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No IT environment works flawlessly. But as the scope and complexity of an environment increase, it often becomes hard to find the cause of the hitch. The National Pensions Office (RVP) solved this challenge by starting to use Compuware APM. Belgacom was responsible for the implementation.
The RVP takes care of the calculation and payment of employee pensions and guaranteed income for old people. The institute also pays out pensions to self-employed persons. In 2011 it concerned an amount of more than €1.5 billion for 1.8 million pensionable people. For several years, the RVP has been carrying out a radical IT project. With the project, the service is transferring all applications for the calculation and payment of pensions from a mainframe to an open environment. The 180 employees in the RVP’s IT department are doing this themselves. When necessary, they are assisted by temporary consultants. The process resulted, among other things, in greater pressure on the IT infrastructure. “The concrete impact was hard to estimate in advance”, says Luc Coppens, General Advisor at the RVP. “Capacity planning was a challenge. At the same time, the existing monitoring no longer sufficed.”
The whole determines the user experience
As the development department of the RVP completed more aspects of the new IT environment, the number of performance problems increased. Coppens: “Everything worked well, but the user experience sometimes fell behind, particularly due to longer response times.” The complexity of a distributed environment is sometimes a lot greater than that of a mainframe. This did not make it any easier to find the cause of the performance problems. Troubleshooting took a lot of time and effort. The members of the infrastructure team, who had to focus on these problems, could not concentrate so fully on their basic tasks. “It was clear that we had to switch to a different structural approach: to end-to-end monitoring with the experience of the end-user as a starting-point. Because, even if you measure the achievements of network, servers, storage and other components individually, even if they each turn out to function correctly, the IT environment as a whole determines the user experience.”
There were two concrete proposals in response to the restricted invitation to tender published by the RVP. Belgacom suggested carrying out end-to-end monitoring with Compuware APM (Application Performance Management). Coppens: “We asked the bidders to submit a proof-of-concept (POC) within two weeks, that was fully grafted onto our core business applications. Compuware’s solution was already active within two days. The POC, of course, had considerable weight in the further evaluation process.” The solution offers an insight into what happens throughout the application delivery chain. Compuware APM enables the client to look deeply into the application and database servers, even up to code level. “The system can follow a limited number of transactions. It is always operational and thus always sees what is going on. If there is a performance problem, we can completely unravel and solve the cause of the long response times”, Coppens said.
What can be done better?
The RVP wants the new applications to support the business as much as possible. This support depends on the user experience realized by the RVP. Coppens: “The old situation caused frustration at the IT department. Not only was it very difficult to find the cause of a problem; the offered solution often did not lead to a real improvement for the end-user.” With the new system, the RVP has a referee who independently indicates where improvement is possible. “If there is a problem it is also no longer all hands on deck. We can now find and solve the problem very specifically. That way, we can further improve the performance of our new environment – and the experience of the end user.”
The National Pensions Office is a public social security institution. The main office is at the Tour du Midi in Brussels. The RVP has 2,200 employees.
For more information on Application Performance Managment, visit the Belgacom website or contact your Account Manager.
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