KHS major innovation plans required the replacement of all obsolete systems and enhanced network management efficiency.
“All modern enterprises’ operation systems, business strategies, and marketing strategies are closely related to IT. Therefore, the IT department must support the front-line staff with all kinds of information and services to help their colleagues and managers make decisions more precisely,” said Peter Tsao, Manager of the System Operations Department at K.H.S.Musical Instrument Co.,Ltd.
Peter Tsao’s team has done just this while KHS has doubled the company’s profits and market value per capita with the existing labor force in just five years – a goal set by CEO Liang, Qinqui. As well, the IT department has launched and fully implemented data center virtualization and introduced next-generation ERP systems. During the course of these two projects, KHS has also upgraded to Ipswitch’s WhatsUp Goldnetwork management platform for precautionary purposes.
Conversion from Legacy to Modern Systems
KHS is not a listed company and does not have a holding company structure. To meet the diverse needs of all customers, the company has set up subsidiaries in a variety of places with different types of business. The business, financial, and IT units of KHS’ subsidiaries all operated independently. Ten years ago, the corporate group incorporated all IT operations into the IT department at the headquarters. Since then, the company has been confronted with the challenges of heterogeneous system integration as well as related problems.
In the past, each subsidiary purchased their own PoS systems and ERP software from different brands to meet their individual needs. After the integration of the IT operations at the headquarters, the IT department has had to manage a variety of PoS and ERP systems. The different data logic used by each subsidiary also gave the IT department a hard time organizing data warehousing logic. In 2012, the IT department launched data center virtualization with ERP introduction scheduled for 2015. They realized they must get rid of all obsolete systems and achieve higher network management efficiency to provide comprehensive support for their new application environments and systems.
After the completion of the major innovative plans, the IT department decided to improve IT productivity and network management efficiency with new tools. This means the replacement of their open-source OpenNMS network management software. “Configuration of open-source software was difficult,” said Peter Tsao. When problems occurred, the company could only rely on the IT staff’s experience and knowledge to identify whether the problems were related to network, hardware, or operating system. In addition, maintaining open-source software was timeconsuming and troublesome. The IT staff must spend a lot of time learning whenever the company needed to add new equipment or set up the systems for special needs. These requirements imposed a heavy burden upon the time and manpower of the IT staff who were already terribly busy with solving end users’ problems and system issues and carrying out improvement projects.
Since OpenNMS was only used to perform basic functions, the IT staff could not understand whether a problem was caused by application performance, the operating system, or an interrupted service when applications or operating systems failed. Following the completion of the virtualization project in 2014, KHS went on to introduce the nextgeneration ERP system in 2015, renovating all of the business critical applications in the company. The entire adoption process of the new system, from introduction to completion, required a transition period of one to two years, thus doubling IT staff’s workload. “To achieve the goal of reaching double profits and production value per capita with existing manpower, the IT staff must focus on work with higher value. Therefore, we must shift to a new suite of software that is easier to use with a more intuitive configuration,” said Peter Tsao.
During the evaluation of the new network management solution in 2014, KHS realized that IT staff needed to maintain more systems after the new ERP system came online. Therefore, they needed more efficient network monitoring software. The evaluation of the new systems focused on three aspects. The first was software support ability. Support for all internal IT systems including servers and application systems must exceed 90%. The second was an intuitive management interface that was easy to configure and operate. The third was a low total cost of ownership, including future maintenance expenses.
Agile and intuitive management with WhatsUp Gold
“With a large market share, Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold provides an agile and intuitive interface, making configuration and management extremely easy. This is why we chose WhatsUp Gold, “said Peter. During trial runs, the IT department tested the software with several scenarios such as sending alerts upon system failures or rebooting the system when service errors or interruption occurred. Not only had WhatsUp Gold successfully proved its capabilities, it also monitored SQL Server databases deeply, helping managers find database bottlenecks. These benefits were why KHS chose WhatsUp Gold.
In October 2014, KHS installed the standard version of Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold network management software along with the APM (Application Performance Monitoring), WhatsConfigured (configuration backup and change management), and WhatsVirtual (VMware virtual environment management) modules to manage all equipment at KHS and its overseas branches.
Since then, the range of management has significantly expanded from networks to applications systems. Besides wireless and wired networks such as Cisco core switches, edge switches, wireless APs, and firewalls, WhatsUp Gold also helps manage the operating system and VMware ESX servers where CPU, memories, and disk I/O are constantly monitored. The software can detect the IP address of the storage equipment and makes sure the equipment operates properly. It also ensures stable operation of the application systems that have been moved to the cloud. Network traffic including traffic from major network equipment such as core switch ports, firewalls, and dedicated network interfaces is also monitored.
So far, Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold has provided many critical IT and business benefits:
- Reduce troubleshooting time by 80%: in the past when network monitoring capabilities were not as capable, it took the IT staff nearly half day to locate the cause of problems after users reported system failures. “Now, the IT staff can pinpoint low application performance, shortage of server capacity, or network downtime from the dashboard of WhatsUp Gold, thus reducing their troubleshooting time by 80%. With higher efficiency, we can free up manpower for more important work, allowing the IT staff to focus on implementing projects, doing other work, or improving processes,” said Peter Tsao.
- Locate system performance bottlenecks quickly, predict potential problems and solve them proactively: besides monitoring hard disks and sending alerts when the storage capacity is running low, WhatsUp Gold also monitors SQL server databases and other key application systems using the APM module. An alert will be issued when the value of the monitored parameter exceeds its threshold, allowing the IT staff to prevent problems from occurring.
- Manage configuration changes of network equipment effectively: using the WhatsConfigured module to manage configuration changes of the network equipment, the headquarters can identify changes made by the IT staff at a specific branch that is not compliant with standard procedures. Peter Tsao also emphasized that any unscheduled changes will influence the system as a whole and lead to a serious impact as all infrastructure equipment is connected with each other.
- Enhance virtual environment management efficiency: VMware vCenter only provides basic monitoring functions for guest operating systems such as CPU memory utilization. The Ipswitch WhatsVirtural module provides more convenient management capabilities as it is directly connected to vCenter. The module can collect all detailed data pertaining to a guest OS. The data is processed seamlessly without the need for complicated configuration work by IT staff.
- Increase customer satisfaction by solving problems in 30 minutes: before the introduction of the new system, KHS had difficulty finding and solving the problems when the in-store IT equipment broke down. For example, the cash register could not issue invoices immediately or the member system could not work properly, leading to customer complaints. With the WhatsUp Gold network monitoring system, the company can solve the problems in 30 minutes, hence a significant increase in customer satisfaction.
- Manage online shops efficiently: in the past, the IT staff might not be able to learn about system failures or website performance declines in real time due to poor system monitoring capabilities for online shops. As bad news travel fast, failing to solve the problems in time could jeopardize company reputation or cause revenue losses. By monitoring the availability of online shops with WhatsUp Gold, the IT staff can now be free from these worries.
In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, Peter Tsao has constantly kept an eye on the development of the software. Apart from new functions, WhatsUp Gold’s management interface has constantly improved. Therefore, the company has upgraded to the 16.3 version in 2016. KHS has manufacturing, sales, and R&D capabilities and Ipswitch’s solutions are expected to help KHS achieve higher efficiency and create more value by offering vertical integration services from manufacturing to sales, R&D, and distribution