Blog

The Customer:
Business in the highly competitive financial services industry has always been about providing the customer with the best possible service to ensure their patronage. Scottish Life recently received recognition for the management of customer facing IT systems and services. Compass Management Consulting, a fact-based performance improvement consultancy, awarded Scottish Life a place in the Top 20 world group of best performing companies in 2001, based on the speed and efficiency of its IT systems development and networks. “There is no question that financial services companies must rely more and more on highly efficient IT systems to help provide quality service to customers at minimum cost. Over the years, Scottish Life has invested prudently but significantly in this area, and we will continue to do so to help ensure that Independent Financial Advisors (IFAs) and their clients receive the kind of service they would want from us,” said Brian Duffin, chief executive of Scottish Life.

The Challenge:
Prior to a major strategic infrastructure enhancement, Scottish Life faced significant obstacles in maintaining service levels. When Scottish Life’s original systems encountered service degradations, the resolution process began by users making a phone call to technical staff. Resolution of problems often resulted in significant delays as the technical staff waded through pages of figures. By the time the issue was resolved, the problem had often become much worse and the provision of service was greatly impacted. The lack of adequate measures to rapidly identify faults in the system led Scottish Life to seek greater reassurance in a resilient, structured solution.

The Solution:
Scottish Life viewed three competing systems’ monitoring tools before selecting Sightline™. After installing Sightline for a trial period, the software detected a major glitch that enabled Scottish Life to solve a significant problem prior to launch of a major new system. In addition, the graphic interface of Sightline made fault diagnosis easier to identify than with the competing products. Sightline’s performance quickly proved its value and was promptly installed across Scottish Life’s infrastructure.

Approximately 200,000 financial transactions are processed daily throughout Scottish Life’s IT infrastructure, with its primary service window operating between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm. At any given time, the system is capable of handling one thousand users, with the number stabilizing at between three to four hundred users at a time. Due to its advancements with Sightline, Scottish Life is now able to provide its computer users with service level agreements (SLAs) guaranteeing ninety-nine percent operational uptime.

The Result:
At the center of Scottish Life operations are two Unisys based mainframe systems. The two mainframe systems contain complex information for the life and pensions financial service markets. Scottish Life predominantly conducts business with independent financial advisors who provide high-quality life and pension advice and services. At the center of Scottish Life operations are two Unisys based mainframe systems. The two key facilities are approximately one mile apart and connected by dark fiber. The first site contains production mainframes and network infrastructure. The second site contains the product development mainframe and network infrastructure, and additionally holds business continuity and disaster recovery facilities.

The production mainframe system is a monolithic Unisys LINC/DMSII application running on a Unisys ClearPath NX 6830. Performance and operation are supported with EMC Disk and ATL Tape Robots. As a regular winner of a ‘5-Star service to clients’ award, Scottish Life requires a consistent service within the Production Environment, based on constant quality, speed of service and rapid fault resolution.

A Mid-Atlantic State has been a customer of Sightline since 2002. They originally monitored just the OS2200 systems, and expanded to Windows systems over 10 years ago. The Windows systems include web servers running IIS and Component Services and database servers running Oracle and SQL Server. As the environment started moving to virtualization using VMware, Sightline software was also deployed to monitor systems at the VMware level. Sightline software is used for monitoring, alerting and reporting, as well as long-term trending of both system and storage resources.
Deployment: DPW uses the Sightline software to monitor approximately 700 test and production Windows systems and three ClearPath OS2200 mainframes. Sightline is an integral part of their IT environment, and there are several Sightline dashboards on display throughout the IT environment at DPW.

Customer Satisfaction: Because Sightline can be used to analyze applications across multiple systems, DPW has been able to successfully analyze issues where a symptom such as high transaction response time appears on one system, but the root cause is on another.

