Steel Manufacturer Scales IT System Monitoring by 100 Percent, Boosts IT Control
"Of all the tools we looked at, System Center Operations Manager was the most flexible, the easiest to use, and offered the most comprehensive functionality for managing our heterogeneous environment."PDF Download
After merging two departments into a single group, ArcelorMittal Bremen needed a way to consolidate its IT system monitoring tools. The company also sought to increase the efficiency of its IT operations by shifting to a management model based on improved visibility into system health and performance data. ArcelorMittal Bremen chose to deploy Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, along with the Veeam nworks Management Pack for VMware, to centralize monitoring of its critical infrastructure. Now, the company’s IT team is able to extend monitoring to non-Microsoft systems across physical and virtual environments. With this solution in place, ArcelorMittal Bremen has increased the reach and effectiveness of its system management functions without the need to expand its workforce or invest in multiple monitoring solutions.
ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest steel maker, producing more than 74 million tons of steel each year. With operations that span more than 60 countries, the Germany-based company retains its strongest market presence in Western Europe.
Originally founded as Mittal Steel in 1989, ArcelorMittal was formed in 2002 through the acquisition and union of three independent steel companies—Aceralia, Arbed, and Usinor—along with Mittal. Over the past several years, ArcelorMittal has faced the challenge of consolidating existing and newly acquired assets—everything from factories to IT systems.
In particular, the organization’s IT department has searched for a way to simplify and standardize its technology infrastructure without compromising IT service level agreements. One of the IT team’s essential mandates is to support the production of steel 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by guaranteeing the highest levels of availability for critical systems. These include automated instrumentation and control systems for blast furnaces and other production line equipment. “To meet this goal, we need comprehensive, fully integrated system monitoring capabilities,” says Roy Braad, IT Coordinator for ArcelorMittal Bremen, a subsidiary with approximately 3,500 employees.
In 2007, ArcelorMittal Bremen combined the IT functions of two departments into a single group. Previously, each department relied on its own separate system management tools, which would have been too costly to manage. However, after the groups’ IT functions were combined, the limitations of using their disparate sets of tools quickly became apparent. “We had no common interface, no way to standardize our monitoring rules, and no way to produce consolidated reporting,” says Braad.
This challenge was compounded by the complexity of the company’s IT infrastructure. “Many of the services we support rely on interdependencies among multiple systems and databases,” says Braad. “For example, the applications that we use to handle our logistics processes run on one set of servers, but the databases for those applications run on separate servers. Without a unified view across these different systems, it is extremely difficult to find and fix problems that could impact application performance.” As a result, the IT team often had to react to critical incidents, rather than employing a more systematic approach to troubleshooting faults before they progressed.
Moreover, ArcelorMittal Bremen maintains a heterogeneous IT environment. The IT team manages more than 2,000 client computers and upward of 300 servers, including a sizeable number of virtual servers that operate on VMware ESX hypervisor technology. The team needed a way to synchronize management of VMware virtual servers and physical servers running different operating systems, including UNIX, Linux, and Windows Server 2008.
To address these challenges, Braad and his team began searching for a holistic system management solution—one that offered a consolidated view of system health and event data across both physical and virtual environments. The team’s selection criteria included interoperability and straightforward synchronization with cross-platform systems, as well as role-based security and service level monitoring capabilities.
Braad and his team evaluated a number of system management options, including CA Unicenter Network and Systems Management, Microsoft System Center Operations Manager, and HP OpenView. “Of all the tools we looked at, System Center Operations Manager was the most flexible, the easiest to use, and offered the most comprehensive functionality for managing our heterogeneous environment,” says Braad.
ArcelorMittal Bremen deployed Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007. The company recently upgraded to System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2.
ArcelorMittal Bremen can use the solution to centrally manage its non-Windows virtual environment. IT staff are using the Veeam nworks Management Pack to track virtual machines provisioned through VMware ESX software. Built on System Center Operations Manager, the Veeam nworks Management Pack provides comprehensive health monitoring of VMware components through the Operations Manager console, eliminating the need to deploy and maintain a separate monitoring framework for these assets.
