Root-cause analysis made easier

Alaska Airlines slashes troubleshooting with ExtraHop Network's unique network management appliance

Root-cause analysis is one of those persistent sore spots among IT organizations.

Within highly siloed organizations, the root cause-analysis process often degenerates into one involving more finger-pointing than problem-solving. Even within IT organizations that have good cross-discipline teamwork for troubleshooting, getting to the root cause of a problem can be a troublesome and time-consuming exercise.

The IT group at Alaska Airlines, which considers itself among the latter type, doesn't find root-cause analysis quite so problematic any longer, says Chris Grey, director of IT operations at the Seattle-based regional carrier. In fact, it's slashed the time needed to find root cause by approximately half since implementing the ExtraHop Application Delivery Assurance system last year, he says.

Software packaged as an appliance, the ExtraHop system is from ExtraHop Networks, one of Network World's 10 IT management companies to watch for 2010. The appliance passively auto-discovers servers and devices connected to the network and inspects network traffic. It reassembles the path, or hops, an application takes across the distributed network and serves up performance, protocol and other data via a Web-based user interface.

From this single interface, Alaska Airlines application and database teams, helpdesk staff, system administrators and network managers can drill down by application, device, protocol or even errors to learn more about the problem.

"ExtraHop sits over our entire production network today and gives everybody the ability to dig into the same data using the same interface and tool set," Grey says. "It's plugging quite a few holes in visibility that we had had using perimeter monitoring and other specific tools."

As a measure of its usefulness, when Alaska Airlines does encounter a problem today, ExtraHop is now the first place everyone turns, Grey adds. "Our operation is critical to us; we know IT is a critical success factor. So we will do anything we can do to minimize a technical impact, and that's what this product does for us."

Alaska Airlines uses ExtraHop Application Delivery Assurance v2.0, a 10 Gigabit Ethernet product, across its three-segment production environment, which comprises approximately 1,300 servers. It uses the predecessor 1G Ethernet version to monitor a trusted zone in its back-up data center.

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