In 2013 DPW was the designated agency to provide access for its citizens to health insurance options provided through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Sightline Performance Suite was used to perform application and systems performance analysis and trend analysis for application response time and system resource utilization before and during the ACA implementation. Specifically, Sightline was used to compare application and system performance from the new application code suite on the Microsoft® Windows® servers and Unisys® ClearPath® to the previous versions of the application components to help identify applications that required further analysis to address measured performance issues and for helping to determine the health and stability of the DPW IT infrastructure. During the initial period of the ACA rollout, the Sightline software provided hands-on system monitoring and problem management. The Sightline software was instrumental in the technical monitoring of the DPW production IT environment in a conference room setting with managers and technical resources during the first three days when ACA became available for use. It helped diagnose and address five critical issues that developed for DPW during the first two days of the ACA implementation. As a result, the duration of these outages was shorter and reoccurrences were eliminated.
“I don’t know how a project of this magnitude can be implemented without using Sightline.”
System Administrator, State DPW.

Background:
The explosive growth in card-not-present e-commerce transactions coupled with ever increasing card-present transactions has spurred tremendous business expansion while presenting new challenges for operations staff responsible for maintaining service levels at global payments processors. At the heart of each company’s operations are several mission critical, high availability systems, delivering the performance and industry-leading up-time required for these high-volume 24x7x365 customer facing operations. Critical to achieving response time goals is each company’s ability to rapidly identify and resolve any problems in its processing, networking and communications systems. Delivering and monitoring this high level of system wide performance take a variety of solutions as Sightline Systems discovered when recently working with two global payments processors that are responsible for handling billions of merchant transactions per year. One company was using an in-house tool to monitor system performance in real time, requiring several hours of IT staff time each day, while the other company used a product that provided ad-hoc reports on system performance. Each organization recognized the need for a comprehensive automated performance management solution that would provide point-and-click visibility into the end-to-end real-time performance of its payments processing systems.

Business Objectives:
Each company developed a similar set of objectives for effectively monitoring and managing system performance:

  • Automate the continuous collection of live performance data from multiple sources
  • Perform near real-time analyses of the data and present the results graphically
  • Make it easy for operations and management staff to explore the graphical results
  • Enable users to view analysis and correlation of selected data on demand • Maintain the high performance levels of the production system

The Solution:
Based on positive experiences with a trial installation, each company chose the Sightline™ software suite from Sightline Systems corporation. Sightline is a real-time performance and capacity management solution designed for complex “lights out” IT environments. The software continuously captures, stores and analyzes real-time performance and event data, producing actionable information to help detect and diagnose performance issues. Key features of the Sightline solution are its powerful data collection capabilities, robust analytic engine, and interactive user interface.

Specially designed data collection agents capture real-time performance data across the entire processing environment, including server systems, applications, networks, databases and other external sources. Data is aggregated, stored and sent to a dedicated server for analysis and display. Historical data is maintained in a centralized database, providing input for sophisticated trend analysis used to project future capacity needs.

Automated analysis tools apply application-specific “rules” to identify abnormal conditions that may impact service levels. Rule parameters are based on user-defined metrics and thresholds, and are configured after a discovery session with a Sightline engineer. Periods of abnormal activity are flagged and isolated, and user-defined alerts are issued. An industry-leading correlation engine compares interrelationships within the cross-tier data collected, offering insight into potential causes of performance problems.

The user-friendly Web interface presents a consolidated graphical view of multiple data sources. Authorized users can isolate specific periods of abnormal activity and drill down into the data, or initiate further analysis on demand. Customized reports and alerts are delivered through the Web-based interface, ensuring any time, anywhere access to critical performance information.

The Results:
Sightline’s ability to layer performance metrics helped IT staff at one company resolve a system problem that had been plaguing them for some time prior to the installation. By examining the impact of several metrics simultaneously, they were able to quickly trace the performance problem to a source code issue. complex mission-critical operations. Sightline’s real-time analysis and visualization capabilities enable both companies to pinpoint problems in minutes rather than days or weeks, freeing up IT staff to focus on other responsibilities. As a result, one company was able to expand the role of key members of IT staff previously dedicated to monitoring system performance.

Operations managers and executives at both companies use Sightline as a business analysis and planning tool. Easy access to Sightline’s graphical displays and customized reports enables them to track service levels and view performance metrics. whenever they want. After running a trend analysis using 18 months of historical data, one company projected a need for additional capacity to accommodate an upcoming busy shopping season. As a result, the company was able to proactively plan and budget for the additional capacity, while ensuring it could deliver superior service throughout the upcoming peak period.

