What is our primary use case?
Our primary use case for Performance Management is the health and performance of our networks. To be able to baseline, trend, historically view performance information, as well as to see in real time how the infrastructure is performing relative to what our expectations are.
It's performed really well. As a matter of fact, when we deployed it, right out of the box we were able to stand up Performance Management within two weeks, in our production environment, with full discovery and relevant information, actual information, that we could use in our command center, our 24/7 operations center.
To date we've been very happy with it, and we also use CA's Mediation Manager so that we can bring information in from non-traditional network gear, like layer 1 telecom transport, among others, using various protocols, and translate the legacy protocols to give us performance information for infrastructure that we haven't been able to see before.
How has it helped my organization?
The one thing it has helped us with, we're not in a completely predictive state at this point. Everybody wants to get to predictive now - analytics - and be able to stop the problems before they happen. What I will say is that we have been able to get a little bit better at seeing more things in real time and more just in time, so we're less reactionary.
What is most valuable?
The out-of-the-box dashboards, in terms of being able to visualize performance data in ways that we haven't in the past. As opposed to lines of threshold alerts or indications of degradation, we're seeing from a graphical perspective this information that's coming in, and visualizing it in a way that helps us to make better decisions.
What needs improvement?
I'm still working on consuming all the features that I have today, so ask me this again in a year. I would say right now, we're in the midst of adaptation and adoption with this tool, so everyday it seems like there's something new I'm discovering that helps us in our business.
I think it would be helpful having a more comprehensive set of certifications, if you will, so that I could natively deploy devices to my environment and the tool would immediately recognize and immediately be able to provide relevant performance information without a lot of tuning on my part.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
It has not been installed for a terribly long time. But, over the last 18 months we haven't really had any issues. The platform is stable, the application is intuitive, the way we use it is very simple, relatively speaking, so no problems with stability.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Scalability is yet to be determined, as we continue to build out our infrastructure. But so far, as we've been adding new portfolios, new domains, we haven't had any challenges with regard to the performance of the tool as it's managing additional devices in our environment.
How are customer service and technical support?
I have not used tech support. I know our teams have, on a couple of occasions, regarding reports that weren't necessarily coming out they way they were expecting, or with some changes to how the application was laid out. From what I've heard the tech support was beneficial. It was quick. It was timely. No issues.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
Lifecycle came into that. We had an old tool. It was either refresh and get new hardware, update to the current version, or look at alternatives, and other solutions that were in the market. So we took the opportunity, based on our standard lifecycle driver, to look at various tools. We had some other tools that were native in our environment and did a comparison between several different solutions. And ultimately settle with CA.
How was the initial setup?
I think what surprised me the most was how easy it was to implement. This was my third migration for manager's console over the last 20 years in IT, and the previous two iterations made me fearful for this new migration. Just because of the amount of work that goes into tuning the alerts and insuring that the data is visualized in a way that operators and consumers of it are expecting. Quite honestly, within two weeks we had live data, we had actionable information, and our operations were so much easier.
That was the most surprising thing to me, was how easy it was, with initial implementation, to get data out of the tool. Now there's optimization, and additional tuning that we're going to do, and continue to do. But, just getting it up and running was very straightforward.
The complexity was the back office systems, and the compliance, and security points that we have to live under, and finding a way to connect those in a secure way. That was the hardest part. Once we had the back office installed, the discovery and utilization went off very straightforward.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
There were several.We had the IBM product, we had SolarWinds, and we had CA in our environment as well. So we evaluated all of these tools relative to the requirements from our 24/7 operations and for our tier-3 support teams, and made the decision to go with CA.
One of the key requirements was this notion of off-the-shelf capabilities, and the requirement for us to be able to use the tool, to use dashboards, to use reports, to be able to performance manage our solutions, without having to go in and write scripts, without having to build up reports, without having to search for data. This native capability out of the box was one of our prime requirements.
We had all of the technical requirements that you need for other tools. Does it speak natively, and standard protocols? Does it have certifications for all of the vendor models that we have in our environment? All those kinds of typical requirements.
For us, the ability to use the tool immediately, whomever we went with, was one of our main requirements. We wanted to be able to deploy the tool and make good use out of it without having to send teams to two weeks of training, and then go back and try to figure out how to use what Performance Management gives us.
What other advice do I have?
In terms of criteria when selecting a vendor, for us, one of the most important is our partnership and their strategic outlook. A tool's a tool. You can buy a hammer that looks like a little different from the other one, but they all effectively do the same thing. Which is not to say that this tool doesn't have its benefits. There was a reason we selected it. But I think having a strategic partnership with a vendor, over the long term, has an interest in making your business successful. We have long-standing relationships, and that was a positive when it came time to make a decision.
I would say it's a solid eight out of 10 right now.
Given our success in our presentation and our being able to use it right away, I think that the capabilities that it brought to our business - we were able to replicate the capabilities that we had in our old environment, almost immediately. And then we were able to realize the additional features, the native reporting, the additional baselining in our environment. We started to be able to use enhancements over our previous tool set right away.
For any tool to come in and be able to do what the business needs and what it has been using, foundationally, is the requirement for it to be considered successful. For us, it was a little bit more than just successful, because not only did we replicate the capabilities that we had, but we were also able to realize some of those additional features.
My tenure with the tool probably doesn't give me enough time yet to say it's a 10 out of 10. I do have more expectations for the tool. As it continues to scale, to meet our requirements, as we're able to bring in additional legacy technologies to baseline, with time maybe it could be a 10. But I think today it's very successful and we're getting a lot of use out of it.
As we continue to bring the new operation technologies that are out there, as we see how long this manager is able to incorporate these new technologies, in addition to the legacy stuff that has been around, then...
One of the things I mentioned in our discussion earlier, the discussion of certification transparency, I don't want to have to go build a model so that the tool can discover and give me relevant information and then I can take action. The ability for this tool to be able to discover and communicate with those new technologies that are coming is going to be one of the areas we're going to be watching.
This solution is definitely worth an evaluation, whatever portfolio - whether it's data networks, or telecommunication, wireless - I think that my coaching or recommendation would be: Don't overlook this tool just because it's incumbent, it's a big name, it's a tier-one brand. There is a cost when you try to cut costs. Nothing is free, you get what you pay for, and I think this solution has paid us full dividends.