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System Administration- Evaluation May 10, 2012

Posted by marlingod in Service Administration.
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Service Administration: Observation, Evaluation Method and Balance Scorecard

                System Administration is about putting together a network of computers (workstations, PCs and Supercomputers), getting them running and then keeping them running in spite of the activities of users who tend to cause the system to fail.  System administration is a mixture of technology and sociology. the users are constantly changing the conditions for the observation.  The methods of observation, evaluation and balance scorecard used in science and business are applied to the system administration.

                Purpose of Observation:

In technology the art of observation has two objectives:

  • to gather information about a problem in order to motivate the design and construction of a technology which solves it,
  • to determine whether or not the resulting technology fulfills its design goals.

Users are important component of the system and should be subject to observation. They  cannot be removed from the experiment since they cause the most problem being solved

                Evaluation method

The simplest and potentially most objective way to test  model of system administration is to combine heuristic experience and repeatable simulations. S A is so complex that it must be addressed at several levels in an approximately hierarchical fashion.  The elements of evaluation simplicity, efficiency, system administration as collective effort, dependency, evaluation of individual mechanism, evaluation of bugs, design faults, Evaluation of system policies,  reliability

Operating system metrics can be used to evaluate the System administration.  Operating system falls into two categories: current values and average values for stable and drifting variables respectively.

Balance Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard is an organizational framework for implementing and managing strategy at all levels of an enterprise by linking objectives, initiatives, and mea­sures to an organization’s strategy. The scorecard provides an enterprise view of an organization’s overall perfor­mance. It integrates financial measures with other key performance indicators around customer perspectives, internal business processes, and organizational growth, learning, and innovation.

The balanced scorecard can be applied to the IT function and its processes

Martinsons et al. (1999) suggested four perspectives:


1. User orientation (end-user view): represents the user evaluation of IT. the mission is deliver value-adding products and services to end users. the objectives are to establish and maintain a good image and reputation with end users; exploit IT opportunities, establish good relationships with the user community, satisfy end-user requirements,

2. Business value (management’s view): captures the business value of the IT investments. The mission is to contribute to the value of the business. The objectives are to  establish and maintain a good image and reputation with management, ensure that IT projects provide business value, control IT costs,

3. Internal processes (operations-based view): represents the IT processes employed to develop and deliver the applications. The mission is to deliver IT products and services in an efficient and effective manner. The  objectives are to anticipate and influence requests from end users and management, be efficient in planning and developing IT applications, be efficient in operating and maintaining IT applications, be efficient in acquiring and testing new hardware and software

4. Future readiness (innovation and learning view): represents the human and technology resources needed by IT to deliver its services. The Mission is to deliver continuous improvement and prepare for future challenges. the objectives are to anticipate and prepare for IT problems that could arise, continuously upgrade IT skills through training and development, regularly upgrade IT applications portfolio, regularly upgrade hardware and software


IT Balance Scorecard and service assessment

Each of these perspectives has to be translated into corresponding metrics and measures that assess the current situation. These assessments have to be repeated periodically and have to be confronted with goals that have to be set beforehand and with benchmarking figures. Very essential is that within an IT BSC the cause-and-effect relationships are established and the connections between the two types of measures, outcome measures and performance drivers, are clarified. A well built IT scorecard needs a good mix of these two types of measures. Outcome measures such as programmers’ productivity (e.g., number of function points per person per month) without performance drivers such as IT staff education (e.g., number of educational days per person per year) do not communicate how the outcomes are to be achieved. And performance drivers without outcome measures may lead to significant investment without a measurement whether this strategy is effective. These cause-and-effect relationships have to be defined throughout the whole scorecard (Figure 2): more and better education of IT staff (future perspective) is an enabler (performance driver) for a better quality of developed systems (operational excellence perspective) that in turn is an enabler for increased user satisfaction (user perspective) that eventually must lead to a higher business value of IT (business contribution perspective).