Data Center Hosting Company

A major data center hosting company has been a customer of Sightline since 2002, originally monitoring multiple Unisys ClearPath OS2200 mainframes. They migrated their applications to Windows and Linux/UNIX systems and by 2010 were no longer using mainframes any longer, but considered the Sightline software to be essential and continued to use the Sightline software for performance monitoring, detailed performance analysis and capacity planning on the new platforms.
Deployment: Currently the company monitors approximately 15,500 Windows and Linux systems (11,375 Windows and 4125 Linux) using Sightline Power Agents, along with a handful of Solaris and IBM AIX systems. They consider the Sightline Power Agent to be unique in retrieving the volume of data that it does with such a small footprint on the system. They monitor over 100,000 transactions per minute using the Sightline software, and have over 170,000 charts that are updated in real time, representing the resource utilization of these systems.
The hosting provider is currently implementing an enterprise-wide system alerting system based on the data collected by Sightline. In addition, they plan to use the Sightline data for billing/chargeback in the future.

EDM

Sightline EDM
Monitor. Analyze. Optimize.

shutterstock_92065808Gain the insight you need to optimize IT performance, reduce operational issues and automate capacity planning with Enterprise Data Management (EDM) by Sightline Systems. EDM is specifically designed to provide today's busy business leaders with the real-time data they need to make smarter, more cost effective decisions, and reduce downtime.

EDM provides IT teams with a single, simple yet powerful view into every part of a company's infrastructure from mainframes to the latest in Windows and Linux systems. EDM is scalable to the size of any business, capable of monitoring hundreds to thousands of infrastructure components with more than 7,500 points of collected data. Not only does it allow teams to better manage that infrastructure, it allows them to replace multiple single-system monitoring tools with a single solution than can monitor every component within that infrastructure.

 

Learn how you can proactively gauge performance and prevent downtime.
MONITOR SYSTEMS
  • Proactively monitor systems and infrastructure by scouring thousands of data points to identify issues and help prevent problems before they start
  • Reduce costs by replacing multiple monitoring tools with one single solution and finding ghost servers that can be re-purposed

  • Supervise servers, cloud providers, split infrastructures, applications, databases, .net, web services and messaging
ANALYZE TRENDS
  • Eliminate waste by underscoring trends, data and patterns that are affecting efficiency

  • Find the needle in the haystack by performing root-cause, multi-system analysis

OPTIMIZE PERFORMANCE
  • Blend performance, measurement and compliance

  • Forecast future behavior easily with web-based Self Service reports and Quick Charts

A UNIQUE TRIO OF PLUG-INS MAKE EDM POWERFUL
Power agents collect incredible amounts of data and offer service to more than 50 different technologies and platforms. Three unique plug-ins enhance EDM capabilities: Clairvor, ForSight and ACE. This trio of add-on modules are designed to work together with the power agents to give you maximum control to monitor systems, analyze trends and optimize performance.

Clairvor

Clairvoir

Clairvor delivers an enterprise-grade root-cause analysis. It automates the investigation of service issues from multiple data sources and integrates all of the necessary information to diagnose issues into one central dashboard.

ForSight

ForSight

ForSight will help your team automate capacity planning by leveraging real-time reports including forecasting of when capacity will be exceeded. No modeling is required.

ACE

ACE

ACE will help you enforce compliance and security policies. Discover, detect and audit thousands of out-of-the-box security and operational policies or create your own with the policy engine.

EDM PRODUCT OVERVIEW
BENEFITS
  • Cost reduction - Anticipate, delay or avoid capital IT costs in the data center by finding underutilized resourcesEDM Capacity Planning Wheel - Updated - 020316
  • Manage cloud providers - See actual utilization levels and match to invoices
  • Manage risk - Alerting functions allow for early detection of unusual activity
  • Real-time and over-time solution
  • RCA - Reduce internal costs of finding problems in the data center
  • Compliance - Only EDM has ACE built in compliance analysis functionality for audits in regulated industries
  • Platform agnostic - Any server, any time - not just the popular ones
  • F500 input - Benefit from features developed for major clients, now part of our standard solution
  • Efficient - Lower server overhead and utilization

