Austin Radiological Association Using AccelOps - Interview


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Transcript of video interview with ARA: an overview and use of AccelOps integrated data center and cloud service monitoring platform from an end user perspective.

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Austin Radiological Association Using AccelOps - Interview

  1. 1. Austin Radiological Association Using AccelOps - Interview Overview and use of AccelOps integrated data center and cloud service monitoring platform from an end user perspective Prepared by Michael Coté ( November, 2010 Overview In this portion of the RedMonkTV video, Austin Radiological Association's Todd Thomas (CIO) and Geoff Christy (Senior Network Engineer) discuss ARA's business, IT needs, the evaluation process for new management software, and why they ended up choosing AccelOps. Watch the video in YouTube at About ARA The Austin Radiological Association recently changed the IT Management platform it uses to monitor and manage it's distributed IT and data center. ARA is one of the largest providers of outpatient imaging services and professional services in central Texas serving the majority of area hospitals and thousands of referring physicians in the community. In addition, ARA operates as an outsourced solution provider and manages a turnkey digital imaging application for 10 regional SaaS clients. The company has invested heavily in IT, ITIL service processes and IT automation to support a variety of health care, imaging and business applications. About AccelOps AccelOps describes itself as: AccelOps integrated data center and cloud monitoring solutions bring unparalleled operational intelligence, service insight, efficiency and security to enterprises and service providers. Delivered as a scalable virtual appliance or SaaS, the AccelOps platform cross-correlates and manages diverse operational data on-premise, off- premise and in cloud environments to provide proactive performance, availability, security, change and business service management. AccelOps enables service delivery with end-to-end visibility, efficient root-cause analysis, reduced MTTR and compliance. Take us for a test drive at: Copyright © RedMonk, LLC 2010
  2. 2. Transcript Michael Coté: Well, hello everybody! Here we are in lovely Austin, Texas at the Austin Radiological Association and we’ve got a couple of IT guys who are going to talk to us about a recent switchover in monitoring at their datacenter. And do you guys want to introduce yourself? Todd Thomas: Sure, my name is Todd Thomas, I am the Chief Information Officer for ARA. Michael Coté: And yourself? Geoff Christy: Geoff Christie, I am the Senior Network Engineer here at ARA. Todd Thomas: Well, ARA is a privately owned, physician owned, outpatient imaging services provider. We have 15 locations in Central Texas, we do about 1.2 million annual exams per year. Our network is pretty extensive because we have to be able to support the transmission of digital medical images across the city. Michael Coté: The core business that guys are doing is basically having a good enough network and then the devices attached to the network to send really high resolution images around. Todd Thomas: Yeah, exactly. Michael Coté: To be examined by you. Todd Thomas: Yup! Michael Coté: So having the network and all those endpoints, what is the data center that you guys manage, like what is that, what’s the characteristics of it, what does that look like? Todd Thomas: Well, it’s located here onsite, we do -- we have roughly 200 production servers that run anything from the patient information system where we schedule all of our patients to the digital imaging system to a voice recognition system to Voice-over-IP and then all the other different IT technologies that we use to support the environment. So we have some VMware, we have Active Directory, we have a number of different databases that we use to run the environment. So it’s typical I think for an IT datacenter. Michael Coté: Yeah, I mean, like everyone it sounds like you have a little bit of everything. Geoff Christy: Right. Michael Coté: When you are looking at getting new monitoring software like why did you guys decide to find something new? Todd Thomas: Our contract was up on the existing platform that we were using, so we saw Copyright © RedMonk, LLC 2010
  3. 3. there is a perfect opportunity to look at what has changed in the marketplace in the last ten years. Michael Coté: What are sort of the requirements that you are going through, like what – how did you sit down and sift through all the different options that are available? Geoff Christy: Well, that actually is a tougher question than you think. First I was the one who sifted through all of these. We started off with what we had, which was a high-end product, very expensive, covered all of our needs but was older. Basically just read the generic, basic information and wasn’t very smart, and the product hadn’t been updated. So we went out there and started downloading anything that had a trial. And loading them up, testing them out, seeing if they worked, throwing them against our system, seeing what information we got, seeing what new things were out there, and the new things were really sort of brought us to what we were looking for. Because anybody can monitor SNMP, anybody can give a pretty graph, but it’s what else you do with it, what else you combine into that product. When we looked at the MRTGs and even Solarwinds and some of those other little packages that are really well known, they covered –- the intake of messages