Toronto data centre firm increases automation

Fusepoint Managed Services is about to deploy a set of data centre automation products in order to scale its IT infrastructure without adding additional staff.

The Toronto-based firm, which provides a range of hardware and software hosting services to Canadian businesses, said Wednesday it had selected Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Opsware as its vendor of choice for the project. Fusepoint, which said it will be using Opware’s Server Automation System, Network Automation System, Process Automation System and Visual Application Manager, plans to have everything installed by the end of the summer.

Data centre automation grew out of provisioning tools and are used to assist with configuration, patching and the management of servers in distributed environments. Fusepoint president George Kerns said the company already had some data centre automation tools in place but required additional features to meet the demands of complex applications.

The company brought in several vendors, who Kerns did not name, and spent a week having them demonstrate their products in a Fusepoint environment.

“This wasn’t a textbook exercise. This was a hands-on exercise,” he said. “We wanted to see how their products discovered devices and integrate things.” Opsware was chosen in the end, Kerns said, because of its products ability to work with existing tools Fusepoint already uses.

Other data centre automation vendors include BladeLogic, IBM and to a lesser extent HP, said Stephen Elliot, research manager for Framingham, Mass.-based IDC’s enterprise systems management practice.

“I think when it comes to large enterprise accounts at this very moment, both Opsware and BladeLogic tend to show up,” he said.

Earlier this year, Fusepoint doubled the size of its data centre in Vancouver, and Kerns said the firm sees about 40 per cent device growth a year. Its tech support staff, however, are distributed across its other offices in Montreal and Toronto, and include a mix of Microsoft engineers, Unix experts and backup specialists.

“When they’re deploying a patch, it’s for all the servers we manage. If there’s a new release of software for a Cisco switch, it goes across the entire network topology,” Kerns said. “We have high hopes that as time goes on, some of metrics in terms of the number of employees per server will increase through underlying data systems.”

This tends to the same tipping point for data centre automation in other large enterprises, Elliot said. Business users typically request a certain level of service and IT departments discover they can’t meet the deadline.

“On average, it takes multiple weeks to provision a server in most global 2,000 enterprise IT organizations,” he said. “It’s really about compressing workflows, processes and tasks and enabling IT to reduce the risk of failure caused by humans.”

In April, Opsware released its ITIL Acceleration Solution, a tool designed to help organizations map their data centre management to the IT Infrastructure Library set of best practices by discovering applications, coordinating IT groups and reporting the results. Fusepoint is interested in these kinds of capabilities, but Kerns said the company is already ITIL compliant for the most part.

“We are a certified partner of HP, and they put us through a long audit process so that they would certify us,” he said by way of example. “This will just help with conforming a little bit and making sure it’s easier to track.”

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