Northumbria University, Newcastle, is a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. Based in two of the UK’s best student cities, Newcastle and London, Northumbria has over 34,000 students from over 132 countries and a growing international presence. The University can trace its origins back to Rutherford College in Newcastle in the late 19th Century. In 2017, Northumbria was ranked among the UK’s Top 50 universities by the Guardian and it has also been recognised for its ambitious and cutting-edge digital transformation strategy.
Being always at the forefront of technology, Northumbria decided five years ago that they wanted better insights about the root-cause of an outage. This would not only help them optimize their systems and avoid downtime, it would also help them deliver better services and provide a better customer experience.
Bridging the gaps in the digital future of Northumbria
Northumbria wanted to be more proactive towards infrastructure delivered services. They didn’t want to simply rely on helpdesk calls and tickets to resolve problems which were causing business downtime. The university implemented Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to monitor their highly virtualized environment, consisting of over 700 servers and 7,500 desktops, all centralized in one department. SCOM provided an extensible platform with Management Packs available for a range of situations, plus automated discovery features and Distributed Applications with a low overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
“Live Maps exceeded my expectations and we are now highly proactive in how we manage incidents and problems at Northumbria. The solution gives me peace of mind that we have everything under control.”
Assistant Director (Infrastructure)
From Servers to Services
Whilst SCOM provides deep insight into Microsoft-based Windows environments to monitor and solve issues at the server level, Northumbria wanted to become a service focused IT organization. They required a solution that allows them to see everything in one place and notifies them before something becomes a critical issue. To achieve this, they opted for Savision’s Live Maps to make the move from servers to services. Live Maps’ service-oriented dashboards give Northumbria the context required to visualize and proactively solve issues based upon a business service framework.
“We tried other competitors before Live Maps, but they didn’t save us any time and we were not able to build business services. With Live Maps we do not have to spend countless hours investigating where a problem is.” Phil Aitman, IT Administrator.
When RED isn’t Red, and RED isn’t Bad
Before Live Maps, SCOM Management Packs such as Active Directory (AD) provided huge amounts of alerts and state information on over 2,400 different monitored objects. If a single object turned red, the health rollup of AD meant that the whole service showed as red, when in fact, end-users were not affected at all. Live Maps’ AD out-of-the-box service fixes this inflexibility by sub-grouping all of the objects into three different perspectives: Infrastructure, Application, and End-User. The end result is that issues can be prioritized correctly and the real business impact can be assessed as alerts come in, meaning that SLAs can be created and effectively managed to benefit the business.
“With Live Maps, we know that red doesn’t always mean bad, it means take action. If something goes red, it’s not the end of the world. The team knows it’s there, they can fix it.” Phil Aitman, IT Administrator.
Time for Innovation
Being able to create a stable internal environment with higher service levels, gave Northumbria the ability to embark on a large-scale digital transformation. In early 2017, they deployed a new student portal built using SiteCore and Dynamics in Azure services. The portal is the gateway to the services the University provides: from Blackboard, to assessments and enrolment, plus library and accommodation facilities.
One of the challenges for a SaaS environment is how to monitor this using SCOM and Live Maps, which is primarily used for on-premise monitoring. Live Maps focuses on the End-User perspective as a critical signal for any business service, this can also be applied on SaaS and web-based applications.
Building some web tests and transactions in .Net, Northumbria was able to send the results into Live Maps and measure the uptime and SLAs of their Azure environments to complete a huge digital transformation at Northumbria and achieve 100% uptime in the first month of deployment.
“Live Maps exceeded my expectations and we are now highly proactive in how we manage incidents and problems at Northumbria. The solution gives me peace of mind that we have everything under control. Live Maps makes everything easier and allows us to visualize services any way we want, giving us full visibility and control of our environment.” Geoff Hogg, Assistant Director – IT Services.
“Live Maps makes everything easier and allows us to visualize services any way we want, giving us full visibility and control of our environment”
Assistant Director (Infrastructure)