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Bentley U Overcomes ERP Problems with Network Appliance

A Massachusetts university has gone public with its deployment of an application for analyzing network activities. Bentley University adopted technology from ExtraHop Networks specifically to gain visibility into its Banner enterprise resource planning software, among other applications.

During high-traffic events, such as class registration or other student activities, programs would crash and the IT organization would struggle to understand the nature of the problem. Four different systems fed into those activities.

According to Todd Marsh, senior manager of network infrastructure services, within 30 minutes of installing the ExtraHop appliance, he could dissect which Banner tables were being used by other applications and how well they were performing.

"The first week we had the ExtraHop running, we realized there were over half a million database errors between the Blackboard learning system and Banner every week," he recounted. "Turns out that Blackboard was making a call to a table that didn't exist. I was able to print out a PDF, walk it over to the database administrators, point the issue out and get it resolved almost immediately."

Since that fall 2013 implementation, the ExtraHop functionality has been picked up for use by IT people managing Blackboard, email and databases. "Equipped with ExtraHop, these constituencies know how well their applications are performing across all tiers and they can troubleshoot problems themselves without immediately blaming the network," Marsh said.

For example, the learning management system would crash if uploads were too large. So IT set an alert to monitor uploads above a certain threshold. When that happens, IT can speak with the person such as a faculty member doing the upload, explain the potential problem and help them with their operation.

The use of the appliance has cut the time for troubleshooting complex programs in half, Marsh added.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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