Consolidating Performance Monitoring Tools: A Business Case for Financial Services

White Paper

Consolidating performance monitoring tools is an effective way for financial services enterprises to save costs and resources. By utilizing an automated performance monitoring platform they can eliminate redundant tools and their maintenance contracts, as well as resources needed to sustain them. When consolidating to a new platform, they can avoid obstacles by choosing a solution that addresses pain points of individual staff and departments. The end result is a reduction in CapEx and OpEx, a related decrease in risk, and a streamlined path to improved troubleshooting and less downtime.

Too Many Performance Monitoring Tools?

Of all the major business sectors, few depend on the performance of their IT infrastructure more than financial services. Any disruption of service – even a fraction of a second— can result in major cost impacts on both the enterprise and its customers. The use of numerous disparate monitoring tools is common throughout the industry, due to three inherent factors:

  • Legacy systems remain in use because financial services, being numbersbased, were among the earliest adopters of data-based technology, and old tools still work.
  • The proliferation of products and services is endemic to contemporary finance, resulting in custom monitoring solutions.
  • Multiple tool sets result from the blending of two or more IT infrastructures due to mergers and acquisitions, or due to siloed monitoring towers.

While the goal of performance monitoring is to keep everything up and running efficiently, the proliferation of point solution tools is having the opposite effect. Too many can slow down operations with devastating effects. For example, if it takes five tools and as many staff to isolate an issue among applications and/or components, wouldn’t a single tool that monitors all five elements identify the problem in one-fifth the time?

In other words, how many performance monitoring tools are too many? Isn’t it time you considered the benefits of tool consolidation?

This white paper examines why consolidation of performance monitoring tools is critical for the financial services industry, what obstacles exist to achieving that goal, and how to choose a monitoring platform that’s right for your enterprise.

“EMA research has consistently found that IT organizations have too many network management tools in active use. The typical large enterprise uses 6 to ten tools, and some have reported using as many as 25. These numbers do not even include so-called shelf-ware. This approach to management is not efficient. No network management platform will ever provide 100% of the functionality that an IT organization needs, but EMA advocates that enterprises consolidate network management tools as much as possible for streamlined workflows and faster time to insight.”
-Shamus McGillicuddy
Senior Analyst, Network Management, Enterprise Management Associates, Inc.

The Benefits of Tool Consolidation

General market conditions in the ever-evolving financial services industry have led to a proliferation of tools. More often than not, firms use several overlapping tools to monitor performance of their networks and infrastructure, thereby duplicating effort and wasting resources. The simple fact is you are losing money by not consolidating your redundant and disparate tool sets.

Yet, consolidating tools also yields a host of benefits beyond the basic cost savings achieved by the elimination of overlapping functionality and redundant maintenance contracts:

  • CapEx Reduction — Tool consolidation can reduce the high costs of the hardware needed to support individual tools. It can also soften the investment through realized cost savings.
  • OpEx Reduction — Cutting back the resources needed to support duplicative monitoring features from multiple vendors can yield significant savings in operational costs by optimizing efficiencies and streamlining operations.
  • Improved Responsiveness to Line of Business — Line of business requests from the types of companies financial services deal with (wealth management, capital markets, retail, wholesale banking, asset management, insurance, etc.) depend on transparency from the infrastructure team. Consolidating tools allows financial services firms to respond more quickly and with full transparency to line of business requests.
  • Collapsing IT Silos and Data Sources — By reducing the number of people required to support multiple tools, consolidation frees up resources and staff for other pursuits. Less people administering tools means there will be more staff developing innovative solutions to increase revenue and customer satisfaction.
  • Improved MTTR — Reducing the number of tools can minimize the mean time to repair (MTTR) by giving troubleshooters a single source of truth to investigate and speeding up identification of the root causes behind issues.
  • Risk Reduction — Consolidation can mitigate risk before issues arise, thereby minimizing the possibility of service disruption and resultant user impact. Improved visibility in infrastructure management leads directly to a clearer understanding of when performance may impact the customer base.
  • Faster Time to Market with New Services — Consolidating tools allows you to implement new services quickly, all in one place. From implementing desktop services to setting up branch offices, consolidation aids in application migration, and establishes before-and-after baselines to help analyze the impact of change in the environment.

The larger the organization, the more granularly the infrastructure will have grown, and therefore the greater the need to reduce redundancies. In brief, transitioning to a single, all-in-one, automated performance monitoring platform can reduce the number of tools you currently use by 50% to as much as 80%.

Overcoming Resistance and Choosing the Right Platform

From a leadership perspective, tools consolidation is not an easy decision because you’ll likely encounter initial resistance among the ranks, especially from those who will lose their favorite tools. This resistance stems from three main personnel-related sources:

  • Staff in traditional independent IT silos have their own tools, like them, and want to keep them.
  • Managers have their longtime favorite tools and reports.
  • Mergers and acquisitions staff bring their own tool sets and are reluctant to give them up.