The day to day tasks of system administration change constantly and we pay these changes little attention. However, improvements in technology always lead to changing work pratices, as humans are replaced by machinery in those jobs which are menial and repetitive. the core principles of system administration will remain the same but the job description of the system manager will be different.  In many ways, the day to day business of system administration consists of just a few recipes which slowly evolve over time. However, underneath the veneer of cookery, there is a depth of understanding about computer systems which has a more permanent value.


Burgess, M. (2004): Principles of Network and System Administration. (2nd Ed). New York. Wiley

– It Balance Scorecard from http://www.ism-journal.com/ITToday/AU2621_CH04.pdf

– Principles of Network and System Administration from http://www.balancedscorecard.org/Portals/0/PDF/BSC_&_Tech_Spider.pdf



Observations, Monitoring & Metrics May 10, 2012

Posted by sayemmarquette in Service Administration.
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Business entities require certain protocols for control and management of their internal as well as external communication and reporting of its performance and robustness. In this scenario, for any organization there are extensive planning and management tools being used. One of the tools, COBIT consists of an executive summary, management guidelines, framework, control objectives, and different types of implementation strategies. This allows a business manager to control, maintain and improve their technical aspects of business. In this regard, extensive support is provided, including a list of business effectiveness and benchmark s for its auditing purposes. On the other hand, ITIL provides guidance to organizations on how to use information technology as a tool to facilitate business change, transformation and growth. ITIL is the basic fundamental tool for IT personnel to identify, plan, deliver and support IT related tasks. For the overall robustness, business scorecard portrays the strategic observations of managements for better performance and enhanced administration. And therefore, it aligns business activities to the vision and strategy of that particular organization. All these tools are essentially medium to measure the performance of a business entity maintaining its strategic goal, and toward a prosperous and sustainable management.

Observation, Monitoring and Metrics Application May 10, 2012

Posted by mohammedsaati in Service Administration.
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IT organizations are under growing burden to meet the business objectives of their organizations. This challenge can be particularly overwhelming because it involves conforming to regulations. Compliance requires strong corporate governance capabilities. Because IT has a major role in business processes, the IT organization not only generates complexity for the business, but, additionally, provides the means to exhibit this compliance. Organizations depend on on guidelines such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT) to help understand these challenges.

ITIL Overview

ITIL defines processes at a high level. It is left to the organizations to implement the processes in the manner most suitable to their particular situations and needs.

ITIL is becoming a actual standard worldwide for organizations implement it as the guideline for creating IT service management (ITSM) processes. A major fact of ITIL is to promote the alliance of IT with the business. It expresses service quality by the alignment level between the services delivered and the needs of the business. By meeting the new ISO 20000 standards, Organizations can receive certification in ITSM processes.

Two areas deal specifically with ITSM:

  • Service Support, consisting of
    • Incident management
    • Problem management
    • Change management
    • Configuration management
    • Release management
    • Service desk function
  • Service Delivery, consisting of:
    • Capacity management
    • Availability management
    • Financial management for IT services
    • Service level management
    • IT service continuity management (ITSCM)

COBIT Overview

COBIT is an IT-focused governance and control framework created by the IT Governance Institute (ITGI) and Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). Since it was established as an open standard, COBIT is being progressively accepted globally as the governance and control model for applying and demonstrating operational IT governance.

COBIT main domains:

  • Plan and Organize (PO)
    • PO1 define a strategic IT plan.
    • PO2 define the information architecture.
    • PO3 determine technological direction.
    • PO4 define the IT processes, organization, and relationships.
    • PO5 manage the IT investment.
    • PO6 communicate management aims and direction.
    • PO7 manage human resources.
    • PO8 manage quality.
    • PO9 assess and manage IT risks.
    • PO10 manage projects.
  • Acquire and Implement (AI)
    • AI1 identify automated solutions.
    • AI2 acquire and maintain application software.
    • AI3 acquire and maintain technology infrastructure.
    • AI4 enable operations and use.
    • AI5 procure IT resources.
    • AI6 manage changes.
    • AI7 install and accredit solutions and changes.
  • Deliver and Support (DS)
    • DS1 define and manage service levels.
    • DS2 manage third-party services.
    • DS3 manage performance and capacity.
    • DS4 ensure continuous service.
    • DS5 ensure systems security.
    • DS6 identify and allocate costs.
    • DS7 educate and train users.
    • DS8 manage service desk and incidents.
    • DS9 manage the configuration.
    • DS10 manage problems.
    • DS11 manage data.
    • DS12 manage the physical environment.
    • DS13 manage operations
  • Monitor and Evaluate (ME)
    • ME1 monitor and evaluate IT performance.
    • ME2 monitor and evaluate internal control.
    • ME3 ensure regulatory compliance.
    • ME4 provide IT governance.

