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Global Forces 2

For many companies, future growth requires adopting a singular, global view of nearly every aspect of the business: the workforce, supply chain, operations, and sales. That means a global approach to business technology, whether it's supporting a network infrastructure spanning dozens of countries or coaching development teams from Brussels to Bangalore. Here's how five U.S. companies are meeting the challenge.
For many companies, future growth requires adopting a singular, global view of nearly every aspect of the business: the workforce, supply chain, operations, and sales. That means a global approach to business technology, whether it's supporting a network infrastructure spanning dozens of countries or coaching development teams from Brussels to Bangalore. Here's how five U.S. companies are meeting the challenge.

EDS
As one of the world's largest providers of outsourced business-technology services, EDS has the daunting task of managing nearly 250,000 servers at thousands of customer locations around the globe. That's in addition to managing thousands of the company's own servers in various regional data centers, ranging from its headquarters in Dallas to sites in Germany and Australia.

The key to accomplishing that in an efficient manner is to automate many of the manual processes used by IT managers to set up and operate data-center resources. "If you can take automation into the act of provisioning those servers, upgrading them, and patching them, you can save a lot in terms of people cost," says Larry Lozon, VP of hosting services for EDS.

That management challenge becomes more difficult as companies expand globally, whether to enter new markets, take advantage of less-expensive workers, or get closer to the source of raw materials or components. For EDS, that means "the growth has been occurring on a global basis," Lozon says.

"Companies are no longer focusing on the physical location where processing may be occurring but are using a 'best shore' strategy where they put their resources in the right location, whether that's the Far East, U.S., Canada, or wherever," he says.

'For EDS, growth has been global,' says Larry Lozon, VP of hosting services for EDS

"For EDS, growth has been global," says Larry Lozon, VP of hosting services for EDS.
That made it even more important for EDS to find systems-management and data-center-automation tools to help it reduce the cost and effort involved in managing global resources for its diverse customer base. EDS turned to Opsware Inc., a provider of IT-automation and utility-computing software, and implemented a two-phase, multiyear, multimillion-dollar project.

EDS began using Opsware's software two years ago in densely populated data-center environments, managing about 65,000 servers for hundreds of customers. The second phase, now under way, involves using recently introduced Opsware Satellite software to provide automated management to remote servers. That will let EDS better manage 160,000 more servers in hundreds of countries.

In one test, Lozon used Opsware to deploy a security patch to 250 servers in a single day; previously, the task would have taken a week, he says. Provisioning an operating system with a database and apps used to take eight hours; it now takes one. Deploying 60 servers with software was a four-week task; it now takes three days.


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Remote facilities pose special challenges, says Raj Gossain, Opsware's senior director of product marketing. "Half of all servers are deployed in non-data-center remote facilities," he says. "A lot aren't managed at all. They become a security vulnerability, failure modes are fairly high, and they're likely to go down with nobody there to take care of the problem in a reasonable time frame."

As EDS deploys Opsware Satellite over the next few years, better remote maSnagement will give customers more options to place processing capabilities wherever the best business value can be determined, Lozon says.

Still, systems-management tools have a ways to go before they let businesses "transparently manage all of a company's enterprise, even appropriate links to external supplies and customers," says Gordon Haff, an analyst with research firm Illuminata. "We're still clearly removed from the rather grand ambition of a single data center."

--Darrell Dunn

Photograph of globe by Holly Lindem