With the license on his CA Spectrum eHealth performance management software reaching end of life at year-end 2010, Austin Radiological Association CIO Todd Thomas saw the perfect opportunity to shake things up a bit at this specialty healthcare provider serving central Texas.
It's not that the product was giving him problems, but it was an element manager and Thomas says he was ready to embrace a more holistic, business services management (BSM) orientation. As of early 2009, all of Thomas' departmental managers had received IT Information Library (ITIL) 2.0 certification, and he was now pushing to streamline how his teams managed incidents, problems and changes, he says.
"An integrated tool would fit with how we were approaching ITIL and how we wished to manage our customers and constituents," Thomas says.
Even though his current performance manager had been from a major provider, Thomas says he deliberately stayed away from the "CAs and HPs of the world" as he began studying products that would give him an integrated, end-to-end view of an application's performance. "We knew they could do it, so we were at first more interested in finding out what some of the smaller companies could do."
For a period of about six months, Thomas says, ARA "tried every product it could get its hands on," from companies like AccelOps, ManageEngine, SolarWinds and Zyrion.
The rightness in Thomas' decision to select an integrated tool became clear during the proof-of-concept testing when, coincidentally, ARA's Microsoft SharePoint Server crashed -- not a good situation.
"SharePoint is where we keep physicians' schedules and the documents people reference to locate our radiologists, so it's used constantly throughout the day. When that system goes offline, people really can't find where a radiologist is staffed, whether that person is an internal ARA employee or an employee at one of the area hospitals that we staff," Thomas says.
"We had no idea what was causing the problem. Users weren't able to access the application, but Spectrum was just looking for up/down status," he adds.The team turned to the AccelOps product that was being tested at the time. Immediately, it pinpointed the problem as a number of recursive queries that had spun out of control and were preventing additional HTTP connections to the server. The team kicked the problem over to developers, who fixed the query and had the server back online within minutes, Thomas says. Relying solely on the performance manager and trial and error would have killed two to three hours, Thomas estimates.
"At that point, we realized we really needed to have deeper visibility as to how these applications run in our organization more than the typical element managers of the past provide," he says.While the incident handling didn't necessarily clinch the deal for AccelOps, ARA did select the product for its integrated IT management platform, Thomas says. In particular, ARA liked the AccelOps' configuration management database, the product's ability to handle not only operational and business data but security events, too, and its dashboard, he adds.
"Everything about our environment is in that one single pane of glass now," he says, "whether it's our virtualization, storage or classic systems and network management infrastructures."
And this, he adds, really helps IT talk in a way that business understands. "It's much better that they can say, ‘We have this problem with our digital imaging application' vs. 'We're seeing processor spikes on the South Austin Medical Center routers,' which doesn't mean anything to the business.
Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.