FEATURES

  • Support for AIX, Linux, Solaris, VMWare, Windows, mainframes and more operating systems
  • Fully API enabled
  • Compatible with all modern web browsers
  • Easy-to-use dashboards with drill-down detail
  • Reports automatically sent via email - Choose from standard or custom reports
  • Customize alert thresholds to provide real-time notifications of potential issues via email, snmp trap, command execution, custom alerting, or even play sound statements with expression builder
  • Analyze more than 7,500 data points
  • Role-based secutiry
  • SDK available
  • Applications monitor
  • Multi-vendor hardware support
  • Customize views by user
  • U.S.-based live support

Sightline Systems Included in Prestigious ITOA Predictions List

FAIRFAX, VA – March 6, 2016 – We are proud to announce that Sightline Systems’ own Brandon Witte is mentioned in the ITOA Landscape’s 2016 ITOA Predictions list. The list features quotes from the ITOA50 (the Who’s Who of ITOA IT Operations Analytics Leaders) and ITOA analysts. The list of quotes provides insightful predictions about just how IT Operations Analytics (ITOA) will affect organizations in 2016.

According to Mr. Witte, “This year, we are going to see predictive analytics take center stage for infrastructure monitoring. Rather than being in a reactionary mode, IT teams will now be able to access more data-points and real-time analytics than ever before to help them understand what is happening now and to accurately forecast what will happen in their businesses over time. Predictive analytics will help businesses improve efficiency and up-time which will stimulate long-term growth. Data centers will now be able to closely monitor everything from primary servers to PDUs and HVAC systems to cameras and electronic door locks to identify issues before they become too costly.”

To read other quotes from the 2016 ITOA Predictions List, visit http://www.itoa-landscape.org/2016-itoa-predictions.

1. Log into Sightline EDM
2. Add an Alert Group

  1. Navigate to the Alerts Tab
  2. Navigate to the Alert Groups Tab
  3. Click the “Add Alert Group” button OR edit an existing Alert Group.
  4. Fill in the fields and click save
3. Click the "Add Metric" button
4. Select a connection that will be used to create the expression
5. Click the "Create Expression" button

6. Find the desired metric and click the insert button

  1. Note: You can select a specific CPU, disk or storage or, you can select the metric name to monitor ALL of them.
  2. You can click the help icon in order to read the description of the metric, to make sure that is the one you want to monitor.
  3. Repeat for each item you want to monitor in this compound expression

7. Add in the necessary operators (see EDM Documentation for more detailed description of available operations)
8. Add an Expression Name
9. Click "Save Expression"

10. Find and click your newly created expression under the "---All Expressions ---" group
11. Click the "Select Metric" button

12. Set the Alert Value to .999
13. Fill in any information for alert emails, traps, sounds etc. See EDM documentation for more information about configuring alerts.
14. Click the Finish Button
15. Assign the newly created alert group to a connection.

Compound Expressions Improve Your IT Monitoring

compound-wide
While today’s monitoring solutions help IT teams view their IT infrastructures with little to no tweaking, using an IT monitoring solution that allows for complex expressions can be very useful in improving reliability.

So what’s a complex expression? A compound expression is a series of simple expressions joined by arithmetic operators.  It’s a way of combining a series of thresholds together that, when in violation all at the same time, could lead to a bigger problem. Once these compound expressions are created, teams can apply those expressions to historical data to see if when problems began or occurred. Or they can combine them with their IT monitoring solution’s alerting capabilities to inform IT teams when certain conditions are met.

Examples:

  1. A server’s heat increase and that additional heat affected the CPU. That caused website response time to degrade. A compound expression could be useful here to monitor CPU, temperature and web server response times.  By combining an alert with this expression IT admins can be notified in advanced before the problem becomes too serious.Temperature > 80 degrees AND CPU Time Busy > 90% AND response time < 5 seconds
  2. An engineer or IT admin notices problems with a particular server, and wants to pinpoint the time of the day that the server is performing the worst to see if a particular event may be the cause. A compound expression monitoring CPU, memory and disk usage would help.CPU Time Busy > 90% AND Memory Usage > 75% AND Disk Busy > 75%

Using an IT monitoring and analysis solution such as Sightline EDM, this expression can be used to perform root cause analysis. Once the expression has been created and data has been collected, the data can be plotted over a time period to find any violations.  Correlation can then be used with root cause analysis to find related events (across different systems). If you’re already an EDM user, I’ve even written a short guide on Creating Compound Expression Alerts in Sightline EDM.

