From the field: Optimizing ITOps with Immersive Monitoring

Solutionbox is a one-stop IT service provider based in Salzburg, Austria which was founded in 2004. The company’s 50 employees live by a very simple rule: deliver the right IT solution to each and every client. In 2020, the company became a Centreon partner and developed their first project with the Centreon Business Edition. This Q&A with CEO Martin Wolfger highlights Solutionbox’ experience in building an immersive platform in the context of a large, pan-European monitoring project to the benefit of an enterprise client.

“Through our partnership with Centreon and usage of Centreon Business Edition, we refocused the monitoring of a complex server environment on business-centered KPIs. Supported by advanced service mapping, analytics, and reporting capabilities, we’ve developed a connected and immersive monitoring platform. We no longer juggle multiple tools, which was slowing our system engineers. Our team is now equipped to provide added value through constant optimization and more efficient work processes, consistently generating savings through better resource allocation.” - Martin Wolfger, CEO, Solutionbox Informationstechnologie GmbH 

Centreon: Hello Martin, let’s start with the initial challenge that made you consider a new approach for ITOps monitoring…

Martin Wolfger: On top of consulting and designing advanced IT solutions, Solutionbox provides round-the-clock technical assistance and supports clients in the management of complex IT environments. This entails keeping watch on system health 24/7, promptly responding to alerts and continually ensuring service level agreements are met. In an enterprise environment, an array of independent ITOps monitoring tools may be used by various other stakeholders. When such tools lack integration, tracking the health of the system and ensuring the delivery of flawless IT service becomes a highly disconnected experience, overly focused on the different components of the system rather than on overall business performance. We wanted to help our client to consolidate their ITOps monitoring approach, focusing on business-essential services.

Centreon: Tell us more on this first project as a Centreon partner

Martin Wolfger: A pan-European monitoring project inaugurated Solutionbox’s partnership with Centreon.  Always on the lookout to improve performance and promote industry best practices, we recommended to one enterprise client the adoption of the Centreon Business Edition to make monitoring an extensive server environment more effective and insightful. Various service providers work alongside Solutionbox for that enterprise, each supporting one of the multiple layers in a modern IT environment—from networks to security and firewalls. The various teams were all using different monitoring tools and the lack of integration made it complex for our team to diagnose a problem affecting our client’s server environment, which our team of six system engineers had the responsibility to monitor and manage. When diagnosing problems, many systems needed to be checked, which caused unnecessary delays in identifying and fixing issues. We also wanted to provide the client with better reporting on the health and performance of the server environment. The opportunity was to build a more connected, immersive ITOps monitoring platform that could bridge various silos and observe the client’s business from a service perspective. In June of 2020, we trained our team on the Centreon Business Edition. With 24-7 support from Centreon, Solutionbox set out to build a connected, service-focused monitoring platform.

Centreon: Why did you select the Centreon Business Edition to meet these goals?

Martin Wolfger: We recommended the Centreon Business Edition because we felt it provided powerful capabilities in terms of service mapping and business reporting. The Centreon Business Edition’s modules (including dashboards, custom views, service mapping or analytics and reporting) provided the best leverage to meet all of these important requirements:

  • Mapping all of the main services of our clients and their dependencies.
  • Seamlessly connect to the tools used by various IT teams and other service providers using connectors and APIs.
  • Leveraging ITOps monitoring data to gain a business-aware perspective on the infrastructure. 
  • Reporting relevant insights to various IT roles and business stakeholders for constant system optimization.

Centreon: Was it a complex project to design and implement? 

Martin Wolfger: It helped that we retained the open-source framework for scalability and alignment with our team’s experience. Our team was already knowledgeable with the technical aspects of IT monitoring, they were also familiar with the Centreon environment—having a good eight years of experience using Centreon Open Source. Through our partnership with Centreon, the team was now acquiring the more pointed expertise of business aware monitoring. During the implementation phase, Centreon’s 24-7 support really helped us take monitoring of this complex environment to a higher, but much simpler level. 

