Insight by SolarWinds

“One Platform to Rule Them All”: How SolarWinds provided IT visibility across the VA’s enterprise

This content is provided by SolarWinds and Carahsoft.

Brandon Shopp, Vice President, Product, SolarWinds

If you did business with more than 20 million customers and 350,000 employees in more than 1,500 locations across the country, you’d want your IT infrastructure streamlined so each location could talk to the others and headquarters could get a global view, right? That’s what the Department of Veteran Affairs, the second-largest federal agency (eclipsed only by the Defense Department), wanted.

So, they turned to SolarWinds.

Before, different regions had different tools to manage their IT infrastructure. Even if they were using the same tool, they weren’t configured to communicate with one another. And there was no comprehensive view into any of it. There was no way to monitor the health and performance of the systems, servers, applications, or databases across the enterprise.

SolarWinds helped the VA consolidate to a single enterprise-wide platform, implementing ten regional instances, putting everyone on the same page and giving consolidated visibility while allowing each region to operate with a certain level of autonomy. Now the VA has more visibility into its networks and can troubleshoot issues or outages. Configuration issues are easier to deal with, and troubleshooting across the application stack is possible. The VA can also keep a closer eye on security incidents or vulnerabilities and improve compliance.

“So they’ve got ten regional instances of our technology, built on the Orion® Platform, and across all of those, they’re monitoring more than 60,000 nodes, over 267,000 interfaces, more than 191,000 volumes…more than 21,000 configurations. Across all the enterprise they’re monitoring over 5,000 hosts,” said Brandon Shopp, vice president of product at SolarWinds. “So, from a server, whether it’s physical or virtual, anything running typically a Windows operating system, they’ve got 24/7/365 days a year monitoring from the VA’s Network Operations Center, to include the VA’s four trusted internet gateways. And it’s redundant to at least two different physical locations; if for any reason one of those sites goes offline, they can fail over to another site within their organization, and make sure they have continuity of operations from that perspective.”

And that’s driven a significant gain in efficiency for the VA, Shopp said. Not only are all ten regional implementations integrated now, but within some of the regions, SolarWinds was able to consolidate multiple platforms down to a single technology. That’s made certain use-case scenarios, like onboarding a new employee or closing out the accounts of an employee who leaves, much easier.

It’s also made root cause analysis simpler. IT professionals no longer have to jump from platform to platform to determine if a problem lies within the network, an app, a server, storage, or a database. They can quickly pinpoint where a problem truly resides and fix it.

“They standardized on the SolarWinds Orion Platform, and the products leveraging the Orion Platform, so it’s one user experience, one place to go to define reports and alerts, one place to go and set up and define user authentication and access,” Shopp said. “So, a lot of those things, I know it’s a bit of an overused term, but it’s the single pane of glass. That’s what they were not getting, before they had our technologies in place: they didn’t have kind of single source of truth they can go to, that would allow them to speed up root cause analysis, and not have to jump from one product to the next.”

And even as the VA expands the number of services it uses, SolarWinds can help the agency with server and network monitoring and more. It works well with other third-party technologies, opening service tickets when it discovers issues, sharing relevant data to facilitate investigations, and monitoring their progress.

But there have been other benefits as well. SolarWinds technologies helped the VA Visibility team create a solution for dealing with a zero-day threat to the VA systems.

“They’ve used our tools to do things like continuity of operations planning,” Shopp said. “So one example in our case study they brought up was around Operation Dark Cloud, which involves being able to quickly cut internet access based on threats or some other issue. And they have to be able to do it within a 15-minute window, to be able to quickly shut down the VA’s network and infrastructure from the internet, so they can prevent a virus or piece of malware from spreading, or a myriad of other different scenarios.”

SolarWinds was able to deliver what the VA was looking for, and then some, providing ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and integration with other products.

“They wanted one platform or one product to really rule them all,” Shopp said.

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