In addition to IT asset management

Por: Pedro César Tebaldi Gomes em 03.11.2013

Managing IT assets – other applications

When there was the accident with the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan, someone started to show graphs in (almost) real time about the radiation levels of the reactor in a public way. What caught our attention was that the data on radiation levels were monitored by the Nagios platform which in turn got the radiation data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health (click here to read the whole story) and plotting them using the native resources from the Nagios platform.

Usually, the Nagios platform is used to monitor IT assets and remembering this unusual form of monitoring, I realized how much we have already used the OpMon for monitoring items that go beyond the IT assets. This type of monitoring can often provide effectively and very fast vital information to the business of the companies.

 

Topologia de Rede - Gerenciamento de TI

 
I searched for some cases of the use of OpMon, It management platform developed by OpServices, to perform this type of checking and here are some examples of how you can use OpMon for obtaining important information about the health of the business of your company.

One of the first cases of this kind was a request by a shoe industry that needed to monitor the arrival of production orders to the plastic injection molding machines. Not knowing anything about the manufacturing process, we had to understand a little more about the client’s problem and at that time, it was explained to us that when a plastic injection press, for some reason, does not receive the schedule on time, it stops producing (which in itself represents a financial loss) or even that this injection press may be blocked and require hours to be cleaned again and be available for production. What the manager of the production line needed was to know whether the production orders were available to be loaded into the injection press at the right time, production orders which in turn, were generated in the company’s ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).

The challenge then was to check if the programming files were available in time to be loaded in the injection machines. The solution was not trivial, but we managed, with the help of the client, to properly monitor the arrival of orders and notify in advance to the manager of the machines when an order was in trouble and this could trigger manual procedures of load in the injection machine. A solution that certainly would not be found in a traditional network management package, since it is necessary to thoroughly understand the client’s problem and propose a creative and functional solution.

Another major manufacturer had a serious problem when one of the electronic entry and exit turnstiles of the factories stopped working. With a number of more than 20,000 workers, the entry and exit of people at the end of shifts and lunch hours was a serious bottleneck in the manufacturing operation. Imagine a “traffic jam” of people waiting to get out and as much waiting to enter the manufacturing area of the company when there was a problem. The cost of downtime for the company was too high. Fortunately the electronic turnstiles were connected on the network and so it was possible to monitor them and, in case of problems, a technician was quickly sent to replace the defective turnstile. With this, apart from using the OpMon to generate unavailability alarms, it was possible to obtain historical data on the quality of the turnstiles and so require from the manufacturer a better quality of equipment.

One of our clients had also opened a contingency site backup for their data center. This site backup had a diesel generator which was triggered automatically in case of interruption in power supply by the concessionaire. The tests with the quota system were all satisfactorily performed, but one day there was an interruption in the power supply and the site backup was triggered. The diesel generator was activated, it worked for awhile and then turned off without apparent reason. Further investigation showed that the generator had been turned off for lack of diesel in its fuel tanks.

For some reason, someone had removed the diesel of the generator. This customer requested that the fuel level in the tank could be monitored and an alarm were raised when this product fell from a certain level. The solution found, developed in partnership with the engineer responsible for the system, was to create a plugin that monitored a PC (with a proprietary solution) that stored the data on the fuel level of the generator, as well as other information concerning power energy, temperature of the safe room and even information on when the door of the safe room was opened and closed again.

In the same vein, another customer had a problem of power failure by the concessionaire and in this case the servers now automatically use their UPS (no-breaks). The problem in this case was that the generator did not work properly and the batteries of the UPS ran out, causing an uncontrolled fall of the servers. The result was that several databases and files ended up corrupted, causing great financial loss in the operation of the company by the interruption of IT services for their unavailability. The solution found was to monitor the UPS in order to signal when its battery was in critical condition and OpMon triggered an action (event handler) on each server so that they were shut down in a controlled manner, thus avoiding the corruption of files and databases.

Another solution designed to meet monitoring requirements of physical security was the need for a customer to integrate alarms monitoring videos in their data center. This customer would like to receive alarms with a video, identifying who had entered in their data center and where this person had circulated. Furthermore, it was important to keep a record with the entry and exit images of the personnel for audit purposes.

With the availability in the market of cheaper IP video equipment and with the functionality of these video cameras being able to send an alarm when they detect motion, it was possible to create an integration with the OpMon platform to generate an alarm and send a sample video with images of who, when and what this person had tampered with in the data center. Upon receiving the alarm, a hyperlink allows the operator to quickly see who is in the data center directly by means of the OpMon interface, without the need to own an expensive parallel system of surveillance video monitoring.

 

Gráficos OpMon

 
The market for electricity distributors in Brazil is largely governed by the Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica (National Electric Energy Agency) (ANEEL). This agency has strict punishments mechanisms to distributors that do not meet pre-set targets for efficiency in providing services to consumers. For example, when a weather phenomenon occurs in a particular region, there is a significant increase in cases reported to the the call center of the distributor in that region. This is absolutely normal, but the energy distributors should be able to meet and record all requests of their consumers in a minimum time determined by the rules of
ANEEL.

If it can not reach the established goals of service, heavy fines are imposed. Well, one of our customers would like to obtain indicators of availability and response time of their applications in real time, especially with the occurrence of weather phenomena. The solution was to create an executive dashboard in OpMon showing the response time of applications used by call center teams for the registration and dispatch of events, all in real time.

The result was the availability on a big screen of the behavior of these applications, in addition to making them available at the company’s Intranet. Thus, business managers can view and take corrective action immediately and not based on historical data, when no corrective action could have been taken and would imply a tangible financial loss.

These are just a few examples of vital information for any company or business segment, and that can be monitored by the OpMon platform, going beyond mere monitoring of IT assets. One of the questions we like to hear in OpServices is precisely the one that usually brings higher returns for our clients: “Wouldn’t it be possible to monitor that….”

Dario Bestetti – CEO OpServices

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