Fortune 500 Retailer Modernizes its Network Monitoring with IBM SevOne Network Performance Management

The Business Challenge

The major retailer has experienced rapid growth over the past several years. To accommodate that growth, and deliver a seamless, high-quality customer experience across its physical stores and digital properties, the organization has made significant investments in growing and upgrading its network infrastructure. Their upgrades included various next-generation networking technologies, including SDN in its core network and data centers, and SD-WAN connectivity for its store locations.

While the networking upgrades delivered some of the anticipated operational benefits, network operations were hampered by the limitations of the organization's incumbent network performance monitoring (NPM) system. That system’s inadequacies included:

  • Inaccurate & Excessive Alerting – Because it was not optimized for handling a hybrid environment (part traditional, part modernized), the incumbent system was generating excessive numbers of alerts, the majority of which were false positives. The network operations team did not trust the flood of alerts they were getting, and figuring out which ones to prioritize was a time-consuming, hit-or-miss exercise.
  • Limited Scalability & Associated Costs – The incumbent system’s design was such that each of its NPM servers has limited scalability. Adding more capacity often meant deploying “yet another NMS server” with its associated direct costs to license, and in-direct, on-going costs to deploy and maintain. With this organization's growing network, that per-server capacity limit was making it cost-prohibitive to get the coverage the company needed.
  • Lengthy Polling Frequency – In an effort to manage the increased amount of network performance data from their growing network, the team was advised by their existing NPM vendor to limit their polling frequency to every 15 minutes. That resulted in inadequate visibility into the performance status of network segments and resources. Often times, the network operations team would learn about a network issue from calls coming into their Help Desk – while all of their dashboards were still showing green lights.
  • Reporting Difficulties – Mirroring the incumbent NPM system’s coverage challenges was its poor reporting capabilities. With tools that were cumbersome and difficult to use, it would often take the team 15 - 20 minutes or even longer to generate a needed report. That was in addition to the 15-minutes team members had to wait for updated polling data. Broader or more complex reports on network performance often took the team several hours to produce. That turn-around time was not nearly as fast as the organization needed it to be.

As the company’s network continued to grow and change, adding not only new segments with modern networking technologies, but also more devices and device types, one thing became apparent to the team. Its existing NPM system could not keep up. To manage its network and infrastructure services properly, they needed a modern NPM system.

That’s when the networking team began looking at IBM SevOne Network Performance Management (NPM).

Meeting the Organization's Monitoring Needs

In addition to the incumbent solution, the team had worked with other NPM systems in the past. They all had limitations, including a lack of interoperability, too much administrative overhead, deployment footprints that were too bulky, and implementation requirements that were too complex.

“We learned from our past experiences with NPM systems,” said the organization's Director of IT Delivery and Disaster Recovery. “We wanted to get past all the limitations and deficiencies of those systems. That meant the NPM system we were looking for had to have top-notch functionality, high scalability, lightweight implementation, and it had to be highly flexible and customizable. The IBM SevOne NPM platform exceeded our expectations in each of those areas.”

In a rigorous, proof of value exercise, the team saw IBM SevOne NPM in action. Top features of interest for the team were the platform’s abilities to provide:

  • Fast and comprehensive collection and analysis of multi-vendor network performance data
  • Coverage for more than 10k devices with the ability to add new SNMP devices in 10 days
  • Scalability that has been proven in some of the world’s largest network environments
  • Handle the complex monitoring requirements of next-gen technologies such as SDN and SD-WAN

Supporting Unified, High-Quality Customer Experiences Across Digital and In-Store Channels
One of the organizations' top corporate goals is to maintain and further enhance the phenomenal experiences it creates for customers across all its online and physical channels. This includes not only its main e-commerce site and its retail store locations, but also other customer touch points, such as its ‘ship from store’, ‘pick up at store’, and customer rewards programs.

“Our customer programs leverage a variety of systems and devices, and generate data in various formats,” added the Director of IT Delivery and Disaster Recovery. “To produce a seamless and excellent customer experience across all of our channels, we essentially needed to get our arms around all of the technology and unify all of the performance data in one place. It’s the only way to get that single customer point of view. IBM SevOne NPM’s flexibility, broad coverage, and advanced analytics met all of our needs. And its outstanding, user-friendly reporting capabilities made it easy for our team members and others to share network performance insights to help advance the business.”

Fast & Easy Deployment and Smooth Integrations

After its earlier, clunky experiences with deploying other NPM systems, the team was impressed with how little time it took to get IBM SevOne NPM up and running. In fact, most of the deployment across more than 5,000 of the company’s network devices took just a few weeks. The team immediately saw improvements in several areas of their network operations.
First, they recognized how much the IBM SevOne NPM solution reduced the number of false positives its Network Operations team had to deal with. With far fewer false positives to deal with, the team was able to focus more of their attention and energy on prioritized alerts.
Another aspect that impressed the team was IBM SevOne NPM’ ability to add a dimension of application awareness to their monitoring activity. The Platform’s integrated metric and flow monitoring generated more application-centric context for the observed network activity.

The team also saw how easy it was to integrate IBM SevOne NPM’s functionality with applications that support key IT workflows, including ServiceNow and Pager Duty. Those integrations made it much easier and quicker to troubleshoot workflows to minimize service delivery risks to improve overall operations.

As for reporting, IBM SevOne NPM gave the IT and NetOps teams faster and easier ways for them to produce reports that clearly convey performance insights that can be shared with and acted upon by teams and individuals across the organization.

“We’re very happy that we switched our network and server monitoring over to IBM SevOne NPM,” said the Director of IT Delivery and Disaster Recovery. “It immediately resolved our cost, polling, visibility and reporting issues. Thanks to this platform, we have much faster polling which means more complete visibility. Its customization has enabled us to greatly reduce the number of false positives our team has to deal with. And it has the flexibility required to evolve the deployment as our network continues to grow and change.”

Looking Ahead

Based on their success with IBM SevOne NPM to date, the Director of IT Delivery and Disaster Recovery and his team are looking forward to using it to monitor and manage more segments of its network, and to ensure solid performance of the workflows that rely on integrations with third-party applications. The organization also plans to have IBM SevOne NPM also handle monitoring of its more modern networking technologies as the company continues to expand its SDN and SD-WAN deployments, especially with connections to its stores.

Conclusion

The retail market is highly competitive. In order to survive and thrive, retailers must stay aligned with the changing preferences and behaviors of their customers. And since network services directly support the customer experience, that responsiveness is especially critical for IT and network operations. With IBM SevOne NPM, this organization has this covered. The team knows that it can rely on SevOne’s fast, flexible, and scalable monitoring capabilities to help them meet their operational requirements today – and to adapt quickly to meet whatever changes and monitoring challenges that the future may bring.

Contact Us

To learn more about how the IBM SevOne NPM platform can help your organization to enhance its network monitoring and management capabilities, contact us today at https://www.sevone.com/company/contact-us/.

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