Non-personnel impediments can be even more daunting. Existing tools may be tightly integrated into larger relationships and other platforms, such as integration management, manager of managers, reporting solutions, and more. A new platform must match or supersede existing individual functionality, such as NetFlow or capacity measurements. Plus, the costs of breaking ties with vendors who supply product-specific tools may significantly inhibit change.

You need to develop a groundswell around the resistance by demonstrating to others that the change will be good for everyone. And, the best way to get others to champion the changeover is to choose the right platform for your organization. If you do, the team should come around pretty quickly. Why, you ask? A change that is right for your organization will reduce both costs and risk, and will introduce a wealth of new functionality. In the aftermath of a wise choice, staff will welcome the improved troubleshooting that will make their jobs easier while also reducing MTTR.

The right platform is the one that best addresses your main pain points. It should have a small hardware footprint, be able to handle tremendous scale, reduce the number of application instances (which will save money and reduce administration costs), and be able to visualize and correlate metric, flow, and log data in a single platform. It should also provide access to the API for no additional cost, include rapid device certification of new technologies for SNMP polling, and poll new devices quickly

In short, the right platform is a single source of truth that brings added and enhanced functionality, which surpasses that of the old tools, and solves monitoring problems your current tools cannot.

No platform will do 100% of monitoring tasks, but the right platform can accomplish approximately 80%. The remaining tasks are often best accomplished by individual point tools. These point solutions are clearly essential in some cases. However, you can also use the overview from an allin-one automated monitoring platform to alert you to changes that may need to be examined and addressed by specific point solutions.

Remember: there’s no need to consolidate all the tools all at once. Executing conversion in stages frees up staff to pursue new technologies and vendors, and helps them become accustomed to the new platform.

Rationale for Changing to a Monitoring Platform

Identifying the pain points in your current performance monitoring platform — or collection of tools — is the first step in determining what improvements you need. Cost savings and risk are always incentives for change, especially when you need new hardware or have identified security vulnerabilities. But any one of the six areas of concern shown in the chart below justify changing to a comprehensive performance monitoring platform.

To make the business case in your organization, look to your individual line of business. Attach the solution to an issue and then get into the specifics of solving the problem.

For example, trade and brokerage firms need polling at rates unavailable with traditional tools, and they also want to be able to visualize metrics associated with network latency. Retail banks need a single page view of the infrastructure to identify bottlenecks. The value of knowing application traffic and end-to-end performance applies to all sub-verticals in finance.

Six Pain Points for The Financial Services Industry:

1. Speed/ultra-low latency — Financial services firms require optimum performance from their network to support online transactions, especially when involved in high velocity trading, which scans dozens of public and private marketplaces simultaneously and processes millions of orders per second.

2. Availability of online business — The financial sector rarely conducts business via the phone, opting instead for the Internet. Insurance claims processing, retail bank access and stock trades — are all supported by the network. Hence, availability of these real-time interactions with the public directly impacts revenue.

3. Consolidation — Mergers and acquisitions over the past 15 years resulted in mass consolidation of the financial services market. Today, financial services organizations must deal with data center consolidation. A side effect of mergers is a plethora of performance monitoring tools brought by the different IT teams. A single performance monitoring platform can eliminate the majority of these tools and their redundant functionalities and overlapping maintenance contracts.

4. Complexity of global networks — Top investment banks are global entities with data centers across many geographies that support dozens of lines of business. They require a platform that can support massive scale distributed across their branch offices and data centers.

5. SDN — The promise of Software-Defined Networking poses an unknown to many organizations. Financial services firms, along with service providers, have taken the first steps into this realm in an effort to enable greater agility across their infrastructure.

6. Security and DDoS Attacks — Distributed Denial of Service attacks that target online banking portals and credit card payment gateways pose a tremendous threat to financial services firms and the security of their customer data. Performance monitoring can confirm service availability.

Reliable reports support business decisions, and offer insights based on KPIs you define. An effective platform will collect any time series data, regardless of source, and seamlessly integrate it with other metrics, such as SNMP and IP SLA. You want the capability to view any object’s metrics down to one-second granularity, with zero degradation to the speed of reports, no matter the size of your monitored domain. Ingestion of daily log volumes greater than a terabyte is possible, with flows-per-second in the millions.

Perhaps your organization wants to optimize network performance to meet application delivery SLAs and reduce risk, or to increase competitive standing through technology. Or maybe you need to provide LOB’s visibility into the delivery of network services to ensure timely understanding of current outages.

