With virtual data center, San Diego port's ship comes in

AccelOps' management software gives staff a unified view of diverse IT infrastructure

The San Diego Unified Port District covers a lot of waterfront, with a diverse set of duties supported by an equally diverse information technology infrastructure. When port officials recognized they needed a central management console to help IT operators better monitor the status of networked devices, they opted for an all-in-one data center offering from AccelOps.

AccelOps’ data center and IT service management system features virtual appliance software that organizations can install on a network. The system also is available as a software as a service on AccelOps' infrastructure. It is designed for midsize organizations that have the network management needs of large enterprises but don’t have the resources or staff to deploy large-scale management systems.

The port provides a range of services to San Diego, including administrative, law enforcement, maritime, engineering, environment and real estate, said Adolfo Segura, director of IT for the San Diego Unified Port District. It provides policing services to the San Diego International Airport and oversees cruise ship and maritime terminal usage that includes container and bulk types of cargo. Additionally, the agency is trustee for more than 600 properties across the waterfront, from small storefront businesses to major hotels chains, such as Hyatt and Marriott, Segura said.

A set of IT systems and network devices support those operations, including a Cisco Systems network infrastructure and applications, databases and servers from Citrix, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, SAP, Sun Microsystems and VMware. The port has about 700 desktop and laptop computers scattered throughout 11 sites and a variety of Intel-based and Sun Sparc-based network servers, Segura said.

The port operates one data center and two large remote sites and serves about 635 users with 18 IT staff members.

Initially, officials tried to monitor network and IT operations with Hewlett-Packard’s OpenView enterprise management suite. That proved to be too complex and expensive for a midsize outfit such as the port, Segura said. The port used other network management systems, such as Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold, SolarWinds and Visual Click, but they only cover portions of the network, he said.

Last year, a member of the IT staff recommended AccelOps for gaining a holistic view of the network. AccelOps lets users track and monitor activity from a single console, incorporating capabilities such as availability management for monitoring service-level agreements, business service management, compliance management, configuration management, performance management and security information management.

AccelOps runs as a virtual machine guest on a VMware ESXi server, so an agency must have VMWare, said Scott Gordon, vice president of marketing and business development at AccelOps. After an IT administrator enters IP addresses of the devices to be monitored, an application known as a Collector discovers all of the systems on the network using Simple Network Management Protocol.

AccelOps lets administrators understand relationships and track activity on the network, systems, applications, virtualized environments, users, identities and locations. The solution has built-in analytics for real-time and historic data analysis, Gordon said. Dashboards provide a view of all connected devices and baseline, alerting, search and reporting capabilities. A service definition function automatically maps applications to the infrastructure.

“AccelOps has a configuration management database (CMDB) integrated into the solution, which sets it apart from some of the other solutions” on the market designed for midtier organizations, said Dennis Drogseth, a vice president at consulting firm Enterprise Management Associates.

A CMDB lets organizations cohesively manage change to determine the impact on services. Drogseth said other companies that offer solutions in this area include:

  • Nimsoft, which does not have an integrated CMDB yet;
  • AdventNet’s Managed Engine, which is moving toward an integrated CMDB
  • Firescope, which offers an inexpensive CMDB solution and business service management technology.

Other companies worth noting are Netcordia and Zyrion, which provides business service management and is starting to come on strong in the government sector, he said.

An on-demand approach

San Diego's port is using AccelOps as a SaaS system, opting to download the Collector application onto a VMware server as a virtualized guest on the port’s premise. Collector discovers and captures the port’s operational data. It then aggregates, compresses and securely transmits data to the AccelOps data center, Gordon said.

The data center processes, manages and stores the port’s operational data and offers around-the-clock availability and maintenance. The port monitors its services and infrastructure via a graphical user interface that offers dashboards, topology, analytics, alerts and reports.

The San Diego port has been using AccelOps since January, Segura said.

“It has assisted us with network troubleshooting on specific segments, tracking user activity — privilege and non-privilege access,” he said.

“Where we suspected some usage activity, we were able to track specific IP activity within or outside of its segment, something we weren’t able to do with the other software,” Segura said.“With the centralized dashboard and triggers within the solution, we don’t have to have that many eyes on” the network. In the past, a combination of network managers and analysts had to monitor and react to problems. Now, “we need one individual looking at it, if that, and if they are, it is to retrieve information and react on it when needed.” 

The pricing for AccelOps starts at $24,995, depending on model capacity. The annual subscription includes maintenance and support with the means to upgrade capacity at any time.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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