Nmedia - Fotolia

Evaluate Weigh the pros and cons of technologies, products and projects you are considering.

Gas producer gets boost from SolarWinds network monitoring software

In a bid to improve its network infrastructure monitoring, industrial gas producer Chart Industries deploys SolarWinds network monitoring software to reduce downtime and increase productivity.

Chart Industries, a cryogenics and industrial gas manufacturer based in Garfield Heights, Ohio, faced IT challenges around network infrastructure monitoring, as the company dealt with application failures and network outages.

Chart needed a way to improve visibility, spot potential sources of downtime and improve the speed with which it resolved the issues. To that end, the company turned to SolarWinds network monitoring software in a bid to resolve problems and ease the burden of managing a multivendor network

Chart before SolarWinds

Founded in 1992, Chart Industries has rapidly expanded and now encompasses operations in eight U.S. states, producing advanced cryogenic systems for liquid gas production. The company also has operations overseas in countries such as Australia, China, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Germany, serving more than 3,000 end users.

Before exploring new products, Chart relied on Cisco Prime and Paessler's PRTG, according to Cori Lewandowski, global infrastructure and network security engineer. However, Chart's IT personnel had difficulties using Cisco Prime and struggled with its password recovery system.

At the same time, Lewandowski said, Chart faced long troubleshooting times, suboptimal GUIs, a slow alert system and limited backup capacity for device configurations. Also, the IT team lacked the capabilities to get a comprehensive timeline of outages, to easily view configuration data or to compare devices to a baseline, and it faced an overall lack of network visibility.

Research from Gartner indicated that network downtime can cost enterprises as much as $5,600 per minute of outage. Facing growing challenges, Chart needed a new approach to network infrastructure monitoring.

Adopting new network infrastructure monitoring software

Admins sought backup configurations, alerts about configuration changes and monitoring for multiple vendors.

As the Chart Industries IT team pushed for a new monitoring system, staffers considered criteria. The new system needed to be easy to deploy and configure with a simple GUI for admins to use. It also needed customizable alerts, reliable support and the ability to support many devices, as well as a reasonable price. Additionally, Chart's admins sought backup configurations, alerts about configuration changes and monitoring for multiple vendors.

Chart's initial search for network monitoring vendors included an evaluation of SolarWinds' software. And, after further study, it determined the vendor's portfolio would meet its demands. Among its benefits, ease of deployment -- SolarWinds network monitoring software is all downloadable -- and the ability to customize as needed.

"You basically just have a dedicated server -- the Orion server [that talks with all of the different modules]. You go to SolarWinds, grab a new version, enter conversions and pass it through the line web server," Lewandowski said.

Chart ultimately deployed a range of SolarWinds network monitoring products, including Network Performance Monitor, Network Configuration Manager and Netflow Traffic Analyzer. Chart also adopted SolarWinds SAM, User Device Tracker and Storage Resource Monitoring and Virtualization.

"As long as you have someone who can spin up a server, it's the easiest you can get," Lewandowski said. "They hand you an upgrade chart; they're actually telling you the order you need to upgrade them in, making it simple for an upgrade path," she said.

Assessing the benefits of improved performance

In the time since Chart first deployed SolarWinds' network infrastructure monitoring software, Lewandowski said the company has been able to reduce downtime and streamline its compliance efforts. In addition, network admins now receive daily reports on circuits, helping them predict when upgrades are needed. According to Lewandowski, SolarWinds has also helped her spot hardware issues -- for example, failing power supplies -- so Chart can replace devices ahead of time.

The shift to SolarWinds generated only a handful of technical challenges. "[There are] a few challenges in the GUI, but every [request] that I had I put through my Slack page or direct contact. And every time I put in a feature request, it got solved," she said.

"We're not looking for any other monitoring software ... I think we're sticking with SolarWinds for right now. The focus right now is acquisitions and migrations [as Chart acquires new operations]. My job is to go throw the nodes in and set the backup in SolarWinds. As far as I know, we haven't exceeded [its capabilities]; there's no limit for us to add. If there was ever a possibility to outgrow it, that might be the only time to look to something new," Lewandowski said.

Next Steps

An overview of SolarWinds NPM

Looking into SolarWinds SIEM capabilities

Glimpsing SolarWinds analytics

This was last published in July 2017

Dig Deeper on Network management and monitoring