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Out-Of-Band Systems Management Helps Businesses Expand

Posted by iNext - 2005-10-22

U.S. businesses seeking to expand operations overseas face numerous challenges, even if they use the Internet to help with communications, distribution, marketing, and customer service. One of the biggest issues is managing IT systems in countries that have difficult climates, poor or nonexistent communications infrastructure, and local politics that can make on-the-ground support costly.
 
Remote management vendor Uplogix Inc. on Monday unveils Envoy 2.0, network management software for centralized and remote management that makes use of out-of-band techniques. Out-of-band management uses a "back door" to gain access to servers and other IT systems that have crashed, lost power, or have faulty network connections. OBM technology can be used to remotely restart servers and take other actions to eliminate the need to send service personnel to handle the problem in person. Companies that use OBM frequently have a satellite connection for their backup network.

Envoy provides IT managers with a console and can be used to automate network configuration, security management, and diagnosis and recovery, even when the network is down. For customers, this could mean lower operational costs, higher network availability and performance, and improved network security and compliance. Envoy 2.0 also features enhanced management security, with SSHv2 local or remote authentication, complete audit tracking of any device interaction, and more granular authorization controls for data access. And the new software can continuously stream information about performance data, bottlenecks, and security logs to enterprise management systems.

More businesses should investigate the benefits of OBM, says Dennis Drogseth, an analyst at Enterprise Management Assoc. The technology can provide better control of remote devices. Uplogix is alone in the way it targets network devices with OBM and monitors them with feeds back to a central console, he says. "Envoy gets involved with fixing the problem, with good, granular knowledge about how to do it," says Drogseth. Improvements in the new version of the software enrich analytics for problem diagnosis and recovery and let customers roll back systems to specific configurations and state. "Sixty percent of all system outages are configuration-related," he says.

A customer is talking to Uplogix about supporting its network expansion plans for West Africa, the Middle East, remote parts of Russia, and even out on oil rigs worldwide. RigNet Inc., a managed network service provider catering to the oil and natural gas industry, used to send a person on site whenever there was significant downtime or maintenance that had to be done. Without a product like Envoy, expansion into remote regions would be financially impossible. RigNet uses satellite communications for its main network, with dial-up phone lines as backup.

"Customers service before meant talking on the phone, modems, and getting people on site when there was a problem," says Morten Hansen, global engineering manager at RigNet. "That meant high costs to send people to Australia and Thailand." Using Envoy, Hansen says he should be able to control everything happening on all of his network devices. "We'll be able to keep up with security products from Cisco and other vendors now, after we found it hard to keep up with them before while we were chasing down problems."

Josh Tabin, chief financial officer at RigNet, says Uplogix is making it possible to double growth annually, while maintaining the same number of IT staff. "We can economically scale our business and provide our customers with more robust systems, without flying people all over the world," he says.

The vendor next year will be part of Tabin's marketing pitch. "We'll enter markets we don't currently serve," he says. "And we'll be able to prove that we're not holding our network together with string."



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