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“In the context of acute healthcare, IT service must be failproof. Across hospital sites, Centreon makes it easy for us to diagnose issues from their onset. We can customise it at will, building our own checks or leveraging time-saving templates. When you factor in the hundreds of powerful Plugin Packs, Centreon is a highly affordable solution for all the value it delivers. You can monitor anything—almost instantly, with Centreon.” -  Wes O’Brien, Datacentre Manager, Informatics, Manchester University NHS Trust Foundation.

 

The project in a nutshell 

Business objectives: Support the patient experience  

  • Ensure flawless IT service to support patient experience.
  • Optimally manage shared IT resources across multiple hospital sites.

ITOM objectives: Unify monitoring practices

The Centreon solution: Centreon Business Edition

Main benefits: 

  • Unified IT monitoring practices across hospitals—one solution to replace many.
  • IT monitoring costs predictability through mixed Centreon deployments (open source and paid for).
  • Streamlined IT monitoring processes.

 

Summary

 Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) is one of the UK’s largest hospital trusts, providing acute healthcare to 750,000 patients. It was founded in 2017 and has since incorporated 10 hospitals. Wes O’Brien, Datacentre Manager, Informatics at MFT is responsible for monitoring server environments across multiple hospital sites, including two purpose-built datacentre, covering about 2,000 hosts and 25,000 services in total. Today, MFT relies on a combination of free and paid Centreon platforms to ensure the health of a complex server environment. In the longer term, the plan is to transition all monitoring to the Centreon Business Edition platform. Running both the free open source and the licenced systems concurrently during the transition provides MFT with the flexibility to manage and plan IT infrastructure monitoring costs, while enjoying the full benefit and reliability of a shared platform, eliminating tool sprawl and unnecessary licensing fees.

 

The full story

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) is one of the UK’s largest hospital trusts, providing acute healthcare to 750,000 patients. It was founded in 2017 with a two-hospital merger and has since grown to incorporate eight more hospitals. Wes O’Brien, Datacentre Manager, Informatics at MFT is responsible for monitoring server environments across multiple sites, including two purpose-built datacentre. At MFT, the IT monitoring configuration encompasses 2,000 hosts and 25,000 services—with more added every day as the organisation’s digital needs expand.

Over the past few years, as MFT incorporated more regional hospitals, the main technological focus has been around integrating diverse IT systems, including the various IT monitoring tools that were used by the hospitals in the pre-merger era. The concurrent use of multiple IT monitoring solutions was counterproductive and was generating unnecessary maintenance and licensing costs. Teams wanted a common source of reference to ensure optimal IT service delivery.

Eliminating tool sprawl—and unnecessary costs

In 2020, MFT’s teams were set on selecting a common IT monitoring platform that could match the level of care and reliability a hospital environment warrants. They opted for the Centreon platform, which Wes’s team was already using as an open-source deployment to monitor some hospital locations. “A colleague and I had been using Centreon at a previous job, also in a hospital setting. We knew what Centreon could do. We liked its flexibility, how we could customise it and create our own checks, so we implemented it here at MFT, as early as 2017.”

In 2020, the Centreon Business Edition was selected to further streamline IT monitoring processes and adopt common practices across teams and hospital sites.

Guarding against unwanted IT monitoring side effects

As a first step, the licensed Centreon deployment served to replace a brand name monitoring solution which was used at one hospital site prior to the mergers. “This licensed solution was resource heavy on the hosts we were monitoring. It would often cause slowness on servers simply by monitoring them,” recalls Wes. Furthermore, the legacy solution did not track all the vital signs, for example, it could not always tell when servers were running out of disk space. “The team was getting complaints when they failed to notice such issues in a timely manner. We needed an agile solution and Centreon fitted the bill,” recounts Wes. “Centreon is quite light touch and does not cause such undesirable effects.”

By adopting the Centreon Business Edition, the team not only checked off all their criteria, but now also enjoys full technical support and leverage high value functionalities like monitoring connectors (Plugin Packs), Auto-Discovery, ready-to-use monitoring templates, superior reporting capabilities, and advanced awareness on key business workflows. “The main benefit for a budget-conscious, public service organisation such as ours is that Centreon is very competitively priced, for all it can do,” says Wes. And more benefits are reported from the operations side.  

The team is happier. We give them access to the web interface, which they find convenient. And because it’s so easy to either create checks or use templates, more of our infrastructure is monitored, like certificate expiry, which we never checked before—this makes for a more reliable IT environment, a significant advantage for the 750,000 patients and 28,000 employees that rely on IT for a seamless care journey.” - Wes O’Brien, Datacentre Manager, Informatics, Manchester University NHS Trust Foundation.

Acute awareness

Wes’s datacentre team, nine full-time staff and a few contractors, leverage Centreon to monitor the server and storage infrastructure for the hospital trust, checking on CPU, battery and disk space usage, monitoring Windows services, monitoring processes, making sure hosts are up, and alerting various teams when problems arise.

Before using Centreon, the team could not monitor Dell storage components, such as Dell EMC Isilon. “With the new Centreon solution, monitoring is improved, and so are our communications.” The team is using various email alerts, which are reaching a diversity of contacts, including non-IT staff, on top of their internal communications platform. “It’s very neat that we could integrate Centreon within Microsoft Teams to seamlessly communicate on issues,” notes Wes.

The Centreon solution is also very flexible, offering as many use cases as there are needs. For example, teams use it to execute PowerShell scripts and create their own checks. “It’s completely customisable to our environment and that’s what I like most about Centreon, and so does the team.

The staff responsible for IT monitoring now enjoys a streamlined experience. “It’s very quick to monitor hosts, with the VMWare plugin for example, or using the templates. Creating or cloning a host is a 30-second task. Once you have your checks in place, the rest is virtually automatic, using the Auto-Discovery feature,” mentions Wes.

Time and flexibility to transition to the new Centreon platform

Today, the Centreon open-source deployment is still running as a complement to the new Centreon solution. It even has been extended to replace a Nagios tool which a team had implemented on their own, because they had been unhappy with the previous licensed product. “Nagios users have no problem switching to Centreon,” explains Wes. “Whether we use Centreon open source or the Centreon Business Edition, the job gets done—and we’re providing a unified IT monitoring environment, which was our chief objective. There’s nothing you can’t check with Centreon.”

The long-term goal is to transition monitoring of all hospital sites and technological assets within the Centreon licensed platform. As this transition unfolds, combining a free and a licensed Centreon platform offers the additional advantages of unified IT monitoring practices, sets up the teams for success within their new IT monitoring environment, and allows to better plan and manage monitoring costs, incrementally augmenting license purchases as the number of IT assets to monitor grows and more domains are monitored, from the server environment to network and cloud monitoring.

Being prepared: Monitoring the diverse IT environment of the future

By combining the best of Centreon open source and Centreon Business Edition, MFT is growing into its ideal IT monitoring solution, taking all the time needed to add more hosts, map key business services,  and fine-tune alerts and reporting. As IT monitoring extends beyond the server environment, the Plugin Packs will be playing a leading role in future-proofing their IT monitoring investments. “As an organisation, we are constantly transitioning. We may have been mostly a VMware organisation up to now, but we also use CITRIX and VMware View for desktops these days. Over the years we can expect there will be more cloud assets to monitor, applications, SaaS offerings… Whatever is in our near future, we will be ready without having to purchase more tools,” concludes Wes.

 

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