Recently, VU University Amsterdam decided to standardize its IT infrastructure. It deployed Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to monitor its global IT environment. However, service-desk employees found the large amount of technical data furnished by the monitoring solution time-consuming to decipher. VU deployed Microsoft Visio 2010, which links directly to the monitoring solution through the Microsoft Visio 2010 Add-in for System Center Operations Manager 2007. The solution simplifies the complex data stream from the monitoring solution with dynamic, intuitive diagrams that are continuously refreshed with current data. Now the service-desk employees can expedite support, provide more proactive service, and offer a more reliable computing experience for the 25,000 faculty, staff, and students that rely on the university’s systems. Situation
VU University Amsterdam was founded in 1880. The university is divided into 12 faculties, each offering bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in many fields. Although VU University Amsterdam had a central service desk, the bulk of the IT function was fragmented across faculties until very recently. “Each of the 12 faculties had its own IT department and its own IT administrator,” says Roy Coumans, Universitair Centrum-IT, Process Coordinator at VU University Amsterdam. “The disadvantage was that IT tasks were repeated over and over again, which was very inefficient and costly.”
||Without Visio 2010, all you have is data. With Visio 2010 we are … achieving faster resolution time and less downtime for our faculty, staff, and students
Universitair Centrum-IT, Process Coordinator, VU University Amsterdam
Due to the decentralized IT infrastructure, it was difficult for the central service-desk employees to manage support calls and troubleshoot incidents across the campus. “In the event of an incident, we were dependent on the department administrator to get the matter resolved, even though our service-desk staff might easily be able to solve these types of incidents,” says Coumans.
In 2009, VU University Amsterdam eliminated redundancy in the IT department by creating a single, central IT organization called the Universitair Centrum-IT (UC-IT). “VU wants to be a real innovator in the field of education and research,” says Coumans. “We needed our IT department to get abreast of the current IT trends and standardize our technology services and platform to run more efficiently and cost-effectively.”
To achieve these goals, the university, with advice and help from IT partner Advantive, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, deployed Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2. VU University Amsterdam uses System Center Operations Manager 2007 to provide end-to-end monitoring of all university servers, applications, and clients. The health state data provided by the 15 servers running System Center Operations Manager is key to the VU University Amsterdam IT department’s ability to rapidly respond to events that can impact the availability of IT services critical to faculty, staff, and students.
While the new monitoring solution delivered unprecedented visibility into the university’s IT environment, the amount of information it provided through email messages, alerts, and reports threatened to overwhelm the IT staff. This information came in text-based email messages and .pdf reports or through the System Center Operations Manager 2007 console. Some of the data was difficult to interpret, and IT staff spent a lot of time collating the information that arrived in various formats. Coumans began to think about ways to make the many technical messages more decipherable to the service-desk staff.
“System Center Operations Manager 2007 issues many technical alerts, but analyzing them is very time-consuming,” says Coumans. “A picture works faster and often says more than a thousand words.” Solution
VU University Amsterdam found a simple solution to this problem with Microsoft Visio 2010 Professional diagramming software. The VU University Amsterdam IT staff could use Visio 2010 to visualize the complex technical messages provided by System Center Operations Manager 2007, including data showing the current health state of the university’s computers, databases, and websites.
||The integration of Visio 2010 and System Center Operations Manager 2007 turned our IT department from a reactive into a more proactive service organization.
Universitair Centrum-IT, Process Coordinator, VU University Amsterdam
“The university opted for Microsoft Visio 2010 because this software can be integrated best with System Center Operations Manager 2007,” says Willemjan van Laarhoven, Co-owner and Consultant Architect at Advantive. “Because of the high level of integration between Visio 2010 and System Center Operations Manager 2007, the technical installation went very smoothly.”
The university also became an early adopter of the Visio 2010 Add-in for System Center Operations Manager 2007, a free* download from Microsoft. The Visio 2010 Add-in works with Visio 2010 to simplify the creation of customized visual dashboards that show the health of the university’s environment. Advantive helped with the rollout of the Add-in and created a diagram for VU University Amsterdam that provides a clear understanding of email traffic across the network so that service-desk staff can monitor traffic and address latency issues. The email diagram is dynamically refreshed with real-time data.
“Outgoing and incoming email messages are queued up one by one for delivery,” explains van Laarhoven. “As soon as this queue reaches a certain maximum level, a ‘high-water level’ is triggered in System Center Operations Manager 2007. This is signaled with a visual alert in Visio 2010. As soon as space has been freed up in the buffer, this alert is dynamically returned to the normal status.”
