Canadian advanced systems group, Dell Canada

David MacMillan, manager of office network services for Toronto-based Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., oversees 65 Windows servers, 1,400 desktops and 350 laptops. All are spread across data centres in Toronto as well as nine regional offices and three distribution centres around Canada. Updating all those machines was something of a nightmare.

“The servers are spread out and remote from us and without anybody in those regions to do that type of management,” MacMillan said during a Dell Inc.-sponsored roundtable discussion entitled The State of the Data Centre: Managing Constant Change, in Toronto yesterday.

MacMillan turned to Dell’s professional services, Microsoft Corp. and Toronto’s LegendCorp (part of the Dell professional services extended team) to help him find a better way to manage his network.Dell’s vision is to continue simplifying operations. We are trying to drive standards into the data centre that makes things simple.Deb Jensen>Text Working with these partners, he implemented Microsoft’s Systems Management Server 2003 (SMS 2003) last August for patch management and software distribution for all of the company’s desktops and servers.

“We are able to…push pieces of patches at a time when the user is connected doing their e-mail. It is very transparent to them and once the patch is completed and at the remote location, it is going to update their system with the latest security patch.”

Deb Jensen, vice-president of the Canadian advanced systems group for Dell Canada, quoted an IDC survey that said about 77 per cent of the market (and MacMillan was one of them) uses five tools like patch management and performance monitoring programs to manage ones network.

“Dell’s vision is to continue simplifying operations. We are trying to drive standards into the data centre that makes things simple,” Jensen said.

By being standards-based, she said, organizations could consolidate different vendors into a single interface to manage their environment.

Derick Wong, senior product manager, security management with Microsoft Canada, added about 70 per cent of an organization’s IT budget is used for sustaining and maintaining current networks and the majority of it goes into the different tools used for network management.

“Microsoft is consolidating and making sure all the tools interoperate with each other,” Wong said. In addition to SMS 2003, MacMillan also implemented Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 earlier this year.

MOM 2005 helps the IT team manage and understand what is happening on the network by tracking CPU usage and keeping tabs on what services are running on what server. If a server fails or a disk is full MOM 2005 will alert users to the situation. MacMillan said MOM 2005 has been great for his analysts as the program creates a knowledge base of past network problems; that makes it easier to find a fix.

Analysts “are not spending their time doing the patch management or staying up late to do that,” he said.

Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst with Evans Research Corp. in Toronto, said she is seeing the industry move towards easier management and consolidation of different management tools.

“The combining of everything [allows] analysts to share information and have that information accessible to everyone else. It frees up an organization to move up and push out,” she said.

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