RealTime IT News

CiRBA Wants to Ease Server Pain

Like older siblings in a family, business intelligence gets all the attention, while companies tend to neglect the needs of IT intelligence.

According to Gerry Smith, president and CEO of CiRBA, companies lack a holistic view of their IT infrastructures.

"The data center is to the CIO what business intelligence is to the CEO," he told internetnews.com.

Windows servers are typically running at just 8 percent to 12 percent of capacity, according to a Forrester Research report released last year. Unix servers are only using 25 percent to 40 percent capacity.

However, most large organizations are still more likely to buy new servers than try to consolidate them.

This bulimic appetite for more boxes eventually leads to too much diversity in both hardware and software, which in turn creates inconsistencies within systems.

Moreover, companies are spending money maintaining excess servers and paying high electrical rates to run the boxes and cool the server rooms.

Because they don't have a clear enough picture of their sprawling infrastructures, IT executives are often reluctant to touch their servers for fear of taking out the wrong server or underestimating peak utilization levels.

This is one of several areas where Toronto-based CiRBA believes it can help with the rollout of Data Center Intelligence (DCI) version 3.0.

"We've created a means to bring the intelligence that organizations have had to garner themselves in various pockets of information in one holistic area," said Smith.

DCI creates an inventory of all of an organization's servers, creates reports for regulatory compliance and change analysis, as well as creates asset optimization reports.

DCI also estimates server capacity, provides a cohabitation index that suggests compatible systems, and suggests consolidation candidates.

Version 3.0 is available through a web portal that can be customized according to individual users' needs.

"The tool addresses multiple purposes and multiple constituencies," noted Andrew Hillier, CiRBA co-founder and CTO.

According to Hillier, DCI is designed to help identify where changes have occurred in large systems. One value of this knowledge is in ensuring that redundant servers used in disaster recovery always remain equivalent to production servers.

"Often, servers are patched inconsistently in the detail of how things are configured," Hillier told internetnews.com. "Changes to the system result in a drift in equivalencies."

DCI tracks details of changes at all levels, from the kernel stack through the applications.

"When there's a change to a file, it allows you to see that this parameter, or this chron-job, changed," Hillier said. "As opposed to the engineers having to delve through files in order to identify where the change occurred."

"When you have that level of detail of your structure every day, it's really quite powerful," he said.

Smith said that this solution allows engineers to get to work fixing a problem, rather than investigating the source and trying to deflect blame.

"It puts a stop to the finger pointing and gets the organization to say, 'okay, we know what went wrong, now let's fix it,'" he said.

The new version of DCI also features reporting that can help companies lower costs by consolidating software as well as hardware.

"It can help you identify VMware strategies and OS-level stacking opportunities," said Hillier.

Lou Fachin, senior systems analyst at Bell Mobility, said the company has been using DCI version 2.0 since 2004, and has derived significant savings.

"We've spent less time administering our network, there have been fewer outages and we've increased our uptime," he told internetnews.com.

DCI also helps companies comply with critical aspects of regulations governing internal controls. Currently, executives need to go to several sources of information in order to provide an accurate accounting of their systems.

"They have processes and measures to prove they're compliant," he said. "But it involves running a lot of scripts and manual labor. And it's costing a fortune. It's a lot of work that our solution could automate for them," he said.