An inventory policy is a set of rules and guidelines for how inventory is converted, operated, or consumed in pursuit of a business objective. A policy is typically informed by a mathematical model that accurately describes the behavior of inventory and can identify an optimal solution with respect to the business objective.
The basic function of any inventory policy is determining what, when, and how much to order — as a repeatable process. When inventory is not available for resale, but instead operated (e.g., hardware), inventory policy needs to also incorporate the additional function of determining what, when, and how much to remove.
To answer "how much" hardware, hardware inventory quantities must be normalized into equivalent units since performance characteristics may differ on a per server, processor, or core basis within the same product generation - and certainly over time as next generation products are introduced.
Discrete inventory corresponds to distinct items that can be easily counted, touched or seen. The final product typically can be disassembled into its constituent parts, like IT hardware.
A Bill of Material (BOM) describes how individual units of raw materials, components, and assemblies are organized to compose a final product for purposes of design, build, or service. A Work Order (WO) is used to manage process steps necessary to transform constituent parts into a final product.
Analogous to BOMs and WOs, a Configuration Management Database is used by IT to provide transparency for governing configuration state changes of infrastructure inventory to enable business objectives (e.g., regulatory compliance, etc.). CI/CD pipeline tooling is used to govern and automate process steps to deliver custom software.
Process inventory corresponds to inputs that undergo a transformation, using formulas or recipes, to arrive at a final product. The transformation process may include changes to volume, density, mass, or other physical properties.
For example, refining crude oil involves separation, conversion and treatment processes to produce useable products like motor gasoline, jet fuel, lubricants, and waxes. A less complex example involves mixing a syrup concentrate with carbonated water to produce soda. The former is a distillation process and the latter a mixing process. Both involve physical transformations of a fluid from one state to another.
Infrastructure Inventory Behavior
Zypr uses a mixing process to evaluate resource state transformation of a resource pool. But unlike the above soda example and fixed-time refresh policies, Zypr doesn't rely on a predefined mixing formula. Instead, Zypr identifies the future mixing formulas that produces the lowest total cost over time. How that is accomplished is generalized by the following rate equations:
Mass flow rate describes how hardware, with higher computing rates (HCR) per hardware unit or per watt consumed (i.e., a higher concentrate), is added to a pool and hardware with lower HCR is removed. The Volume flow rate describes how consumed resources and inventory accumulation are changing. The flow rates that produce the lowest sum of mass and volume cost identifies the optimal concentration for the pool.
Although these rate equations provide a good generalization of state transformation for a "smooth" mixing process, infrastructure inventory and resource consumption behavior primarily evolves by way of discrete units and events.
Zypr therefore uses numerical methods and piecewise operations to inject discrete events into the evolution process to more precisely evaluate a far larger feasible solution space than what's considered when utilizing fixed-formula methods. You can find more detail here about how Zypr works.
Scalable Inventory Policy
Virtualization and containerization, along with newer architectures, have made hardware nearly fungible and workloads highly portable. This abstracting away of hardware resources from the workloads that consume those resources has ushered in a wide-range of benefits.
One of those benefits is enabling more agile and leaner inventory management practices. Resource pools can be incrementally modified on a more frequent cadence (e.g., weekly, monthly, etc.) with little effect to workloads, but which requires far more precise resource planning and forecasting in order to:
- Raise and maintain higher rates of resource utilization (i.e., reduce unnecessary over-provisioning)
- Monetize more performant/efficient hardware at faster uptake rates
- Assign servers to their highest and best use (i.e., inter-pool mixing) as an integral function of asset life-cycle management
Zypr enables organizations to incrementally implement and scale the capturing of these benefits.