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Some software vendors manage to attract customers without seeming to have to make too much noise. In the realm of systems management, Opsware Inc. is one such organisation that in a couple of years has managed to capture over 250 customers, large and small, with its line of practical IT automation tools. The challenge ahead for Opsware will be to let the market know exactly what it has in its kit bag and the benefits that the use of its software can deliver.
The relatively rapid acquisition of customers is a tribute to the quality of the core network and server automation tools that Opsware produces. To this end it is worth noting that just under half of the staff at the company is engaged in the Research and Development process. It also reflects a growing awareness of the increasingly important need for said IT and network automation tools.
At the heart of the offerings can be found the Opsware Server Automation, Opsware Network Automation, and Opsware Asset Tracking tools. These automate many of the routine management activities associated with the day to day administration of IT technologies. Opsware Network Automation provides capabilities to automate the management of over 500 different types of network devices, whilst the Server Automation software does the same for the routine administration of Windows, Linux and Unix servers and the applications that run on them.
Opsware Asset Tracking provides capabilities to discover and track some 65,000 software components. The system utilizes network listening capabilities to discover target systems and then deploys agents to them, all in accordance with defined management policies.
It is important to recognize that Opsware’s solutions do not replace existing management tools but instead complements them by providing the capabilities to automate routine tasks. For example, Opsware can automate many complex and time consuming tasks associated with the provisioning, patching, configuration and scripting of code deployment.
The latest release of the software, Opsware Server Automation System 5.1, saw the addition of many facilities to help simplify management tasks and enable automation to be instigated rapidly, in many cases within a day. The new software also delivers significant compliance automation capabilities, including out-of-the-box reporting to assist with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), ITIL and COBiT process auditing. These facilities expand and enhance Opsware’s well-established policy-based automation, discovery and reporting capabilities.
To understand the capabilities and potential use of the Opsware automation tools requires a little time and attention; Opsware Global Shell (OGS) is a much more straightforward proposition. In essence, OGS allows administrators to create management scripts that can function on multiple server hardware / operating systems platforms. Beyond this it also supplies substantial script security management capabilities and script audit tools – an area that often escapes attention in spite of the importance of the privileged tasks being undertaken and their potential to go wrong or to be ‘subverted’.
Indeed, the potential use of OGS in the multi-tier, distributed application architectures commonly deployed is certain to attract attention. The IT of nearly all organizations is inherently dependent on the many shell scripts that are used to keep it running. Until now, each server / operating system platform has had its own shell and it has been necessary to build, and maintain, scripts on each platform. OGS is supplied with sophisticated management tools that should allow users of OGS to reap fundamental operational benefits. The potential benefits in staff productivity alone will draw attention; the addition of the security and audit benefits add considerably to the benefits obtainable with OGS.
Opsware is a company that is growing rapidly in Europe as well as its home base of North America. The automation of IT along with the reduction in manual issues should ensure that Opsware continues to grow for some considerable time to come.