DeKalb County School District
DeKalb County, Georgia
The DeKalb County School District’s infrastructure includes more than 1,700 switches and routers, three core network sites on a 10Gb fiber ring and 16 head-end locations. The entire system consists of more than 140 locations, including schools and centers that serve 14,000 employees and 100,000 students. The network also supports thousands of personal Wi-Fi enabled devices each day. With a wide range of users and technical abilities, the team needed to be able to quickly identify, isolate and solve network and application performance issues before they impacted the district.
DeKalb County Schools found a winning combination for network and application performance monitoring with TruView and the OptiView XG Network Analysis Tablet from NetScout. The addition of TruView allowed the district’s network team to establish a performance baseline for comparing abnormal traffic, which helps them address network and application issues proactively and resolve performance anomalies before students or staff are affected. Once the team identifies a problem, the OptiView XG gives team members a portable solution to isolate root cause and fix the problem in the field.
NetScout TruView™ and OptiView® XG Network Analysis Tablet
“As we continued to grow and build our infrastructure, we realized that we would need far more advanced equipment to monitor our network’s performance. The addition of the TruView to our OptiView XG is just about the best thing since sliced bread. We’re now able to see and address things on our network that we just weren’t aware of before.” – Willie Rodriguez, network engineer for DeKalb County Schools
The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) was first established in unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia in 1873. Today, DCSD includes 83 elementary schools, 20 middle schools and 22 high schools that serve 100,000 students from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. The district’s 14,000 full-time employees work in 143 locations, all with access to Internet and Wi-Fi.
The DCSD network team’s core function is to integrate and implement technology across the school district. By providing access to technology that enhances learning through information and programs, the team’s ultimate goal is to expand education beyond the classroom walls. In a 21st century learning environment, they view the district’s students, teachers, staff and parents as valued customers and stakeholders. DSCD overall is committed to facilitating unique collaboration, improving student achievement and optimizing business processes through the use of high-performing technology. The ultimate goal is to establish and maintain a technology-rich teaching and learning environment where students and staff develop 21st century skills to be successful citizens among an increasingly global community.
With roughly 1,700 switches and routers, three core network sites, 16 head-end facilities and more than 140 locations, DCSD’s network always needs to be operating at peak performance. At any time, tens of thousands of student and staff devices rely on the DCSD network for both educational and personal purposes.
“With students and staff wanting access to the Internet for a variety of reasons, the network sees a great deal of traffic across our entire district,” said Ken Marshall, manager of enterprise systems for DeKalb County Schools. “This requires consistent and reliable network and application performance monitoring. We needed the kind of visibility into network activity that would allow us to determine where exactly the performance issue was taking place. With thousands of students and teachers on and off the network each day, we have a lot of people to support.”
Both the Infrastructure and Security team, and the Enterprise team, are responsible for all monitoring and troubleshooting for the entire DCSD infrastructure. They had always struggled with isolating network performance problems because they lacked the ability to see when end users began to incur degraded network performance. They needed a proactive tool that could increase efficiency by providing real-time visibility across not only the network, but also all of the applications and databases.
“In the past, our monitoring and troubleshooting was fragmented and limited. Our team members were experiencing issues on an ongoing basis,” said Marshall. “We’d typically have some kind of outbreak throughout the year and we’d have to address it by trial and error.”
The team needed to be able to troubleshoot from the user perspective to identify and solve issues. With the ability to benchmark typical network performance levels, they hoped to gain visibility inside the network for faster problem solving and consistent maintenance of performance levels for end users. Using TruView, DCSD can maximize staff efficiency and map network utilization trends for accurate capacity planning.
The TruView from NetScout, coupled with the OptiView XG Network Analysis Tablet, was the answer DCSD had been looking for. TruView is a single-appliance network and application performance monitoring and troubleshooting solution that highlights performance metrics on a single dashboard. TruView displays key data sets, packet storage, application response time, transactional decode and more in a format customized to each user’s preferences.
The dashboard presents detailed and easily digestible workflows that provide instant problem domain identification, isolating the problem to the application, server, device or packet. An accurate view of end-user response times improves overall workflow by helping designate the appropriate person to address troubleshooting.
“I’m very happy the TruView is able to pinpoint causes of diminished performance,” said Willie Rodriguez, network engineer for DeKalb County Schools. “I love being able to say it’s not the network!”
The OptiView XG is designed specifically for speedy wired and wireless network monitoring and troubleshooting. It provides instant network mapping and analysis, allowing the user to get to the root cause of a problem with ease. The OptiView XG works seamlessly with TruView to provide in-depth network, application and database performance data, helping to visually isolate the source of issues.
“The dashboard is very user friendly and gives us great readings on our bandwidth and throughput, which was a concern that we’ve always had. Our ability to determine how much bandwidth we were using was always hit and miss in the past. This has really helped us out a lot,” said Rodriguez.
“NetScout's commitment and service to DeKalb County Schools as a customer has gone above and beyond our expectations. Usually, you don’t expect to hear from a vendor after the sale has been made,” said Marshall. “If we run into any issues at all, it’s just a matter of making a phone call. NetScout has actually reached out proactively about training and updates for our products. We like the communication with the company.”
The TruView and OptiView XG have changed the way DCSD handles network monitoring and troubleshooting. With the TruView’s comprehensive monitoring capabilities, the team can immediately focus on the exact source of a network issue without spending tedious amounts of time upfront attempting to locate it. With visibility into the entire network, DCSD is now able to address performance issues without doubt.
“We used to always hear that the problems were coming from the network. With the Truview, we can now pull up proof that the issues are actually coming from a server, an application or whatever the case may be,” said Rodriguez.
“As a result of the information we’ve gathered and the work we’ve been able to do with TruView, we’ve noticed a major improvement in daily user login times,” explained Marshall.
DCSD recently experienced issues with its ENS server and kept receiving error messages and complaints about performance speed. Work stations were running slowly and login times were sluggish. It turned out the server was plagued with virus-related issues, which affected roughly 75 percent of the county. TruView helped the team pinpoint the workstations in question, determine malware was the cause, and resolve the issue.
“In the past, a malware issue could take us weeks to address,” said Marshall. “With TruView, we were able get the malware under control in a matter of hours.”
TruView also enabled the DCSD team to benchmark what “normal” network performance means, which allows the team to better identify and resolve performance issues when they arise. As a result, DCSD can take a proactive approach to its network monitoring and nullify potentially detrimental performance anomalies before they noticeably affect the district’s students and staff. And when network problems do occur, the DCSD team has all of the data on applications and devices right in front of them so they can quickly resolve the issue.
“The TruView has definitely had a huge impact on the way our network performs. With reliable technology and quality data, we’re able to handle anything that comes our way,” said Marshall. “Thanks to NetScout, the TruView and the OptiView XG, our network is faster and our lives are much easier.”