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Monday, March 18, 2002


Book Review. Linda and I finally posted our reviews of : IT Systems Management: Designing, Implementing, and Managing World-Class Infrastructures on Amazon. It will take between three to five days for the reviews to appear on the Amazon product page, so I am going to post both here.

Linda's Review
Amazingly complete and packed with knowledge

Mr. Schiesser has managed to capture all of the essential service delivery processes in a single book, and he covers each of these topics with a thoroughness that will give you a foundation to implement world-class system management.

He starts out with three chapters that cover the history of system management and how it has evolved into an important discipline that is currently challenged by issues that were not foreseeable when I started in the industry 25 years ago. Today systems are interconnected into complex supply chains and extend onto the desktops of home and business users who are not known to the managers of the systems. Although these chapters can be skipped, they do provide context for the details that come in later chapters. In fact, each topic in the book is introduced at a basic level, then built upon in layer upon layer of detail. This makes learning the complex discipline of system management easy to someone new to IT, and exposes details that even seasoned veterans may not have encountered.

The book's best feature is that covers each of the key processes (support and problem management, availability, performance tuning and capacity planning, change control and configuration management), and ties them to related areas (security, disaster recovery, facilities management, and infrastructure management areas for storage and networks).

Although the book is not sequenced in the key process and related areas in the order I've listed, a pattern emerges as each topic is covered. The glue that ties all of these together is the way the author develops a strategy for organizing for systems management, including staffing considerations, and the integration of the processes at the end of the book. I especially like the way tactical and strategic processes are identified and how the relationships are developed.

As an IT operations management specialist with extensive experience I appreciate the way the book has accurately captured the essence of systems management. As a consultant I found the checklists and worksheets provided in the book to be invaluable. This book represents an important contribution to the overlooked body of knowledge of systems management and IT operations, and should be on the bookshelf of every IT manager or service delivery specialist who takes their job seriously. It should be carefully read by those in the dot com and ASP industries because the processes described in this book, if implemented, will differentiate your services and give you a significant competitive advantage.

My Review
Complete coverage of critical processes
This book provides sorely needed guidance for developing and implementing system management processes that will assure reliability, availability and support. The topics that this book addresses that are not found in any other I've read include:
  • Production acceptance criteria - this topic covers the critical boundary between development or projects, and operations. The value of employing the book's approach to production acceptance is that applications and systems will be brought into production in a carefully controlled manner that ensures all operations is fully prepared to provide the level of support required by the business.
  • Acknowledgement of the importance of facilities management, which is almost always overlooked until problems arise.
  • One of the most comprehensive and well thought out collections of checklists I've ever encountered. The checklists provided in the book cover every aspect of systems management, ranging from staffing profiles, key issues in infrastructure support processes, to capacity planning. The checklists alone are worth many times the price of the book.
  • Linking change control (a rare topic itself) to configuration management. I specialize in these two areas and can attest that the author's treatment is accurate and reflect best practices.
  • Special considerations for web-enabled environments. Finally we have material that updates traditional management and support processes to reflect challenges of web-based computing. The tried and true methods many of us learned from mainframe environments impeded the meeting of business goals in web-based environments. This book gives advice that is useful and provides a foundation for evolving processes to meet these unique challenges.
I also like the way each topic is explored by starting simple and expanding into details that are examined for strengths and weaknesses. The net result is an understanding of all factors and issues, including many subtle ones that would have required iterations of trial and error to get right. Most importantly the author stayed focused on processes and best practices, leaving system management products to authors of books for a much narrower audience. This, in my opinion, greatly increases the value of the book and makes it applicable to anyone who is part of the system management or service delivery process. My only complaint, and it is minor, is the lack of a web site or accompanying CD ROM with the invaluable checklists and tools in electronic format.