Dole Gets A Fresh Perspective On IT With Application Performance Management

For Dole Food Company, the ability to produce, transport and deliver fresh fruits and vegetables around the world is its heritage and its future. Vital to these operations are a number of mission-critical applications, including an ERP system, an equipment and pallet tracking system, and Dole's Maritime Port Management system. These applications must perform at optimal capacity at all times. To ensure that happens, the company has implemented an end-to-end application performance management solu

July 27, 2010

4 Min Read
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For Dole Food Company, the ability to produce, transport and deliver fresh fruits and vegetables around the world is its heritage and its future. Vital to these operations are a number of mission-critical applications, including an ERP system, an equipment and pallet tracking system, and Dole's Maritime Port Management system. These applications must perform at optimal capacity at all times. To ensure that happens, the company has implemented an end-to-end application performance management solution from Compuware.

The system provides Dole with greater visibility into the performance of its systems, according to Trever Scott, director of IT in North America at Dole's Fresh Fruit division. Scott says the solution enables the IT team to more quickly resolve critical issues within Dole's applications and infrastructure environments, which has led to a significant decrease in the number of incidents. The improvements are giving Dole's IT group flexibility to pursue more strategic initiatives. "The reductions of incidents has allowed our IT team to concentrate in enhancing applications and business functions, and executing our long term strategy instead of spending the majority of our time in baseline support," Scott says.

The Dole Fresh Fruits IT group supports 24 facilities, including distribution points, data centers and more than 250 users in the U.S. and Canada. The diversity and growing application and infrastructure complexity was making it more and more difficult to maintain mission-critical system stability. The problem was compounded because Scott and his team had no tools that provided them with an end-to-end performance view. The only real monitoring they had was a hardware monitoring tool from Microsoft that would notify the IT team if there was a problem with the physical devices. It did not monitor the health of the applications, the interconnectivity between the applications, nor the interactivity between the corporate offices and any of the division's remote sites.

"When our customers reported a problem we reacted and would attempt to determine which system was causing the problem and troubleshoot where the problem was originating," he says. "We had no visibility about the real-time performance of our application and systems. We only had after-the-fact information for system performance and qualitative information about the application."

Dole first began testing Compuware's Vantage, which is designed as a top-down approach for monitoring and measuring the end user's experience, in early 2008. Vantage leverages synthetic and real end-user transaction monitoring as well as in-depth Java and .Net application analysis and server performance management. It can be set up to monitor and measure from the distributed, front-end environment to the mainframe. Dole had initially reviewed Vantage a year earlier but then re-engaged Compuware because of what Scott says were problems the company was having with some business critical applications. Scott and his team wanted to see if the tool set could help them with root cause analysis.Scott says during subsequent use of the Compuware software, Dole Fresh Fruit was able to uncover several issues. "For example, we were able to determine that the slow performance of an application was being caused by some queries that needed improvement or redesign. We found that the Quality of Service setting for a key distribution location was not correct, and low priority was being given to business-critical transactions," he explains. Dole also discovered that, after running tests on some of its remote networks, the communications to one of the terminals was not functioning as well as originally thought. Traffic was heading to the terminal, but there were no expected responses. Tests were run with other locations and Dole found that many of the remote sites were experiencing similar problems. Ultimately, it was discovered that that the communication links within the multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) cloud had not been configured properly with Verizon, Scott says. "Verizon looked into the issue and found that the routing tables were not properly configured," he says, adding that once the problem was uncovered it was quickly resolved. Dole also was able to determine remote locations that had insufficient bandwidth allocations.

By the fourth quarter of 2009, Dole had completed implementation of Vantage. Since then, the tool set has helped Scott and his team "identify accurate performance baselines within our communications links and critical applications, find the trouble spots before our customers experience down time, and provide a clearer end-to-end view of how are applications and systems are performing." For instance, they have discovered ineffective and slow-running queries as well as an incorrectly configured NIC card. They have also found and fixed network services that were not optimized and were causing non-critical applications to consume more bandwidth than mission critical applications.

"By viewing some of the data points from the Compuware tools, we have been able to quickly identify system performance issues. This has led to simple fixes or minor enhancements, dramatically improving end user experience and application processing times," Scott says.

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