Red Hat JBoss Portal provides integration flexibility, reliability, and scalability

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May 23, 2013

GroundWork required a highly reliable, scalable front-end framework that gave customers maximum visibility and flexibility across a wide range of integrated IT management tools.

Customer: GroundWork

"The portal is so seamlessly integrated that in many cases, our customers don’t even know it’s a separate entity. It gives us a rock-solid foundation for the rest of our product." Roger Ruttimann, VP of Engineering and Quality, GroundWork

Business Challenge:

GroundWork required a highly reliable, scalable front-end framework that gave customers maximum visibility and flexibility across a wide range of integrated IT management tools.

Software:

Red Hat® JBoss® Portal

Benefits:

Red Hat® JBoss® Portal offers standards compliance, flexible configuration options, and high availability of services — all of which help differentiate GroundWork’s monitoring platform from the competition.

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Background:

Founded in 2004, GroundWork, Inc. is an independent software vendor (ISV) offering an open platform for unified enterprise-class monitoring of networks, applications, infrastructure, virtual machines and cloud assets. The company enables customers in any industry — including major Wall Street firms and the federal government — to customize their GroundWork deployment by integrating a wide range of open source and proprietary software technologies under a unified web portal. Based in San Francisco, GroundWork maintains a global presence, offering cost-effective monitoring solutions to enterprise customers in more than 50 countries.

Business Challenge:

Since its inception, GroundWork has been committed to offering a flexible, scalable, configurable IT monitoring solution for the enterprise. But from 2004 to 2008, the company lacked a truly reliable, scalable front-end framework that would offer customers maximum visibility and flexibility across a wide range of integrated IT management tools. "We compete directly with proprietary products from household-name vendors," said David Dennis, VP of Marketing and Business Development at GroundWork.

"We've always distinguished ourselves in terms of flexibility, but having a top-of-the-line portal would take us to a whole new level. None of our competitors offered a portal feature. Most of them had thick clients, which forced customers to insert software on their operating systems. We recognized that a browser-based UI was the key to positioning GroundWork as the clear leader in this space."

Solution:

In early versions of GroundWork’s software, the front end was a hodgepodge of different technologies, including Python, PHP, and Perl. That failed to satisfy the demands of many prospects in the enterprise space. "When you get into mission-critical enterprise environments, there’s a strict list of what can be run in production," said Roger Ruttimann, VP of Engineering and Quality at GroundWork. "If your technology isn’t on a pre-approved list, that may become a barrier to deployment and sale. We needed a portal that offered our trademark flexibility, backed by enterprise credibility."

In addition to Red Hat JBoss Portal, the GroundWork team evaluated open source portal offerings from Liferay and Apache. After a two-month evaluation period, it became clear that Red Hat offered the right combination of solid performance, standards-based technology, and industry-wide name recognition.

"Java application developers tend to be very aware of all the available options," said Dennis. "But we’re usually not selling to that audience. We sell to IT operations managers and system admins, many of whom don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of one Java application server over another. They go with name recognition and all of them know Red Hat and JBoss."

Performance and flexibility from a trusted name

From the standpoint of both performance and features, Red Hat met all of GroundWork’s requirements. Red Hat JBoss Portal offers reliability, flexibility, and scalability — and can meet the demands of even the largest enterprise customers. It is an open source, standards-based, JSR-compliant solution with APIs that can be integrated into any security apparatus.

Red Hat JBoss Portal is also very developer-friendly, allowing Groundwork’s engineering team to efficiently integrate many pre-existing toolsets–both when building the initial product as well as during longer-term software development. In addition to that, Red Hat JBoss allows GroundWork to offer their customers rich dashboards, high availability of services, and the ability to integrate hundreds of their own software tools.

A customizable, highly configurable environment for demanding customers

For many GroundWork customers, out-of-the-box features are as important as the ability to customize and configure the portal to suit their environment. “I.T. operations is a really complex problem set,” said Ruttimann. “The bigger the customer, the less likely they’ll stick with an out-of-the-box configuration. They’ll probably want to alter the portal visually, add tabs and menus, and render customized portlets and dashboards. And because so much monitoring is based around analysis and graphs, they’ll often want to choose which analytics to display.”

Another Red Hat and Red Hat JBoss advantage is that it is easily configurable. For example, Red Hat JBoss Portal provides a built-in set of admin functions, giving enterprises the opportunity to define users and segregate tasks according to role. “Our product is used by people at different levels of the I.T. infrastructure,” said Dennis. “Some of them are hands-on personnel, and some of them are managerial. Of the products we reviewed, Red Hat JBoss offered the most elegant, user-friendly interface for finely tuning user roles and responsibilities.”

“Frankly, in a lot of cases, they won’t even know exactly what they want at the outset,” said Dennis. “They just know that they need a solution that will grow with them. Red Hat JBoss clears the way for them—and their needs­ to evolve over time.”

On-site assistance from Red Hat Consulting

GroundWork engaged with Red Hat Consulting to help ensure that their Red Hat JBoss implementation would go as smoothly as possible. “Three consultants came to our offices in San Francisco for a three-month period of planning and prototyping,” said Ruttimann. “It was a complicated undertaking, because each of our users demands a different configuration. Having a Red Hat presence on site was enormously helpful, making our transition to the latest version of Red Hat JBoss Portal much smoother than it might have been.”

From GroundWork’s perspective, the best thing about Red Hat JBoss Portal is that customers don’t say a word about it. “The portal is so seamlessly integrated that in many cases, our customers don’t even know it’s a separate entity,” said Ruttimann. “It gives us a rock-solid foundation for the rest of our product. If we had a portal that was finicky in terms of setup or reliability, we wouldn’t risk giving prospects a trial version. But we have total faith in the stability of the Red Hat JBoss offering, so we can sell it with complete confidence.”

Some of GroundWork’s customers are innovative high-tech firms in Silicon Valley, while others are large enterprises in more traditional industries like finance. Red Hat JBoss Portal Platform offers a ‘Goldilocks option’ that plays at both ends of the spectrum.

“A Silicon Valley I.T. organization isn’t an off-the-shelf user of technology— they themselves are technology innovators,” said Dennis. “They need a platform aligned with open source and open standards, and they find that in Red Hat JBoss. Meanwhile, the more traditional firms often have big concerns around scalability and security, and having the Red Hat name behind JBoss offers them real peace of mind.”

Thanks in part to Red Hat and JBoss, GroundWork is in a better position to sell more deeply into large enterprises, and can attract more customers in high-security spaces like military and government. “I came to GroundWork just prior to switching over to Red Hat JBoss Portal, and I’ve personally seen a big change in terms of how deeply we’re engaging with our biggest customers,” said Ruttimann. “We’re going head-to-head against multi-billion-dollar software vendors like we’ve never done before. That’s partly due to the presence of a truly enterprise-class portal that can adapt easily to the full range of needs in today’s largest organizations.”

“I think it’s safe to say that Red Hat and JBoss have played a key role in our growth over the past four years,” said Dennis. “We’re looking forward to more of the same.”

Benefits:

Red Hat JBoss Portal provides a rock-solid foundation for GroundWork’s enterprise-class software product, allowing GroundWork to offer their unsupported trial version with complete confidence in its performance and stability. Red Hat JBoss Portal allows Groundwork to appeal to a wide range of prospects, including innovative high-tech firms who demand adapt-ability, flexibility, and customization as well as those in more traditional industries, like finance, who have strict requirements of performance, security, and compliance. Due to Red Hat JBoss Portal’s open standards, APIs, and security features, GroundWork is able to expand and sell ­more deeply into large enterprises, while effectively displacing entrenched proprietary competitors

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