that said, "hey, this is an alarm" and they covered pulling the stuff and said, "hey, here is your little bit of help." There was very little root cause analysis involved saying, hey, this is out, so this is going to affect here, some of the newer stuff that really came to the front is deep dives into databases, so that they could pull even more information from your databases, because in the old systems, it would be like, "hey, I can give you the help from the server, here is a CPU, here is this memory, here is the disk space, have a nice day." And when the SQL guy was being yelled at - "why is the database slow?!" - he was like, "well, I don’t have a tool for that" and then he was like, "okay, we will go by a SQL monitoring tool." And then when the AD was slow, it was like, "hey, go by an AD monitoring tool." There were all those tools that you are going to have to go by and some of the newer guys [IT Management products] are saying, "hey just throw that in there." There is no reason that this monitoring tool that’s pulling your network and pulling SNMP, can't also pull your databases and pull in all the database information. And then can't pull your Active Directory and pull in all your Active Directory information. So when I was looking for a new monitoring software, it started off in that direction, I mean, (a.) mimic what we had. Are the basics was covered, is my stuff, up and down? Because that’s really important as you know – we are not just talking even bank transactions here, an X-ray could be critical to somebody’s life. So up and down is pretty important around here. But then what else could we give to help out with some of the pains that Todd was hearing from the doctors, from, "hey this is too slow," from the application people who were saying, "hey, why is this is not working?" Michael Coté: Given all these requirements, when you sort of finally we chose the AccelOps, like how well did it match what you guys needed? Geoff Christy: It was the most versatile products that we tested. It is new so there's the newness factor where it's missing some small things, but at the end of the day, the things they added with the identity location and some of the other really in-depth features, took it a step above some of the final competitors. Sort of, we got to the end. I did -- I don't know how many hundreds - I think that final tally was I had loaded 70 monitoring systems. Copyright © RedMonk, LLC 2010
  4. 4. Michael Coté: Oh yeah: you must have kept an impressive spreadsheet if you -- Geoff Christy: There was a very long spreadsheet with all the pros and cons and here is what this one did, and here is what this one did and this one is running on MySQL, so it crashes the moment I go beyond 40 devices. So, yeah, now we had this whole database going in and it took what -- six months, six months of this, and AccelOps... I don't know where these guys got them, but the AccelOps went after the bells and whistles. They were like, "okay, the core might need a little work"...but the bells and whistles are amazing. Michael Coté: And so what are some of those bells and whistles that you guys are using? Todd Thomas: We bring in all of our Nessus scans into the product now. We bring in IPS events into the products. Of course, it gives us all of our Active Directory events. It can give us information over Voice-over-IP calls. We are actually tracking how many calls for making on the Voice-over-IP system through AccelOps. So it's being able to take all that IT operational data and bringing it into a single dashboard. So I don't have point solutions for my security guy or point solutions for the network guys or point solutions for the server guys. It can really read and get information from quite a diverse set of appliances that's running in your environment. Michael Coté: And to what a lot of what you guys are saying it sounds like there is sort of the -- as we used to call it, the "console of consoles" thing going on. It's all in one place that you can access the different features that you need. Geoff Christy: Yeah, and lot of times when you see that, they mismatched different software, like you get a software to do one thing and other software to do another and they try and make a console to present them all which we’ve tried to use as before - but AccelOps didn't do that. They are sort of combining it all into their software and the window at the same time. So you don't have to worry about, "hey, this one product working well or is that one product working well, or have they patched this or that?" The whole thing is together. Michael Coté: And you guys use the SaaS option or the virtual appliance or – how do you deploy it? Geoff Christy: We did the virtual appliance. We just felt the need especially like I said, with the high availability needs of this company, we needed the software here. I couldn't rely on my Internet for my monitoring unfortunately. Michael Coté: Right, yeah. I mean that is always the -- you know, anyone who tries to use a cell phone knows how great the cloud can be at times, right? Geoff Christy: Right. And here it was just too critical. Michael Coté: Right, definitely. Two of the interesting features in AccelOps that kind of caught my interest a long time ago when I first started talking with them were, it sort of has a CMDB built-into it and then there is also just like, if you wanted to be like a mad scientist of querying and reporting, it seems like they just go nuts with like -- the are different like customizations you can do in queries and all things like that. So like starting with the first one, are you guys using the CMDB - like is it sort of like the CMDB for everything or how is that fitting in the way you are doing your IT. Copyright © RedMonk, LLC 2010
