Over my 20 years in the IT industry, I have worked with a great many monitoring and management tools for IT. Recently (as in the past 5 years), my company has had extensive use and experience with the Nimsoft monitoring tool set. Our team of consultants have deployed this tool for small, local MSP’s to global enterprise users of Nimsoft. In that time, I (we) have isolated a few problems with the product which I wanted to outline here. I also want to share with you the solutions that we have developed as a result.
I want to ensure you understand that this is not a bashing session specifically aimed at the Nimsoft product. The deficiencies we observe with the tool are present in most of the other monitoring solutions on the market. We deploy and consult with companies on a wide range of monitoring tools in the US, Australia and Singapore and have just developed a set of solutions for the Nimsoft platform…hence the focus on Nimsoft here.
While the toolset is very robust and flexible and allows a great deal of customization, we found that it is severely lacking (as is many monitoring tools) with effective reporting and visualization of the underlying IT environment. The current iteration of the UMP (while much better than 2 years ago) is still likely 2 or more years out from being a truly functional tool for business-centric users.
I think the primary reason the tool doesn’t connect with business level decision makers is that it seems to be developed and focused almost exclusively for the engineers responsible for the upkeep of the IT environment. There are no real effective components that have a way of showing the true value of IT to upper management or customers of the IT group. This presents a communication and perception issue. In many situations, upper level executives and/or customers cannot see the value that the IT group is providing, hence a series of cost justification and service negotiations will regularly take place.
Another problem with the current iteration of the tool is that it cannot effectively display related information in a meaningful way (For example, effectively combine important metrics into a single, yet reusable, view). The focus of each “portlet” is individual metric-focused. Having the ability to simply show multiple devices and metrics (in a functional way) does not exist. Anyone using the “Performance Reports” knows this. Visualizing more than 3 or 4 metrics on one chart is out of the question. We have all pulled our hair out over this type of view:
Yet, even if you do limit the amount of devices shown, the view really isn’t useful to anyone beyond only a few metrics:
What can you actually gather from this example?
Mixing somewhat unrelated information together in a single view is another shortcoming. How effective is the tool in showing an application along with related dependencies and their overall health? Take our “Incident Report” that is showcased on our BI page as an example. Typical monitoring tools are incapable of relating that type of information effectively. Recently, we were asked to show performance metrics across a 50 host ESXi environment. The out of the box tools provided simply could not handle that type of high-level, large scale resource analysis.
If only the people paying the bills could see the real value of IT and we could help technicians drill though the noise of the tool to see what they need to really work on.
I challenged our group of developers and consultants to fix this problem…with a few caveats:
I didn’t want to have to leverage additional tools (only use what is currently available with a standard Nimsoft implementation).
The output needed to be multi-tenant compliant.
The information presented needed to be able to bridge the gap that exists between technical and business centric focuses.
I wanted to be “wowed”
The idea was to see if we could take our collective experience in all of our prior consulting and custom report/dashboard design and develop a series of pre-made, easy to implement reports and dashboards that would overcome the weaknesses described above.
I am proud to announce that the group has exceeded my expectations. By leveraging the existing reporting back-end tools, mixed with their combined experience in dealing with customers around the world, they have developed a series of reports and dashboards geared to give true insight into an IT environment.
Starting with a robust set of reports around analyzing alarm trends in Nimsoft (something that saved two of our clients over 5 man-days per month of manual effort) to a set of concise capacity planning reports around servers, infrastructure database, storage and voice. I could finally see a series of reports that could actually be handed to an executive or a customer (if you are an MSP) that would not just result in a glazed over look followed up by the dreaded question of: “So what am I looking at here?”
Not only did the reports turn out beyond my expectation, but the dashboards that they put together are simply stunning.
One of items that I always saw as a major weakness in Nimsoft was the overall dashboard approach
of the tool. Granted, you could use the “Custom Dashboard” tool and create some amazing
visualizations (many of these dashboards were designed by us), but the dashboards were not multi-tenant compliant. While this may not be as much of an issue with Enterprises, as we found in working with MSP’s, this was a major barrier to implementation as each client or view would need a separate dashboard created (even if the design was identical). Managing this going forward was generally not an option. Not to mention that Nimsoft has now deprecated the tool, so this capability is going by the wayside. From what we have seen with the custom dashboard replacement tool, it has a long way to go before it becomes a functional alternative.
These dashboards are 100% multi-tenant compliant. They are also easily embedded directly into the Nimsoft UMP so they can easily be integrated into a seamless experience between high-level views and the deep level metric-driven views that are the norm for the UMP.
Also, these dashboards, as well as the reports, are viewable on mobile devices! Yes, finally a set of reports and dashboards that can be delivered to decision makers via any media they desire.
How this is not a capability in the current toolset is beyond me.
As you likely have guessed, this was actually a long-winded sales pitch. We really have created some amazing and visually stunning reports and dashboards that I truly believe will be invaluable in your overall service delivery. I would like to invite you to come take a look at these on our business intelligence section of our website .
In appreciation for your time, I am offering a basic Alarm Analysis report we have developed for free. Simply fill in some general information and you can import this report directly into your environment.