Streamlining Systems Management

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July 1, 2009

Customer: University of Southern Mississippi

Industry: Education
Geography: North America
Country: United States


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Background:

The University of Mississippi, located in Hattiesburg, serves more than 14,000 students and 700 faculty members. The university, which was established in 1910, offers over 90 academic programs and approximately 250 clubs and organizations.

Business Challenge:

Managing close to 80 physical servers with limited technical resources can quickly become a challenge for any organization. Purchasing and maintaining subscriptions for each of these systems requires diligence and excellent management skills, as the IT team at the University of Southern Mississippi discovered in 2008.

None of the servers that System Administrator James Daniel worked with in the data center were based on the same hardware platforms, which meant that he had to consistently manually reconfigure the servers.

“When you have a farm of 80 plus servers, it’s very time consuming to manage,” Daniel said, “and our former process was prone to error.” Between taking care of the heterogeneous servers and keeping up individual subscriptions, the department technicians were stretched thin.

Solution:

Looking for a solution to help ease its systems management challenges, the University of Southern Mississippi IT team turned to Red Hat for a reliable solution. Red Hat provided Red Hat Satellite, a reliable, advanced systems management solution that is based on open standards, and a campus-wide Site Subscription to the high-performance Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating platform.

“We transitioned to Red Hat solutions very easily. It was just flipping a switch,” Daniel said. “It was easy.”

Benefits:

The new Red Hat Satellite solution streamlined the university’s IT environment, reduced overhead, and minimized errors, according to Terri Lowery, systems administration manager at the University of Southern Mississippi. Instead of individually updating each server in the data center, the university’s technicians can now update all of the servers at the same time with one click of a button.

With Red Hat Satellite, the IT team has saved at least the annual salary of one full-time employee. In addition, the team can now reallocate the resources previously spent manually updating the heterogeneous servers. Red Hat Satellite also helps the team manage their Sun Solaris systems and virtual environments.

The Red Hat Satellite systems management solution has worked so well for the University of Southern Mississippi tech team that Lowery wants to expand its use throughout the campus. “We would like to have a long-term, university-wide systems management solution,” Lowery said, “not just a technology department solution.”

The university today utilizes the Red Hat Site Subscription for the entire campus. Since Lowery initiated the subscription more than a year ago, she hasn’t had to worry about running out of entitlements or money. Previously, when faced with the need for additional entitlements, the team had to pull entitlements from other groups because the budget didn’t allow for additional purchases. “We had to keep licenses individually and be really stingy with them,” Lowery said.

They also had some entitlements that they didn’t use, but that situation changed when they switched to Red Hat, Systems Engineer Charles Wright said. “We didn’t have 20 or 30 extra entitlements sitting out there that were collecting dust every year,” Wright said. Now they have the flexibility to do what they need to do, when they need to do it, without worrying about anything, according to Lowery.

“We also didn’t have to tie a particular entitlement to a particular server to a selected budget. It was more of a blanket, so it cut down on the logistics,” said Daniel. “We’ve pretty much been able to set up development boxes on the fly, which has streamlined our research and development as well.”

The Red Hat Site Subscription to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the use of Red Hat Satellite have allowed the university’s tech department to standardize its systems management process, cut back on errors, and use less manpower. Today, the university’s technicians have better control over their IT environment, and are able to focus their resources on other critical university projects.

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