“With global operations spread across continents and time zones, our business is always on and is highly dependent on service availability. We don’t just sell software, we promote exceptional customer experiences, and we have to walk the talk. One simple IT glitch is enough to start a chain reaction that will be felt from one country to the next, as the sun travels across the globe. No matter the time or day, business teams relying on IT infrastructure can’t be stopped. As a small, remote monitoring team, we need to be quick on our feet. Our Centreon-supported solution helped us streamline and automate IT monitoring processes, allowing us to save time and improve responsiveness, across time zones.” – Pierre-Henry Allmendinger, Coordinator, IT Infrastructure, Objectif Lune.
The project in a few words
Business objective: Optimize support for global, 24/7 operations
- Support stellar client experiences at all business touchpoints: product development, professional services, technical support, finance, sales, training, web, marketing, around the world.
- Ensure there’s no disruption in the ability to download Objectif Lune’s software products.
ITOM objectives: Automate processes and resolve issues faster
- Identify and react to problems faster—in the context of serving different time zones.
- Optimize and streamline IT monitoring processes—considering that ops are centralized in the hands of a small team.
- Ensure the monitoring solution is backed by technical support as a safety measure for quick recovery in case of problems—a norm for all products and solutions deployed at the company.
- Protection of the main business touch points around the clock, including the ability to download software products online
- Time savings in updating perimeter and in detecting problems
- Increased responsiveness of the monitoring team
- Complementary functionalities to fight latency
- Enhanced IT monitoring experience
The project in a few figures
- Monitored locations: 14 on 5 continents—including 2 offices in Australia
- 400 hosts and 4 048 services are monitored
- 98% of virtual machines are monitored or about 600, representing 75% of the IT system
- 20 to 30 indicators tracked for each virtual machine
- Centralized monitoring in one location with minimal staff
The full story
Objectif Lune is in the business of creating stellar customer experiences through automated business communications. The software provider was born in 1993 to enhance customer communications through state-of-the-art technology. The company improves the process of generating business documents or interactions through a portfolio of software products such as PrintShop Mail Connect, PlanetPress Connect and PReS Connect, so that all communications with clients contribute to building strong and consistent relationships. These software tools may allow, for example, the addition of a last-minute message on a special promotion when issuing an invoice, reflecting customer preferences when sending a newsletter, or seamlessly triggering customer interactions upon order delivery. Today, Objectif Lune is a global leader in composition, business process automation, multi-channel output and capture solutions. From offices spanning 5 continents and 13 countries, the company provides a flexible platform for the creation and automation of interactive customer communications across print, web, email and mobile, with solutions perfectly scaling to the needs of SMBs and enterprise clients.
An IT system that never goes to sleep
Management of the global network and security infrastructure is centralized in the hands of a small team led by Pierre-Henry Allmendinger, Coordinator, IT Infrastructure. The team works from Montréal, Canada, but is responsible for monitoring infrastructure located around the world. Objectif Lune’s activities never really stop, as the company operates in all time zones. Service needs to be available 24/7.
Objectif Lune is a business that makes its mark as an enhancer of customer experiences. They must set a perfect example. The team in charge of IT monitoring is an important contributor to delivering stellar client service, as client experiences will only be as good as the IT that supports them. Therefore, constant watch is kept available at all key business touch points: product development, professional services, technical support, finance, sales, marketing, training, and so on. An important touchpoint to safeguard is the ability for clients to seamlessly download products.
Working across time zones makes this an even greater challenge for the small IT monitoring team. They oversee 14 worldwide locations, 400 hosts and 4 048 services, including about 600 virtual machines, for which 20 to 30 indicators are tracked.
“The sun never sets on our IT system. As our business expanded, so did our global digital footprint. Our Centreon Open Source solution was about four years old and still doing a great job—but the time had come for us to do more with our time and bring even greater responsiveness, without necessarily adding more people to the IT monitoring team,” explains Pierre-Henry Allmendinger, Coordinator, IT infrastructure at Objectif Lune.
From Nagios to Centreon open source
When Pierre-Henry started at Objectif Lune, over 5 years ago, a bare bone Nagios installation was in place. He was given free rein to deploy Centreon Open Source, a solution he enjoyed using since his student years, which he found had the friendliest user interface. The solution worked its magic for the past 4 and a half years. It would still today were it not for a simple fact: IT monitoring systems have become extremely dynamic—even more so in businesses that boast constant global growth. For Pierre-Henry and his team, the pressure of watching over a complex, distributed, always on IT system was becoming more acute by the day. There was just not enough time to keep up with changes and to update the IT monitoring perimeter. As fun and challenging as they can be for DIY enthusiasts, self-made probes and trial and error learning had to be relinquished to adopt new, more efficient IT monitoring processes. The main impetus for the change was the desire to empower the small team to become more responsive—at minimal cost and effort. “We wanted to stay nimble and invest our energy towards end users,” Pierre-Henry points out.
Criteria #1: Improve responsiveness
Given the satisfaction with the Centreon platform, transitioning to a Centreon-supported solution appeared to be the most logical choice to free up more of the team’s time, improve responsiveness, and scale costs and efforts to actual needs. Objectif Lune also wanted a fully supported solution, to not be left to their own devices should a problem arise. This is standard practice at the company. Full technical support is another great advantage for a team looking for more reactivity managing complex environments. “At one point, there’s a limit to what a small, internal team can accomplish on its own. We don’t want delays in repairing incidents and on-demand technical support adds hands when and where we need it, fast,” explains Pierre-Henry.
