I like ArcGIS Monitor because it makes my life as easy as possible. It aids me in being more proactive with our system, and I feel like it's made my knowledge of what's going on in the system more intimate.
Forsyth County Monitors Enterprise GIS with Optimization and Management Solution
Forsyth County, Georgia, located just north of Atlanta, is one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States. The county has grown from 98,407 residents in 2000 to a population surpassing 260,000. The county offers access to both urban amenities and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities and services spanning from emergency management and health to planning and engineering, focusing on ensuring a sustainable future for its residents.
The Forsyth County Geographic Information System (GIS) department supports the critical work of all county departments through the creation of location-based web applications. A team of 11 builds and manages the county's GIS IT infrastructure, which consists of over 450 data layers across all applications and solutions. Providing tools for both public and internal use, the specialists and database administrators in the GIS department recognize the vital role of GIS technology in facilitating the growth of Forsyth County. They continually look for other use cases to expand the reach of GIS in the organization.
As the GIS department's services continue to extend its footprint, ensuring the health of the enterprise GIS system is imperative. The team lacked a method to monitor technical issues in the enterprise GIS, requiring them to troubleshoot through a manual, lengthy process. An upsurge in outages and delays across their system prompted staff to search for a solution.
The team members turned to ArcGIS Monitor, a product that generates data and insights on system performance, usage, and health, to ensure they continue to provide the best experience to other internal departments. Implementing this solution has allowed them to monitor the entire system and tackle issues at the source, improving the efficiency and reliability of the GIS department.
Michael Bellino, senior GIS database administrator for Forsyth County, explains that the web applications developed by his team support every county department. In addition to supporting the internal work of the county, the GIS department creates web applications for the public. For example, the team recently released an application, Local Alcohol Mapping Project (LAMP), which helps businesses understand the requirements to acquire a liquor license in a particular location.
The growing GIS footprint, which now consists of two enterprise portals and four federated GIS servers, was becoming increasingly challenging to maintain. Previously, the GIS department had no way of monitoring the performance and health of its system, so outages occurred without warning. Bellino says, "Without having any kind of alerting on when outages or instability were happening, we were flying essentially blind for system response.”
Outages across the system spiked when the GIS department deployed database systems designed to expand permitting, planning, and infrastructure management capabilities. Increased user traffic exacerbated the existing issues of the GIS enterprise system.
"It got to the point where outages were being reported to us by the client(s), and we would have to go dig through log files to figure out root causes," says Bellino. "At a certain point, we were restarting the entire enterprise GIS because we couldn't figure out exactly what went out of sync."
County employees, businesses, and residents that depended on the GIS applications or databases were at a standstill until the issue could be resolved, explained Daniel Wade, a GIS database administrator working alongside Bellino. "By the time we get notice of an outage from the clients, it's been 15, 20, or 30 minutes of no response times on their end before it finally gets to us," he says.
The GIS department wanted to continue to expand its services, but they couldn't do it without a way to monitor the system's performance and manage issues effectively. Bellino explains, "We want to be proactive on outages so we know before users report it but also to be predictive on when we should grow."
Bellino consulted with Esri Technical Support about the issues with the county's GIS enterprise system. The support team suggested that the Forsyth County GIS department adopt ArcGIS Monitor, a product designed to track the status, activity, and overall health of an ArcGIS Enterprise implementation. After attending information sessions and researching Monitor, Bellino and Wade encouraged their department to deploy the product.
In January 2020, after consultation with technical support, the GIS department installed Monitor in a three-day session with Michael Reither from Esri Professional Services. On the setup process, Bellino says, "The session helped us get URL strings and permissions set up, and they showed us a workflow on how to isolate and restart just the ArcGIS Data Store without taking the whole system down." Bellino and Wade spent a few weeks building and fine-tuning the system, and within a month they had Monitor fully deployed.
Initially, they chose to have Monitor collect data according to its default settings to let them learn more about their enterprise GIS system. They also added several extensions from the ArcGIS Monitor Gallery, a collection of readily available tools developed by the Esri ArcGIS Monitor team.
Bellino and Wade configured additional monitoring capabilities to alert and report on CPU utilization, memory, licensing, and general health, which inform load balancing and help identify areas to grow.
Bellino focuses on ArcGIS Server performance and capabilities using the core ArcGIS Monitor functionality, while Wade utilizes the ArcSOC Optimizer add-in, which provides 30-day and 7-day reports automatically generated by Monitor to focus on the feature services and map services. They put the reports into Microsoft Power BI, a data visualization tool, which allows them to get a comprehensive overview of their system.
The adoption of ArcGIS Monitor has transformed the monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities of the GIS department. With greater awareness of their enterprise GIS system, the team members can be decisive on where to grow or allocate resources, helping them be proactive on outages and instability.
Outages previously would occur without warning, but now, Bellino explains, "With ArcGIS Monitor, we know within the first cycle. All of our URL monitoring is on five-minute intervals, and if we catch it in the first five minutes, it doesn't bleed over to the rest of the enterprise, and we are able to stop it."
Wade adds, "Now, it's pretty rare that we hear of an outage from the client before we know that anything is going on."
Deploying ArcGIS Monitor in early 2020 helped Forsyth County have a resilient response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the frequent system outages deterred departments from making the shift to remote work, but now, 100 percent of county employees operate from web-based applications.
Wade says, "We went from having no one working remotely in the county to over 75 percent of the county working remotely, and a lot of people that were used to utilizing our desktop and our catalog on our virtual network on-site now use web-based applications for their workflow."
With the enhanced monitoring capabilities of ArcGIS Monitor, they were able to allocate resources and load balance to support this workforce transition. Wade says, "With the high adoption rate of web applications, county employees now have all of the information necessary for their job in a single web viewer. Training takes just an hour or two…rather than multiple weeks."
In addition to helping county departments operate more efficiently, ArcGIS Monitor has greatly reduced the administrative maintenance work for Wade and Bellino. The team no longer has to dedicate a vast amount of time searching through log files because the custom alert system and detailed reporting have allowed for greater productivity.
"Daniel and I are always able to continuously review the health, and we get instant alerts when there is some kind of actionable item that needs us to go and address it," says Bellino.
As the primary administrators of Monitor, Wade and Bellino meet weekly to review the reports and identify issues. If they notice an opportunity for growth or an area approaching capacity, they can now communicate those needs to leadership with confidence. Bellino says, "I'm able to be open and honest, and it's based off actual tangible metrics. I think ArcGIS Monitor has empowered Daniel and me to have more of a voice."
He adds, "Our reputation within the county of having uptime and reliability is probably the greatest benefit we've seen because there's a lot of faith within our product to deliver a consistent experience for our users."