Network and Application Monitoring

By Ce Cole Dillon Print this article Print

Chicago State University improved IT quality, efficiency and responsiveness by adopting an integrated data center monitoring solution. Chicago State University started as a small teachers college and is now a full-fledged state university composed of five colleges, servings more than 7,200 students.

Network and Application Monitoring – We now can see the current status of the entire distributed campus network, identify problems and can better understand the business impact of operational issues faster and with greater accuracy. 

For example, our team was able to pinpoint and diagnose a configuration change to a switch that affected the VLAN associated with VOIP communications.  This took less than fifteen minutes and the problem was resolved within an hour.  Prior to the new system, several different teams would have had to review each component from the help desk, to network and applications, taking an estimated four hours on average to fully triage and resolve the condition.  The result is a 75% efficiency gain while using fewer resources.

Network Asset Management and Configuration Monitoring – An  automated Configuration Management Database (CMDB) feature provided us a real-time view of the environment with accurate topology maps, assets and respective configuration monitoring.  Now the team can produce hardware and software inventory true-ups and associate shared and unique assets to different departments.  We can also track and validate applied patches, and see the operational impact of those changes.

It could take at least three IT staff members 15% or more of their time to enable on-going maintenance with regards to asset management and system integrity.  The  CMDB feature enables us to accomplish this in an automated fashion, receive alerts about changes, plan for further virtualization, and document inventory using fewer resources -- saving almost  a half of a full time equivalent.

Security Monitoring – We rely on typical security assets such as firewalls, DMZs and anti-virus software.  Like any educational institution, CSU has a variety of users accessing the IT environment. While my team had the ability to collect and analyze audit logs manually, we did not have needed automation to analyze the security data and correlate it with other systems.  We addressed this gap as our new software included security and log management.

Service Monitoring – We were able to implement  the platform in a short time and we have been expanding its use. While providing more integrated infrastructure monitoring, we are beginning to define IT business services, an automated capability of the software, to transition to service-oriented management. We have started to map out our ERP application and infrastructure dependencies.  I anticipate further tracking of IT services and being able to more proactively identify threats and problems that can impact service delivery.

Our IT organization continues to improve quality and efficiency. This can and should be a never-ending journey to advance people, process and tools. While some training was required to leverage all the capabilities of the platform, we estimate a payback in less than one year and an overall cost of ownership reduction of IT management tools by 25% with significantly more capability.

Rather than relying on a disparate set of IT management utilities, we are moving forward with integrated IT monitoring.  This provides us needed operational visibility and control, better leveraged IT resources and improved responsiveness as we  upgrade our IT infrastructure, build out virtualization and centralize operations and support.

Ce Cole Dillon is the Chief Information Officer at Chicago State University, where she is responsible for the IT organization and for all information technology functions and extended data centers serving CSU’s five  colleges.

This article was originally published on 2011-05-16
Ce Cole Dillon is the CIO of Chicago State University, where she is responsible for the IT organization and for all IT and audio-visual functions and extended data centers serving CSU’s five colleges.
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