It's been a crazy couple weeks at work – riddle with problems and challenges. We've refined our patching process for desktops and will finally start using Radia to distribute them next week. It's been a long haul – six months or more of testing, tweaking, etc. Now it's time to play catch up!

I've spent most of my time working on HP OpenView. About 10 months ago we purchased OpenView Operations and Network Node Manager. Some days I just wanna pull my hair out, but when I'm just about to loose it, it seems a break thru always saves the day.

We're also in the process of hiring a systems person for IT. They'll be responsible for all the network devices, switching, routing, etc. They'll also keep a watchful eye on things from a security perspective. This addition will help take the load off my server admins and allow them to focus on maintaining the servers and various the systems/applications we all depend on.

Radia upgrades are in the works

The Net.Works folks are back at Learfield this week assisting us with a Patch Manager upgrade for Radia. In between all the questions, brain storming, and seriousness of what’s going on; we try to have a good time. Still pretty new to Radia we struggle to wrap our heads around this extremely flexible product.

Jamie has taken over our Radia and backup Admin position, so we’re looking for a new helpdesk person (spread the word). Jamie’s move to Radia will enable us to develop the required skills and make better use of the Radia suite of tools.

For those of you not in the know; Radia is a set of tools we use to manage our desktop environment at Learfield. We use it to install software, track licensing, track and report on assets, and patch Windows security flaws. And while there is significant upfront work in preparing and testing new software packages and patches, once through, it’s just a few mouse clicks to push those changes to the 400+ computers we have scattered across the country. An amazing time saver if you consider how long it’d take us to install a single update if we had to manually contact every person in the company and remote control their computer to install the update. Now imagine Microsoft releases 20 updates a week; 20 X 400 = 8000 installs – thank God for Radia. We simply couldn’t keep up without it!

Radia installs Windows XP SP2

One of the tasks this week has been playing catch up with the installation of Windows XP service pack 2. Quite awhile back we dumped SMS 2003 – it was just too difficult to use and unpredictable. And up to a few weeks ago we went without any real means of deploying software, service packs and security patches throughout the company. Not a fun position to be in – stressful watching yourself get further and further behind. But since completing the installation of HP's Radia solution we've been getting back into the swing of things. Yesterday we deployed service pack 2 to 60 computers scattered across the company. This was the second deployment phase and took less than a minute to setup (not counting the initial packaging and testing phases). Just like clock work – our machines woke up at 1:00 am and installed service pack 2 while the IT staff slept quietly in their warm beds. First thing this morning I checked the status reports and was very pleased. Only 6 computers had failed. All failures were due to those computers (laptops in this case) not being connected to the network. Not a single computer failed due to an installation issues. Can't say that for SMS 2003.

Next deployment – 180 computers, across 25 plus offices. Can't wait!

Radia launch at Learfield

Joel, Christie, and I spent the entire week locked in a conference room assisting, watching, and listening while Grant from Net.Works installed a portion of our network management software; Radia. Radia is HP's answer to managing the desktop/server/software environment and is a recent addition the HP Openview solution. And it represents a rather serious investment of dollars and time into our corporate network.

Overall we closed the week impressed with Grant and the potential of the Radia Suite to assist us keeping pace with recent company growth. However, by Friday our heads were full and definitely looking forward the three day weekend – we're back at it Tuesday for another week. Grant tells us that a typical implementation is normally 4-6 weeks, but we're trying to do it in two. I already can tell there's no way we'll complete everything, but we'll have a good start. Maybe in a few months we'll have Grant back to tie up the loose ends.

Network Management Project

Joel and I been evaluating Network Management Systems (NMS) including Desktop Management since June. We've looked at Microsoft's SMS and MOM, CA's Unicenter, LANDesk, and HP Openview – OVO, NNM, and Radia – we've been pretty busy. So after the last 6 months, we're both convinced that HP has the best solution we've seen, especially if you opt for the full implementation of Radia. Radia is HP's Desktop Management solution and already makes use of Change Management Database (CMDB) and is ITIL compliant. Radia also includes "state management" (part of a CMDB strategy); it allows you to specify a desired computer state then monitors the state of all installed software, patches, and OS configurations deployed through the system. If a system some how gets out of compliance due to mis-configuration either accidental or intentional, Radia will correct the problem; registry keys, missing files, etc are automatically restored. HP claims existing customers have seen Helpdesk trouble tickets related to software problems drop by as much as 97% – that's astounding!

We're still working our way through the evaluation process, but I believe we'll not only see a reduction in Helpdesk calls; we'll also substantially reduce the time and effort related to new system installation and computer refreshes by utilizing some of their migration and OS management tools. Efficiencies, improved security, less Helpdesk calls – if this product can truly deliver, maybe we'll have more time to invest in knowing and helping with the business and processes. Fingers crossed!