Monitoring through a Management Pack

Mary Kay, a global multi-level marketing company, deployed a complex MongoDB clustered environment across multiple servers spanning multiple datacenters to support their growing business and provide high availability and geo-redundancy. 

The customer wanted to proactively monitor this application in System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). Green House Data developed a custom Management Pack (MP) to allow the customer to proactively monitor their mission-critical application. The MP was built to accomplish the following;

  1. Discover Multi-Instances — The MP was designed to discover multi-node, inter-dependent clusters across multiple servers in a geographically dispersed cluster. Mary Kay needed to discover and monitor a single node as a secondary for one cluster but as a primary for another or even possibly as the primary for multiple clusters in the event of a fail-over scenario.
  2. Replication Lag — Time delay monitoring was another complex monitoring request from the customer. In production, two servers act as secondary servers in the cluster, both replicating independently of one another. This can result in a replication delay between the primary and one secondary that differs from that of the primary and the other secondary. Complex monitoring logic was included to independently monitor the replication lag (delay) between the primary and each secondary servers, providing the ability to customize the threshold check as well as the number of samples to check over.

At the end of this project, the customer had a custom MP that was able to discover all their MongoDB clusters, proactively monitor the health of the application and raise alerts for a number of production issues. This proactive monitoring provided them with insight into this critical platform and improved the overall availability while reducing the time required troubleshooting and resolving problems.

Avoiding Costly Penalties for Non-Compliance

One of Canada’s leading restaurant franchises came to Green House Data with a big challenge. None of their Point of Sale (PoS) and Windows XP embedded televisions that display menus and price offerings were receiving patches.

Each of the 4400+ franchises has a VPN connection back to corporate for the processing of credit card transactions. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) require that systems are compliant and a process is in place to ensure an acceptable level of security.

Green House Data worked with the business to understand the business problem, collect the technical requirements and put together a solution that achieved the business goals and was technically elegant with little ongoing administrative costs.

The solution involved the installation of System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) in the Azure cloud, including automated deployment of the SCCM agent deployment and a certificate used for mutual authentication to each of the systems in all of the restaurants. Like many retailers, each franchise offered its valued customers free Wi-Fi in the restaurant and the internet connection speed was typically faster than the VPN connection back to corporate.

Hosting SCCM in Azure allowed the corporate IT department to select the Windows updates deployed to all restaurants and stagger the time of installation as to not disrupt business transactions and the overall customer experience. The security update policy was controlled and administered centrally but updates were downloaded locally using the Wi-Fi internet connection in each of the stores. This provided the benefit of isolation, not requiring any domain joining or connection from the restaurants back to corporate.

In dealing with this aspect of PCI compliance, the corporation and its franchisees are more secure, and the management and administration of the solution is minimal, making it easy and cost effective to support.

The customer was able to avoid costly penalties from non-compliance. The systems in the store are more secure, reducing the attack surface and likelihood of a ransom-ware attack. The solution required no new hardware or use of existing IT infrastructure, as it was all cloud based. The solution could be automated to shut down during times when it was not being used to save further on Azure consumption costs.

Point of Sale Automation

Cineplex Theaters is one of Canada’s leading entertainment companies and operates one of the most modern and fully digitized motion-picture theater circuits in the world.

Cineplex had introduced an automated payment system that reduced guest wait times. However, it required remote assistance to complete system configuration and troubleshoot. Cineplex wanted to reduce manager reliance on remote assistance to improve efficiency.

Green House Data created a solution that allowed the desktop support team to centrally manage and reimage Point of Sale (PoS) systems through a System Center Configuration Manager architecture. With this in place, Cineplex could deploy a PoS system image from head office to rebuild a broken system in-store, deploy applications as well as collect hardware and software centrally for quick reporting, monitor for PoS “system drift,” and offer antivirus protection system-wide. This allows managers to focus on ensuring Cineplex clients enjoy a positive movie experience.

“Cineplex saved thousands of dollars in courier charges and has improved the overall customer experience by keeping their PoS machines online and available to customers.”

Monitor and Manage Cloud Spending in Real Time

A growing regional specialty grocer in the Northeast United States turned to Green House Data to help deliver vital Azure cloud infrastructure. This grocer has built an iconic brand with over 80 stores. The grocer was struggling with over 160 different Azure subscriptions and hundreds ov VMs.

They quickly recognized that the Azure cloud moves at a breakneck pace and most of their original assets were in need of a refresh. Multiple additional challenges ensued such as naming mismatches, sprawling admin user accounts, a lack of process, and no guidelines for networking, resource groups, and the management of the overall solution.

Green House Data worked with the customer to identify their requirements and proposed three phases to help the customer get to their desired end state:

Green House Data then worked with the grocer’s IT team on the following elements:

Green House Data designed and implemented an innovative solution for the grocer’s IT operations team that provides automated, continuous deployment of a custom app developed by the customer. The end result is a reliable, autoamted and trackable Azure environment ready for growth.