“The Veeam nworks Management Pack enables us to drill down to a specific virtual machine to analyze and solve problems before they affect steel production,” Braad says. “One particular memory problem on a virtual server that hosts application testing and development was unrecognizable until we installed Veeam. Since the Veeam nworks Management Pack integrates seamlessly with System Center Operations Manager, it helps provide end-to-end monitoring of the entire IT infrastructure.”
The team is also taking advantage of the redesigned administrator console in System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to monitor its critical workloads and systems through an easy-to-use and flexible interface. Braad appreciates the ability to modify views of the console, which enables administrators to focus on only the IT resources they manage. The company capitalized on this capability by linking System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to the Active Directory service, enabling role-based access to key solution components. “Role-based access incorporates an important security control into our monitoring processes,” says Braad.
Braad also uses alert filtering—an enhancement in the latest release of the software—to limit the number of automatic notifications his administrators receive. “We’ve depended on these notifications, and alerts have been a key feature for us since we first chose to deploy System Center Operations Manager,” says Braad. “But in previous versions, it was all or nothing when it came to alerts. Now, we have granular control over the conditions that trigger notifications.” Moreover, staff can now choose how they are notified, opting to receive alerts by email, instant message, or text message on their mobile phones.
Service Level Tracking
The IT team at ArcelorMittal Bremen will capitalize on the enhanced service level tracking capabilities in System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to identity which monitored IT services are meeting performance targets. Because Braad and his team can define benchmarks for the individual components of each IT service, they can definitively diagnose and address the root causes of noncompliance before they escalate.
Through the administrator console, they can quickly view performance and availability metrics, analyze trends, and create detailed reports. The company is currently implementing the Service Level Dashboard, a solution component that simplifies the task of creating operational data reports and sharing this information through a portal based on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.
By using Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 as the centralized resource for monitoring servers and workloads, ArcelorMittal Bremen has streamlined its system management infrastructure. Now, with fewer monitoring tools to maintain and an improved ability to track and report on service level performance, the company’s IT team is better equipped to support business goals.
Boosted Proactive Support by 60 Percent
Through its adoption of System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, ArcelorMittal Bremen has gained enhanced visibility into the health of its critical IT infrastructure. Specifically, by taking advantage of centralized access to dashboards and reporting tools through the administrator console, Braad and his team have been able to transition to a support model built around IT service delivery, rather than reactive incident response. Now, approximately 80 percent of the team’s activities are concentrated on projects and the team is able to focus on such management tasks as routine system maintenance and process optimization. Before deploying System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, the team spent only 20 percent or so of its time on such tasks. “Ultimately, we can provide better, more responsive service to end users, keep them connected to the applications they need, and keep our critical systems up and running with reliable consistency,” says Braad.
Increased Monitored Services by 100 Percent Without Adding Staff
By consolidating on a single monitoring solution, the company has automated redundant processes and eliminated the need to maintain multiple management tools. This, in turn, has significantly eased the burden on IT staff. In addition, Braad uses the ability to customize alert settings and precisely calibrate the scope of monitoring activities to help administrators concentrate their efforts on the systems they are responsible for tracking. “Because we can scope our monitoring by system group, administrators can find the information they need with fewer clicks.” says Braad.
Furthermore, because System Center Operations manager 2007 R2 provides prebuilt management packs and connectors, the company is able to use the solution’s familiar, extensible tool sets to monitor systems across diverse platforms. As a result of these efficiency gains, Braad was able to double the number of systems, applications, and services that his IT team monitors without adding staff.
Tighter Alignment of Business and IT Operations
The mission of Braad’s team has always been to support the production of steel at ArcelorMittal Bremen—24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, through the use of System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, the team is better equipped to meet this formidable challenge. By capitalizing on such capabilities as service level tracking, administrators can quickly measure the performance of IT service components against availability goals. They can then create consolidated reports and custom dashboards based on this data, which executives can access through a web portal. “The ability to make this kind of operational data available to the business in a current and consolidated format is an important benefit,” says Braad. “It creates opportunities to better align our service delivery with the company’s global business strategy.”
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