  5. 5. Todd Thomas: It's interesting that it has the CMDB because we have a concurrent project going on right now where we are looking at replacing our service desk application, deploying a CMDB. It now raises questions as to whether or not okay, is there CMDB going to be the single source of truth or are we going to federate that into a "true CMDB"? So those are questions that are still up in the air at this point. Michael Coté: As far as the sort of reporting in querying features, it’s like there is a pretty extensive language they have in there to give it that moniker, like what are you guys using that to do a lot of complex queries and reports or how does that come up? Geoff Christy: Normally I start with something simple like one of their canned reports to sort of get myself half way there, because yeah, there is so many thousand different little choices you could make. You’d almost have to develop the product to really understand them all. But using all of their canned generic reports, you should get a starting point and then you go, "okay well, I want to see just this one server or just this one device or just this one topic," and they have really easy ways to filter down the information and it comes out really well. Michael Coté: So I am curious, like, when you guys chose to use a AccelOps, like what was the process like switching over to it? Geoff Christy: We are currently still in the process of switching over. The existing contract on the old monitoring software ran through the end of the year, and because we started working with the AccelOps products around June, we wanted to get a bunch of data in there for it to have some data to be able to run reports against, and also for us to test all the alarms and alerting. We are currently about 99% complete with the installation. We are still tweaking some rules, some reports, things like that and it is already our alerting platform. It's what's sending the alerts to the engineers, but both are currently running in tandem and as December 1, we will be cutting over 100% to AccelOps. Michael Coté: I'm curious, you being the CIO of ARA, like what -- when you are doing this kind of switch-over, like what are the top concerns? What are the things you are watching out for it, the risks you are managing and things that you want to make sure go well? Todd Thomas: Really it’s just being able to have that historical data to report against because my operations reports to the CEO run the previous quarter. So I just needed to make sure that when we did the switch-over, I could report on some of the older data as well as some of the newer data that's in AccelOps. Michael Coté: Right, right. So you needed to make sure that you could tell your boss the right thing. Todd Thomas: Right, and it's nice having that historical data in there running the two systems concurrently, so we can switch-over and not lose any of that alerting. Copyright © RedMonk, LLC 2010
  6. 6. Michael Coté: I mean on the face of it, AccelOps sort of just monitors things for you and tells you that everything is running well, but are there other areas that you are trying to push it into? Todd Thomas: So one of the things that we are considering is we have to be able to report against who accesses a a patient's record. So if you come into one of our facilities, and you had an X-ray done six months ago, and you say, hey, I want to know who has been looking at my record. We have to be able to generate that report. If we can pull that information out of our existing medical databases and put it into an AccelOps, we will be able to report against that information. We use an appliance today that sort aggregates all of those logs, and so we have tinkered with the idea of pushing some of that into AccelOps, to report against. Michael Coté: Right, so you would actually be not only monitoring IT, but sort of patient intake and I mean that you would be monitoring the business. Todd Thomas: Right, so I mean it's one more device that we would have to have on our network now because again AccelOps is bringing that information now into that system. Michael Coté: Well great, well I appreciate you guys spend all this time to go over how you switched over your monitoring stuff. That's good stuff. Todd Thomas: Absolutely. Geoff Christy: No problem. It’s a pleasure! About RedMonk RedMonk is the first and only "maker" focused industry analyst firm. We believe that developers, operations staff, and those who are on the front lines of implementing and using IT are the most important constituency in technology. We focus on how new and old technologies are being applied by these makers to run businesses and help achieve the goals of their organizations. RedMonk advises both buyers and sellers of technology, providing all of our research for free at in the form of blogs, podcasts, videos, presentations, and other mediums. While it’s impossible given the breadth to simply distill our coverage and views, the core thesis that guides much of our work is that technology adoption is increasingly a bottom up proposition. The supporting evidence abounds; think Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Firefox, Cloud Computing, Eclipse, and the consumerization of IT. All of these are successful because they’ve built from the ground floor, often in grassroots fashion. So the question we pose to you is this: you may have analysts that help you understand top down. Who do you have that does bottom up? Copyright © RedMonk, LLC 2010