Networking

Decision Support: Automate networking tasks with Jareva's OpForce

An interview with Rick McEachern, Jarevas chief marketing officer, explaining how OpForce can streamline many network administration tasks


Jareva develops products aimed at simplifying the management of IT infrastructure, freeing up administrators to tackle bigger issues. In particular, Jareva’s OpForce automates many of the tasks associated with managing networks, including conducting software and hardware inventories, tracking licensed software, provisioning servers, and setting up storage.

By using a Web interface to simplify tedious and time-consuming tasks, OpForce makes administration a little easier, eliminates errors, and saves time. For data centers that have to administer large numbers of servers, OpForce could be an ideal tool for centrally managing a wide variety of tasks. OpForce's automation features can give admins better control over network assets and make it unnecessary for them to invest a lot of their time in basic configurations.

Tools like OpForce could drastically change the way networks are configured and managed and may represent the future of network administration.

IT resources abstraction
Jareva was founded in 2000 with the mission of developing software designed to automate the processes through which enterprises control, provision, and update computers, networks, and storage devices. More specifically, the software is designed to integrate the management of hardware in heterogeneous environments. One of the strengths of OpForce is that it enables IT staff to administer equipment from different vendors using a single interface.

Included in the OpForce suite is Elemental Server, which abstracts IT resources to make it possible to configure and manage devices through the Web interface. A click of a browser interface button sets in motion numerous processes behind the scenes to carry out the operation.

Dell is among the companies that license Jareva’s software, which is the technology that stands behind Dell’s OpenManage server deployment and blade management solution.

Jareva is out to “change the way enterprise IT is handled,” said Chief Marketing Officer Rick McEachern. “Very little has been done to streamline the work IT professionals have to do, so our goal is to make it very easy to control and to provision and update heterogeneous networks. That includes computers, network devices, and storage elements.”

OpForce and other Jareva products eliminate the need to manually perform repetitive configuration tasks in environments composed of products from multiple vendors and multiple protocols. Not only is it time-consuming to perform these tasks, but it’s also difficult to train IT staff in using all of the vendor-specific products. Jareva eliminates the manual work to configure the hardware by allowing administrators to accomplish the tasks via OpForce’s browser interface.

“Our approach is to provide an integrated environment that offers IT resource abstraction and intelligent remote control,” McEachern said.

The IT resource abstraction layer Jareva has added improves the management of servers and network devices by abstracting the differences between the various vendors. McEachern said this allows IT staff members to focus on the tasks they need to perform rather than try to understand how to accomplish them with each vendor-specific tool.

“We let the software figure out how to perform that task on a particular hardware device,” said McEachern. “It’s very similar to an operating system, which has low-level drivers that know how to talk to the hardware so the high-level applications can just say ‘turn up the volume on the sound card.’”

McEachern said performing tasks such as building a custom topology or deploying servers can often take days or weeks, but OpForce can handle such jobs in a matter of hours.

“It’s not that each individual task takes so long but that the business process takes so long.”

The problem, McEachern said, is that typically a number of handoffs take place in the process as tasks are moved through the queue of those responsible for various functions. With each handoff, a task goes from the top of one list of things to do to the bottom of another list. Automating and tracking the process through software, he believes, can drastically reduce the time required to perform many of these steps as well as the complexity of the process itself.

“When you streamline these steps, you see the days and weeks really shrink to hours and minutes.”

Browser interface
OpForce with Elemental Server enables users to configure devices quickly and easily through a browser interface, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Server management screen


The lights on the server icons indicate whether the server is up or down. To start a server, the user selects the corresponding check box and chooses the option to boot the server. A status window then shows the progress of that action, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
Status window


Figure C shows the interface used for provisioning a server.

Figure C
Provision Server window


The options in this window allow users to select which OS and other software to install on the server, which subnet the server belongs in, and other networking options. Instead of having to manually perform such tasks on each server, admins can simply use the OpForce software to configure the systems and then turn their attention to other duties while OpForce carries out the tasks.

The interface allows admins to perform virtually any configuration task. OpForce eliminates many of the small steps admins would normally have to take between the important configuration functions they need to perform.

Benefits
Automating configuration and management offers a number of benefits to enterprises:
  • Streamlines time-consuming admin tasks
  • Expedites deployment
  • Allows admins to focus on bigger issues instead of being bogged down in tedious and repetitive configuration activities
  • Reduces workload

Given these advantages, Jareva’s OpForce certainly does have the potential to change the way enterprises approach the management of network resources.

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