Monitor is a one-stop shop about knowing what the health of our enterprise is and tells us what's going on with all of our servers and clusters. It gives us a complete overview of every server that we have, what the RAM and CPU are, and gives us information about which services are turned on or off.
South Jersey Industries Monitors Enterprise GIS with System Monitoring Solution
With the mission to provide safe, reliable, affordable energy services, South Jersey Industries (SJI) is an energy infrastructure holding company based in Folsom, New Jersey.
SJI delivers energy services to customers through two primary subsidiaries: SJI Utilities (SJIU) and SJI Energy Enterprises (SJIEE). SJIU houses the company’s regulated natural gas utility operations, delivering natural gas to more than 700,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers across New Jersey via its South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas subsidiaries.
SJI acquired New Jersey-based Elizabethtown Gas in 2018, making it the second-largest natural gas provider in the state along with its existing utility South Jersey Gas. The staff at SJI did not receive any software or technology as part of this acquisition, so they needed to set up an enterprise geographic information system (GIS) and find a solution to monitor the health of the new GIS enterprise system.
SJI deployed ArcGIS Monitor, a GIS system monitoring solution, to optimize the health and performance of its enterprise system, using tools such as reports, email alerts, and logs to proactively address technical issues. The solution not only improved the stability of the system but also increased transparency and trust within the organization, giving SJI employees in the office and the field the tools they need to deliver quality service to customers.
This lack of technology following the Elizabethtown Gas acquisition meant that the SJI staff had to essentially stand up an enterprise system from the ground up, including a GIS.
"[The company that owned Elizabethtown Gas] had some mobile data collection solutions. And since we didn't get any of that technology, we had to sort of replicate that …go live with the newer systems," explains Scott Rutzmoser, application administrator IV at SJI.
In addition, the GIS for South Jersey Gas was initially outsourced. After the Elizabethtown Gas acquisition, the staff wanted to bring the system in-house to enable them to oversee the system, so they went to work to establish the new enterprise GIS for both gas companies.
South Jersey Industries went from two GIS servers to having more than 40 following the deployment of ArcGIS Enterprise, a foundational software system for GIS. Richard Citkowicz, business system analyst IV at SJI, quickly realized that they had no way to monitor the health of the new servers.
"We did not have anything specific that could monitor all these servers and services, create alerts, or just understand what it takes in resources to keep these servers online," says Citkowicz. "None of our in-house applications were anywhere near the capacity that we have with Monitor."
Also, the previous systems management software used by South Jersey Gas had some customized features implemented by the IT staff, but they did not have the resources to customize the features for the GIS. As such, they went in search of a new solution to help them monitor the health of the new enterprise GIS.
Citkowicz and Rutzmoser began using ArcGIS Monitor because it is built to work with ArcGIS Enterprise deployments and was recommended by Esri. ArcGIS Monitor is designed to collect data on the status, performance, usage, and availability of an enterprise GIS. The pair had no previous experience with the solution, but once they understood what Monitor could do, they wanted to use it and make it accessible to staff for system monitoring.
The SJI staff deployed ArcGIS Enterprise and subsequently ArcGIS Monitor in March 2020. They spent the first few days of the deployment assessing their system, including determining the load in their lower environments where testing and development occurs (part of its software development process), and understanding what resources were available. They also received help from Esri with training on how to use Monitor and interpret reports as well as the initial configuration. Rutzmoser says it all worked well.
"Once I started using Monitor, I don't know if I would ever stand up ArcGIS Enterprise without having it monitor the solutions that you're working with," says Rutzmoser.
Citkowicz adds, "It was super critical to understand how to set up Monitor and understand what's going on with our system to make sure our new ArcGIS Enterprise deployment was smooth."
Later, during production, the team added some of the lower environments so they could see what was happening in User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and the test environment, explains Rutzmoser. The staff also did some database checks, ultimately using Monitor to get the database to tell them when integrations are potentially failing.
Rutzmoser explains, "The way [our asset management software] integrations fail, they sometimes fail silently, when they do, they build up in the message reprocessing. So, it was something that wasn't being monitored elsewhere."
Citkowicz says SJI had some other solutions for monitoring servers, but nothing as keen or as honed as what ArcGIS Monitor does for their enterprise GIS.
ArcGIS Monitor has yielded positive benefits for SJI and South Jersey Gas and is now considered a critical application for the company, enabling them to proactively address issues and respond to customer calls. Rutzmoser enjoys Monitor's ease of use and says it has been a very good tool to bridge the gap between everything he and his staff do on the GIS side and what the other teams do with the database and system architecture.
"It's an easy and graphic mechanism that you can see what's going on and get notifications. You don't necessarily have to be a system administrator to use it and benefit from it," says Rutzmoser.
Citkowicz says that Monitor enables them to be more proactive in addressing outages because they receive alerts before the business units come to them and report problems. The alerts help them know how best to resolve issues, whether it's their staff fixing it or another department. Recently, Monitor provided an alert about a production issue that they were able to fix in just a few minutes.
"I like Monitor because it brings trust to the system, and we know what's going on with it. It has helped make our jobs much easier because we don't have to sit there and read logs or…try to find that needle in a haystack as to what the issue is," says Citkowicz.
Rutzmoser adds, "It gives us the ability to fix things literally before the business even knows what's happening, which is a good thing."
Email alerts and logs have been essential tools in addressing issues. The staff set up email alerts, which have helped monitor server response. Rutzmoser says that on several occasions, he and Citkowicz identified database issues just by their servers' response time. Also, Monitor monitors the logs for them and gives them critical details; for example, if there are more than 20 error logs on a specific server. This allows them to find technical issues and determine the cause more easily.
Reports are issued from Monitor on an ad hoc basis as well as weekly and monthly. The reports are in a spreadsheet and can be downloaded for easy viewing. They capture several key items, including RAM count and network speed, and Rutzmoser says the reports allow managers and the GIS team to see what’s happening with the system. It also helps when asking for additional resources.
Recently, Citkowicz says the staff needed more resources for their servers. With the reports, they were able to show more finite details about the RAM and quantify getting more CPUs and RAM for improved operations.
SJI also uses ArcGIS Monitor for a unique use case—to track data feeds for company vehicles. SJI uses software that has a Geotab API for fleet management. They get the locations of vehicles with this software and use Monitor to confirm that data is being shared back to the enterprise GIS, explains Rutzmoser. He says they also enrich that data with important details about the field personnel such as whether a person is available or assigned. This gives dispatchers near real-time locations of vehicles and the status of crews.
"All that information is combined every five seconds and pushed into the REST API to be used to do vehicle assessment for emergency work orders. If you get an emergency in, it looks at the closest five vehicles and says, 'Do they have the skills? Are they available?'" says Rutzmoser. "And then it'll help the dispatcher to assign that."
The staff can review the logs and Monitor alerts them every few minutes if the dispatchers are getting data feed updates, which helps determine if there has been a failure.
"Now we know we have reliable data going to the dispatchers. I think what we enjoy hearing is that everybody in the field is using it and they love it, and it seems to work well," says Rutzmoser.
The use of ArcGIS Monitor has built trust because staff know that the system is running efficiently. Rutzmoser is confident in the results they've seen since implementing the solution.
"It's tough to quantify. We can say we've stabilized the system, and we know we've made it more reliable because we get fewer alerts and the system is healthy," Rutzmoser says. "Monitor is just monitoring that's very specific to the GIS solution, the framework, and the architecture. It is very focused on what it does."
For more information on how SJI is using ArcGIS Monitor, view its story created with ArcGIS StoryMaps.