IT asset management made easy at Polaris

IT service company Polaris Software found itself unable to manage its IT assets. How did the company come up with an effective IT asset management strategy?

Polaris Software, the Indian IT services provider specializes in developing software and business solutions for banking, financial, service and insurance companies. In order to achieve this objective, Polaris organized seven business units — business solution centers (BSCs)---- with each unit sub-divided into multiple centers of excellence (CoEs). But to get a complete picture of its current IT assets across distributed CoEs, Polaris found itself going through a tedious process of error-prone manual audits which in any case did not facilitate accurate reports.

MR Venkatesan, the vice president of Polaris Software Lab Ltd, says the need for a better IT asset management solution was felt about five years ago. "We thought of requirements like a centralized ticket system to track all queries with service level agreements (SLAs),"he recalls. "It was essential to track the uptime of servers or applications with alerts and records. We also felt the need to track all IT assets (workstations and their contents) as well as to automate software installation/uninstallation to facilitate compliance."

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The project started four years ago. The entire implementation was undertaken by consultants. But Polaris' IT team took over due to various reasons. "Initially we employed a set of consultants to implement the system. The idea was impracticable, so we reviewed the entire project internally, identified several 'cultural' and 'policy' issues that had to be fixed, as well as necessary complimentary automation and controls. It took us nearly two years to build these 'pre-requisites," Venkatesan says.

As part of the evaluation, Polaris studied various IT asset management products which suited its requirements. The evaluation process was challenging for the company as the core must-have selection criteria included the need for a single vendor to obtain better relationship and support. Identifying a single software company to meet Polaris' requirements and identifying an integrated suite of products became the focus.

Uninterrupted operation of CA agents in all machines was a critical success factor. Polaris' team discovered that whenever the agent was stopped (manually or due to a failure), the CA control failed.

After the evaluation of multiple options, Polaris chose a service optimization solution from Computer Associates (CA), CA Service Desk Manager and CA NSM and DSM (Network System Management), that combines change, configuration and asset management. "We found that CA had more products for better IT Management. These solutions also had good recognition in the industry. "It satisfied all our requirements," says Venkatesan. "The products are also well supported with regular enhancements."

Apart from this, Polaris also faced problems while implementing the CA application. Uninterrupted operation of CA agents in all machines was a critical success factor for the project. Polaris' team discovered that whenever the agent was stopped (manually or due to a failure), the CA control failed.

Polaris took several steps to ensure that the CA agents operated in a nonstop manner. The internal IT team continuously tracked failures and inconsistencies to identify the root cause. The findings were analyzed and converted into a set of policies and operational instructions to ensure that the CA agents never failed in any machine. "This was a long period of self validation by the IT team," says Venkatesan. "Thanks to the IT team's faith in the system and determination to make it succeed, we overcame all obstacles and eventually achieved full control." The project went live in April 2008.

Wider applications

Different kinds of IT assets are managed under the CA applications. These include software as well as hardware. "With the CA implementation we manage our desktop-server assets inventory, software deployments, monitoring of down-up events of servers, switches, routers, Internet links, WAN links and centralized ticketing for easy tracking and quicker response," says Venkatesan.

The application works on a group of machines with master-scalability servers for better load management. It serves Polaris' locations across four major cities and seven major locations. As part of the regular updates, the application provides real-time alerts, daily reports and on-demand reports for the requirements.

After the implementation, Polaris' IT administrators can now immediately diagnose application and hardware device failures. The IT asset management solution also generates utilization reports, which improve capacity planning and control on software deployment. The introduction of a centralized issue tracking system has also helped Polaris meet SLAs and increase user satisfaction on logging calls.

As part of its IT asset management roadmap for the near future, Polaris' IT team is now building more granularities into its service desk and automating more workflow to improve its response speed. "We will also provide self-installation facilities wherein users can install software by themselves through a 'self service' portal," Venkatesan says.

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