Oil and Energy
Cimarex is a large oil and gas exploration and production company based in Denver, Colorado, with over 1000 employees located across the United States, from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Midland, Texas. With a team of just three engineers, network needs spanning the country, and an average of 600-700 people on the network at any given time, identifying and evaluating delays while providing a quick response time was a key issue for the engineering team. Cimarex needed a solution that could provide visibility into each network center and quickly identify and segregate network issues from application problems, without requiring a vast amount of engineer maintenance.
NetScout TruView™ and OptiView® XG solutions allowed Cimarex to address their responsiveness issues and monitor each network individually, while highlighting any variances in performance. Issues that used to take days to resolve, or were left by the wayside, are now remedied quickly, allowing the engineering team to focus on more productive projects.
NetScout TruView and OptiView XG
“Using NetScout's TruView and the OptiView XG together allows us to shed light on issues that pop up when managing a nationwide network. It gives the entire team insight we’ve never had before and enables us to differentiate between normal traffic and bigger problems. It’s a great tool for not only day-to-day network monitoring, but also troubleshooting and effectively leading us to issue resolution. ” - Kurt Carlson, Network Systems Engineer
Cimarex is a large oil and energy company based in Denver, Colorado, with over 1000 employees located across the United States. Cimarex operates a series of data centers across the three main offices, and has about 25 additional locations that are connected via MPLS and VPN connections. The company has a network of Cisco Nexus switches in its Tulsa data center and a NetApp storage system that houses a wealth of proprietary data.
In addition to standard business productivity applications, Cimarex also utilizes VoIP, high-bandwidth video over IP solutions and will be rolling out a Cisco Unified call manager solution in 2014.
Over the past few years, as Cimarex grew and expanded, so did its network infrastructure. Because key members of the Cimarex team are located in different areas, network efficiency and stability are critical to day-to-day business efficiency. At any given point during the day 600-700 users may be accessing the network from several different locations. The engineering team recognized their method of troubleshooting and solving issues was both ineffective and tended to push other project initiatives to the backburner. They began researching a solution that would help give them greater visibility into issue origin, allowing them to detect exactly where an issue was located and making the resolution process much faster.
With a team of just three engineers and a network spanning the country, Cimarex required a solution that provided support for each location’s specific data centers, servers and storage without requiring a vast amount of engineering support. With hundreds of people on the network at any given time, identifying and troubleshooting end-user delays was an important and time-consuming issue for the engineering team. Cimarex needed visibility into each data center and the ability to quickly identify and segregate network issues from application problems.
“With such a small team of engineers managing all the networking needs — from plugs, to wiring, to power — it was challenging for us to dedicate the required amount of time to troubleshooting end-user issues, especially with a user base spread across the country,” stated Kurt Carlson, Network Systems Engineer for Cimarex. “It was nearly impossible for us to tell where an issue was coming from; was it a network problem? A smaller location based issue? We just didn’t have the visibility we needed to fix issues efficiently and still have time to dedicate to our other pressing projects.”
In addition to normal internal network issues, Cimarex utilizes many different applications throughout their three data centers, including a newly implemented video over IP capability that allows their geologists to stay on site and still participate in key company meetings. Because of the large number of internal and external applications running at any given time, in any location, engineers were tasked with solving issues without any clear knowledge of the origin – whether network or application based.
“Often problems would arise in Tulsa that had to be diagnosed and fixed from a different location. A large building and hundreds of different devices connecting to the server at any given time hindered the troubleshooting process and often non-vital issues were left unresolved and became the new normal end-user experience,” added Kurt.
The team also faced the challenge of managing third party, subscription-based applications that weren’t always performing up to standard. Conversations with vendors yielded few results and most users were left dealing with a slower, less efficient process.
Cimarex chose NetScout OptiView XG to begin monitoring their biggest data center, located in Tulsa. The OptiView XG allowed engineers to track the normal network use levels and establish a benchmark to compare degraded performance to. Currently, the OptiView XG is used mainly as a diagnostic tool, running continuously and conducting network assessments, validating new infrastructure and devices, testing service provider SLAs, and troubleshooting problems from end to end.
After their success using the OptiView XG, Cimarex expanded their NetScout's product line to include the TruView. With TruView’s Application Performance Monitoring (APM) and Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) combined capabilities, Cimarex is able to identify, test and resolve issues across LAN, WAN or Cloud environments and across multiple data centers.
“The entire team tested several different product solutions initially, but NetScout provided the visibility we needed to make a discernable difference in our network performance and engineer time management,” said Carlson. “With the TruView, we’re able to identify an issue, zero in on the location and solve it quickly.”
With the TruView and OptiView XG helping to streamline their networking troubleshooting process, Cimarex’s engineering team now has the ability to remotely identify, diagnose and resolve their connectivity problems.
“Using NetScout TruView and the OptiView XG together allow us to shed light on issues that pop up when managing a cross-country network. It gives the entire team insight we’ve never had before and enables us to differentiate between normal traffic and bigger problems. It’s a great tool for not only day-to-day network monitoring, but also troubleshooting and effectively leading us to issue resolution,” stated Carlson.
In one specific example, Carlson’s team was called in to deal with an application problem reported by a group of users in Tulsa. It turned out the users were all on the 14th floor of the same building. The IT team first used the OptiView XG to eliminate some obvious potential causes with the network on that particular floor and then used TruView see how the performance on that floor compared to other floors. With the network ruled out as the cause of the issue, TruView helped to identify a file server that had been configured improperly after a power outage.
In addition to dealing with their own internal network issues, NetScout's tools have allowed Cimarex to help identify and resolve third-party application issues as well.
In one instance, using the OptiView XG, Cimarex engineers were able to log into an end user’s machine, take a packet capture then decode it using NetScout ClearSite Analyzer software, which showed specific metrics around application performance.
The data showed an application problem that was a surprise to the vendor. While they were able to fix the problem and improve the end user experience, without the conclusive data provided by the NetScout tools, Cimarex may have been lost in an endless cycle of back-and-forth between the internal team and the application company.
“Without NetScout, we just wouldn’t have the same visibility,” said Carlson. “It’s an essential part of our network infrastructure.”