Service firm improves network management

Case study: Reliable networks require proactive management, and tools that optimize performance. Here's how one online solutions firm solved its problems with effective data center management.

To make your network reliable, you need to be proactive. This requires tools that optimize your platform's performance.

These tools should address systems and software configuration and auditing, automated server provisioning, and system testing and troubleshooting.

Three-year-old Accumedia Inc., a Boulder, Colo.-based online solutions provider for enterprises and media and entertainment companies, knew from its inception that data center management was critical to delivering the content management services it promised its customers would lower their Web operations costs while increasing the flexibility of their online business models.

Seeking to improve network reliability, Accumedia, CTO Steve Hultquist chose Moonlight3, a data center management product that solved a number of key problems:

  • To enable Accumedia to use all servers on an as-needed basis, Moonlight3 maintains multiple copies of all server configurations for comparison purposes and allows system administrators to distribute new system versions to any machine, at any time.
  • To ensure system consistency, the product automatically audits, distributes, and tracks software and versions on different systems and environments.
  • To enable technicians to pull software into a development environment to fix problems when they occur, Accumedia uses Moonlight's reporting system to uncover programming changes its staff made, while retaining copies of older versions.
"For us, Moonlight3 is primarily a configuration system management solution," says Hultquist. While three-year-old Accumedia built its IT infrastructure, Hultquist and his IT team set out to find the available products that would match the company's data center management requirements. "We knew that we needed a management solution that would keep us consistent in terms of software versions, system configurations, and how to make changes," he says.

Accumedia, based in Boulder, CO, collocates its data center about 20 miles from headquarters with Denver, CO-based InFlow. Of Accumedia's 20 servers, 15 are Relion 125 servers with dual 1GHz processors and 2GB RAM, from Penguin Computing Inc., running Red Hat Linux 7.2; the other five servers are Sun Enterprise 220s and 420s running Solaris. The company also has a 1.5TB Network Appliance F840 Filer NAS device.

Ten of the Penguin machines are Web servers running Apache Web Server with Macromedia Jrun. The rest of the Linux servers run administrative and utility applications such as e-mail, in addition to's BuzzPower Web-based collaboration and messaging software. The Solaris boxes run NetIQ Corp.'s WebTrends Reporting Center, a home-grown commerce application using BEA's WebLogic Commerce Server, and Oracle 8i.

Hultquist began his search for the right management product by looking at enterprise data management packages such as IBM's Tivoli Enterprise, and open-source products such as B4 Technologies Inc.'s Big Brother. Hultquist soon realized that none of these products offered what Accumedia needed. In fact, he says that the traditional data center products were "bloated applications that don't do things that we wanted them to do."What Accumedia needed was a system that provided control over system creation, configuration, and management, including creating a complete system with all applications in known configurations, auditing system configurations to track changes, version changes to the systems for rollback protections, and maintaining a single copy of system configurations that would apply to all systems. "The solution needed to be flexible and accommodate our management approach versus forcing us to comply with its approach," says Hultquist.

The company considered building its own data center management system. Building the software didn't worry Hultquist, but he estimates that maintaining a home-grown solution would require an IT staff of between five and eight people and, combined with development costs, would have run about $250,000.

Before taking that road, the company decided to try Moonlight's newly released Moonlight data center management software in late summer 2000. Six months ago, the company upgraded to the Moonlight3, the latest version, which it runs on Solaris.

Hultquist reports that he's seen a quick ROI on his $10,000 investment. The company saves $40,000 on hardware costs by adding just-in-time server capacity to meet customer demand. Automatic server reconfigurations save about eight man-hours for each incident. The company has been able to reduce its IT team from eight members in October 2001 to two today.

Now that Moonlight supports Linux, Hultquist plans to port the software from Solaris to the open system platform. Not only will he save on hardware by moving the software to the Penguin boxes from Solaris machines that are10 to 20 times more expensive, he estimates, but he'll be able to make better use of all existing resources. "The bottom line is that Moonlight3 doesn't require the beefiness of the Solaris boxes," he says.

Today, Hultquist reports Moonlight3 is exactly the management tool that Accumedia needed. Moonlight3 automates a lot of manual processes that are often unreliable and costly. "For us, system consistency, version configuration, and audit configuration are important, which is why this product is invaluable," says Hultquist.

Could your organization save money by using a data center management product? TalkBack below or e-mail us your thoughts.Service firm improves network management

Description Company
IT outsourcing and Internet data centers Inflow

Description Product Company
HW F840 Filer Network Appliance

HW Relion 125 Penguin Computing

HW Enterprise 220 Sun

HW Enterprise 420 Sun

Description Product Company
OS Red Hat Linux Red Hat

OS Solaris Sun

SW Big Brother B4 Technologies

SW WebLogic Commerce Server BEA

SW Tivoli Enterprise IBM

SW Moonlight3 Moonlight Systems

SW BuzzPower

SW WebTrends Reporting Center NetIQ

SW Oracle 8i Oracle

SW Apache Web Server Apache Software Foundation

SW Jrun Macromedia