Balanced Scorecards and Metrics

They are frameworks that makes it easy task for organizations to realign their business with IT by comparing different metrics and measuring them up to targets. It can be used by managers to retain records of the performance of activities by the staff in their control and to monitor the significances arising from them.

A BSC should represent a mixture of measures and their targets on an explicit topic.

Metrics are defined by applying the process of:

  1. Establishing critical processes/customer requirements,
  2. Developing measures,
  3. Establishing targets which the results can be scored against.


Most organizations suffer from the separation and miscommunication between Business and IT. All these frameworks and methods are created for the purpose of aligning them together and driving the business forward to a better future outcome.


Balanced scorecard. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 5, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balanced_scorecard

Burgess, M. (2004). Principles of Network and System Administration. Norway: John Wiley & Sons.

Performance metric. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 5, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_metric

Observation, Monitoring and Metrics May 10, 2012

Posted by daleklein in Service Administration.
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In the study of system administration we are concerned with observing, monitoring and quantifying metrics in order to keep the ship on course.  Here we are going to discuss the Balanced Scorecard, COBIT, ITIL and service administration and how they all tie together.

In the immortal words of Jack Palance …….. Believe it … or Not!

Goals and metrics of the IT processes are used to define and measure their outcome and performance based on the principles of Robert Kaplan and David Norton’s balanced business scorecard.  The balanced scorecard is a management system that enables organizations to clarify their vision and strategy and translate them into action. “It provides feedback around both the internal business processes and external outcomes in order to continuously improve strategic performance and results. When fully deployed, the balanced scorecard transforms strategic planning from an academic exercise into the nerve center of an enterprise.” [1]

The balanced scorecard suggests that we view the organization from four perspectives, and to develop metrics, collect data and analyze it relative to each of these perspectives. You have a business process perspective which covers internal processes.  Their metrics give managers a pulse on the health of the business and whether or not their products and services are meeting the customer’s requirements.  Another perspective is the customer perspective which puts an emphasis on customer satisfaction.  Here the metrics are focused on the processes that provide products or services.  Another arm is the financial perspective which is looking for accurate and timely funding data.  Here we can look at cost-benefit analysis, size and scope of a project, budgeting forecasting and risk assessment.  The last piece of our puzzle is the strategy maps which are tools that communicate the value of the big picture to the rest of an organization.  It is a logic map laying out the connections between your strategic objectives. [1]

Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT) provides an organization with an internal control system or framework that presents activities in a manageable and logical structure. They are a collection of good practices to help monitor and improve critical IT activities build value, reduce risk and provide a cost effective environment by utilizing standardized processes whenever possible.

Similar to the Balanced Scoreboard, in COBIT, “these practices will help optimize IT-enabled investments, ensure service delivery and provide a measure against which to judge when things do go wrong.” [2] In the Balanced Scoreboard they divide the System into four perspectives and in COBIT they divide the process model into four domains. These domains are responsible for planning, building and monitoring and provide an end-to-end view similar to the logic map.  The COBIT framework was created with the main characteristics of being business-focused, process-oriented, controls-based and measurement-driven. “Effective IT performance management requires a monitoring process. This process includes defining relevant performance indicators, systematic and timely reporting of performance, and prompt acting upon deviations. Monitoring is needed to make sure that the right things are done and are in line with the set directions and policies.” [2] This is also where you ensure regulatory compliances have been satisfied.  The questions you need to ask yourself are: is the performance metrics designed to detect issues before they create real problems? Are the internal controls effective and efficient? Is the performance satisfying the business requirements?  Are adequate controls in place to ensure information security?

