Mattel | Customer Story | Fortra

Fortra Makes Proactive Monitoring Child’s Play for Mattel

Robot Monitor provides real-time visibility into system performance even halfway around the world


Sustaining a $1.9 billion dollar industry and representing a significant proportion of Mattel’s success, Barbie is big business. Tyco Toys and Fisher-Price also contribute to their growing empire, making Mattel synonymous with toys around the world.

Daniel Cruthirds, System Engineering Manager at Mattel, and his team are responsible for managing nearly 50 IBM i servers around the world. The nature of their network saw them dealing with a number of problems common to larger companies, including a lack of centralized visibility, language barriers, and time zone hindrances.

“By the time we got a message from Australia needing help with a system problem, it had come and gone, so we really weren’t able to be proactive to their requests,” said Cruthirds. “Our network dictates a huge communications environment that requires effective management 24 hours a day. Losing a major production system could cause the whole company to stop—so it’s absolutely essential we have optimum availability.”

Point Out Performance Problems


Robot Monitor makes Mattel’s vision for a proactive systems management environment a desktop reality. By defining thresholds for key performance parameters and alerting operators to problems through visual and audio alerts, Robot Monitor makes it possible to manage networked IBM i servers by exception. Real-time and historical performance information can be viewed for immediate identification and resolution.

“I liked it immediately,” said Cruthirds. “I could sit at my PC and monitor all the systems to see what everyone was up to. I didn’t have to wait and run IBM’s performance tools and get them involved to help us decipher the results. It was very easy to use, right from the start.”

Identify Disk Usage Spikes


Due to its remote location at the time, Mattel was coping with unreliable telecommunications and a shortage of IS people with the technical experience needed to manage their system in Jakarta, Indonesia. Consequently, performance problems escalated and erratic disk usage was becoming a major concern.

After installing Robot Monitor, problems on the system were immediately apparent. Cruthirds remembers disk usage had reached 92 percent: “Robot Monitor really helped us because we knew disk usage could have climbed very quickly very fast. We potentially could have lost the system. Fortunately we caught it in time.”

They were able to respond immediately by clearing up a lot of unused files that had been left on the system. Today, keeping abreast of the disk usage in Jakarta is done with a single click of the mouse from a desktop in California.

Control CPU Consumption


Through Robot Monitor, Mattel’s operators can choose to dynamically view any number of jobs that are using the highest amount of CPU for each system. Robot Monitor runs on the PCs in their data center in Phoenix, Arizona—where they monitor distribution and job queues—while the team in California watches over machine pools, batch performance, jobs active, interactive batch, CPU usage, disk, and more.

The history reporting features are another reason why Robot Monitor works so well for Mattel’s requirements. “The history reporting lets us go back as far as we keep the data and pull off three-dimensional graphs that are easy for management to make their evaluations on. It makes a lot of difference,” said Cruthirds.

Mattel is able to pinpoint peaks through the short-term and detailed history analysis to instantly show jobs using the most CPU and to identify users and jobs acquiring large amounts of system resources. Additionally, threshold levels are shown in these modules, making it ideal for obtaining accurate performance trends and creating comparisons between actual and IBM’s recommended IBM i results.

Visualize the Data


During a recent European IBM i consolidation, Robot Monitor proved invaluable by taking snapshot pictures of the system before and after adding the UK and French system. “Our management loved the pictorial representation—it was very clear to everyone exactly what kind of shape we were in at each stage of the migration,” said Cruthirds.

As a company that expects as much innovation from its IT department as it does from its creative toy designers, Mattel’s philosophy has seen their success grow with each generation. As Mattel continues to grow, so too does their dependence on system availability and performance. With Robot Monitor at the core of their operations, no doubt the Barbie business will be booming well into the next millennium.

I liked it immediately. I could sit at my PC and monitor all the systems to see what everyone was up to. I didn’t have to wait and run IBM’s performance tools and get them involved to help us decipher the results. It was very easy to use, right from the start.

Daniel Cruthirds, System Engineering Manager, Mattel

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