For IT managers, the journey toward optimal system performance is an often-traveled road full of obstacles. They must continuously navigate their way around familiar and unexpected conditions while remaining responsible for 11,000+ users who expect a smooth ride. Mission impossible? That depends who you put in the driver’s seat.
For Volvo IT (UK), managing the performance of their powerful network of IBM i machines spread across two main data center sites is integral to keeping the whole show on the road.
“We have thousands of people depending on these machines—from the managers in the office to the shop floor workers,” said Ralph Arnaboldi, Data Center Team Leader at Volvo IT. “Maintaining 24/7 availability is crucial. If a machine was to fall over in the night, potentially all those people could be prevented from getting down to work the next morning. A lot of the systems we maintain are real money-earners for our customers and any number of their business operations can directly rely on the high availability of the systems—for example, if they can’t order parts or service and maintain the vehicles that distribute the parts around the country, they’re not making money—simple as that.”
Network Operations Center
As part of their standard operating environment (SOE) for the Volvo Group and external customers, Volvo IT (UK) uses Robot Monitor for system performance monitoring and reporting across their IBM i network. The fully graphical, real-time central view of system performance is relayed from a central PC to a panel of large TFT screens in the operations monitoring room, providing instant visibility and accountability for any threats to system performance.
When an exception occurs on one of the systems, a performance monitoring bar flashes red on the screen, prompting the operator to click on it and drill down to identify the issue (the top ten users, for example) so adverse performance conditions can be resolved instantly. Volvo IT (UK) focuses on their four key performance parameters: response time, disk storage, number of jobs on the system, and CPU usage.
One of the most significant uses for Robot Monitor within Volvo’s operations is its ability to create service-level agreements (SLAs) instantly. Detailed analysis of any given period can be shown with drill-down capabilities to identify how performance or system components, such as internal response time, disk usage, and processor usage, were being used at peak times.
Since Volvo IT (UK)’s systems are managed on behalf of the UK’s Volvo Group, independent dealerships, and external customers, the SLAs produced play a key role in managing the systems of their biggest external customer, Nationwide Accident Repair Services. Once the SLA is created, it is easy to establish thresholds and set up automatic reporting to ensure service levels are met.
Volvo IT (UK) also uses Robot Monitor for core capacity planning to highlight ongoing trends. “We had to decide whether to take the risk of upgrading an application on a particular machine that was running a little bit tight,” said Arnaboldi. “So, we used the data from Robot Monitor to judge if there was enough space available.”
The reports have also helped to clarify trends to colleagues at other sites. If a system is using excessive disk space, instead of liaising with colleagues continually, Robot Monitor makes it easy for operators to produce a graph of weekly statistics to illustrate the ongoing trend. The graph can be defined according to disk space used by library, attribute, owner, application, and last used. Through the historical information, operators can also spot isolated instances that have no significant impact on long-term capacity planning.
As Volvo IT (UK) travels down the road to expanding its external business operations alongside its group developments, more pressure will be placed on its resources, but the standard operating environment they have created means this is a journey they can be sure will go the distance.
Last year we had to decide whether to take the risk of upgrading an application on a particular machine which was running a little bit tight, so we used the data from Robot Monitor to judge if there was enough space available.
Ralph Arnaboldi, Data Center Team Leader, Volvo
System Performance Stuck in Neutral?
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