When youre Electronic Data Systems Corp., the largest independent systems management and services company in the United States, mandatory jobs such as the deployment of operating system service packs can turn into yearlong projects.
To react faster to the needs of its managed hosting clients, EDS in January began deploying automation software. So far, EDS has not only been able to reduce patch management projects from two days to 30 minutes but has also seen the time it takes to reprovision servers drop from four days to a few hours, said Helio Rasteiro, executive director of EDS Global Midrange IT outsourcing business.
As data centers grow increasingly complex, experts say server and storage provisioning will continue to grow in importance. Large vendors are already laying the groundwork by clamoring to gain a foothold in the marketplace. In May, IBM acquired Think Dynamics Inc., a virtualization technology company in Toronto, to enhance its on-demand services. Veritas Software Corp. has released the latest version of its provisioning management software, OpForce 3.0, and, in June, Hewlett-Packard Co. announced that it would integrate Opsware Inc.s Opsware System data automation software into HPs Utility Data Center IT management software.
Last year, EDS acquired the managed hosting business of service provider Loudcloud Inc. for $63.5 million. In addition, EDS purchased a three-year, $52 million license for Opswares automation software to automate the complex computing environments of its sprawling IT infrastructure.
EDS Global Midrange IT outsourcing business, which took over 50 of Loudclouds enterprise managed hosting accounts, began deploying Opsware System 3.6 in January. The plan is to deploy the IT automation software during the next few years on 50,000 servers across 14 data centers and 240 client-owned and regional data centers worldwide, according to Rasteiro.
So far, EDS has deployed the software at two large data centers, in Sacramento, Calif., and Plano, Texas. The company is in the process of installing the software at three other data centers in the United States and has begun installing it at one international location.
Rasteiro said the main benefit of using Opsware System has been its ability to automate internal operational functions. By automating the provisioning of software and of operating system patches, for example, Rasteiro has been able to take functions that were traditionally delivered by senior system administrators and assign them to lower-level employees. This allows experienced administrators to concentrate on more strategic issues and has also decreased the administration load significantly, he said.
Indeed, while many companies struggle with patch management, EDS has been able to get a handle on the tenuous task using the Opsware software. Rasteiro said his team has benchmarked problem scenarios where it would take an entire day to query databases to determine how many servers the company has in its active inventory that would require a particular patch. With the automation software, he said, it would take about 30 minutes to do the same job.
“If you have thousands of servers, it might take a couple of days to handle patch management, and perhaps a full day if you had a few hundred servers,” he said.
The deployment of an automated operations model has also enabled EDS to provide a higher degree of service-level quality to its hosting clients, Rasteiro said.
In the past, when a client such as online movie ticket company Fandango Inc., in Santa Monica, Calif., planned a large online event that required the provisioning of Web servers, Rasteiro said he would need up to four days notice to ensure the Fandango site would operate efficiently. Now, by utilizing the Opsware System provisioning engine, it takes as little as an hour and a half to ensure the Web site will scale during high demand—something that is also beneficial in the event of unscheduled Web traffic spikes.
“Sometimes clients will know of events, and were able to plan for it ahead of time,” said Rasteiro. “But sometimes you dont have time to plan for high demand, which is when provisioning software really makes sense.”
Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.