Data centres are starting to connect environmental monitoring sensors to the data network so both facilities managers and IT managers have a unified view of the health of all systems. As facilities equipment manufacturers use common data-exchange standards and network protocols to help bridge the facilities and IT worlds, Visa USA is bringing data centre monitoring to new levels of sophistication, extending traditional hardware- and software-component monitoring to include service-level monitoring. Previously, if a power distribution unit (PDU) in the data centre went down, it wasn't readily apparent what effect that had on customer service, says Tony LaManna, vice president for operations and network services.

Now Visa has a network of software probes at all 21,000 of its member financial institutions and 20 million merchant locations. When a card reader at, say, a gas station in Topeka can't read a customer's card, people at Visa's data centre can see that and trace the problem to its root. "Component-level metrics are important, but in the end, the goal is the cardholder swiping his card and the merchant selling merchandise," says Richard Knight, senior vice president for operations.

Visa's service monitoring system is built around these components:

Netcool monitors and probes from Micromuse. These tools collect real-time data from across the IT infrastructure, consolidate the data into a single management console and notify managers and other systems of problems affecting customer service.

NerveCentre from OpenService. NerveCentre does network monitoring, integrates network and security events, conducts root-cause analysis and automatically fixes some problems.

Powerpack from Interlink Software. This tool handles event monitoring as well as performance analysis from an end user's point of view.

Visa will soon make this elaborate monitoring network even more comprehensive by integrating it with its data centre facilities management system. That should make the connection between an event such as a PDU failure and its impact on customer service readily apparent. "Then we will have a complete view end to end," LaManna says.