Compound expressions, even such as the simple math equations above drastically improve your IT monitoring solution. It’s up to you to be creative and make awesome expressions to monitor your IT environment and solve problems when or even before they happen.

Increase Productivity by Classifying Monitored Alerts

productivity
Few people think about the types of alerts they receive. Yet, having the right types of alerts configured can result in significant cost-savings, improved infrastructure performance and increased end-user productivity. By planning and categorizing the right alerts for your company’s infrastructure operations, you can be confident that your IT operations are running smoothly and efficiently.

Alerts can be categorized into three classifications:

Performance Alerts – These are simple alerts used to make sure day to day operations are running smoothly.  These are things that may need immediate attention, such as a sudden spike in CPU utilization that’s causing your end-users to have a bad experience, or a large memory increase indicating that something needs to be investigated in the very near future.

Capacity Alerts – Classic alerts that warn end-users about when storage is full, CPUs are at full utilization, RAM is at zero or other factors. Capacity alerts have evolved to include triggers before capacity thresholds are exceeded. These triggers alerts IT teams when things should be fixed or fined tuned in order to reduce operating costs or increase productivity.

Dynamic Alerts – A modern, smarter approach to notification is the dynamic alert. A dynamic alert has the ability to move the threshold parameters based on day-to-day or week-to-week use.  Say on a Monday morning, CPU utilization of your farm is high at 80% due to workers showing up after a weekend, ready to tackle their assignments.  A dynamic alert would be smart enough to capture typical Monday CPU utilization and classify that use as “normal”. Yet, a dynamic alert might be triggered if CPU use on a Monday hits 99% or drops to 30%, a clear sign that there’s a problem. By analyzing trends over time by time of day we can create intelligent alerts and become aware of things which otherwise may not be noticed.

Now that you know the three types of alerts, you should look at your current alerts and see where switching alerts to a different type might help decrease the amount of alerts you get while improving the fidelity of alerts that need immediate attention. Good luck.

Meet Sightline Assure

As a successful monitoring and analytics solution provider, we’ve had 12 years of success answering the needs of current and future customers. While our EDM product has continuously delivered a high level of performance for IT teams from banks to telecommunications to airlines, it is a powerful enterprise-grade solution that some businesses don’t need yet. Yet, we believe that regardless of size, every business needs an IT monitoring solution that helps keep their systems running.

So we decided to simplify.

Sightline Assure is a new product that utilizes the power of EDM into a simplified, easy-to-read solution for companies that need to look and understand their entire server stack essentials from hardware to operating systems (Windows, Linux and VMware) to virtual machines.

Accuracy was essential. Assure features the same EDM platform technology to deliver high-fidelity of data monitoring to the end user. With 98% of EDM customers choosing to stick with EDM for the past 10 years, its platform as the foundation not only made Assure easier to develop, it allows us to update Assure with better technologies when they become available.

Portability was essential. While EDM’s is web-based, Assure needed to offer an interface that’s not only accessible from a laptop, its information needed to be readable from a smartphone or tablet. We tested Assure from a wide variety of devices and we’re happy to report that Assure is up to the task.

Simplicity was essential. Assure needed to boil down the 700+ metrics it receives into knowledge and notification – it needed to convey immediate context to any user. So Assure features only three easy to understand colors: Grey for good, yellow for warning and red for more immediate concerns. When end users drill deeper into Assure, they gain more knowledge about issues, when they began and how long they’ve lasted. It’s simply enough to learn in just a few minutes, doesn’t need a long-winded manual or long hours of training.

Pricing was essential. With Assure, we wanted to create a solution for any company looking to increase their IT systems’ operational stability so we priced Assure at a level that even a very small company could easily afford.

We’d like to thank the Sightline Assure team for adding expertise to building a solution for an industry that can significantly improve their operations as they upgrade their operations to Industry 4.0.

team-photo

Meet the Sightline Assure Team

So when will we release Sightline Assure? Today. Take a moment to look at the Assureproduct page to learn more, watch a video that talks about how it works and feel free to reach out to ask about how to purchase Assure for your company.