11th Systems Administration Conference (LISA '97)
How to Control and Manage Change in a Commercial Data Center Without Losing Your Mind
Sally J. Howden and Frank B. Northrup
Computing Consultants, Inc.
Most computer system problems today are caused
by change. Change is an innate characteristic of an active computer
system. This paper presents an approach whose goal is to minimize and
control the impact of problems by controlling and managing change. It
is geared towards the system administrator's role in meeting this goal
in a commercial data center environment.
have been given the task of providing reliable, available and
supportable computing environments for their clients. A system which
does not meet these requirements results in, at the very least, lost
productivity, but may also cause a financial loss, and in the worst
cases may result in injury to the customers which the business serves
In order to provide a reliable, available and supportable computing
system it is necessary to minimize the impact on the system's users
when problems occur. Almost all computer system problems today are
caused by change: changes in hardware components; changes in system or
application software; and to a lesser extent changes in processes
and/or procedures, or in personnel. The extent to which a system
administrator is able to control and manage change is the extent to
which they are able to provide a reliable, available and supportable
computing system to their client(s).
This paper describes a
platform independent approach for pro-actively managing problems in a
computing system by managing change well. This approach includes: the
process of documenting the computer system's current state; the
process of documenting the change; and the process and conditions
under which the change is first implemented in a test environment,
then in a pre-production environment and finally in a production
environment. This approach saves time and effort in the long-term
administration of computer systems. The documentation necessary to
facilitate this approach is described and some examples provided. This
approach is currently being used by Distributed Computing Consultants,
Inc. (DCCI) with its clients.
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