What is infrastructure management anyway? The phrase is an umbrella term for three areas that were once seen as more or less distinct but are increasingly interrelated as more distributed approaches to computing blur the lines among them.

Traditionally, systems management had to do with maintaining

and troubleshooting the computers themselves — hardware and operating-system software. Network management was concerned with the communications links, routers, switches and the like. Storage management has become more significant in its own right as direct-attached storage devices have given way to storage-area networks and network-attached storage; now the storage devices are separate from the systems and have to be managed.

According to research firm International Data Corp. (Canada) Ltd.

in Toronto, systems and network management software licence and maintenance revenues in Canada currently amount to about $300 million annually. Warren Shiau, research manager for Canadian software research at IDC Canada, says IDC expects that figure to grow at around five per cent per year from 2003 through 2008.

IDC tracks storage management separately, and Shiau says that market is currently about the same size as systems and network management combined, but IDC is projecting slightly faster growth – about five and a half per cent per year — over the next four years.

Though IDC still divides infrastructure management into separate categories, Shiau says the lines are blurring as vendors emphasize the integration of the different types of tools. That integration could lead to some further consolidation of vendors in this market, he says.

In addition to the software tools that help monitor the performance of all kinds of information technology infrastructure, infrastructure management can include asset management. Tracking hardware and software licences, is a major concern for IT managers.

And the category also takes in the help desk and the management of software upgrades and patches. For Fernando Pinho, telecom and network operations and manager at the Halton District School Board in Burlington, Ont., a key infrastructure management priority is automating those processes as much as possible.

“”At the end of the day,”” he says, “”we’re hoping to make it almost like a self-service desk,”” where a user can request an application, have the request approved and get the software loaded onto his or her machine virtually automatically.

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