Matching high standards for simplicity, quality, and control
In the design of their own products and solutions, Objectif Lune favors simplicity, effectiveness, and enjoyment of use. They favor openness and flexibility, giving full control to users. It’s only natural that the same expectations apply to their solution providers, including their IT monitoring solution.
After years of using the Centreon Open Source version, the company seamlessly transitioned to a scalable, plugin-based and automation-friendly IT monitoring solution that’s fully supported.
“To be transparent, I was already a Centreon fan when I joined Objectif Lune and I’m the one who decided to set up the Centreon Open Source solution, finding the interface simpler to use than that of Nagios. But, beyond personal preference, we were looking for a scalable, flexible solution. We knew Centreon’s tech support was built in. Centreon filled all our criteria—there was no good reason to change our platform—a simple upgrade was really all we needed to go up a notch.”
Talking shop: how the Centreon solution is used
Things are quite straightforward in Pierre-Henry’s mind. “At the end of the day, we have an infrastructure to support. We need to deliver.” Centreon now helps keep watch on 400 sites or 4048 services, including 600 virtual machines for which 20 to 30 indicators are tracked—this across 14 worldwide locations. Network switches, firewalls and routers, up to services like OVH and Microsoft Azure, for example, are monitored. “Globally, these individual puzzle pieces are the backbone of the experience Objectif Lune offers clients—and on them rests the reputation and capabilities of the company,” says Pierre-Henry.
The extensive, global network supports a wide range of essential business activities. Pierre-Henry mentions that the infrastructure he’s monitoring is the backbone of the value chain. “At the core, we’re looking at the means we have to maintain, develop, test and sell our products,” explains Pierre-Henry. “Our entire business is based on promoting streamlined customer experiences, so I’d say we’re also monitoring to protect our reputation. Customers need to be able to download products when they want it – no matter where or when they want to do it. The fact that the IT monitoring team is miles away should not be an impediment to notice a server is down or a machine did not reboot,” says Pierre-Henry. Another important aspect is supporting the consulting teams who integrate our solutions at the client’s premises. “They’re on the frontline showcasing Objectif Lune’s expertise and the value our solutions add, it’s never the right timing for a service failure!” Pierre-Henry also mentions the activities that may not directly be tied to the customer experience, but are equally important, paying suppliers and employees, for example. “We monitor everything that is important to our service delivery, that is about 75% of our IT system,” concludes Pierre-Henry.
Detail-oriented is a common trait in people overseeing crucial IT infrastructure. Pierre-Henry explains how the 400+ plugin pack library included in the Centreon-supported solution helps corral the endless flow of information. “When I create a new machine or a resource in Azure, I want to know if it is available. I need to run checks on it. In the plugin packs, there are ready to use resources that allow for instant testing and validating. The right information is right at our fingertips and there’s no guess work.”
On a constant fact-finding mission
Our monitoring returns all kinds of relevant information—in a timely fashion. The impact of a server that is down for the day, a saturated disk, a brand-new service that’s found through the Auto Discovery feature, a server at the other end of the world that failed to be caught before problems spill over… “Knowing is time-saving because we’re enabled to respond much faster. It’s a source of pride when we can demonstrate to end users that we’re aware of a problem before they can report it to us,” says Pierre-Henry.
“IT monitoring with Centreon is like playing a game. You put your checks in place and then you find out all kinds of things. I love it when it gets very specific. For example, we reboot all our servers on a specific day of the week. Given the scope of our IT system, it was not easy to find out which ones were not rebooting. I found the right check and applied it to all servers and then boom, those that are not rebooting are found much more quickly.”
A worthwhile evolution
Even if the change was really an evolution, staying within the Centreon universe, subscribing to Centreon-supported solution returned many benefits and met the team’s expectations. “We’re still using Centreon, a solution we know well and have been enjoying working with, but we’re saving a lot of time,” reports Pierre-Henry. “The plugin packs are game changers in that sense. We’re also enjoying the use of a new set of indicators—those that relate to the status of our remote equipment are the most useful. What’s the status on a network port, is a machine on, is this host available? These are staple indicators for our team.” More effective tracking of power supply status is also a huge help—all equipment run on batteries in case of power failure—checking power sources is a critical aspect of IT monitoring that should not be taken for granted in a globally distributed IT environment. The work experience of the IT monitoring team is also enhanced—all the information they need is right at their fingertips, visually rendered.
“I don’t have to look at millions of places to find out what’s happening and what needs to be done to fix it. We just keep an eye on status—all indicators are quickly displayed. I love the graphs, the historic views … the simplicity of it all.”
Next Steps: Mapping critical areas and sharing information
As IT monitoring practices evolve within the company, a new focus will be to share crucial information. “We’re thinking at this point about sharing a non-modifiable map of critical areas of our IT system with a larger crowd. Sharing information is an obvious path to building even more responsiveness within our monitoring system. This implies that we eventually look at Centreon Business Edition, for its advanced mapping and reporting functions,” concludes Pierre-Henry. “Centreon’s open platform really offers an interesting continuum to develop as business needs evolve.”