Case Study

Search Application Provider Finds Better IT Performance Using Longitude

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 From enhancing the experience of online shoppers at Borders Books, to improving the design process at John Deere, to helping the National Cancer Institute provide faster access to information about cancer, Endeca software helps people find what they are looking for, so they can make better decisions and buying choices from large volumes of information. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the search applications company commits itself to helping its customers reduce costs, improve productivity, and increase visibility and revenue. Endeca's powerful, agile software has won the KM World Magazine's "2009 Trend Setting Product of the Year" award six consecutive times and earned the company numerous honors including a spot on Inc. Magazine's "Inc. 500 fastest growing private companies."

The optimal performance of Endeca's IT infrastructure is crucial to the success and continual growth of their enterprise. The IT department supports a diverse array of business applications, ranging from corporate email to compute-intensive engineering processes to high profile sales demonstration platforms. The underlying IT infrastructure is spread over nearly 15 locations and defined by both virtual and physical servers running Linux Red Hat, Windows 2000 through 2008, and VMware ESX, as well as several storage clusters with over 100 terabytes of data. In order for the IT team to consistently deliver top services to Endeca, they require ongoing monitoring of the entire infrastructure; from their customer-facing front-end servers through the back-end engineering workload.

Searching for the Best Monitoring Solution

When Endeca sought a comprehensive, flexible, enterprise-class monitoring solution that would enable them to stay in front of problems and avoid downtime, they considered Heroix Longitude along with several other well-known products. Longitude quickly stood out from the field and in the end provided the best solutions for Endeca. Craig Wedge from the Network Operations team explains, "We were immediately impressed with Longitude because of the feature set and ease of use. It took us no time to get it up and running and discovering our environment." Director of Infrastructure Peter Smith adds, "We found Longitude's workflow very conducive to making both broad, sweeping changes as well as rapid, small incremental changes to our monitored objects. We don't need to sift through hundreds of objects to apply a change. It is very intuitive and provides a very simple means of getting that accomplished."

Longitude Ranks High with Broad, Deep Monitoring Coverage

Longitude's broad monitoring coverage allows Endeca to apply it to all aspects of their multifaceted IT environment. Smith explains, "Everything from engineering workloads and the systems that the engineering group relies on straight through to the presentation demo servers that the sales group relies on, are all monitored by Heroix." For example, Endeca's high profile sales demonstration systems require monitoring of transactions, ports and CPU time on Unix servers, as well as parsing logs, sending SNMP traps, and checking Syslog.

One of the most critical elements of Endeca's IT infrastructure is I/O on their shared storage system, where a sudden spike in usage has the potential to bring a range of applications (and business activities) to a grinding halt. Endeca uses a VMWare configuration that runs on NFS. While the configuration has been highly beneficial, it presents one of the classic challenges of managing a virtualized environment - with hundreds of virtual machines, how can IT staff quickly and accurately map I/O utilization to the virtual machine(s) consuming it? Smith's solution for Endeca: "Heriox [Longitude]. It's the only place where we can get disk I/O alerting or statistics to determine which VM or VMs are consuming all of this bandwidth on our storage system. And that is critical to our operations, absolutely critical."

Longitude's end-user experience monitoring has also proven indispensible to Endeca. This is accomplished by defining an internet macro that can be played back at intervals to simulate and monitor the end user experience through synthetic transactions. End-user experience monitoring helps Endeca's IT team prioritize alerts by providing perspective on which issues are likely to be noticed by end users and which only impact IT. Wedge cites a recent problem they were able to diagnose and fix even though it only occurred on every fourth or fifth click, making it difficult to isolate and recreate. Longitude located and alerted on the error, saving hours of trial-and-error troubleshooting. This visibility across their environment allows the IT team to maintain high business service levels with the company and make good decisions on how best to utilize both IT and personnel resources.

Harnessing Information to Serve a Global Business - Today and Tomorrow

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are an aspect of Longitude that Endeca uses to maximize and document the delivery of business services both within IT and to the wider organization. Endeca leverages two key aspects of Longitude's SLAs: First, underlying IT components - virtual machines, CPU utilization, memory, I/O, DNS, Active Directory, transactions, and more - are mapped to the business centers and activities they support, such as the lab environment or the sales demonstration infrastructure. Second, Longitude translates technical performance metrics into a color-coded, graphical presentation of system health that, says Smith, "is palatable not just to the technical folks, but also the end-users. They can actually look at this and understand precisely the status of their systems."

Looking ahead, Smith's team plans to expose Longitude's SLA displays directly to end users and partners as part of a company-wide service status dashboard. Smith explains, "By providing partners and other end users the ability to view the overall health of their particular application, we give them a valuable self-service tool. By consulting the dashboard, they can quickly tell if the system is down and we're working on it; otherwise, it's probably an issue on their end, and they'll investigate further before calling our help desk." Besides empowering end users and reducing help desk calls, this will help Smith's team sleep better at night - literally - by reducing unnecessary middle-of-the-night calls from offshore partners operating on different sleep schedules.

As Endeca continues to expand its business and the demands on IT grow with it, Smith has complete confidence that Longitude will continue to meet any challenge that arises. "You simply cannot appreciate the depth of this product upon first exposure, it's not possible. The amount of detail and granularity is breathtaking. Once it's leveraged, you consistently discover one new feature after another and you just start to understand that, 'Yes, I probably can do that with Heroix.'" Wedge concurs, "Longitude is integral part of our lives now; it's become so important."

Praise from the Endeca team does not end with the software. Wedge cites "the level of knowledge, amazingly accurate replies, and quick response time" of the Heroix support engineers who "have gone above and beyond our expectations. Bar none this is the best support we have worked with." Smith agrees, "To be perfectly honest, my favorite part about using Heroix is interacting with the support organization. I can't imagine ever saying that about support but I truly feel that way about Heroix. We deal with support groups day in and day out and we've never had the type of experience that we have with Heroix."

Learn more about Heroix Longitude and the service level agreements (SLAs) that helped Endeca.