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Working to Liberate Overworked IT Staffs

By Andrea Caumont
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 28, 2005; Page E05

Sean M. McDermott wants RealOps to bridge the gap between information technology departments and the businesses they support by making it easier for IT operators to recognize and respond to service problems.

The 22-person start-up is making its home in a niche called integrated operations automation, where formidable competitors include International Business Machines Corp., Computer Associates International Inc., BMC Software Inc. and Hewlett Packard Co.

RealOps allows information technology executives to focus on more analytic tasks by letting them automate some routine activities, Sean M. McDermott says. (Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)


Name: RealOps

Location: Herndon

Big idea: Develops software that improves the management of information technology by automating routine processes, integrating technologies and providing metric reporting so IT operators can better respond to service problems.

Founded: 2004

Web site: www.realops.com

Who's in charge: Sean M. McDermott, president, chief executive and founder; John F. Scott, vice president of product marketing and development, and Christopher M. Schroeder, vice president of engineering and founder.

Funding: The company raised $5 million in a series A round of funding led by Valhalla Partners.

Employees: 22

Big-name clients: The company has 17 customers in the telecommunications and Internet service provider and financial services industries.

Origin of company name: "It was based on focusing on the real problems of operations: RealOps," Scott said.

John F. Scott, vice president of marketing and product development, said the Herndon company's distinction is that its product works well in a variety of IT settings, unlike the proprietary products of the software behemoths.

"Some of the largest companies have very adversarial relationships with their competitors and make integration tough, which ultimately hurts the customers," added McDermott, RealOps president, chief executive and founder.

RealOps' product automates routine diagnostic processes required for daily maintenance, provides metric reporting so operators can understand where a problem lies and how to fix it, and can automatically address service issues as they arise with little or no intervention from IT operators.

"By allowing IT executives to automate some of those mundane repetitive activities," Scott said, "they can redeploy resources to focus on more analytical functions and get the human error factor out of those repeatable activities that are one of the greatest sources of service downtime."

For example, he said, a major telecommunications company deployed change detection software across its network, only to receive more than a thousand change notifications a day. Three full-time IT operators were consumed by investigating each of these changes to determine if it was actually affecting service.

RealOps' software performed a preliminary diagnostic analysis of the changes to determine which were routine and approved and which were unscheduled and unapproved. The program was able to reduce the number of notifications by 950, Scott said. "By weeding out the noise we were able to almost immediately present those 50 unscheduled changes that represented real jeopardy to the business."

Does automation mean fewer IT jobs? It could, McDermott acknowledged, but he believes the end result of introducing automation into an organization will be "a reallocation of staff away from the block-and-tackling of running operations and getting them more strategic and innovative."

A fully automated operational infrastructure -- what's known in the IT world as "lights out" -- is still a ways off, McDermott said. "We're focused on the concept of dimming the lights on the way."

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