Nortel - 2008 Red Hat Innovation Award Winner

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June 24, 2008

Customer: Nortel Networks, Ltd. US

Industry: Telecomm
Geography: North America
Country: United States


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Background:

By linking hundreds of millions of users the world over, Nortel is a recognized leader in delivering the communications capabilities that make its promise of “business made simple” a reality. Based in Toronto, Nortel provides enterprises and service providers in more than 150 countries with the next-generation technologies they need to support their multimedia and business-critical network applications. Nortel technologies help eliminate barriers to efficiency, speed, and performance by simplifying networks and connecting people to their information-whenever and wherever they need it.

Business Challenge:

In 2002, Nortel faced a growing demand from its design community for the latest coding tools and the need for an absolutely stable environment in which to deploy them. Nortel began searching for a patching and management infrastructure it could deploy locally on its network to achieve these goals. This was no easy task given the network in question had more than 291,000 nodes located in excess of 350 locations worldwide-not to mention 8,000 subnets housing a myriad of servers and desktops running a wide variety of operating systems that provided access to a broad range of network services.

“We needed a robust patching solution for the machines we were deploying in the field for three key reasons,” said Ernest Szeideman, Nortel senior systems analyst. “First, we needed to ensure security. Next, we wanted to deliver increased capabilities for the systems deployed. And finally, we needed to improve the manageability of the boxes themselves.”

In short, the company needed a robust, scalable patching solution that could be accessed and used similarly across all systems-and that would be deployed locally so that the integrity of its data could be ensured.

In addition to the technical challenges of finding an adequate patching solution, Nortel was faced with another: Despite having considerable Unix expertise and a growing Linux installation, its staff was still relatively new to the Linux world. Thus it needed a true partner to help it support its growing Linux environment and to collaborate with the open-source community in general to support its very heterogeneous infrastructure that contained a variety of systems including proprietary Unix to Windows to big iron systems.

Already familiar with Red Hat from its work with the company on other projects, Nortel nonetheless considered a number of offerings-including one from Ximian (now Novell)-but in the final analysis Red Hat was selected due to the capabilities offered,manageability of its products, and the ease of installation and use across the board.

Most importantly, Red Hat “enabled us to use Linux within our heterogeneous environment,” said Szeideman.

Specifically about Red Hat Network (RHN) Satellite, Szeideman said, “We wanted a product that would allow us to perform the patching while making certain that no information left our internal network.” Ximian wasn’t as mature, he pointed out. “And it was absolutely key that we partner with a company that had a solid service offering to support our business,” he said. Red Hat was able to do just that.

Szeideman also said that it didn’t hurt that Red Hat had the best independent software vendor (ISV) support of any Linux vendor Nortel was able to identify-a factor that was critical for Nortel’s ability to run its business.

Solution:

In 2003, after much collaboration with and input to the Red Hat Network team, Nortel was one of the first Red Hat customers to deploy RHNSatellite along with various proxy servers to service its Red Hat installed base. Today, the company is using version 5.0.1 of Red Hat Network and employs both servers and workstations running Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Nortel employs primarily Hewlett-Packard hardware (DL380, DL580, DL385, and DL585 servers as well as xw4300, xw4400, and xw4600 workstations); however, it also uses a significant quantity of Dell equipment. The range of software used on these machines includes Clearcase, Oracle, VMware workstation, and a variety of in-house applications for load builds. Today, Nortel has approximately 2,000 machines registered against its RHN Satellite server.

Nortel was also one of the first Red Hat customers to make use of a technical account manager (TAM), and it continues to do so very enthusiastically today. In addition, a number of Nortel engineers attended Red Hat Certified Engineer training, which helped the organization work effectively with both Red Hat and its offerings.

Today, Nortel continues to collaborate with its Red Hat TAM from both an image development and a support perspective-and continues to be extraordinarily pleased with the results which not only benefit Nortel, but the open source community as a whole.

Benefits:

Already familiar with Red Hat from its work with the company on other projects, Nortel nonetheless considered a number of offerings-including one from Ximian (now Novell)-but in the final analysis Red Hat was selected due to the capabilities offered,manageability of its products, and the ease of installation and use across the board.

Most importantly, Red Hat “enabled us to use Linux within our heterogeneous environment,” said Szeideman.

Specifically about Red Hat Network (RHN) Satellite, Szeideman said, “We wanted a product that would allow us to perform the patching while making certain that no information left our internal network.” Ximian wasn’t as mature, he pointed out. “And it was absolutely key that we partner with a company that had a solid service offering to support our business,” he said. Red Hat was able to do just that.

Szeideman also said that it didn’t hurt that Red Hat had the best independent software vendor (ISV) support of any Linux vendor Nortel was able to identify-a factor that was critical for Nortel’s ability to run its business.

For Nortel, the benefits of deploying RHN Satellite for its patching and infrastructure needs were numerous and immediate. Not only were the initial upfront costs (including licensing and hardware) substantially lower than proprietary Unix solutions, but the solution’s continually upgraded feature set has enabled Nortel to do things like automatically clean up duplicate entitlements (thanks to its exposed API), easily determine the number of each version of RHEL deployed on its networks, and provide patch penetration statistics for SOX and other audit points. The company has also been able to develop a front end to the “up2date” and “yum” commands that enables system administrators to patch supported machines by simply touching a file and running a command-regardless of operating system.

Most importantly, however, RHN Satellite has enabled Nortel to patch its Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems seamlessly via its internal networks (providing bandwidth savings even for those outside of Nortel)-and it has done so in a safe, secure, and tested manner.

According to Szeideman, RHN Satellite long ago proved itself in terms of return on investment-so much so, in fact, that the company is now exploring Linux for the desktop. “Although hard-core designers represent the current market for Linux, we’re now exploring the option of going full scale with Linux as a potential replacement for the Microsoft offering,” said Szeideman. “It’s becoming a key to our environment.”

Based on Nortel’s positive experience working with Red Hat technical account managers, Szeideman strongly recommends that any large company interested in deploying Red Hat throughout the enterprise should work with a TAM to get this done.

Said Szeideman, “I view the TAM as a cheerleader for us within Red Hat to bring about whatever we require in our environment and to meet our business goals.” These days, said Szeideman, Nortel is “lean, mean, and focused from a technology point of view. We deliver value for our customers-and over the years, we’ve been able to rely on Red Hat to help us with that mission.”

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