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ComputerWorldIn a Computerworld (Australia) article entitled “Is there best practice for a server to system administrator ratio?”  from July 9, 2010, the following was reported:

“We have observed that it can be, for example with a physical server, as low as 10 per admin, and for virtual servers as many as 500,” Gartner analyst, Errol Rasit, said. “But it really depends on the type of application. We have seen as an example from a particular customer – from some of our larger customers – that they had their admins managing 15 physical servers and when that moves to virtualisation it moves to something like 75 virtual servers.

To give you a different order of magnitude in another example one admin was looking at 50 physical servers and then moving to 250 virtual servers. I will say that we have seen maybe 500 or 600 virtual servers being managed by a single admin.

IDC meanwhile notes that in Australia the ratio for an SMB would vary greatly from a hoster and again to a cloud provider like Amazon or Microsoft. The analyst house’s statistics suggest anywhere from 10,000:1 at a dominant vendor like Google down to the SMB average of 30:1 for physical boxes and 80:1 for virtual machines.

One enterprise IT manager told us the ratio for physical servers was roughly 50:1, another working for a government organisation said 15-20:1, and an IT director at a research and development outfit noted that in a mid-size organisation a system administrator could maintain 10-14 servers per week or if their role was merely maintenance (i.e. no projects, no debugging, etc) then they could look after 25-35 servers per week. The IT director added a bigger organisation with larger economies of scale could potentially increase the ration to 10-14 servers to each admin per day with staff dedicated to just maintenance.

One of the key factors in increasing the ratio, however, is how much automation can be rolled into the maintenance / management of the server farm.

“A lot of what changes the ratio in the physical world is the types of tools being used to automate a lot of the processes; so run book automation and these sorts of things,” Gartner’s Rasit said. “That tends to be the main differentiator. The problem with virtualisation and virtualisation tools is there are a lot of them. It is very, very easy for a lot of customers to try and automate everything and that doesn’t necessarily always bear fruit for the organisation because they are spending too much time doing that.

A complete copy of the article can be found: http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/352635/there_best_practice_server_system_administrator_ratio_/

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GartnerMark McDonald, group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs, suggests replacing the IT budget / revenue ratio with a metric that has meaning – like IT headcount to Free Cash Flow.  That is a metric one CIO is using and it makes more sense because it can be managed.

He suggests measuring IT headcount because more than 70% of most IT budgets are already contractually committed – effectively removing them for short-term management changes.  IT headcount is the result of factors the CIO can control, like the level of automation, the skill of their people, the structure of their operations and the nature of their IT investment budget.

McDonald suggests that free cash flow is a better numerator, as it is more indicative of a company’s health.  Management can influence free cash slow and manage it to some extent in either a strong or weak economies.  Case in point; look at organizations building cash in the recession.  Free cash flow is also something that IT can influence as IT systems integrate process and information flows which improves end-to-end process and cash performance.

It is harder to measure, free cash flow and IT headcount, but it should produce a clearer signal and inform better management decisions and actions.

See full article: http://blogs.gartner.com/mark_mcdonald/2010/04/06/it-spend-as-a-percent-of-revenue-%E2%80%93-a-dubious-metric-at-best/

Robert HalfIn a presentation entitled “Staffing Strategies for the 21stCentury” by Katherine Spencer Lee, Executive Director at Robert Half Technology (September 18, 2008), the following IT staffing metrics were presented:

A Robert Half Technology* survey asked 1,400 CIOs to compare …
Actual versus ideal ratio of internal end-users to technical support employees at their company

  • Mean response for Actual was 136:1
  • Mean response for Ideal was 82:1

Technical Support Center staffs are 40 percent smaller, on average, than optimal.

Mobile vs Static staffing ratios:

  • There is a baseline ratio around 90 customers per analyst.
  • Technical and mobile user bases earn a lower ratio due to higher complexity (1:80-110)
  • Fewer analysts required for non-technical and static users (1:120-160)

Organizational goals should help set staffing levels:

  1. Compete at the cutting edge of innovation (25:1 to 50:1)
  2. Compete on full service and overall value (60:1 t0 100:1)
  3. Compete on thin cost margin and scalability (125:1 to 200:1)

A complete copy of the Robert Half presentation can be found here.

PinkA laundry list of sample metrics for IT processes was developed by Pink Elephant.  This document provides a detailed list of over one hundred metrics for the Service Desk and each of the ten ITIL support and delivery processes.  The list includes ITIL metrics for:

  • Configuration Management
  • Problem Management
  • Change Management
  • Service Delivery Processes
  • Capacity Management
  • IT Service Continuity Management
  • Financial Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Incident Management

Click here to download the complete “Laundry List of ITIL Metrics”.

javascript benchmarkAccording to benchmark tests performed by Stephen Shankland of CNet News, Google’s Chrome outperforms Firefox, MS Internet Explorer and Safari on the five subtests of JavaScript performance.   The five Javascript benchmarks used in the study were:

• Richards: OS kernel simulation benchmark, originally written in BCPL by Martin Richards (539 lines).

• DeltaBlue: One-way constraint solver, originally written in Smalltalk by John Maloney and Mario Wolczko (880 lines).

• Crypto: Encryption and decryption benchmark based on code by Tom Wu (1,689 lines).

• RayTrace: Ray tracer benchmark based on code by Adam Burmister (3,418 lines).

• EarleyBoyer: Classic Scheme benchmarks, translated to JavaScript by Florian Loitsch’s Scheme2Js compiler (4,682 lines).

The complete test can be found: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-10030888-92.html?tag=mncol

Help the Help DeskThis is the most comprehensive study that I have seen on IT Staffing.  It was written by Lon D. Gowen, Ph.D., Lead Systems and Software Engineer at the MITRE Corporation.  The paper is entitled “Predicting Staffing Sizes for Maintaining Computer-Networking Infrastructures”.  It was published in 2000.

In this paper Gowan presents benchmark data for the “Number of Users Per FTE of CNI Support” for

  1. Systems Administration
  2. Help Desk
  3. Break/Fix
  4. Configuration Management

These numbers were observed in both a DoD and a Private sector enviroment.  Acutal numbers are presented in the paper and are compared to numbers predicted using a COTS modeling tool.

Full paper available at: Predicting Staffing Levels

LogoitmWEB, a source for information technology reference, methodology, and technical content focused on IT departmental management, technology support, and project leadership, posted the following information technology (IT) budgeting metrics.

IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Education Industry): 1.9%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Finance Industry): 4.9%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Government Industry): 9.7%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Health Care Industry): 4.8%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Manufacturing Industry): 3.3%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Retail/Wholesale Industry): 2.4%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Services/Consulting Industry): 4.5%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Telecommunications Industry): 8.4%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Transportation Industry): 3.8%
IT Budget % of Total Revenues (Utilities Industry): 3.0%

Source: List of Sources

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