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As IT setups become more complex, enterprises across the Middle East are finding that traditional management methods are insufficient. Barry Mansfield looks at the latest trends in remote infrastructure management (RIM) and how they apply to companies in the region.

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By  Barry Mansfield Published  September 12, 2007

Remote infrastructure management (RIM) refers to the practice of managing operating components, including policies, processes, equipment, data, human resources, and external contacts, for overall effectiveness away from the company's main premises. While RIM remains a new concept, its adoption in the Middle East and around the world has increased rapidly in recent years.

There are two major factors driving the trend. One is a rise in the outsourcing of infrastructure management, and second is the availability of tools and sufficient bandwidth to enable businesses to deploy a remote infrastructure management solution (RIMS) on their own.

In both cases, the objective can be to reduce cost of management as well as downtime. Back in 2003, Gartner predicted that RIM was likely to be a huge trend globally and forecasted that the majority of its customers would adopt the model within two years.

Today, most large companies have indeed adopted RIM in some form or other. The question remains, what lies behind the appeal of RIM?

Behind the scenes

Imagine an organisation with its head office in California - a company with more than five hundred desktops and a datacentre with hundreds of servers and 150 dispersed branch offices, each having anywhere between 20 to 100 machines. The CIO will want the datacentre to have at least 99.999% uptime and other nodes at least 99.99% uptime. In the past, to ensure that these benchmarks were met, it was necessary to install an IT team in each location or outsource the maintenance task. In the first scenario, the upfront cost has historically been very high. In the second scenario, difficulties interacting with the local vendors, with delays in communication causing downtime, is a problem.

Middle Eastern companies are now facing similar challenges, albeit on a smaller scale. However, by deploying a RIMS in-house, in a central and connected location, or by outsourcing the maintenance to a company specialising in RIM, regional enterprises can cut costs as well as ensure uptime.

The biggest challenge for a CIO today is to ensure that the core business is able to function properly without any hitches caused by the IT infrastructure. This means effective centralised monitoring and RIMS can provide just that. There are several independent network device and monitoring applications in both the commercial and open source world that are suitable for the task. In the commercial space these include HP's OpenView, IBM's Tivoli, and CA's Unicenter. All of these have RIM capabilities. In the open source world, there is Nagios, OpenNMS and log polling applications such as Lire or xlog, which can fetch all the logs to a centralised location.

A key benefit of RIM is faster response times. This can be realised if a company decides to implement a centralised setup, like a network operations centre (NOC), for its RIMS - from where the IT team can access all nodes and servers at a distance from the other company sites. Problems can be spotted immediately and swift remedial action taken. This cuts down the response time dramatically and ensures higher uptime for the company's servers and nodes.

Setting up a RIMS typically represents a one time cost. After that, around 95% of the monitoring and management can be done from a single location, with the business immediately saving the cost of hiring more people in all the branch locations. Then, with proactive monitoring of the infrastructure - logically and physically, which also includes remote asset management - it is possible to keep track of the company's resources and allocate them more effectively. This can also help to reduce costs.

RIM is not all about cost saving, however. Stan Alexander, CTO of EDS, points out the "new demand from business to have IT services support the drive for agility. Enterprises need to be able to quickly bring new products and services to market. We are now seeing a major shift in how the IT team is being asked to support these goals."

Methods to implementation

Broadly speaking, RIM can be implemented in two ways. One is to outsource RIM to a service provider or ISP. Or a company can choose to do it on its own.

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