Before starting using Server Density, the Ambulance Service had been experiencing intermittent performance issues with their 999 and 111 systems. Even though core service was not impacted, to avoid a more widespread issue any performance problem has to be investigated as quickly as possible. As part of the emergency services, it is an essential requirement that their infrastructure stays up at all times and that its performance isn’t impacted.
The IT department is small and did not have time to spend configuring and deploying a complex on-premise product which would also need ongoing maintenance and redundancy. The requirements included flexible alerting and out of the box coverage of key system metrics, particularly around availability and performance.
- Saving time with a hosted product: The Ambulance Service needed something which required as little time and effort as possible to set up and maintain. Their IT department needs to organise their time efficiently, which meant Server Density as a hosted product was a perfect match, removing the need to deal with performance, maintenance, backups and monitoring of the monitoring.
- Tiny agent footprint: The Ambulance Service were having problems finding a monitoring agent that was lightweight enough to continuously monitor without impacting the existing server performance. They were able to install the Server Density agent package with a single command, get it posting back in seconds and have it run continuously without it affecting their performance.
- Intuitive UI: Having a tool with a great web UI was very important when evaluating monitoring products. It is crucial that all important metrics can be seen at a glance, particularly on dashboards. The Server Density UI has been designed to be fast, responsive and simple to navigate which means the right metrics are displayed when they’re needed.
- Dashboards: The Server Density dashboards create a completely custom overview of your infrastructure. They have enabled the Ambulance Service to see the performance of all servers related to a particular system on one page, rather than jumping between different screens. This makes it easier to see how events correlate with the different servers used by each system.
Ultimately these dashboards are changing how the Ambulance Service look at operations - moving the process away from reacting to problems, towards working harder to correct issues before they become a problem. This has had a positive impact on the number of requests logged with the service desk and narrowed down the cause of performance issues with the 999 and 111 systems, which was impacting the ability to deliver the level of patient care that the NHS aims for.
- Alerting: On multiple occasions the Server Density alerts have helped the Ambulance Service to avoid potential downtime and highlight issues before they were affecting users. In particular, the out of hours alerts have been useful to ensure their systems stay up 24/7. Just recently, alerts for low disk space allowed the IT team to proactively migrate data to other areas, avoiding downtime for critical systems.
What they've learnt
With the help of Server Density, the Ambulance Service have found better ways to utilise their existing hardware by consolidating servers, and identifying systems that can be virtualised. In addition to cost saving, this has reduced their carbon footprint.
The Ambulance Service currently run a mix of physical and virtual servers:
- 19 Hyper-V hosts running about 60 virtual servers and their Citrix XenDesktop pools.
- Dell PowerEdge R715 and HP ProLiant DL360p servers for their Hyper-V hosts.
- ~35 physical servers which are also a mix of Dell and HP, with specs that range from single 4 core processors with 4GB RAM, to 16 core processors with a couple of hundred GB of RAM.