One of the most widely accepted approaches to IT Service Management in the world is the use of the IT Infrastructure Library or ITIL.  ITIL provides a framework of best practices to act as guidelines for consistent Service Management.  “The primary objective of Service Management is to ensure that the IT services are aligned to the business needs and actively support them. It is imperative that the IT services underpin the business processes, but it is also increasingly important that IT acts as an agent for change to facilitate business transformation.” [3]

The service lifecycle in ITIL is based around five primary stages rather than four as found in the Balanced Scoreboard and COBIT.  It starts with an initial analysis of business requirements in the Service Strategy which is then translated into a Service Design.  You migrate on through into a live environment known as the Service Transition.  Live operations are covered by the Service Operations and is all wrapped up by the Continual Service Improvement.  One of the areas in the service operation is the event management process.  An event is best described as a change in state that has significance for the management of a configuration item or service. [3] Monitoring is actually the process of checking the status of components and there may not be any events going on.  In contrast, event management depends on the functions of monitoring but it’s responsible for generating and detecting notifications.  Bear in mind that an event can mean something is not functioning but it can also mean it’s time for a routine function such as replacing a backup drive.  Another aspect of ITIL is an Incident management process.  Event management detects incidents and they get logged so that they can be analyzed for any potential trends.

The reason we conduct observing, monitoring and quantifying metrics is to use the information to help out the Continual Service Improvement process. Continual Service Improvement “provides a way for an organization to identify and manage appropriate improvements by contrasting their current position and the value they are providing to the business, with their long-term goals and objectives, and identifying any gaps that exist. This is done on a continual basis to address changes in business requirements, technology, and to ensure high quality is maintained.”

When we talk about observation, especially when we are dealing with technology, we need to bear in mind that it has two objective goals.  One is to gather information about a problem in order to design and construct a solution to solve it. [4] These are also found as part of COBIT, ITIL and service management which extend to the services and processes used by them. The second goal is to determine if the resulted solution is meeting the requirements. As Burgess points out in his book, system administration is a mixture of technology and sociology.  By its nature, users are constantly changing the conditions for observation.  Without constant conditions you lose the meaning of the data which is why you need processes that seek to continuously improve services and the metrics that measure and monitor those services. [4]

In the end it means that your customers, whether internally or externally, are fairly satisfied with the processes and services that help them make their contribution to the organization.  When it comes to monitoring and metrics a framework provides the structure to plan, implement, observe and monitor; but it is most successful when you apply experience, logic and intuition to the problems and solutions on top of that framework.

[1] http://www.balancedscorecard.org/BSCResources/AbouttheBalancedScorecard/tabid/55/Default.aspx

[2] COBIT 4.1, IT Governance Institute, www.itgi.org

[3] An Introductory Overview of ITIL® V3, Version 1.0, © Copyright itSMF Ltd, 2007

[4] Principles of Network and System Management, copyright 2000, M. Burgess, Oslo University College – Norway

Observation, Monitoring and Metrics May 10, 2012

Posted by njelen1 in Service Administration.
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-A balance scoreboard ties into all these things because it “align’s business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve internal and external communications, and monitor organization performance against strategic goals”.   Thus, this connects perfectly to COBIT because as stated in another one of our discussions, control requires measurement of the environment, which as stated is measured by Balanced Scoreboard.  “Controlling users impacts performance of the services, security, and other characteristics that we control via measurement ” we then report this back to COBIT.  So, essentialy these two concepts work hand in hand.  All this also connects with ITIL which “provides controls of how we perform the tasks and specific actions”.  Thus in order for the system administrator to know what tasks and specific actions they need to do they need COBIT’s reports, and in order for COBIT to be able to report anything it must have something monitering the environment which is provided by Balancced Scoreboard.



Observation, Monitoring and Metrics May 8, 2012

Posted by janettheresjohn in Service Administration.
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System administration is a mixture of technology and sociology. It involves systems, network and users.  Even though the users cause most of the problems that a system administrator is trying to solve, we cannot eliminate the users from the system environment. The users of computer systems are constantly making changes to the system conditions. Therefore, system administrators have to constantly monitor the system and observe technology to identify problems and develop solutions for optimal performance.

