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Case Study

How a global energy player saved money by switching to light-weight, agent-less monitoring

About the company:

The customer is a French multinational group of companies. They are a global energy player and an expert operator in the fields of electricity generation and distribution, natural gas, and renewable energy. The group employed 219,300 people worldwide as of 2012, including 1,200 researchers and experts at 9 R&D centers, with revenues of Ë97 billion.

The group offers high-performance, innovative solutions to personal customers, urban authorities, and companies by using its expertise in:

  • Independent power generation
  • Liquefied natural gas
  • Renewable energy
  • Energy efficiency

IT challenges

The company's Information Systems division provides computing services such as project management, application maintenance and operation, and IT infrastructure management for the group. It also defines the group’s IT strategy and oversees the IT function and IT vendor management. The One IT department is charged with adding next-generation computing services to the Information Systems division's portfolio.

The One IT department operates under the following principles:

  • Offer a broad range of services, meeting highest possible SLAs by leveraging the best available technology.
  • Manage services flexibility requirements.

Alan, technical analyst for One IT, lists the following as the key challenges that currently face his department and the key factors that could drive a major IT transformation within the group:

  • Distributed IT setup coupled with decentralized governance that led to a fractured IT budget,impeding any planned investments in a dedicated monitoring solution.
  • With impending EU regulations on the utilities sector, there could be further carve-out of businesses from within the group.
  • A large portion of the group's IT infrastructure services are outsourced to vendors who are not open to deploying agent-based monitoring solutions in their environments. "Usage of a remote, agent-less monitoring solution is more acceptable to our providers," says Alan.
  • Many applications used at the group were developed in-house, and most Application Performance Management (APM) solutions on the market do not support monitoring of such custom applications.
  • Incorporating monitoring needs into the development life cycle of these custom applications: "Standardization (of the development process and application architecture) is the key here," says Alan.
  • Cost – i.e., the total cost of ownership (the licensing cost of a monitoring solution and the cost of hiring high-skilled resources to maintain the monitoring solution – was a major challenge.
  • Other monitoring solutions on the market (the 'Big 4') are not as easy to scale because adding monitoring support for a new enterprise application or technology platform requires the purchase of additional modules, escalating monitoring costs.
  • Monitoring solutions currently in use require higher levels of technical expertise to use, and hiring such skilled manpower was expensive.
  • "[There was a] pressing need to deploy a lightweight monitoring solution, and replace the agent-based monitoring solutions [such as those of vendors] like SCOM, Tivoli, BMC, etc., " says Alan.

Enter Applications Manager

Despite using monitoring solutions from the APM's Big 4, the group was cornered by the three-pronged challenge of deploying a monitoring solution that was lightweight and agent-less, was able to monitor custom applications, and was scalable yet inexpensive.

For the group, Applications Manager ticked all the right boxes - a near exhaustive list of monitored technologies, easy to deploy and even easier to maintain, the look and feel, comprehensive reporting, and reasonable price. In addition, Alain lists ROI as one of the reasons the group selected Applications Manager.

Life with Applications Manager

In the one year it has been in operation at the group, Applications Manager has already been deployed at its main data centers in Paris and Brussels.

The scope of Applications Manager includes monitoring of:

  • Windows, AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, and Linux (systems monitoring)
  • Oracle and MS SQL (database monitoring)
  • SAP (ERP monitoring)
  • WebLogic and WebSphere (application server monitoring)
  • Transactions (URL, FTP)

This scope Alan feels is likely to widen in the days to come:

"Parts of our (IT) infrastructure are outsourced. [Using] a remote monitoring solution is more likely to be accepted by our (IT infrastructure service) providers than agent-based monitoring solutions," says Alan.

The value add for the group has been higher with Applications Manager as right out of the box it gave the company access to exhaustive reports combined with a wide gamut of monitored technologies – without requiring investments in multiple, additional modules. And all this came at a fraction of the competition's price.

Due to the simplistic, intuitive design of the user interface, operating and maintaining Applications Manager doesn't entail a very high degree of technical expertise, which is difficult to find in the job market and is high maintenance.

In the days to come, as the group looks to downsize its expenses on APM vendor licensing contracts, Applications Manager is set to become more pervasive in scope, being an affordable, end-to-end solution.

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