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Using The Right Tool

One obvious trend in the server room is toward consolidation -- taking a slew of servers and replacing them with a few more powerful, efficient machines. Sometimes even one will do the trick. That's certainly the case in our case study of the community colleges that have found that life on a Windows-based Unisys ES7000 is simpler, faster and easier to manage than a cluster of whiteboxes, or in our look at how mid-Atlantic bank Sun National consolidated all of its customer transaction services onto a single IBM i5 eServer 550.

But not everybody is going that way; there are still plenty of large enterprises in particular who are running installations with scores or even hundreds of servers. And the continuing trend toward blades is also ramping up the number of servers in play at many businesses. For these situations, what could be a bigger pain in the butt than server and change management? Tools that ease those processes, then, become key time- and money-savers for beleaguered CIOs and IT managers who have to constantly make sure that all their servers have the newest versions of OS and application software, security and other patches, and proper configurations.

You can see that trend in some of this week's coverage. Opsware, for instance, has been at work on an upgrade to its change management package, Server Automation System, that cuts the time needed to process automated policy, patch, configuration and workflow management by a major factor. IBM is on a similar path with its Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database, an add to its Tivoli software that lets managers evaluate middleware applications running across multiple servers and apply across-the-board changes. And add-ons to operating systems in both the Windows and Linux arenas are also striving to make console-based management of change, workflow and other processes simpler to view and deploy. It's hard to think of anything that can improve enterprise-class server management more than these approaches; when you're dealing with hundreds of servers, time is money, and improvements in change management must seem like manna in the desert to server managers.