Remote relationship

The geographical challenges involved in managing multiple offices has seen remote infrastructure management become an attractive option in the region. Sean Robson examines the trend.

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By  Sean Robson Published  November 5, 2008

The geographical challenges involved in managing multiple offices has seen remote infrastructure management become an attractive option in the region. Sean Robson examines the trend.

Remote infrastructure management (RIM) is a hot topic in the region with vendors touting a number of products and services, while users begin to look at the advantages that it can offer them.

As with any complex solution or technology there is some dissonance concerning exactly what RIM is composed of and how these factors fit together.

"We define remote infrastructure management as an important way of bringing global best practice and optimised processes to our customers. To this end, the components are a global delivery framework with our remote centres to operate and monitor our customer's networks.

By networks, we mean the hardware and software aspects and also the infrastructure aspects, like power supply, security, safety and so on and so forth," says Christian Bartosch, head of services MEA at Nokia Siemens Networks.

Mahmoud Mounir, software director, Middle East at HP believes that RIM can be divided into three separate elements. "You begin by monitoring the status of the IT health services, then you monitor the business application performance from the end-user perspective and finally you integrate the monitoring solutions with configuration provisioning tools for automating the recovery of IT services and business application performance levels."

The components that constitute RIM also vary based on the differences between specific vendor offerings. "I think because we are a switch and router company, the first component would be visibility.

You have to have something on the switch, the embedded part of it, and the eyes, if you will, on what is happening at the remote end," says Franchesca Walker, marketing director, enterprise solutions at Foundry Networks.

"Then you have to have some sort of collector, some sort of network management that will deal with that and will turn it around to make it some sort of usable tool for the customer and so we have both of those components," Walker continues.

"The components would be a link so you could actually interface with the devices themselves, or an agent running in the device itself and the necessary software at the management end to complete the interface.

We have solutions today that enable you to do without the agent so it's no longer dependant on software running at the remote location, which makes it a lot more robust and a lot easier to manage," weighs in Pantelis Verginadis, pre-sales technical consultant, NEC.

There is an abundant number of RIM solutions in the regional market, and this ranges from software solutions to remote provisioning and service specific remote management.

"Fortinet specifically offers remotely managed security services. It can often be difficult and complex to procure the expertise to manage the security of the infrastructure, and to maintain the systems to make and set the right policies in the company. This is where our managed service is aimed," says Luca Simonelli, regional vice president at Fortinet.

"We have multiple offerings in the RIM space, all in our NMS portfolio. Included in the suite of products we have product management systems, network operation and management systems and many more. We literally have something to suit all needs," says Rabih Dabbousi, systems engineering director for the Gulf region at Cisco.

Hot or not

With so many solutions being touted the question must be asked as to whether users are taking any of them on board, and if so which ones are proving most popular.

"We make use of RIM. We outsource our back-end operations and monitoring to an external company that does the work from an offshore site. The service model is on-site support as well as having near-shore support.

They have a help desk and some back-end support there and they have a global monitoring centre run out of India," says Indranil Guha, manager of IT infrastructure management at the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

In the case of the RTA, it wanted to outsource its service desk, back-end operations and end-user desktop support. It also needed 24/7 monitoring of the critical systems but did not want to build its own network operations centre and then have to operate and manage it.

"We thought we would take on someone who already had the necessary facilities and expertise. The company we eventually chose was already doing this for a number of other firms and was a good fit for us," Guha elaborates.

While Guha and the RTA have outsourced a substantial chunk of the management facilities some enterprises instead opt to go ahead and create a situation specific solution.

"We do not have a RIM solution as we are currently a single site company. But as we are in a 24/7-all-year-round operations mode, we manage our infrastructure using a hybrid model which involves components of RIM. Performance management of IT services components are monitored automatically and the threshold is set for various alert conditions," explains Ahmed Al Mulla, CIO of Dubai Aluminium Company.

"We use e-mails and SMS to alert ourselves of impending problems. This is crucial to our operations. Out of office hours we use firepass VPN access to login and resolve these alerts," continues Al Mulla.

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