Success Story: Nagios ensures international mobile internet connectivity at T-Mobile
As a leading European mobile provider, T-Mobile needs to stay ahead in the technology game. Since 2005, NETWAYS has been there to support with innovative and efficient solutions grounded in practical expertise. With a Nagios implementation that has grown beyond T-Mobile’s in-house network to monitor the entire GSM network and data transfer (roaming), NETWAYS has assisted T-Mobile to ensure the highest availability of over 450 foreign GSM networks.
Worldwide, T-Mobile meets the needs of up to 150 million customers with products and services of company majority holdings. Within Germany, T-Mobile maintains up to 99% cell phone network coverage and highest security. Hand in hand with around 320 roaming partners, T-Mobile ensures its customers can enjoy automatic access to their usual services in foreign networks around the world, winning them the title “Mobile Provider of the Year 2008” (Connect Magazine, Germany,04/08).
Best fit solutions: Nagios and Wireshark
In addition to traditional closed source products, T-Mobile has employed open source software since 2003. Meeting their far-reaching customization needs while offering substantial cost savings, meant Nagios and Wireshark (a tool for network traffic analysis) stood out as the “best-fit” solution for T-Mobile roaming services. The fast implementation and high degree of scalability, lent further reason to T-Mobile’s IT executives to amplify their use of open source.
Partnership approach: Continuous support
Since 2005, NETWAYS GmbH has supported T-Mobile with the deployment and scaling of Nagios within the company. Over this period, not only was the in-house company network integrated into the system, but international data roaming on GSM networks was also established and continuously expanded.
Implementation: NETWAYS NagiosGrapher
Initially, Nagios monitoring was confined to the internal company network. Today, Nagios is the main monitoring system ensuring GSM network connectivity and providing data roaming performance management on top of normal host and service monitoring. T-Mobile’s Nagios checks stretch over 450 foreign GSM networks in practically every country running a GSM network.
During a workshop, the Nagios environment was expanded with a Nagios addon developed by NETWAYS: NagiosGrapher generated graphics and performance charts from returned Nagios monitoring results, to enable performance monitoring tailored to T-Mobile’s specific needs as well as user friendly monitoring management. The charts generated from collected data allowed T-Mobile IT executives to make detail analyses of the monitored systems. In this way, service and server availability data could be used to extrapolate long term trends and make future projections, which in turn ensure the quick and early identification of potential problems.
Refurbishment: Nagios environment
In 2008, T-Mobile’s Nagios environment underwent extensive redesign. All three product servers were migrated from Nagios 2.0 to 3.0 and system maintenance was simultaneously simplified through a template based configuration. Beyond this, NETWAYS also offered consulting and support in migrating T-Mobile’s monitoring onto a completely virtual platform, improving system flexibility and performance considerably.
In the new setup, the Nagios servers were configured for redundancy. Should a failure occur, the faulty components would be immediately replaced by another server to ensure undisturbed operation. After various live tests carried out on a special test system across both data centers, all existing issues were resolved the system was launched into operation. In addition to the benefits gained by the virtual environment, the convenience of maintaining just one system lay in the horizon.
“Beside standard plugins, we use Nagios for tests in and between GSM networks. As there were no existing plugins for this purpose, NETWAYS conceptualized our desired Nagios checks and implemented in the networks. Here, Nagios took over functioning of core GSM network elements. Additionally, NETWAYS virtualized the system with XEN and continues to support us in its maintenance,” explained Fran Maerz, Senior Service Engineer, International Roaming, T-Mobile.
Support above and beyond: Covering all open source
Today, NETWAYS supports T-Mobile in Nagios monitoring as well as all open source software deployed in their roaming networks. This includes frequent smaller projects for the development customized Nagios extensions. In such a project, Nagios plugin check_radius_adv was created especially to monitor the availability of a RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) server.
RADIUS is a client-server protocol for the authentication, authorization and user billing of dial-up connections in a network. Here, the RADIUS plugin was extended to support account validation, attribute as well as negative checks. T-Mobile deploys this tool to monitor the availability of around 25 WLAN roaming partners with more than satisfactory results.
“The tests carried out with this plugin have prevented major outages in the last two years, while check_radius_adv has enabled smaller outages to be detected and corrected,” noted Manuel Biewald (System Engineer International Roaming, T-Mobile) on the benefits that the plugins have so far provided.
Future: A strong partnership moving forward
“For 2009, a second instance of Nagios Grapher upgraded to NETWAYS Grapherv2, is definitely in the pipeline. We are seeking to expand our performance monitoring activities for greater data accuracy, flexibility, improved presentation and usability. The roll-out of Nagios monitoring to cover other T-Mobile networks in Britain, Holland, Austria and the Czech Republic is also planned, as well as the customization of our existing plugins to meet the constant developments within our GSM networks. NETWAYS support has always stretched beyond Nagios, so we look forward to our coming projects with them and hope they will be as interesting and successful as the last,” mused Christian Hirsch (System Engineer, International Roaming, T-Mobile).
PDF: T-Mobile Success Story