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2/18/2005
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Lights Out: Software Automates Data-Center Tasks

'We cut three hours off our nighttime run and eliminated one of our biggest problems: operator error,' CIO Evans says.

For many IT departments, a sizable amount of technology costs comes in the form of personnel, and the only way to cut costs is to cut staff.

Michael Evans, CIO for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, which handles unemployment claims and benefits, faced that problem. He and his staff of 55 depend on grants and state funds for new IT projects. The bulk of his department's IT budget goes for network support, IT operations, and programming for a Bull mainframe that handles 85% of the department's work. "We're pretty much standardized" in terms of technology, Evans says. "So we needed to automate functions in order to reduce staff." Much of the IT department is funded through federal grants for specific projects; annual personnel costs run around $500,000, Evans says.

His goal was to move from a fully staffed data center, with personnel working around the clock, to a "lights-out" operation with minimal staff. He chose an operations-management application from a startup, Optinuity Inc. The software, also called Optinuity, is a workflow-automation system tailored for IT operations. The programming environment includes a library of predefined processes customers can use as building blocks to develop automated systems that scan logs, shut down servers, handle patches, and do many other data-center tasks. "They're like Lego blocks that can be combined for each unique environment," Optinuity CEO Scott Stouffer says.

Evans wanted a product that could schedule and run jobs, handle file transfers, and work with the Bull mainframe, IBM AS/400s, and Microsoft SQL Server databases. He was able to automate many of the mainframe's manual tasks, letting him cut four employees and redeploy others. "We cut three hours off our nighttime run and eliminated one of our biggest problems: operator error," Evans says. "It has saved me a whole lot of headaches each morning."

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