AppDynamics reduces troubleshooting time of NetApp storage from days to minutes

Skanska is one of the world’s leading project development and construction groups, concentrated on selected home markets in Europe, the United States and Latin America. As one of the ten largest global construction companies, Skanska employs around 57,000 people worldwide and aims to be a leader in quality, green construction, safety, and business ethics.

Challenge: Needed to track performance in virtual server environment

To get higher utilization of the infrastructure supporting its business applications, Skanska shifted to virtualization of its storage environment using NetApp solutions. It houses more than 100 terabytes of storage over NetApp FAS3270 arrays across two data centers. Peter Dorrington, Backup and Storage Specialist at Skanska, works as part of a team responsible for the network and storage of about 400 virtual machines.

“We’ve probably emptied about two-thirds of our data center of physical servers now in a massive virtualization project,” said Dorrington. “From both a green- perspective and cost-perspective, we’re trying to virtualize whatever we can — so to say storage is critical for our virtual environment is an understatement.”

It was immediately apparent when there was a storage lag, however difficult to pinpoint the cause of the slowdown or if the problem was due to storage with the tools available at the time. “It could take a few hours to a whole day to work out what the problem was,” said Dorrington.

One night when troubleshooting, Dorrington found a better way to manage performance – The AppDynamics Platform. 

The AppDynamics Platform provided increased visibility into storage issues

“I was actually working late one evening to troubleshoot problems on our old filers. Again we were having horrendous latency problems,” recalled Dorrington. While waiting for some work to complete, he did a quick search on application performance management (APM) solutions, and came across AppDynamics. 

“We’ve pretty much got it to the point now where we can confidently say within 10 to 15 minutes what is causing the problem.” 

He decided to download the free trial, “It looked very simple, I managed to download and install it in less than 20 minutes.” The free trial was, “Up and running and it was monitoring one of my filers at that point?I honestly couldn’t believe how simple it was to install. 

Skanska didn’t need to embark on a lengthy APM evaluation process because the AppDynamics solution provided them with what they wanted. Skanska installed the AppDynamics APM solution in the NetApp storage environment to monitor the administrative interface to the storage devices. 

“There are so many bells and whistles involved with NetApp—snapvaults, snap mirrors and single instance storage,” said Dorrington. With the AppDynamics solution in place there was a better understanding of the processes and how they interacted with each other, which helped to pinpoint the sources of performance problems. 

Identified system latency earlier and faster

“We’ve pretty much got it to the point now where we can confidently say within 10 to 15 minutes what is causing the problem,” said Dorrington about performance issues associated with storage. 

For example, when latency problems were impeding the successful deployment of a new voice system, Skanska turned to the AppDynamics solution. 

“We no longer had to watch for these errors in real-time; the software has helped us massively. It’s a big improvement.” 

 “We identified that there were some snapvaults that were running at a specific time and the way we’d configured them was causing very high latency, moving the snapvault target to a volume on a different head massively reduced the latency and the problems have pretty much gone away.” With the help of the AppDynamics APM solution, the root cause of the problem was found and fixed before the new system went live, which was critical to its success.

As with the voice system example, Skanska used historical data provided by the AppDynamics APM solution to identify problems at all hours as well as recognize performance trends. This meant, “we no longer had to watch for these errors in real-time; the software has helped us massively. It’s a big improvement.” In addition, Skanska used the reports generated by the AppDynamics solution to make informed decisions about capacity planning and infrastructure updates.

In conclusion, Dorrington would recommend the AppDynamics APM solution to, “Anybody with one or more NetApp severs to look after — we rely on it.”