of proper impact assessments. Look at the example of TSB, the British bank whose customers were left without access to their accounts for several weeks. In April 2018, TSB moved millions of customer accounts from the systems of Lloyds Bank, which has hosted them since TSB was separated from Lloyds, to a new core banking platform from its current owner, Spanish bank Sabadell. The effort was part of a drive to modernise the bank to compete with new fintech challenger banks, and it is said that the software move will cut costs by £160m a year. The outages meant that some customers were able to view the accounts of other customers, or even experienced money disappearing from their accounts. Thanks to a failure to predict the impact of the software migration, both the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) are on its case.