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Software // Enterprise Applications
04:14 PM

Unlock Systems' Potential

Software lets businesses tame their unruly systems and networks

As businesses in the 1990s threw money at technology and built up large infrastructures, the demand for automated tools has grown, Entuity CEO Gerry O'Connell says. "Now people are looking to save hard dollars, and we can identify stranded assets in these bloated infrastructures," he says. "It's not just the asset, it's the running of the assets."

Smith & Associates Inc. is testing a management appliance from startup Vieo Inc., says Bob Ackerley, president of the $400 million-a-year electronic-component and medical-equipment distributor. "Two potential advantages are network management running on the appliance, so there's no server overhead, and the adaptive application infrastructure management," he says. Smith & Associates has been using BMC Software Inc.'s Patrol management software, which Ackerley says is complex, requires a lot of staff attention, and doesn't provide the automation he wants.

Smith & Associates is using Vieo to manage server capacity, Ackerley says
Ackerley says he expects the Vieo product to help his company manage server capacity. In tests, the appliance monitored server loads and moved work onto underutilized servers without manual intervention. "If it helps improve network management and eliminates downtime from overloads, then there's a huge cost benefit," he says. "And Vieo could reduce the number of new servers, and it will take fewer bodies in the data center to monitor our network."

Using a management appliance, which has direct connections to servers, routers, and PCs, offers a variety of advantages for monitoring application performance, says Vieo CEO and president Bob Fabbio. "With management software alone on a server, customers must deploy fat agents on all the resources, and that could take months and even years," he says. Each Vieo appliance connects to as many as 200 devices. "We have dedicated processing inside the appliance, insulated from the apps. Changes are downloaded to the appliance," Fabbio says. "Our intent is to deliver app quality of service."

Some management software can handle multiple tasks. Navigant International Inc., a business travel-management company, several years ago bought a PC application-management tool from Altiris Inc. that's now used to improve security. Security wasn't the primary reason Navigant bought the Client Management Solution, CIO Neville Teagarden says. "We didn't have as many threats two years ago," he says. "We use Altiris to cost effectively farm out the constant application changes."

He also uses the software, which starts at $80 per seat, to manage patches and registry changes. His only alternative would be outsourcing, Teagarden says. "I'd pay a lot more money for that or have a lot more IT staff," he says. "Even then, I don't know if we could do it without the automated tool."

Altiris offers a server-provisioning tool, which is being used by HP in its rapid deployment service, to eliminate the need to manually install software and boot a server. "With our software, nobody goes to the machine," says Poul Nielsen, Altiris' VP of product strategy. That can produce substantial savings, he says: "If the administrator had to do the work manually, usually some stuff is lost, the administrator usually has to take the machine away, and users are down for that time."

Reducing the amount of time a business-technology manager has to spend visiting and working with a server is the goal of many of these software tools. Canadian Pacific Railway Co. is using software from Tripwire Inc. to let managers do the job from a management console, IS manager Val King says. Tripwire captures all alerts in one device and tracks any changes to the information on servers. "Instead of losing several hours to reboot a server we couldn't reach, why not find something that catches changes and replace the changes with the original work?" King says.

In the past, Canadian Pacific Railway might have taken half a day to restore all its Web servers if a problem occurred or a change was needed. "Now we program Tripwire to make changes, and it could be different for each server, and we're up in maybe 45 minutes," King says. "It's nice to have one tool for managing all the devices."

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