The IT staff at the San Diego Unified Port District found a way to enhance its operational controls, reports Greg Masters.

The IT staff of the San Diego Unified Port District faced some daunting challenges. In its role managing the San Diego Bay and surrounding public lands, it not only needed to keep up with best practices, but also needed to support Homeland Security initiatives, as well as the San Diego Harbor Police Department.

A mid-tier enterprise with around 625 employees, the San Diego Unified Port District has an IT staff of about 20 and 75 contractors under its jurisdiction. It oversees a cruise ship, two marine terminals, 16 parks and the management of more than 600 commercial tenants surrounding the San Diego waterfront. The company headquarters is right off the Pacific Highway in San Diego.

“We really wanted to enhance our operational controls and gain more infrastructure and service visibility,” says Adolfo Segura (left), director of IT (the director of IT designation in the agency is equivalent to CIO in the corporate world). He says his team wanted to better manage resources, resolve issues faster, as well as address more operational and security threats.

Faced with a complex environment, staying ahead of issues with a modest-sized staff was becoming unwieldy for Segura and his team. There were many users, sites, systems and contractors under Segura’s charge, and he realized he needed a much better handle on tracking and monitoring assets and network usage, as well as the means to assess acceptable user activity and a way to monitor potential security threats. In other words, he needed to leverage technologies and processes so his team could take broader steps to improve operations from a service level.

The security search begins
When Segura started looking for solutions, he discovered that the big system vendors, such as BMC Software, HP and CA, didn’t have anything his team could easily implement or even remotely afford. The district needed operational visibility and he found that these tools were too cumbersome for his purposes. The team tested a variety of tools in-house and looked at log management and other point products from HP, SolarWinds, Numera, WhatsUp Gold, Cisco and Novell. The point products were useful, but didn’t effectively cover the port’s entire infrastructure, says Segura.

“They are about managing and reacting to components. If we have an issue, different tools and personnel need to be on-board. None of the vendors we looked at bring all the disparate details together and present the state of IT holistically.”

With integration, cost and features considered, the team chose a solution from AccelOps. “AccelOps provides an all-in-one data center and IT service management solution that provides end-to-end visibility and service oversight for performance, availability and security,” says Scott Gordon (right), VP of marketing and business development at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor.
 
Available as either a virtual software appliance or software as a service (SaaS), the virtual appliance solution operates solely on customers’ premises, while the Port District implemented AccelOps SaaS offering, a hosted solution consisting of on-premise AccelOps collection software. Gordon says the solution seamlessly integrates 15 core IT management functions spanning business service management, performance management, network behavior analysis, availability and SLA management, security information management, configuration management database/change management, topology visualization, event consolidation and more.

At the data center
“With AccelOps SaaS, we only pay for the capacity we need,” says Segura. “We were able to lower our operating costs regarding the associated hardware procurement, updates and maintenance, application monitoring, storage, etc.”

With a simple application download of the AccelOps Collector, that was installed on the Port District’s VM server as a guest host, they were up and running. This server sits in the Port District’s data center and collects all the configuration, directory service and event information. It then compresses and securely sends the data to AccelOps’ data center where the vendor provides event correlation, monitoring, reporting and storage capacity.

“AccelOps pretty much supports all the popular systems, almost any device capable of simple network management protocol reporting, netflow or syslog functionality,” says Ted Evans, manager, network operations at the Port District. “[And] my team loves the interface.”

Because of this solution, adds Evans, the IT staff at the San Diego Unified Port District feels it has better visibility on operations, user and system activity, and data center services. “We have centralized monitoring of our data, assets, configurations, network and system utilization, security and user activity. We can understand what problems are occurring, what type of problems, where they exist and the impact on IT services. We can be more effective resolving operational problems and security threats.”

Segura adds, “Overall, we are very pleased with the product’s value, and the SaaS approach is working extremely well for us. With our forthcoming SAN [storage area network] upgrade, we might exercise bringing the processing in-house, or not. With the solution from AccelOps, we will have the ability to choose.”