How monitoring the server infrastructure boosted application availability
House of Fraser has improved the performance of its corporate network and application availability since rolling out monitoring software.
During the past year, the department store chain found that by implementing Compuware's Server Vantage software to monitor its server infrastructure, it could identify and respond to problems before they impact on application performance.
Its server set-up is largely made up of Dell 2600 and 2650 boxes, running a mix of Windows 2000 and 2003 operating systems.
James Park, network systems manager at House of Fraser, said, "We put in monitoring software to stop the situations where, for example, very large files would be put on shared drives impacting performance. If services are down it can affect vital functions, such as stock control, e-mail and the deployment of patches."
The Server Vantage system automatically identifies all servers located across House of Fraser's 51 UK stores and its head office and application components installed on those servers.
It then monitors system activity at the application, database, network and operating system level. So-called intelligent agents located throughout the infrastructure monitor the availability and performance of applications.
"As any IT professional knows, by the time a problem is reported, it is often too late. It has already affected users and customers," Park said. "With Server Vantage it was really easy to set warning levels. Once these are passed, the system automatically notifies an appropriate person via paging, e-mail or alerts."
The introduction of the system has meant that House of Fraser IT staff can spend more time focusing on strategic business initiatives, rather than constantly responding to ad-hoc network problems, Park said.
The monitoring system has also highlighted the multitude of reasons that can lead to applications not working properly, he added.
"The environment in the store is not always the best for IT systems with servers often deployed in dusty backrooms," Park said. "Sometimes a window is left open, so the server drops below its temperature threshold and prepares to turn itself off. Using Server Vantage means we can detect this and tell the IT staff in the stores, who can remedy the situation."
House of Fraser evaluated a number of other monitoring software suppliers before opting for Compuware, even though the initial outlay was higher, Park said.
"Compuware was more expensive up-front but it provided the range of services we were looking for," he said. "Other suppliers wanted to charge more for extras, such as graphical visualisation of the computer room, and they would have worked out more expensive in the long run."
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