IT staff can also use Visio 2010 to create other dashboard views. With Visio Professional 2010, the IT staff can visualize the information coming in from System Center Operations Manager 2007 into dynamic, data-driven Visio 2010 diagrams so that service-desk employees can easily decipher and interpret the health data of the university’s environment. “The nice thing about Visio 2010 is that it not only displays the data graphically, but it also continuously refreshes the data from System Center Operations Manager 2007, in real time,” says Coumans.
Today, service-desk employees use the solution to see the current status and the daily operations of the network environment in quick, easy-to-understand dashboards. A green checkmark means that everything is up and running, while a yellow triangle signals an alert and implies that the administrator needs to investigate the situation. (See Figure 1.)
|Figure 1 - VU University Amsterdam service-desk employees save time |
deciphering the health data of the university’s systems with Visio 2010
dynamically updated dashboards.
To easily share Visio 2010 diagrams and dashboards, VU University Amsterdam is taking advantage of Visio Services in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, which extends the reach of these intuitive data-linked visuals across the university. With Visio Services in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Visio client software is not required to view and interact with web diagrams; it renders data on all support staff devices and terminals. In one click, employees can publish a Visio diagram to a SharePoint site so that support staff on the service desk can view the diagram in their browsers, anytime, anywhere. Benefits
Using the new data visualization solution from Microsoft, VU University Amsterdam rendered a technically complex and large environment more visible and understandable. It is now easier for the service-desk employees to improve support for the entire academic community. VU University Amsterdam expects to realize significant long-term cost savings by reducing redundant IT tasks and downtime for university employees.
Access to Dynamic Data Saves IT Staff Time
Today, the service-desk staff is bringing real-time monitoring and alert information to life with dynamic, data-driven diagrams that are connected directly to System Center Operations Manager 2007. The interoperability between the two products adds value to the investment that the university originally made in its monitoring solution. With Visio 2010 diagrams, the university’s IT staff is spending less time deciphering the complex data from Systems Center Operations Manager 2007 and more time on keeping faculty and staff users productive.
“Visio 2010 can display and continuously refresh the data of the underlying System Center Operations Manager system in real time, so my team has complete visibility of our complex systems,” says Coumans. “My team can now respond in seconds on errors.”
Simplifies Complex Data to Enable Proactive Support
The 25 staff members on the IT service desk use Visio 2010 diagrams to visualize the daily operations of the university’s IT environment. “Without Visio 2010, all you have is data,” says Coumans. “With Visio 2010, we are seeing errors in the system within mere seconds and achieving faster resolution time and less downtime for our faculty, staff, and students. Our goal is to spend less time on administration and more time on innovation. We are accomplishing that with Visio 2010.”
For example, the diagram that Advantive created for VU University Amsterdam provides a clear understanding of email traffic across the network, so that service-desk staff can and address latency issues before university staff notice that email service is slow. (See Figure 2.)
|Figure 2 - Visio 2010 simplifies information about the health of the university’s|
IT environment, so IT staff can resolve issues before they impact faculty and staff.
“Visio 2010 does this automatically, thus simplifying the detection of threatening email problems and allowing for a timely intervention,” adds Coumans. “Besides email, other aspects of the IT environment have become clearer, so we gain end-to-end monitoring of our environment. We can now see very easily in a diagram the status of our firewalls, client access servers, edge servers, hub servers and which hard drives are reaching capacity.”
With better access to more information presented in intuitive Visio 2010 diagrams, the service-desk staff is delivering more proactive IT services so that the faculty, students, and staff can enjoy a more reliable computing experience. “The integration of Visio 2010 and System Center Operations Manager 2007 turned our IT department from a reactive into a more proactive service organization,” says Coumans. “Now that the support staff can see issues arising before they affect the faculty and administrative staff, we have seen a 30 percent reduction in computer issues that stop people from working. We are maintaining 99.9 percent server uptime and almost 100 percent uptime from the perspective of our end users. That’s good news for everyone at VU!”
*Access to and use of the Internet may require payment of a separate fee to an Internet service provider. Local and/or long-distance telephone charges may apply.
Microsoft Visio 2010
Microsoft Visio 2010 takes diagramming to a new level with dynamic, data-driven visualization tools and templates, enhanced process management capabilities, and advanced web sharing. Combine real-time data from multiple sources, including Microsoft SharePoint lists, Microsoft Excel 2010, and Microsoft SQL Server 2008, into one powerful diagram using vibrant graphics like icons and data bars. Use subprocesses to manage processes and to validate rules and logic to ensure accuracy and consistency across the organization. Design workflows in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and, without using code, export them to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for real-time execution and monitoring. Share refreshable, data-linked diagrams over the web with anyone, even those who don't have Visio 2010.
For more information about Microsoft Visio 2010, go to:For More Information
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