"I use the Observer Platform every day of the week and it has never failed to quickly resolve the issue we are confronting. I don't expect that to change anytime soon."
Peter Donnelly | Kingspan | Systems Engineer
There is never a dull moment for Peter Donnelly's team of network engineers at Kingspan. Every day brings a litany of tasks and items to address, some planned and others not.
Currently, Kingspan is in the midst of a large data center consolidation effort that will shrink the number from 50 to 2 massive sites in Ireland and the United States. These initiatives have reduced operating costs by more than 20 percent across their five global business units with additional savings expected as the endeavor continues. However, this has also added complexity as issues with highly distributed applications running in these data centers and across the WAN can be difficult to troubleshoot. Is the service provider to blame for the degraded performance, or is it tied to company resources? Quickly locating where the root-cause of the application problem resides in such a setting is the objective.
For more than ten years, Kingspan has quickly overcome performance challenges by using the Observer Performance Management Platform. As Donnelly stated, “The Observer Platform has offered the fastest payback of any monitoring solution. Whenever it's time to fix a failure, the Observer Platform has allowed my team to better understand how packets flow across the network and how that impacts application health. That access has allowed me to quickly resolve problems.”
With the recent streamlining of infrastructure, Donnelly purchased multiple Observer GigaStor appliances which add post-event analysis capabilities to the Observer Platform. Being able to capture and retain packets and traffic for up to five weeks ensures that no sporadic application abnormalities or security risks are missed. "In the short time we've had GigaStor, they've rapidly pulled us out of several holes," stated Donnelly.
To safeguard the company's IT infrastructure, a multi- layer protection strategy has been implemented that includes Symantec Endpoint Protection. Though satisfied with the core functionality, there were issues of network congestion as the application generated large amounts of traffic.
“Symantec was generating 15 percent of the traffic traversing the MPLS links at the datacenter,” stated Donnelly. “Once we used GigaStor to prove this, we reconfigured the Symantec End Point Protection to reduce traffic volume while maintaining robust malware protection.”
As a publicly traded company, Kingspan is legally mandated to provide financial reports. Recently, the business analytics application used to generate these reports suddenly refused user login requests. Given the importance, it was critical to resolve the issue quickly. Working cross-functionally, Donnelly's team was able to narrow the likely cause to one related to a ten minute difference in server system time-stamps.
Using the filtering capabilities of Observer Analyzer along with the retrospective analysis of GigaStor, it was determined that the time source of the local domain controller was not Active Directory but rather an external Linux system.
Once corrected, the application was able to effectively synchronize and begin operating cross-divisionally. The ability to go-back in time and view actual packets traversing the network was critical to rapidly solving the issue—in this case GigaStor directed Donnelly to the specific packet in five minutes.
Data Center Consolidation
The Kingspan data center reorganization has involved a complete re-architecting of the IT infrastructure and many of the underlying enterprise-wide services creating the potential of large-scale disruptions to the customer and employees' user experience.
The Observer Platform has been central to the success to date. “Every time we initiate a particular site or application consolidation, we use the long-term views of traffic provided by GigaStor to establish performance baselines and validate that application performance has not been impacted by the change,” says Donnelly.
The Observer Platform has been used to tune the performance of the primary SAP ERP system and other services as well. Donnelly explains, “I review timing and delay from the network perspective and pass this on to the developers for improved application performance.” Kingspan has found the increased cross-functional collaboration between application, and infrastructure teams makes for a better end user experience.
Into the Future
“I use the Observer Platform every day of the week and it has never failed to let us quickly resolve the issue we are confronting. I don't expect that to change anytime soon.” Donnelly says.