SAS streamlines server management with comprehensive Avocent solution
Background: Based in Cary, North Carolina, SAS, the largest privately-held software company in the world, develops and delivers industry-leading business intelligence and analytics solutions through more than 400 offices in 50 countries. SAS solutions are used at more than 44,000 sites worldwide – including 96 of the top 100 Fortune Global 500 companies – to develop more profitable relationships with customers and suppliers, comply with governmental regulations, attain research breakthroughs and develop better products and processes. SAS offers leading data integration, storage, analytics and business intelligence applications within a comprehensive enterprise intelligence platform. While many competitors have merged, changed ownership or simply vanished, privately held SAS has remained focused on its primary mission – delivering superior software and enhancing customer relationships. SAS' record of revenue growth in every year of its existence has not only made the company a stable business partner, but has enabled it to reinvest close to 25 percent of revenues in R&D each year, nearly twice the industry average. This commitment to innovation is one reason why 98 percent of SAS’ customers renew their software licenses every year.
Challenges: As an IT engineer for SAS, one of Dan Marx’s biggest challenges is keeping up with the demands of a growing, global entity. “As a global company, we’re committed to delivering standardized IT solutions that can scale and be used across geographies,” says Marx. “It’s our job to find solutions that provide optimal security, IT productivity, and responsiveness to our constituencies.”
As Marx surveyed the server hardware landscape in 2007, he found a lack of standards. “Hardware vendors all have different out-of-band service processors with varying console access methods: Dell uses DRAC, HP has iLO, IBM has RSA, and so forth. Each vendor’s interface and server access management is unique,” he explains. To reduce the complexity of managing and working on the company’s 3,000 servers from a variety of vendors, SAS needed a solution that could access each vendor’s out-of-band service processor as well as side-band industry standard, Baseboard Management Controllers (BMC), via Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI). Marx wanted a solution that would enable administrators to remotely access servers through a Web browser while improving IT productivity.
“We wanted a seamless solution that could access any kind of server. We wanted one interface and one method instead of dealing with a variety of console access and power management methods. Avocent was the only vendor to address console access and power management as a whole. Avocent provided a complete, unified solution for remote server management.”
Dan Marx, IT engineer, SAS
Issues: Prior to the Avocent digital solution, remote console access was a challenge. Any time administrators wanted to do something that required console access such as staging a server, changing an IP address or BIOS configurations, they would have to walk or travel to the data center and stand in front of the console to perform the work. A team of approximately 20 administrators could not access a server’s console from their desktop—at the office or from home. “Before, administrators either had badge access to the data center’s server room or not. Often times it was necessary for us to accompany application or server administrators while they performed tasks that required console access,” says Marx.
Solution provided by Avocent: When SAS was ready to move from analog to digital switches for server management, the requirements were clear. “We wanted a seamless solution that would allow us to access any kind of server. We wanted one interface and one method instead of dealing with a variety of console access and power management methods,” says Marx. SAS looked at several vendors but settled on an integrated Avocent solution including Avocent DSR® 2035 digital switches and DSView® 3 management software.
“Avocent was the only vendor to address console access and power management as a whole. Avocent provided a complete, unified solution for remote server management,” says Marx. SAS was also impressed with Avocent’s vision and business strategy. “Avocent was clearly making an effort to provide a total solution, pulling together IPMI, power management, digital switch technology and management software. They are in lock step with our IT challenges and vision for the future,” he says.
“Server administration was more complex prior to the Avocent digital switch solution with DSView 3 management software. Traveling to and from the data centers was often time consuming.”
Steve Parham, IT Systems Engineer, SAS
Summary: SAS deployed Avocent’s digital switches and DSView 3 software, which enables IT to work on the company’s 3,000 plus servers remotely—from any Web browser—improving IT productivity, data security, and customer service. “Ninety-nine percent of our server console management and maintenance is now done remotely through one interface: Avocent DSView 3,” says Marx. “We’ve increased IT administrator productivity by 20 percent. Instead of standing in front of a console waiting for compute tasks to be executed, we can now do those tasks from our desktops while answering emails, taking phone calls, increasing efficiency and productivity. We don’t have to tell people where their servers are anymore, and they don’t have to walk to the server rooms to do their work since everything can be done from the desktop. All you need is Internet access.” As a result, SAS has also seen a 35 percent decrease in response time for company requests submitted to server administrators.
IP-based remote access has improved the security of company data since fewer people are physically touching the servers. With integrated Avocent DSView 3 management software, Marx can select the servers that various IT administrators need to access, creating custom desktop views for particular groups or individuals.
The new system has been well received by IT administrators since they can now start a build in the afternoon, for example, and then log in from home later that night to keep the process going. “Before, we’d have to stay late at work to get the job done. It has significantly changed the way we do our jobs and our staff really likes the flexibility it gives them,” says Marx. The global solution also allows U.S.-based administrators to remotely access a company data center in Europe with ease.
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