Photo by Gordon Wrigley, (CC BY 2.0)It’s written in Ecclesiastes “there’s nothing new under the sun”.  However, this blog would beg to differ.  When was the last time you read an analysis of IT Systems Management tools in terms of its similarities to beer?  Can’t think of an instance?  Well, rest easy because we’re breaking new ground here.  The first similarity is high quality versions of both beer and monitoring tools cost money.  Second, there’s a standard way to make beer and there are definitely standards to be followed in systems management.  Lastly, is the flexibility involved in both IT monitoring and beer creation.  You might be thinking “Great, another tech blog has jumped the shark”, but there is a point to made, so bear with me a moment.   

Generally speaking, in technology and elsewhere, you get what you pay for, and IT Systems Management tools are no exception.  Free versions of both may get the job done (after all who DOESN’T like free beer?), but not as enjoyably or efficiently.  How quickly can a tool be setup to monitor an entire infrastructure?  Is it just as easy to setup for 2,000 devices as it is for 25 devices?  Once the configuration is complete, are there features in place to keep things fresh and up to date, or is that all done manually?  Few if any ‘free’ tools provide this functionality (heck, most paid tools don’t). Make sure to consider the time required to implement when weighing the true costs.  Similarly, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to find “Jeremiah Red” or “Tatonka Stout” being served at next Saturday night’s fraternity party.

Methods Matter

Of course, the “you get what you pay for” aspect of beer and systems monitoring isn’t where the similarities end.  From start to finish there is a generally accepted method to brewing beer.  While there are many varieties (a topic that will be expounded upon momentarily), too much deviation from this method won’t yield something anybody wants to drink (even for free).  Interoperability among myriad software vendors in an IT infrastructure works the same way.  It requires that certain standards be adhered to.  In the typical environment that’ll be tools which speak SNMP, WMI, TELNET, SSH, and HTTPS when communicating with devices under management.  Are there exceptions?  Sure. However, just like the rare mistake that became the excellent-tasting “Black Tuesday” made by “The Bruery” in Placentia California, they’re far and few between.

While it is true there are standards required for tools to effectively manage an environment as well as for making beer once the building blocks are in place both disciplines become just as much art as science.  What is the best way to manage a 200-device network?  Should we group them by sites?  By business unit?  How should alerting be handled?  Similarly, when we saunter in and ask a bartender for a beer that’s hardly the end of the conversation.  Shall we go with a Lager?  Stout?  Wheat?  The possibilities are endless.  The answers to all of those questions are going to be a function of business, environment, venue and about 100 other variables that are far too numerous to consider in one blog entry.

When all is said and done is it ridiculous to compare beer consumption and IT systems monitoring?  Probably.  However, it’s fun way to try and make an important point.  When evaluating tools for your environment you get what you pay for and there are a million little things to consider when making the decision.  Okay, that’s enough “shop-talk”.  Who’s thirsty?