Probes enhance NMCI

New performance management database alerts officials early to traffic problems

THE NAVY NOW knows where the likely choke points are on its Navy Marine Corps Intranet. And that information is reducing the number and severity of network problems while increasing customer satisfaction.

Col. Lyle Cross, NMCI's acting program manager, said the enterprise performance management database (EPMD) has cut network fluctuations around performance indicators from 10 percent to about 1 percent in a little more than a year.

'We are able to allocate dollars with better information and put them against specific causes,' Cross said.

'It is improving performance and availability across the enterprise.'

EPMD probes the network and collects data in real time. NMCI's vendor, EDS, evaluates the data in near-real time to determine what needs to be fixed or tweaked to improve network performance, Cross said.

The company places thousands of software kernels on devices across the enterprise to obtain a diagnostic view of performance, said Kevin Durkin, EDS' vice president and client executive for NMCI.

EPMD returns data to an online dashboard, and EDS produces analyses to identify one-time issues and continuing problems, said Nate Peaier, EDS' director of customer satisfaction and quality.

The probes compare the network data to a set of performance measures to determine where intranet traffic is slow or where there are potential problems.

As a result, Durkin said, the Navy and EDS know where users are being most affected.

'Initially, we validate what the probes tell us ' whether it is circuit upsizing or upgrading a specific device or something that has to do with configuration management,' Cross said. 'In some cases, if it is a chronic problem, we may need to do more engineering or invest money to fix the problem.'

Cross said a major benefit of EPMD has been improving the user experience. In NMCI's latest user satisfaction survey, for the fourth quarter of 2007, almost 84 percent of the 7,000 respondents said they were satisfied with program performance.

And 66 percent of that satisfied group gave the program a score of at least seven out of 10.

Durkin said EPMD also makes network changes or upgrades easier and faster because it finds the kinks proactively.

'Our goal was to get the environment stable and then enhance usability, reliability and capability across the intranet,' Durkin said.

Some of those capabilities, Durkin said, go beyond the network to desktop management.

EDS and the Navy are using a capability similar to EPMD called the client performance management tool for desktop and laptop PCs.

Cross said EDS and the Navy will implement CPM this fiscal year, focusing on back-office and server deployment and the user interface tool.

'We are also still developing our strategy for how and where to implement it to the users,' he said. 'It will give us a look farther down into the network from a performance perspective.'

This summer, NMCI will provide collaboration tools from the Defense Information Systems Agency's contract, Cross said, including IBM Sametime and Adobe Connect along with Jabber XMPP.

He added that full implementation is scheduled for 2009.

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