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Case Study

Great Lakes Energy Ensures 24/7 Uptime of their Business Applications Using Applications Manager

About Great Lakes Energy

Great Lakes

Great Lakes Energy is an electric cooperative headquartered in Northern Michigan. The third largest Michigan-based electric utility, Great Lakes Energy serves approximately 125,000 members along the entire western portion of the lower peninsula of the state and is the largest member-owned power company in Michigan.

Matt Moore, programmer analyst, works at the company’s headquarters at Boyne City, Michigan. Matt is a part of the 12-member IT team at Great Lakes Energy. The IT team drives every business application in the company — from providing computers, mobile devices, telephones and other devices to writing and designing applications that help the member service representatives assist and bill the members.

Challenges

Four people in the IT team are dedicated to managing applications such as the Customer Information System, Test Customer Information System, and Financials and Material Management System. These applications are very important for Great Lakes Energy and serve nearly all of the organization’s 200+ employees. The employees are spread out from northwestern lower Michigan to southwestern lower Michigan — about 200 miles apart — and they access the applications on a daily basis from their desktop PCs and laptops.

"These devices and applications are extremely business critical. Any downtime or performance slowdown will directly affect fellow employees and how they do their job. Payments to accounts cannot be made, bill processes cannot be run and accounting processes cannot be run," says Matt.

Enter Applications Manager

Given the critical nature of the business applications, the IT department at Great Lakes Energy uses Applications Manager for performance monitoring. With Applications Manager, Great Lakes Energy has a tool that offers application performance management capabilities that include monitoring of servers, application servers, databases, web services, and cloud and virtualized environments. In turn, Applications Manager provides a holistic view to IT resources, helps monitor the performance of various components of an application and helps troubleshoot production issues quickly. Thanks to Applications Manager, Great Lakes Energy is now able to ensure 24/7 uptime of their applications.

Great Lakes Energy didn’t always enjoy 24/7 uptime. In 2012, the IT team didn’t have a monitoring solution in place. They had just switched from an older interface of their CIS/Financial systems to a web/Java-based system. As a result, they experienced downtime and general system slowness due to the new systems’ architecture, which used Tomcat and other web-based technologies they hadn’t used in the past. They then identified the need to monitor the Tomcat servers that drove these systems. Recalls Matt, "We needed to constantly monitor processor usage, memory usage and other metrics to make sure these systems were stable and running optimally."

The IT team also knew that they required 24/7 reliability for all of their applications. They needed to ensure that each system was running optimally and available at all times, as they had a dispatch department that was always operating.

"We have a 24/7 dispatch center that is responsible for taking calls from members after hours, dispatching crews to other locations, remotely reconnecting accounts that have been disconnected via our Automated Meter Infrastructure," says Matt. "This center needs to be operational 24/7, including holidays. The dispatch department uses a variety of applications ranging from CIS to the outage management system. The data from CIS needs to be accurate within outage management so that crews can be dispatched to the proper locations and work on power outages."

These requirements triggered the IT team’s quest for the right application performance monitoring solution. And that search came to an end when they found Applications Manager.

Why Great Lakes Energy Chose Applications Manager

Apart from a successful trial run of Applications Manager in their test environment, Great Lakes Energy liked the fact that they were able to evaluate Applications Manager without much of a fuss.

Great Lakes Energy was already using ManageEngine ADManager Plus to manage its Active Directory. The company’s positive experience with ADManager Plus gave it the confidence to evaluate Applications Manager. After a satisfying and thorough evaluation, Great Lakes Energy purchased Applications Manager.

The Applications Manager Experience

One of the immediate benefits that Great Lakes Energy experienced after implementing Applications Manager in their production environment was a reduction in downtime of their critical apps. "Prior to using Applications Manager, we used to experience almost one hour of downtime every week. I would say now our downtime is pretty much eliminated. As a result, our employees are now able to perform their jobs without any incidents," says Matt.

There were other benefits too, although they were not immediately apparent. A few weeks after implementing Applications Manager, Matt recalls several situations where the processor usage was maxed out completely on the production application server. As a result, Great Lakes Energy employees weren’t able to post payments, update account information or do anything else in the CIS system.

At that point, the IT team took advantage of the threshold values they had configured in Applications Manager for attributes such as memory usage and processor performance. Now, the IT team can see when its application server is approaching a critical level of memory usage or processor usage and can prepare a backup application server as needed.

The instant notifications sent by Applications Manager whenever threshold values are breached helps the IT team avert potentially catastrophic situations. And Applications Manager’s web transaction monitoring capabilities help the team pinpoint exactly what lines of code are causing high processor usage. The team can then clean up the code to prevent the problem from happening in the future.

"Applications Manager helped us reduce downtime and ensure users can access the systems they need to on a daily basis," says Matt.

The IT team is quick to acknowledge the fact their experience with ManageEngine Applications Manager has been very satisfying overall. "We spend less time worrying about how our systems are performing and let Applications Manager tell us when they are not performing at their best," concludes Matt.