Sunrise Health gives servers a check-up

A server management application tool from Hewlett-Packard Inc. is helping a Saskatchewan-based health organization cut downtime during troubleshooting and network administration procedures.

The Integrated Lights-Out 2 (iLO 2) provides the IT staff of the Sunrise Health Region greater efficiency through collaborative remote administration of offsite servers.

The challenge of unifying disparate IT infrastructures arose when several health units merged into the Sunrise Health Region in 2003.

Stretching from the Qu’ Appelle Valley to the northern boreal forest, and encompassing the parklands of the Manitoba border into the Saskatchewan prairie farmlands, Sunrise Health’s 29 facilities serves more than 59,000 persons within a 100 kilometer radius.

When any of its 35 servers housed in seven different locations experienced any trouble, it usually meant an hour-long drive by several administrators from different facilities to the site. Actual work on the servers took half an hour or more.

The health region used an older version of iLO with a keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) interface that “had difficulty connecting with the servers,” according to Yvonne Bueckert, network administrator for Sunrise Health.

The system also failed to consistently log network events so IT personnel found it difficult to trace where the system errors were originating from, she said.

On one occasion, Bueckert had to grab her digital camera to “actually take pictures of the computer screen to capture the event log before everything went blank.”

With the deployment of iLO2 early this year, routine troubleshooting, patch or operating system (OS) installment and system diagnostics can now be accomplished remotely. “Ninety nine per cent of the time, I am monitoring or working on the servers from my computer in my office,” said Bueckert.

The iLO2 is a plug-in application for HP’s Systems Insight Management (SIM) suite of management software products for HP ProLiant, BladeSystem and Integrity servers as well as HP Storage Works platforms.

Other SIM tools include the HP Insight Power Manager, which enables administrators to control and cap power used by each server; and the HP Insight Control, a system health and performance management application which provides early warning of impending system errors.

“Even when administrators are based in separate locations, the collaboration functionality of iLO2 also allows them to work together as if we were meeting at the server site,” she said.

Bueckert said the tool’s console replay feature also provides easy to access historical system information and captures in real-time corrective actions taken by administrators. “This way we are able to document and keep track of remedies that work and transfer our knowledge to other team members.”

The iLO2’s shared remote console allows up to four people to log into the system and collaborate. Controls to the system can be passed from one person to another, according to Jeff Carlatt, director of industry standard server software for HP.

He said the ability to view all server activity from one screen “effectively doubles the server to administrator ration” further saving on support and personnel cost.

A growing number of organizations are moving from the older KVM systems server management software with Web interfaces like iLO2 according to Ross Armstrong, research analyst for Info-Tech Research Group Inc. in London, Ont.

“Shared consoles that can be accessed from Web browsers or company sites offer greater flexibility, collaboration and control from remote locations,” Armstrong said.

He said users are also increasingly looking for integrated suites that incorporate other features such as server power control and performance monitoring.

When shopping for a server management tool Armstrong recommends the following key features:

  • Management gateway — pick the interface that provides administrators easy to access controls in a user friendly format;
  • Appropriate server support – look for systems that support the type of server you have;
  • Application inventory and performance monitor – scout for systems that can keep tabs of application health and provide early pre-failure warning; and
  • Remote asset and patch management – shop for systems that enable remote monitoring and deployment of patches and software.

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