The Province de Liège, the easternmost province in Wallonia and Belgium, offers numerous and diverse services to its citizens, including agriculture, tourism, education, training, health, culture, and sports. In this context, the Province has identified five priority areas: educational and professional development, cultural and sports development, health prevention and social outreach, sustainable territorial development, and support for municipalities and municipal associations.
The mission of the Province de Liège’s IT department is to provide support to all of the Province’s services. Its area of operation covers more than 4000 users at about 80 sites with more than 400 buildings (e.g., administrative internal users, cyberclasses, provincial educational PCs, etc.). The progressive deployment of a global Wi-Fi network (the Eduroam project in particular) will see the number of users connected to the network infrastructure increase by a factor of ten!
Why SkyLIGHT PVX ?
Jonathan Reginster: “Before implementing the SkyLIGHT PVX (formerly PerformanceVision) solution, we were repeatedly faced with user complaints; our teams often found them difficult to analyze (due to a total lack of visibility of network activity at remote sites) and resolve quickly (for want of a tool enabling them to quickly identify the source of performance degradations).
Questions such as “for which applications and which users is the network used? “, “do slowness problems really originate from the WAN? “, or “ should we therefore invest to increase capacity? “ remained unanswered.
Therefore, in 2014, we set a goal of deploying a network performance management solution and application that would meet the following objectives :
- Achieve a clear view of network resource usage (by which users, on what bandwidth, when, for which applications, etc.)
- Be able to identify degradations across all 80 sites and accelerate our capacity to solve any problem reported by users
- Use a unified tool for better collaboration between network teams and systems teams on one hand, and the Province de Liège’s team and software publishers on the other hand
While we were faced with a performance problem at our Malvoz site, we commissioned the Liège-based company abNETWORK, a specialist and longtime Accedian (formerly Performance Vision) partner, to perform a diagnostic procedure. One of our applications crashed in a totally random manner, making the analysis of this phenomenon very difficult.
We had already attempted to solve this problem by ourselves over several weeks, by analyzing the network with monitoring tools such as What’s Up Gold, Nagios or Wireshark, but none of them provided an adequate answer.
While the diagnostic procedure was focused on our Malvoz site, SkyLIGHT PVX quickly allowed us to identify a broader issue with the routing. A redistribution of BGP routes into EIGRP tables caused a definition of sub-optimal routes.
The analysis and conclusions provided by SkyLIGHT PVX confirmed our choice of this tool.“
What solutions have you considered?
Jonathan Reginster: “Today, the Province de Liège primarily uses SkyLIGHT PVX to solve frequent problems in an environment of the size of the Province:
- Diagnostics: In the event of user complaints, SkyLIGHT PVX enables us to quickly pinpoint the source of the problem (i.e., network, server, application, etc.). In this way, we can make an informed decision on which of our internal teams to contact for a quick resolution of the problem; saving time for our teams and users is very important!
- Continuous monitoring of user performances: A daily report is created, which lets us view the constant evolutions of performance and user experience. If a degradation occurs, we can assess its severity, its duration and its impact on users (on which applications and which transactions)
Moving forward, our main goal will be to improve and optimize relevant monitoring based on the analyses that we carry out. The aim is to focus on specific matters based on events detected by SkyLIGHT PVX.
One recent example is a bandwidth usage report which showed us that a specific machine had generated a volume of 900 MB of traffic over a period of two hours. SkyLIGHT PVX allowed us to see that a WSUS server (Microsoft Windows update) had been down for several days. Upon restarting, the server performed a redistribution of updates to the entire IT infrastructure, thus generating this high and unexpected traffic. This incident, detected by our network monitoring tool, was highlighted by SkyLIGHT PVX and is now motivating us to monitor this WSUS more closely.
The same applies to backup routines, some of which, when the scheduled automatic procedure fails, relaunch at inappropriate times (e.g., 800 Mbps of network bandwidth used during peak office hours).
Philippe Pieters, Network Manager for the Province de Liège, adds: “In addition to giving Province de Liège full visibility on network access to our data center and allowing us to solve performance issues more quickly, SkyLIGHT PVX allowed us to uncover other types of problems, such as a large number of DNS queries that were unsuccessful because the corresponding servers were no longer in operation, or configurations which had the side effect of causing a traffic “ping-pong” towards one of our Cloud providers.
These analyses carried out by SkyLIGHT PVX enabled us to correct and optimize a number of configurations.
It is also worth noting that we provide services to a wide variety of users. We must provide a quality service that meets their needs while ensuring an optimal level of safety and services. SkyLIGHT PVX helps us meet these goals by providing us at all times with a clear view of our various applications and their behaviors. Suspicious behavior with a potentially significant impact on the safety and quality of services is automatically detected and its analysis allows us to pinpoint its source and address it quickly.“
SkyLIGHT PVX’s usability, scalability and value made the difference.
After having used the solution for several months, what is your assessment?
Jonathan Reginster: “After using SkyLIGHT PVX for a year and a half, the results are very positive for the Province de Liège. Several weaknesses in the design of our computer network were corrected thanks to the solution. For occasional performance issues, degradations experienced by users are objectified and a more accurate analysis allows us to quickly find their source in order to address them. In the future, SkyLIGHT PVX will allow us to be even more proactive and better target our improvement/optimization points.“
The deployment of larger scale Wi-Fi service and the implementation of BYOD ( “Bring Your Own Device”) will cause the number of network connections to skyrocket (at the moment, we already have an average of 800 simultaneous Wi-Fi connections).
In this context, we already know that SkyLIGHT PVX will be an essential tool in order to continue guaranteeing a good level of service to all our users.
Also, the evolution of our virtualized environment will soon lead us to consider extending the deployment of SkyLIGHT PVX.
Since SkyLIGHT PVX integrates natively and transparently within it, this extension would allow us to go even further in our application tests.“