ManTech International Cuts Maintenance Requirements With Tivoli Tool

Defense contractor ManTech International's decision to move the employees off of their individual boxes to a private cloud, blade infrastructure, required that the company find a central management tool for its systems, and IBM's Tivoli Service Automation Manager emerged as that solution.

July 5, 2011

4 Min Read
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Whatever you need. That was the credo for software developers at defense contractor ManTech International Corp.. "Our development group had collecteda variety of individual workstations that had become increasingly difficult to manage," noted Mitch Daniels, Information Technology Senior Scientist at ManTech. A decision to move the employees off of their individual boxes to a private cloud, blade infrastructure, required that the company find a central management tool for its systems, and IBM's Tivoli Service Automation Manager emerged as that solution.

ManTech, which has more than 10,000 employees stationed in the US and in about 40 other countries, has been in business since 1968. The company works with national and international government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and North American Treaty Organization, on projects ranging from making it easier for naval ships and submarines to move about undetected to a Department of Energy initiative to reduce solar energy technology costs by 75% by 2020.

The projects are complex and require a great deal of custom application development. To support the business, the defense contractor purchased a hodgepodge of Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, and Oracle Inc. hardware, whose configuration was constantly in flux. For new projects or alterations with existing ones, the systems were reconfigured, for instance switching from Microsoft Windows to Linux operating systems. The process to keep the machines up-to-date was labor-intensive: system administrators had to physically retool the workstations with each change. The systems were in such a state of fluctuation that nine system administrators spent their day configuring the workstations. "We realized we needed to be more efficient," admitted Daniels.

So in the spring of 2009, the corporation solicited bids from the leading blade suppliers: Dell, HP, IBM, and Oracle. The defense contractor liked the automation found with IBM CloudBurst, servers that come with pre-integrated and preloaded software, server, and storage functions; QuickStart consulting services to help corporations establish private clouds; and Tivoli Automation Manager, which speeds up deployments. The appliance features virtual software images for common functions that can be used out of the box or customized, so businesses can deploy private cloud services.

Management was an important element in the selection. Since the previous systems had been so widely dispersed, the organization's development group had not worked with a central management system. "We used HP's Openview a bit for our network connections but never really installed a comprehensive, central management suite," noted Daniels. "Consequently, we struggled in areas, such as patch management, and making sure that our systems were running the right software." IBM's CloudBurst came bundled with Tivoli Service Automation Management, which automates and manages the deployment of development, test, pre-production and production systems.By the fall of 2009, the defense contractor began getting ready to move to its new cloud system. The IT support staff needed to be trained to understand how to manage the environment. Technicians spent a week in training, including three days learning how to use the Tivoli management system. As the roll out approached, IBM staff came on site and spent roughly one week configuring and testing the CloudBurst hardware and software. In July 2010, the cloud service went up in test mode with a group of about 15 developers working with the new solution, and IBM babysitting the deployment. The system was then rolled out in increments: 25, 75, 150, and eventually to all employees.

During the roll out, ManTech encountered a few snafus. Getting all of the integrated hardware, network, and software elements to work together required some tweaking. In addition, the staff's understanding about how to take advantage of private cloud features, such as setting up the catalogues, experienced a few trials and errors.

The system administrators now use the Tivoli system to oversee all development projects. "Tivoli Service Automation Management is the key to how we manage our virtualized environment," said Daniels.One major benefit from the change has been staffing requirements. The system administrators no longer spend their days configuring new systems; instead, they complete more development work, a change that enables the defense contractor to complete its projects faster. The company has also reigned in its renegade hardware, an alteration resulting in significant reductions in its cooling requirements and energy costs.

Initially, Daniels was concerned about how the upgrade would be received. "I was surprised that the developers took to the new system as quickly as they did," noted Daniels. Consequently, the company is examining similar deployments in other ManTech departments in the future.

See more on this topic by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports IBM CloudBurst: Bringing Private Clouds To The Enterprise (subscription required).

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