Although I find conversations with representatives of technology suppliers to be useful and interesting. Having an opportunity to communicate with people actually putting the technology to use is even better. Typically these customers will present their experiences and highlight the strengths of a product and where it needs improvement. Recently, Dave Flatt, Network Team Manager, Sheffield Hallam University let me know about his organization's use of Entuity's Eye of the Storm management software for virtualized environments. Here is what the good Mr. Flatt had to share with the ZDnet audience.
Please introduce your organization and describe your role.Sheffield Hallam University is one of the UK's most progressive and innovative universities. Our state-of-the-art facilities are supported by strategic investments in new technology, to ensure that our technological capability matches our cutting-edge approach to teaching, as well as the contemporary needs of our community. Sheffield Hallam University is also recognized as a Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning, e-learning and employability.
The Network Team is responsible for ensuring the University’s IT infrastructure is optimally deployed to meet the diverse service needs of the students, faculties, businesses, and the community. We monitor, manage and tune the IT infrastructure on a daily basis, so that it efficiently and cost-effectively delivers the high-availability technology services needed by our users.
What are you doing that required this technology?With historic roots as the city’s Technical College, a Polytechnic and a School of Design, Sheffield Hallam University has been a technology leader for more than a century. Today it is one of the UK's leading universities in e-learning, offering a range of distance learning and part time courses as well as the more traditional full time courses. The University’s 'shuspace' personalized online environment provides students and staff access to all the online services and information they need - the Blackboard virtual learning environment, library and information resources including the library catalog and 'LitSearch', the FirstClass student e-mail system, the 'My Student Record' on-line management and enrollment system, a host of news and events listings, as well as all the enterprise and business applications used by staff to run University business operations. The network supports these strategic initiatives by connecting all the applications, data stores, computing resources, and online environments.
Sheffield Hallam was an early adopter of virtualization technology because of the speed and versatility it offers in deploying and maintaining enterprise applications, as well as the economical and operational benefits it brings to the data center. When evaluating new IT solutions today, we give primary consideration to those that support running in a virtualized environment. Our network management solution, Eye of the Storm (EYE), not only runs in a virtualized environment but also has a management module making our VMware ESX Servers visible and manageable in the context of the overall network infrastructure.
What products did you consider before making a selection?We considered several other management platforms, but most were too complex and required too much configuration before they were operational.
Why was this product selected?With only a small team to manage the infrastructure for more than 30,000 students and 5,000 staff in our user community, we need solutions that are operational out-of-the-box. EYE gave us the specific functionality we needed to successfully manage our network without the overhead of the frameworks. The addition of the VMware module fitted the natural technological progression of our environment.
What tangible benefits have come from the use of this product?We rely heavily on virtualization for both the technical and operational benefits it provides the University. We can quickly deploy independent virtual environments for new enterprise application testing and deployment, for failover and disaster recovery, end-user desktop image management, and virus remediation. Being able to host more virtual environments per physical server helps reduce power consumption, as well as utility, cooling, and maintenance costs. With visibility to VMs in our network management system, we can monitor, collect, and alert on the operation and performance of the virtual machines, the physical servers that host them, and the networks that deliver applications and services to our end users.
What advice would you offer others facing similar circumstances?Giving advice is difficult because each organization is unique and so too will be their requirements. Virtualization technology can offer tremendous flexibility and savings to organizations of all sizes, but its flexibility can introduce new management challenges that cross between traditional IT silos. Our next step is in evaluating new virtual switch technology that could replace the traditional hardware switch with a software equivalent, which will run in a virtual environment. But first we’ll review the benefits it could provide our organization before we worry about who’s responsibility it is to manage.
Who is EntuityEntuity is a supplier of management solutions designed to deliver network predictability and control enabling organizations, system integrators and MSPs to manage network services and assets, meet service level commitments, implement best practices in service delivery, and even develop and monitor Green IT initiatives.
The company’s flagship product – Eye of the Storm (EYE) – provides automated, continual discovery of network infrastructure inventory and connectivity to maintain an up to date knowledge base of the network from the core to the edge.
The product also offers integrated fault and performance management capabilities. By providing real-time notifications concerning changes in the network, organizations are better able to meet their objectives.