Information technology officials at the Department of National Defence are using a software solution that constantly scours the department’s central data centre and instantly alerts system administrators of any technical problems.

IT officials within DND say they cannot begin to quantify how

much time and money the PATROL software — developed by Texas-based BMC Software Inc. — saves the department. Cost-savings are increasingly important as IT budgets across the board are constantly squeezed and managers are forced to do more with less, says David Pearce, director of national information systems at DND.

“”The bottom line is there are no additional resources to work with,”” he says. “”(Nevertheless), the requirement keeps going up and up to deliver to the field and to the users out there.””

Users include those stationed in 40 different locations around the globe, including the Golan Heights and Afghanistan, says Pearce.

PATROL is capable of monitoring every part of the system from DND’s data centre at Canadian Forces Base Borden in Ontario to any of the overseas stations that the centre serves.

The system comprises a big part of the secure wide-area network that is maintained by one of DND’s sister organizations that specializes in setting up overseas communications centres. Users log on to the secure network much like the Internet. If PATROL detects a problem with CFB Borden’s portion of the network, it will instantly alert system administrators in Ottawa via pagers and automatic phone calls, says Pearce. As PATROL sends out the alert, it also locates the problem, which speeds up the repair job, he adds.

“”If a CPU, memory or disk failure occurs, then PATROL can start the recovery action right away,”” says Robert Quevillon, manager of client services at DND.

The same is true “”if a database runs out of file space, or some of the processes in the server takes over the machine and the (server’s) response time becomes terrible,”” adds Quevillon. “”Those system administrators would know instantly.””

Especially important for overseas stations are human resources databases, says Quevillon. If a problem ever arises with these, it is serious business. But it’s also something that can usually be fixed before the client becomes aware of the problem, he says.

Before the software was deployed, “”the administrator of an NT or UNIX box would have to log in every morning to check (the system), spending two or three hours looking at everything to make sure it’s OK,”” recalls Quevillon.

“”We use the tool to take away the drudgery of the day-to-day logging in and checking everything,”” agrees Pearce.

“”Without these tools, it would take three times as many people. “”With an automated tool like this, we’re able to manage a lot more and grow without having to grow in people. It’s an avoidance of cost as opposed to a savings in cost.””

Pearce emphasizes that PATROL does not completely eliminate the need for the human element to systems monitoring. In fact, the software is only as good as the people who run it. Accordingly, there must be at least one person within DND who knows how PATROL operates.

But because of the software’s reliability, more IT workers can be redeployed with diagnostic tools to go fix problems located by PATROL instead of watching a screen all the time, Pearce says.

One of the nice things about PATROL is its compatibility with Windows 2000, NT and AIX, he says.

The software’s common feel also makes it easier for someone to look at certain parameters of a problematic part of an operating system without recognizing the specific commands for each platform, adds Pearce.

Human Resources Development Canada has been using BMC’s Perform and Predict solutions, which provide real-time historical analysis with graphical reports, as well as predictive modelling that illustrates resource constraints for users and applications.

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