In fact, three-quarters of enterprises surveyed by mValent said they'd suffered application downtime during the prior month due to a configuration glitch.
"One of the dirty little secrets of the software business is that there are hundreds of configuration files with tens of thousands of individual parameters that need to be tuned to make the infrastructure work and keep apps running," Hickey says. "What keeps IT pros up at night is worrying about who has access to these files, what changes are being made, and if they're happening in a controlled fashion."
State Street, a Boston-based custody bank, uses mValent Integrity to check for errors in in-house application development for its Wealth Management Division. Joe Kennedy, vice president of technology architecture and R&D, estimates 30 percent to 40 percent of the problems his organization encounters are due to configuration errors, not bad code. Avoiding such errors is critical to keeping the business running.
"When there's a configuration error, nine times out of 10 you have an outage," Kennedy says. "That's just not acceptable in finance. When you're dealing with people's money, you can't be down."
Configuration management is really part of the bigger challenge of managing in a constantly changing environment, says Charles Ramsey, executive vice president at Service-now.com, an on-demand IT service management company.
"What's keeping IT execs awake is trying to understand what the heck is going on in their environments," Ramsey says. "I recently met with the CIO at a major wireless carrier, which has a change management app so complicated no one uses it. They probably have 85 systems of record in the IT org stored in Access databases, Excel spreadsheets, and on the mainframe. There's no point of integration between them."
Ramsey says enterprises can get a handle on such problems by combining asset, change, configuration, and problem-management tools into a single system of record -- which, not surprisingly, is what Service-now offers.
"The service desk is a critical component," Ramsey says. "If there is true integration and all applications behave in a similar manner, processes like change, problem, asset, and release management all will contribute to having a more effective service desk."
Help! My Network's Overrun by Rogues
Pop Quiz: How many enterprises have software installed on their desktops that their IT departments don't know about and wouldn't approve of if they did know about them?
Answer: All of them, says Peter Evans, vice president of marketing and business development at Internet Security Services.
"Probably 100 percent of enterprises have a problem with rogue software," Evans says. He also says employees typically download software that makes their jobs easier or favorite programs they've used in the past. Many times, though, they're installing IM clients or peer-to-peer apps, which can cause serious problems.
"Any software installed without appropriate oversight can introduce security risks," says Ed Moyle, manager of CTG Consulting, an IT staffing and consulting firm. "We're seeing a lot of interest in extrusion prevention software that scans outgoing network activity for confidential or proprietary data, to make sure it doesn't leak out of the firm."