Scalability for Future Growth

By David Brattain  |  Posted 2009-03-06 Print this article Print

Elavon developed a robust, integrated approach to IT management that facilitates business change, regulatory compliance and cost control.

Scalability for Future Growth

Although we needed to address current operational challenges, we also wanted to develop an IT platform that would support future growth. When growth comes through acquisition, it pre-sents our S&T organization with a considerable challenge. We need to be able to keep up with the pace of change within the business, while consolidating the acquired computing assets into our existing IT infrastructure. At the same time, it is important that we maximize our investment in existing technologies.

The more transactions we can push through a system, the more cost-effective we can make our IT operation. The need to maximize performance and minimize costs has led us toward virtualization. Since S&T was also looking at a shared-services model, any new IT management approach had to fit with these two models—and with leading-edge technology yet to come.

Although virtualization and shared services come with obvious business benefits, these advantages can be fully realized only if enterprises are prepared for the added IT management complexity. This means establishing standardized and automated processes that can be applied to an evolving IT environment.

It was becoming very difficult to manage our infrastructure effectively and proactively. We were finding it difficult to track all the assets that we had in the field, and we recognized that this situation would only deteriorate as the company grew. To deal with these pressures and challenges, we needed to embark on an IT transformation.

Adopting the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework was central to this transformation, as was our decision to partner with CA. ITIL has become the key to how we manage our customer expectations—both internally and externally—and CA’s Enterprise IT Management (EITM) approach matched our new model.

Integration was also fundamental because we wanted to unify our approach to core IT processes. The ability to integrate IT management across multiple solutions is one of the most critical elements of our EITM deployment, which has enabled us to adopt an integrated approach across the following core capabilities: incident and problem management, application performance management, workload automation, dynamic and virtual systems management, data center automation, change and configuration management, service-level management, and IT asset and financial management.

We need as much integration as possible in order to achieve a solid ROI. CA Service Desk is the focal point for a large portion of this integration and has become the linchpin for our S&T organization. Instead of relying on one of our 300 staff members to report a fault, many issues are now logged automatically to our help desk.

As a dynamic and virtual systems management solution, CA NSM monitors our core infrastructure around the clock. Many of the servers are operating as multiple virtual machines, but they can be monitored as if they were physical devices. We can manage the performance of the physical servers and monitor the resource utilization of each of the virtual machines, so we can make changes in a fairly effortless way, ensuring that the virtual environment is aligned to our business needs.

By adopting a virtualized approach, we’ve been able to consolidate hundreds of physical servers into a handful of devices. But consolidation is just the first phase of virtualization. We intend to proactively use our virtual machines to respond to peaks in demand by enabling automated provisioning. As our virtualization strategy matures, we hope to use CA Data Center Automation Manager to automate the provisioning of new virtual machines based on predetermined criteria.

Tracking an IT problem back to one of these virtual devices—or any other IT component—has been simplified. NSM enables event correlation, a key requirement in establishing the root cause of an IT problem. Prior to deploying this solution, we had to send legions of people into the field to determine if an issue was network-, server-, desktop- or application-related. Now, we can quickly establish the cause of a problem and often fix it before it affects a user.

Faults with IT devices are not the only problems being logged automatically. The integration of Service Desk with CA AutoSys means that if a scheduled job fails to run, a ticket will be raised with our help desk. We use AutoSys to automate hundreds of IT jobs every day, and we know immediately if a job fails: The system sends a general automated alert and notifies the appropriate team.

CA Software Change Manager plays a role in the release of new source code for our production systems and for the solutions we provide to our clients. We must be able to effectively process changes to these applications to keep up with customer demand, regulatory requirements and new technologies.

Beyond ensuring that source code changes are implemented correctly, we need to provide an audit trail for all changes to our production systems, whether it involves hardware or software. This audit trail is critical for demonstrating a separation of duties, which is a requirement of the PCI standards. With our new solutions, we can demonstrate that separate individuals are carrying out key tasks in the change management process.

All of this has allowed us to meet another industry standard: the elimination of cron jobs—a specific requirement of Visa and PCI compliance. By using AutoSys, we have been able to replace those jobs with automated scripts.

Our compliance efforts have been further enhanced by our new ITIL-based approach to incident management. Every year, we have to provide our auditors with a document that outlines our tactical support model and proves we are following our own processes. By implementing ITIL and EITM solutions, we’ve been able to provide this information in significantly less time.

Our S&T organization has also been able to reduce the time involved in managing the company’s 5,000-plus IT assets. Using the CA Asset Intelligence and CA Client Management Solution, we can now track assets throughout their life cycle.

Our improved resolution times are now being tracked as part of our service-level management initiative, which is supported by the built-in measurement and reporting capabilities of the new solutions. This allows S&T to demonstrate its ability to continuously improve business service levels and communicate achievements in terms easily understood by the business. This closer alignment of IT to the business will be extended by our plans to adopt a shared services model, which will be facilitated by CA Clarity PPM. This will enable the S&T organization to make better use of its IT resources around the globe.

Our aim for global visibility applies to every part of our IT operation. We already have 24/7 visibility between our operations in the United States and Western Europe, and we will be adopting this model across the globe.

David Brattain, senior vice president of systems, EITM and production support at Elavon.

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