ArcGIS Monitor gives you the context of the entire GIS system. You're not just looking at CPU, RAM, and that's it. You're looking at it with the context of the whole system in mind."
Stark County in Ohio Improves System Health with Enterprise GIS Optimization Solution
Stark County GIS
Following a critical system outage, Stark County GIS needed a way to better monitor and maintain the health of its enterprise GIS.
ArcGIS Monitor improved the monitoring of Stark County’s 355 web services and enabled the GIS team to approach its system maintenance more proactively, including software upgrades and troubleshooting.
State and local governments across the US and around the world are using geographic information system (GIS) technology to provide actionable data to decision-makers, enhance engagement with residents, and shape processes and policies.
Stark County, located in Ohio and home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has a small department that maintains a multiagency enterprise GIS. Stark County GIS (SCGIS) began by maintaining the county's tax map under the auditor. In 2015, under current auditor Alan Harold, SCGIS was split into two departments: the tax map department, which performs updates and maintenance for the county's parcels, and the GIS department, which was integrated into IT.
Harold and his staff saw the potential in solutions built with new data-driven offerings like ArcGIS Online and Esri's suite of mobile apps. SCGIS would now provide support and services to any of Stark County's agencies as well as its cities, villages, and townships.
The team in the GIS department has a multitude of responsibilities such as configuring web applications for internal clients, editing and maintaining data, and performing database and server administration. As Stark County's GIS environment grew to support these operations, the team needed a way to monitor and maintain the health of its enterprise GIS, especially following a serious server crash that caused significant issues across the local government offices.
After conducting a system health check, SCGIS deployed ArcGIS Monitor, a software product for system health monitoring and optimization. The product has allowed the team to become more proactive with technical issues, conduct vital system audits, and better serve users across Stark County government.
In 2010, SCGIS deployed ArcGIS Server single-machine software. In 2015, that system reached capacity, causing ArcGIS Server to slow to a halt. This setback was caused by inconsistent monitoring and a lack of knowledge, as well as the exponential growth of services the department was offering. At the time, ArcGIS Server was running approximately 250 web services and was beyond its capacity to serve the high volume of incoming requests.
Joe Guzi, a systems analyst for Stark County GIS, says he was unaware that the department had too many web services when the ArcGIS Server crash occurred. The need for GIS solutions throughout the county was growing so quickly that the team focused on deploying new offerings, which didn't allow them to spend the time needed to adequately monitor and maintain the system.
This occurrence prompted the team to reach out to Esri Professional Services to conduct an enterprise GIS health check. "Hitting these instance caps . . . was our lightning bolt to tell us that we need to be proactive with this. We can't just leave it and assume everything is okay," says Guzi. "We knew we were outgrowing our ArcGIS Server single-machine deployment."
In addition, Guzi says that as the GIS department grew, the county's GIS environment grew as well. The team needed a solution to better monitor the growing system, which is now composed of 15 resource servers and three different environments.
SCGIS also needed a new solution to improve troubleshooting. The previous process involved logging in to the server and viewing the task manager and resources to understand events within the system. Guzi says that while this process was manageable, the team was not getting data specifically about how ArcGIS was running, nor was there context of the larger system.
Guzi connected with Esri Services in early 2016 and implemented ArcGIS Monitor. ArcGIS Monitor is software designed to monitor system performance and health and collect data on status, usage, and availability. Noah Mayer, a senior enterprise solutions architect in Esri Services, visited Stark County and helped the team install Monitor on a dedicated machine that could support it. The team let Monitor run for several weeks, which provided the requisite data to perform an initial review.
According to Guzi, "We learned a ton going through that process. Noah assisted with the implementation and gave the team some tips and best practices. We reviewed all the data that Monitor had gathered and it confirmed what we suspected—that we were pretty much at system capacity and needed to do something quickly."
He adds, "Monitor gave us the necessary information to help make that case so that we could make the investment in more servers and resources."
SCGIS went from being a single-machine ArcGIS Server department to having three machines in production and two machines in staging. The team members learned from the initial health check engagement that they needed to be more conscious of CPU, RAM, and disk space. A system maintenance plan was created to monitor all three properties. "The system maintenance plan is what we drafted to help guide us to be proactive in all things that pertain to system maintenance. Monitor is obviously a huge part of that," says Guzi.
