Buying a car is a big decision. While we can get swept away by the appeal of a car's exterior specifications (alloys, heated mirrors or satellite navigation systems), what is most important lies under the bonnet.

Only there can you truly gauge a vehicle's safety credentials, performance and engine health. It's not only the engine though: the suspension, clutch, gears and indeed the entire underlying infrastructure are all essential to the smooth running of a car.

These features are certainly less exciting than the flashier add-ons, but a car simply cannot function without a solid and fully functioning infrastructure.

We can apply the same principle to IT: while networking and migrations might not be considered as exciting as applications, they nevertheless are fundamental to a strong performance and managing them well can make all the difference to the business.

As a company spanning continents, we deal with customers from all over. A global trend we're noticing is that enterprises handling business-critical applications are beginning to grasp how important it is to look under the bonnet and to have clear visibility and control over the entire data centre IT infrastructure.

In the last decade much change has happened with virtualisation and the look and feel of end user IT. As a result, IT managers are now looking under the hood to identify areas for potential optimisation in terms of performance and reliability such as storage, archiving and disaster recovery to name just a few.

Infrastructure performance management

The necessity of looking at the whole IT infrastructure through an infrastructure performance management (IPM) strategy is due to a combination of new pressures brought about by growing volumes of unstructured data and ever-evolving, complex IT environments that are continuously impacted by virtualisation, cloud computing, BYOD (bring your own device), rich media and video streaming.

Costly over provisioning capacity, the traditional way of coping with an increase in the need for performance, is no longer acceptable, and hence is no longer an option. New ways are needed to address the impact of performance spikes or degradation.

Companies are taking a much stricter look at their financial and human resources and are demanding proof that these are being maximised across the entire data centre.

IPM tools that give visibility to what is happening under the IT systems bonnet are already available. However it is critical to ascertain the granularity and power of each: many focus on single-vendor solutions, some do not give real-time information, and so on.

This can limit the level of monitoring and troubleshooting through a lack of an accurate, unbiased, system-wide view across the infrastructure as a whole. It is key that organisations review each solution in detail to ensure that they offer the level of visibility that will make a significant difference to the business.

So next time you are going to buy a car don't forget to look at what's underneath the bonnet and when you're planning IT upgrades or migrations of critical applications, look at what IPM can do for you and which vendors are best placed to meet your business needs. Remember: if you can't see it, you can't manage it.

  • Eric Jorgensen is the Director of EMEA Marketing at Virtual Instruments. Virtual Instruments specialises in infrastructure performance management for physical, virtual and cloud computing environments.