According to Burgess, in technology the act of observation has two objective goals. The first goal is to gather information about a problem in order to motivate the design and construction of a technology which solves it, and the second goal is to determine whether or not the resulting technology fulfills its design goals. [1] The ITIL service lifecycle also begins with observation.  In this first stage, system administration has to observe and identify trends in emerging technologies, security threats, customer needs, change in the marketplace and competitions. After gathering information about business requirements, system administration has to align developing trends with business requirements and develop a strategic plan for implementation. This is the service strategy phase in which the system administration identifies requirements and agrees on changes. Based on the strategic plan, system administration implements services and look for room for possible expansions. System administration will perform quality analysis to ensure that the infrastructure operate in foreseeable extreme or abnormal circumstances.

The second objective goal of observation is to determine whether or not the resulting technology fulfills its design goal. ITIL service life cycle includes a continual service improvement phase. In this phase, system administration conducts periodic evaluations to improve service quality. They will identify future improvement opportunities. In order to measure whether the resulting technology fulfills its goal, system administration perform gap analysis between what is or can be measured today and what is ideally required and identify and what risks may be involved as a result. System administration then analyzes data to identify whether the administration is meeting targets and any corrective action required.

System administrators use different monitoring application to observe the pulse of their system and can evaluate their performance. Their knowledge can be used to define repeatable benchmarks or criteria for different aspects of a problem.[1]

System administrator is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the efficiency of software components. They identify design and implementation faults and catalogue them for future reference to avoid making similar mistakes again. It is also important to identify legacy issues since they might be placing demands on onward compatibility, or by restricting optimal design or performance. System administration is responsible for defining policies and adjusts them to fit behavioral patterns. System administrators observe a policy in a real situation and judge the value of the policy. They will identify how changes in policy can move one closer to a desirable solution.

In order to get quantitative support for or against a hypothesis about system behavior, system administrator use metrics that do not require extensive system auditing that can negatively affect performance. System administration is concerned with maintaining resource availability over time in a secure and fair manner. The author mentioned about using operating system metrics to understand system behavior. These metrics can be used in system administration as well. The metrics that fall into two main classes: current values and average values for stable and drifting variables respectively. An averaging procedure over some time interval might be the best approach to use.

System administration identifies periodic and non-periodic metrics that characterize resource usage. System administrators can use these metrics to identify pattern of change, diagnose problems, define policies, identify resource requirements, perform fine tuning of various parameters and to perform load balancing.  Some example metrics are disk usage, disk operations, number of privileged and non-privileged operations. The disk usage metric indicates the actual amount of data generated and downloaded by users, or the system. Evaluating the disk usage metric will help the system administration to design policies for disk usage, disk quota, garbage collection etc. to improve overall performance and availability of a shared resource.  These metrics helps system administrators to identify pattern of change that includes social patterns of the users, and systematic patterns caused by software systems.

System administrators can use three scales to extract information from a complex system. These are microscopic, mesoscopic and macroscopic scales. Microscopic scale deals with individual systems, mesoscopic deals with clusters and patterns of system and the macroscopic level views all the activities of all the users and systems.  System administration can use entropy to gauge the cumulative behavior of a system, within a fixed number of states. Entropy can also be used to measures the amount of noise or random activity on the system. It is also important to identify random errors (occur by accident), personal errors and systematic errors (often a result of misunderstandings).

These metrics, use of monitoring applications and observation helps system administrators to detect risks and security treats early enough, accurately identify problem causes, design a plan for implementation, implement solutions for the problem, install solutions, and evaluate and improve existing solution. This would ultimately save the administrators time and improve customer satisfaction.


  1. Mark Burgess, Principles of Network and System Administration, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Second edition
  2. An introductory overview of ITIL V3; http://www.itsmfi.org/files/itSMF_ITILV3_Intro_Overview_0.pdf
  3. COBIT 4.1, IT Governance Institute, 2007

Service Administration April 12, 2012

Posted by Marquette MS Computing in Service Administration.
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