These performance monitoring “upgrades” are possible, and often necessary. But, they will happen only when you replace an unrelated set of tools with a comprehensive performance monitoring platform

The Urgency for Consolidation Verus the Initial Cost

Changing to an automated, all-on-one monitoring platform is not without cost. Even when ROI is substantial, as in this case, initial cost justification is mandatory. When weighing the cost, take into account what you’re currently paying in ongoing professional services fees to get your existing software to do what you need it to do, or to integrate disparate systems. Your PS/ integration costs could be unnecessarily high.

Also consider the cost of any open source solutions you may have deployed. Free is not really free. You don’t really want to be in the software development business, do you? Moreover, there’s a significant resource cost to open source tools, and you might be paying a vendor for the “enterprise” version of these tools in order to ensure support for your organization.

In addition to the benefits of a comprehensive monitoring platform already noted, there’s another urgency to consolidating tools: you need to replace homegrown tools before you lose the people who know how to use them. And instead of spending several man-days every month pulling together data from that collection of discreet vendor tools you currently use, think about the ease of doing it all at once, automatically with the right platform. Is it worth the risk to wait until two of the ten people you’ve been using to do this monthly laborintensive task leave the organization? Besides the gap left behind, there are the demands of hiring and training new people.

Lastly, think about the urgency to consolidate tools in this way. A problem is occurring, something new, an incident you haven’t seen before. Rather than configuring up five tools to identify the parameters of the issue, wouldn’t you rather employ one comprehensive tool that lets you discover what’s wrong? You could be troubleshooting the case much faster by using one performance monitoring platform to create unprecedented reaction speed for your organization.

Consider SevOne's All-In-One Performance Monitoring Platform

When seeking a performance monitoring platform that will help your organization in many ways, including tools consolidation, SevOne is an obvious choice. It has already been selected by many of today’s most prestigious financial services firms, including 8 of the top 13 global investment banks and exchanges like NASDAQ.

SevOne has extensive experience helping all segments of the financial services industry. To cite a few:

  • When a high profile network outage in August of 2013 halted trading on a major stock exchange, SevOne stepped in to help ensure such a disruption would not re-occur.
  • When a global investment bank approved a global IP SLA architecture project to install shadow routers in each global data center, they ran a fully meshed latency and jitter monitoring configuration across multiple QoS queues with SevOne as the core monitoring and reporting tool.
  • A leading investment firm specializing in wealth management used SevOne’s integration of SNMP and NetFlow to provide better visibility between utilization and top consumers across international WAN links, including connectivity to exchanges.
  • . A corporate bank needed a single solution that could scale to support their 55,000-device global network and provide a truly global view across all geographical operations centers around the world. Specifically, they were drawn to SevOne’s 10-day device certification, high availability, efficient data collection for all the devices in a sub-minute polling cycle, and fast reporting to replace overnight reports.
  • A global insurer adopted a new shared services model across all business units with SevOne as the sole performance management solution. SevOne replaced a suite of seven disparate tools that had been in place following the acquisition of five different companies. With complete visibility over the entire IT infrastructure, the company lessened MTTR, improved VoIP call quality between all subsidiaries, eliminated IT infighting, and provided reporting on a regional and business unit basis for their internal customers.
  • A large retail bank used SevOne’s metric-to-flow capability to identify and stop anti-virus updates being pushed during the business day, saturating bandwidth and impacting the performance of branch applications.

Enterprises in the financial services industry that want to replace multiple monitoring systems with a consolidated console need look no farther than the SevOne’s all-in-one platform. Those that want an aggregation point for multiple types of data will benefit from its flexibility in creating dashboards and reports that incorporate a variety of data types.

When you manage a global network, you never know what might go wrong. Ask yourself: do you have visibility into everything? You can’t let the sheer volume of machine data on your network dictate what you will and won’t monitor. SevOne was purpose-built to handle massive amounts of data, providing speed at scale. The best way to ensure 100% availability of businesscritical apps and services is to monitor everything. Then create baselines for that data, define alerts, and report on any performance deviation.

Your networks don’t operate on a minute-by-minute basis. So why monitor them that way? Financial services firms — especially those who operate or access trade networks — require sub-minute polling to detect microspikes that may temporarily disrupt services. Those micro-spikes typically go unnoticed at legacy polling cycles, leaving you in the dark about what’s going on with your infrastructure.

One of the greatest assets of SevOne’s all-in-one performance monitoring platform is its ability to combine multiple monitoring functions into a consolidated platform with a single pane of glass for viewing all key performance metrics. This greatly improves troubleshooting. A single source of truth eliminates finger pointing and blame games, and gets the team to work at once, with resolution of the issue in record time.

Isn’t it time to put IT tools to work for you instead of the other way round?