For more than a decade, Interactive Data, which has about 2,500 employees, has been delivering information services to financial institutions, traders, and software and service providers. To support the business, the financial services information provider operates data centers in Hayward and Burbank Calif., that have 1,800 Microsoft Windows and 250 Linux servers from HP, IBM and Oracle, as well as about 100 Tbytes of information.
During the summer of 2010, problems started to arise in its data center. "Servers were crashing on occasion, and we weren’t sure why," says Carlos Cabrales, network engineer at Interactive Data.
As the company expanded its services in early 2011--and with it, its data center infrastructure--the outages became more frequent, to the point that they were adversely affecting the business. Customers rely on Interactive Data's fixed income evaluations, reference data, real-time market data, trading infrastructure services and fixed income analytics to make decisions about how to maximize the assets under their purview. Because financial services is such a competitive marketplace, clients expect needed information to be available virtually around the clock. The glitches were diminishing the firm’s customer service and increasing the likelihood that clients might go elsewhere.
Since the problems were random in nature, there was no clear solution. The firm tried tweaking its management tools, to no avail. "We needed more visibility into the performance of our servers but weren’t sure how to easily accomplish that," says Interactive Data's Cabrales. Because of fiscal constraints, a potential solution emerged slowly. "Our IT budget has been really tight during the past few years," says Cabrales. One reason is a changing corporate profile. In July 2010, Interactive Data, which had been a public company, was acquired by investment funds managed by Silver Lake and Warburg Pincus. The buyers were looking to improve the bottom line, so all investments faced a time-consuming and difficult cost-justification process.
Buying a new management system was out of the question. For more than decade, the IT department had been using WhatsUp Gold, a monitoring and management solution from Ipswitch, which has been in business since 1991 and boasts 100,000. Interactive Data used WhatsUp Gold to set thresholds on different devices, collect performance information and monitor its computer infrastructure from a central console. The system’s alert management system enabled data center technicians to respond to problems in real time.