Opsware Automates Server Configuration

Moving closer to the promise of on-demand computing, Opsware's SAS 5.1 offers affordable, streamlined server management and helps with SarbOx compliance.

Opsware on Monday will launch a revamped version of its Server Automation System that takes aim at the high cost of managing complex server provisioning and configuration changes and at automating regulatory and policy compliance tasks.

Opsware Inc.s SAS release 5.1 is designed to help IT better align operations spending and spending on new applications by automating more of the process of discovering and deploying management agents to servers. SAS 5.1 also automates the steps required to comply with regulations and best practices policies.

"People are only spending 30 percent of IT budgets developing new applications, and 70 percent on maintaining existing capabilities. The driver of our business today is to help people [reverse that ratio]," said Tim Howes, chief technology officer of the Sunnyvale, Calif. company.

The more diverse a server environment is, the more costly it can be to maintain it. That, coupled with a desire to keep servers in compliance with the requirements of the research and development organization at Cadence Design Systems Inc., led Cadences IT staffers to look to migrate to the new SAS release 5.1.

"We were … interested in the consistency and compliance with what our R&D groups required. Opsware gives us that consistency," said Lew Newby, senior IT architect at Cadence in Zanesville, Ohio. "Its easier for the IT department to manage an environment thats the same than it is to manage 50 different operating systems. [SAS]makes it easier to manage," he said.

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Cadence intends to bring at least some 9000 systems under Opsware management, Newby said.

"We have at least 20 people in the company doing imaging as part of their jobs. Imaging will be an automated process, so those workers can be much more productive," said Sheryl Sweazey-Root, IT director for the company in San Jose, Calif.

Opsware streamlined SAS implementation through a new Opsware Express Automation feature set that reduces the server discovery and management agent deployment phase from days to hours, according to Howes. That, coupled with features that reduce the amount of training required for systems administrators, should help users "get started with the system quickly and get value from it as soon as possible," Howes said. In one instance, a beta user deployed 7,500 servers to 1,700 locations in five days, Howes said.

With Express Automation, users provide the system with a range of IP addresses and the system pings nodes on the network, gathering up a list of what it finds in its scanning process. The system then determines which of several methods can be used to deploy agents to the servers it discovered. Methods can be SSH (Secure Shell), Telnet or others. The system then "sends the agent out and installs it, and it comes up and registers with the Opsware core," Howes said.

Opsware Express Automation also includes a Server Explorer function that allows users to browse remote servers from across the network as if they were local, and control the services on those servers.

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In its new Compliance Automation feature set, Opsware automates multiple steps in server and application compliance, including auditing as well as remediation to a compliance center that provides out-of-the-box reports for regulations and best IT management practices such as Sarbanes-Oxley and IT Infrastructure Library.

The compliance steps it addresses include policy definition, determining which servers policies apply to, testing compliance and taking remedial action.

"We made it more granular to set policies in your system—not image by image—but more like this registry key needs to be set a certain way on Windows. When a policy changes, you only need to make the smallest change possible," Howes said.

Compliance Automation also takes on policy assignment, allowing for the creation of a dynamic group that can be tracked. "For example, if you have a policy that applies to database servers, Opsware automatically tracks whats a database server and whats not. It tracks in real time the status of resources," said Howes. That allows those tasked with policy creation to insure policies are executed and adhered to.

The new release brings IT closer to the promise of on-demand computing, without having to rely on a single server hardware supplier or spend a lot on consulting—as is required by large systems providers such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., Howes said. Opsware SAS 5.1 is due next month and is priced at $1,200 per managed server.

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