Each day, more than 300,000 customers walk into an Axstores store in Sweden, Finland, or Norway. The group consists of department store chain Åhléns, beauty retailers Kicks and Esthetique, and the home furnishing chain Lagerhaus.
Axstores operates a shared IT services model to gain efficiencies and more effectively integrate acquired companies. As the group grows in size, the Axstores IT team needs to find ways to deliver better services at lower cost.
"One of the goals of our centralized IT model is to give our companies an edge in IT innovation," says Stefan Pörn, Operations Manager at Axstores. "At the same time, we continually look for ways to do more with less. We must deliver more IT for every dollar spent."
These goals drove Axstores to replace some custom-developed business systems with new off-the-shelf solutions. During the testing phase of these projects, Axstores found that its legacy server-monitoring infrastructure did not readily accommodate the new systems.
"When architecting our new solutions, we needed to test different assumptions and see how they affected performance," says Pörn. "SNMP polling monitored the health of the components but not the application in a holistic manner."
Looking for a more modern monitoring solution, Axstores turned to RADPOINT, an application delivery and security integrator that had recently implemented a next-generation firewall for Axstores. RADPOINT recommended the ExtraHop platform, a wire data analytics solution that provides correlated, cross-tier visibility in dynamic and heterogeneous IT environments.
Axstores worked with RADPOINT to deploy the ExtraHop system in their test environment. "I was impressed with the application performance visibility that ExtraHop provided out of the box," says Pörn. "We could immediately see all the devices present on the network and their dependencies, as well as the impact of core network services such as LDAP and DNS on application performance."
"Previously, we could measure the performance of individual elements of the infrastructure but could not easily isolate the root cause of interrelated problems," explains Pörn. "The ExtraHop platform gave us an excellent top-down view of application performance along with the ability to drill down into detailed transaction metrics."
The project team used ExtraHop to identify several performance bottlenecks for the application:
- Isolated a bug in the application servers that slowed performance for retail stores
- Solved database performance issues related to indexing and poorly written application queries
- Detected TCP timeouts caused by DNS issues and server misconfigurations using IPv6 instead of IPv4
- Optimized HTTP front-end communications with back-end business systems
Axstores plans to use the ExtraHop platform to ensure a smooth rollout of the upcoming projects, facilitate testing and deployment of these projects, and support various other IT initiatives.
"We plan to expand our use of ExtraHop to cover all of our applications," says Pörn. "The value of this solution is so significant that we plan to have it in each of our datacenters."
With correlated, cross-tier visibility of application performance, Axstores reduced risk for new rollouts, solved esoteric performance issues, and gained a more flexible monitoring solution.
Reduced Risk for Deployment
The central IT group at Axstores is responsible for supporting ambitious growth plans for the company, including acquisitions such as the 2010 purchase of Esthetique. With real-time IT insights from ExtraHop, the Axstores IT teams can support rapidly changing business needs.
"We have a number of major IT projects in which ExtraHop will play a crucial role," says Pörn. "The ExtraHop platform gives us greater confidence that new applications are developed and deployed correctly. We can verify assumptions and ensure the best result with performance measurements across all the tiers of our application environment."
Identified Esoteric Performance Issues
Axstores uses ExtraHop to identify esoteric, interrelated performance issues and then pinpoint the root cause.
"Whether it is a customer browsing one of our online stores or an employee entering an order at checkout, the success of our business depends on fast and reliable performance," explains Pörn. "With ExtraHop, we can ensure that our customers and employees can quickly access information and complete transactions."
Axstores deployed the ExtraHop platform in less than an hour and realized value immediately. "We found the network-based approach of ExtraHop to be very refreshing," says Pörn. "With this model, there are no agents or central server to deploy and nothing to configure or instrument."
Easy to Use Across IT Domains
The ExtraHop platform provides various Axstores IT teams with visibility into network, web, database, and storage performance. This correlated, cross-tier view has proven valuable to specialist teams at Axstores responsible for various IT domains.
"The ExtraHop web interface is very clean and presents information in a way that breaks down traditional silos. Everyone has access to the same holistic information. It's not a niche tool; rather, it looks across the entire application environment," comments Pörn