Navy center adopts SnapReports to streamline monitoring

Navy center adopts SnapReports to streamline monitoring

Team remotely manages 1,500 client systems using app and Microsoft Systems Management Server

By Drew Robb

Special to GCN

The Naval Air Warfare Center's Aircraft Division has adopted SnapReports from Aelita Software of Powell, Ohio, to automate and streamline reporting processes. The application replaces reporting software that is bundled with Microsoft Systems Management Server.

NAWCAD in Lakehurst, N.J., is the Navy's fleet support center. The division develops aircraft systems and shipboard communications.

NAWCAD, in Lakehurst, N.J., is the Navy's full-spectrum research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support center. It handles several functions: design, development and engineering of aircraft systems; shipboard, fixed and mobile communications; and related information technology systems.

'NAWCAD is the steward of the ranges, test facilities, laboratories and aircraft necessary to support the fleet's acquisition requirements,' said Rear Adm. Joseph W. Dyer, NAWCAD commander. It is also home to the Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Md.

NAWCAD uses Microsoft Systems Management Server to remotely manage 1,500 clients. SMS automatically gathers information on each networked computer's hardware and software and makes this data available to the network administrator. It can be used to monitor computer and applications use, to install new software or upgrades and to debug any configuration problems throughout the network from a single console.

SMS is used to maintain and modify desktop systems at NAWCAD-Lakehurst. In total, the facility uses 10 consoles running SMS to monitor and maintain its network.

Check under the hood

Even though SMS plays an essential role in maintenance, its reporting functions were lacking in horsepower, said Chris Healy, a senior network analyst at NAWCAD. For instance, SMS required Healy to generate a full report for each server, but the predefined reporting capabilities were too basic for his needs and offered little in the way of customization, he said.

Healy first tried getting the information he needed from the reporting software that ships with SMS. After finding that inadequate for enterprise tasks, he upgraded to the full developer version of Crystal Reports from Seagate Software of Scotts Valley, Calif., and augmented it with the reporting functions of Microsoft Excel and Access.

Crystal Reports let him combine various server reports into a compact listing of information. Further, it provided much of the advanced system and network information required by NAWCAD, he said.

Although this process was a significant improvement over the basic reporting functions of SMS, Crystal Reports proved too limited in customization choices for NAWCAD. According to Healy, it gave a detailed shotgun blast of all system data and made the facts difficult to absorb. Such volume and complexity can be valuable to computer programmers and IT veterans, but the agency needed reports that were immediately decipherable and a product that could be precisely customized in automated reporting formats and gave immediate responses to ad hoc queries.

NAWCAD adopted SnapReports to simplify the reporting process and make data easily accessible. The interface was simple to understand, Healy said. It includes, for example, user-definable names for data fields that substitute technical terms that may confuse readers. Further, the agency's technicians were no longer saddled with the jobs of generating reports and customizing their output but could delegate those tasks to workers with less expertise. NAWCAD also found SnapReports useful in its selection criteria. Staff can quickly select the data they need and print out or display precisely tailored documents. Once such a report is configured, it can then be automatically generated whenever it is needed.

'As SnapReports remembers query parameters, it saves a lot of time in report generation,' Healy said. 'It also gives me instant access to the part of the report that is already generated. With so many clients running over our network, I'm using it every day for a variety of small, medium and large reports.'

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