Centreon: How did your Centreon assist your team?

Martin Wolfger: Building our first project, from identifying key services and mapping their dependencies, and then launching and testing it, we had a strong synergy with Centreon’s support team, at each and every step, and we were confident knowing we were adhering to best practices. From the onset of the project, Centreon’s professional services team provided essential insights into how to map the services and their dependencies. For example, they helped define which value to set, how to scale it across a hybrid environment, how to find the right balance between the detailed and global views. 

Centreon: How did you tailor the solution to your team’s and client’s needs?

Martin Wolfger: After mapping the various services, we set to build the monitoring checks. Functionalities such as Plugin Packs and Auto-Discovery were a great help to the team, allowing seamless connections across our client’s stack and the automation of repetitive tasks. Starting from HyperV servers, we built our own monitoring checks with templates that were easy to apply across the various hosts. It was a huge benefit not to have to do this manually.

Centreon: What were the immediate benefits of the project?

Martin Wolfger: Through advanced service mapping, analytics and reporting capabilities, we built a highly connected and immersive monitoring platform. We refocused monitoring of a complex server environment on business-centered KPIs. We no longer juggle with multiple tools, which was slowing our system engineers. We provide added value to our client through constant optimization and more efficient work processes, generating savings through better resource allocation.

Centreon: What were the deeper benefits of the new service-focused monitoring platform?

Martin Wolfger: I can list quite a few of them—but mainly these are a more engaged and efficient team, shorter issue resolution times, the ability to constantly optimize the system through tracking business KPIs, and more accurate reporting on the value we bring to our clients, above host availability.  

Centreon: Based on your experience, why would you recommend the Centreon Business Edition to a company such as yours?

Martin Wolfger: I see four main reasons, let me list them briefly.

  1. A collaborative, immersive platform focused on productivity

The team’s attention is focused in one place, getting all the context they need without having to log in and out of other tools. It’s an improved experience for our system engineers. Updates and configurations can be automated. We are now able to monitor the productivity of the different services from various perspectives. The data we’re thus gathering allows to right size the system to needs. These are efficiencies and savings that benefit our client, it helps creates a stronger business relationship.     

  1. Faster issue resolution

Using one platform to monitor several services is very useful in our daily 24/7 system operation processes. We are able to react faster when problems occur. It’s easier for engineers, they have fewer alerts to manage, they know where to look and it’s more efficient. Ultimately, the client also sees the difference with fewer users reporting IT problems.     

  1. A more accurate portrait of IT service delivery

One non-negligible added value from our perspective as an IT service provider is the ability to reframe the conversation from host availability to service availability. It’s a major advantage, both from our and the client’s perspective. When monitoring is focused on service as experienced by users, rather than on the availability of individual hosts, you can better demonstrate IT value, and communicate more meaningfully on SLA fulfillment—that’s gratifying, because our mission’s core is ensuring optimal IT service is delivered.

  1. Valuable insights for the client’s business

Our team provides monthly reporting to the client which is helpful both to IT and business stakeholders. While the data covers all the basics—which servers were down, etc., it also compares availability month over month, up to the number of user-facing incidents. Ultimately, we can report on business KPIs. With a better understanding of their IT systems, the client can ensure users have optimal access to the data they need to stay productive—no matter when or where they work from.     

Centreon: What else are you looking to accomplish for this client, using the Centreon Business Edition?

Martin Wolfger: The team is planning to map a second wave of services. In that context, an open platform that supports technological interconnections makes a huge difference, it makes it possible to extend the monitoring scope to services that may previously have been too expensive or complicated to monitor. The team would also like to interconnect the ITOps monitoring platform to automation and business intelligence tools eventually. The future, as the Centreon platform, is open. It’s a real and lasting advantage to be able to monitor everything, as we keep building the platform.

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