The plan includes a monthly system health check to examine how these factors have performed over time. More importantly, these regularly scheduled reviews keep the team members in tune with their servers to help ensure that they don't get caught off guard again. The monthly health check visualizes usage and performance trends that allow the team to plan for the future.
The team also reviews a different feature or capability of Monitor to understand additional metrics provided by the software. If any given metric or component is deemed applicable upon review, the team members work it into their monthly system checks.
Additionally, each morning a team member brings up Monitor and reviews metrics throughout the day to ensure that no incidents are occurring. "I would say, day to day, that's when we're reactive with Monitor," Guzi says. For example, if a user reports that something isn't working right, the team members will immediately go to Monitor to see if it can tell them what's going on.
"As we have grown and matured, we've begun to understand how these systems work and what it takes to keep them running efficiently. The monthly system health check and reviewing ArcGIS Monitor daily gives us that snapshot of how things are performing. Once we had [Monitor] up and running, we used that information to maintain the system and grow it as needed," says Guzi.
ArcGIS Monitor has improved Stark County's monitoring of its 355 web services and enabled the team to approach its system maintenance more proactively, including software upgrades and troubleshooting. The team members are using that information to make real decisions based on actionable data and more precisely fine-tune their web services with less guesswork. It also helps them understand what is happening with their servers at any given time.
"It all comes back to that initial learning experience we had in 2015, when the system crashed because we weren't being proactive. From there, we've just evolved in how we approach GIS system maintenance as a whole," says Guzi. "Everything we've done has been to help make sure that we are keeping things running efficiently. You really get that end-to-end look at the GIS system."
The key metrics the team uses Monitor to look at are CPU, RAM, and disk space. The team examines trends over time to see how machines are performing from month to month. One example is a specific software tool that was randomly restarting. With the monthly system check, the team was able to see when the restarts were happening—this gave the team more precise troubleshooting capabilities.
Guzi enjoys the reports feature in Monitor, which provides a comprehensive view of a monitored GIS deployment in a single Excel spreadsheet. The team members began creating reports with this feature in November 2018 and use it heavily during their biannual ArcGIS Enterprise audits. The detailed reports provide data on system performance over a six-month window, allowing the team to react to performance over that period of time.
Based on these metrics, the team evaluates web services—which ones are being used and which are not, as well as underused services with too many resources or frequently used ones with too few resources. Ultimately, this allows the team to better fine-tune its services and determine if there are opportunities to improve system performance. This process prevented needing to purchase an additional server machine because the team was able to free up enough resources on an existing server, saving time and money.
"That one-week investment twice a year of taking an in-depth look at ArcGIS Enterprise using the Excel report for Monitor allowed us to save the cost of another server just by [fine-]tuning it and paying attention to what the server was telling us," says Guzi. "Monitor is great for seeing in real time what's happening. The Excel report is just fantastic for visualizing it over time."
In addition to ArcGIS Monitor, Guzi and the team created Python scripts to check all their ArcGIS Server machines to get data on minimum and maximum instances. They now use the Excel report to fine-tune services appropriately during their audits. The scripts are run before and after an audit, providing the team with charts to compare statistics from one audit to the next.
The data the team receives from ArcGIS Monitor has helped justify purchasing additional hardware resources to expand its development and test environments.
"It's building trust with executive-level [employees]. They know I'm not just asking for new servers for the sake of asking for new servers. Monitor provides the data to back up the request," says Guzi. "We want our bosses and ultimately our taxpayers to know that we're doing our part to ensure that county GIS services will continue to run both efficiently and cost-effectively."
Guzi says that Monitor has helped show leadership and clients the services the Stark County GIS department can offer and better understand the team's role in the organization. He believes users across the county know that they can trust the solutions SCGIS provides.
"The GIS system is a living thing, and you can't just put it out there and expect it to run. You must watch it and check it. And that's what Monitor solved for us. It gave us that window into what was going on with our servers and system as a whole," says Guzi.
Stark County selected ArcGIS Enterprise to distribute their spatial data through the Web GIS pattern, which allowed the public and other county agencies to interact with the data. The decision enabled the county to share GIS resources with both external and internal end users.
Operating System: Windows