Fallon Clinic upgrades management software

Clinic spends US$24m on two management software apps

Fallon Clinic spent US$24 million on a network upgrade, and Susan Paul was darned sure that money would be well spent.

The director of IT infrastructure followed the 2005 network upgrade - from a small 256Kpbs frame relay connection to 10Mbps Ethernet-like transparent LAN service to 26 locations - with another investment in network management software.

Founded in 1929, Fallon Clinic is one of the largest private multi-specialty medical groups in Massachusetts. The organization, which supports up to 150 servers, 2,000 desktops and 280 doctors servicing those 26 locations, depends on healthcare-specific applications, which must meet strict service-level agreements (SLA).

"Some of things we needed to do involved migrating from a shared hub to a switched LAN at each site, installing new servers, updating computers," Paul explains. "But I also immediately recognized he we needed to invest in software to monitor service levels across applications, servers and network elements to prove we were successfully meeting our SLAs."

Fallon Clinic did its due diligence, examining products from vendors including BMC, Concord (acquired by CA), Heroix and NetIQ, and chose two management software applications from Heroix. Paul says she decided to invest in Heroix EQ, an agent-based monitoring product, and Heroix Longitude, an agentless monitoring product, because the software was "easy to use, configurable and customizable."

"I chose Heroix because it seemed best suited to meet my needs to understand how the network and systems were behaving," she says. Paul reports that as recently as Labor Day, Heroix software helped her staff keep the network up and services available. At that time the Heroix eQ software automatically paged a network engineer about a downed service on the organization's Exchange servers. Seems a Trojan had been infiltrating the network and slowly installing itself on the company's servers and desktops. Fallon was able to remediate the problem using Heroix by identifying the computers that were infected and pulling them off the network, she says.

The company's eQ Suite comprises agents, which reside on every PC, server or application that needs monitoring, and a server-based console and an SQL database to collect and store agent data. EQ Suite components can run on a variety of systems, from Unix, Linux and Windows, to NetWare and OpenVMS. Once the software is installed, users can set the eQ console to warn them of problems via e-mail or pass along an alert to a larger manager-of-managers system such as HP OpenView, CA Unicenter or IBM Tivoli. The console can also kick off an automated response to a problem, such as a system restart or removing certain files to improve memory space, the company says.

"We discovered this on Sunday and were able to immediately respond," Paul says. We went through a clean up process so that by Monday night the network was clean and running fine. We would have been totally paralyzed when people came back to work Tuesday if we didn't get that alert."

The second application, Longitude, is used to monitor the performance of Fallon Clinic's Citrix servers, Unix application servers and enterprise databases. Longitude is installed on a dedicated server and uses industry-standard APIs to collect data from managed machines. The management software collects data from servers, operating systems and applications - and routers and switches.

Paul, who says the reporting features were key in her selection, also produces weekly performance reports for upper management with Heroix. She'd like to see a bit more flexibility in those features in future releases though.

"I really wanted to be able to customize reporting a little more so I could show executive management just what they wanted to see and not everything," She explains. She says a recent upgrade of the software (Fallon has been using it for about a year) to the newest version could address those issues. "This release seems to have more configurability for the SLA reporting. We are doing some of it manually now because executives don't want to look at the whole thing, and we can provide snapshots."

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