Success Story ÖBB

How it started

The operation of trains on railways in Austria is secured by ÖBB Infrastruktur AG seated in Vienna. The company plans, builds and operates the whole railway infrastructure of the Alpine republic on which approximately 230 million of passengers and more than 100 million tons of freight are transported every year. The critical services necessary for this task are provided by the telematics department of ÖBB. These are, among others, the transmission technologies, telephony, and video monitoring - all that with the use of one of the largest communication infrastructures of Austria. In order for the ÖBB data network to work flawlessly, the company relies on Paessler's PRTG software for network monitoring.
Author: Julia Manderbach, independent journalist

A railway network with a length of 4,894 km, with 14,618 switches, 25,009 signaling devices, 247 tunnels, and 3,633 railway crossings in total – this brief list indicates how large the area covered by ÖBB Infrastruktur AG is. The company employees supervise and maintain the complex railway network, and they also deal with possible failures. Apart from that, ÖBB Infrastruktur also provides internal and external professional construction services specialized on railways. Sustainability is also an important topic: the traction current is obtained from water energy. The employees of ÖBB Infrastruktur take care of accuracy, safety and tidiness of the system track.

About ÖBB Infrastruktur AG:

ÖBB Infrastruktur AG was founded in 2009 and within the ÖBB group it is responsible for ensuring appropriate and reliable railway infrastructure. It also cares for safe and accurate operation of railway system. Currently it has 16,000 in-house employees. Before 2016, ÖBB Infrastruktur AG plans and aims to realize rail infrastructure projects with the volume of investment amounting to more than 2 billion EUR per year.

In order for the railway traffic and administrative procedures to be as smooth as possible, the IT and telecommunication infrastructure also has to operate as failure-free. This is a task for the telematics department: Its employees ensure appropriate and reliable ICT solutions necessary for this purpose. The critical company services include, among others, radio and transmission technologies, telephony, information reporting systems, and video monitoring. All these services are accessible through the existent data network.

Monitoring of the bandwidth by sensors

For critical applications it is extremely important that the data network works flawlessly under all circumstances. In order to be able to ensure that, the responsible employees installed the PRTG software for network monitoring by Paessler AG. PRTG is used to monitor the bandwidths of central routers and switches within the data network. For that purpose, the SNMP Traffic sensors are installed almost exclusively. Every router and every switch is provided with several sensors; thanks to that, administrators can have displayed the most important key parameters related to utilization and accessibility. In total, several thousands of sensors recording the relevant values in regular intervals ensure the monitoring. There is a server in Vienna with high accessibility and protection against failure which processes all the data gathered; another server in Linz serves as back up and remote probe for part of the sensors.

Ensuring the sustainability

In the course of time, the PRTG spectrum of use and accessibility gained in importance. This led to increased demands on the expertise of the employees responsible for the implementation and operation of the monitoring software. In pursuance of looking for an appropriate partner, ÖBB commissioned an IT services provider, in particular ITPS AG, to perform a special PRTG training including several workshops for IT staff. The educational program was focused on improving the performance, improving the service reliability and greater integration of PRTG in the area of ÖBB network management.

About ITPS AG:

ITPS AG (Information Technology Professional Solutions) is an independent company providing services and specializing, among others, in the monitoring and supervision of ICT infrastructure. The experts developed SQL-IMS, a model for efficient and proactive management of critical company applications and SLA control and compliance. The PRTG software for network monitoring is a significant part of this solution. Moreover, ITPS AG also created other services and tools that enable the integration of PRTG into different management solutions.

During the workshop, the ÖBB employees together with ITPS AG installed PRTG v. 12.3 to the Linz server and imported the data available. Within the preparation, they also defined the data that will need to be imported for the ÖBB data network from the CA Spectrum central management system to PRTG. Since the adding of devices to PRTG through a specially developed import tool is planned in the future, it will be necessary to monitor such devices with the help of corresponding PRTG sensors. The aim is to eliminate the double expenses spent on administration.

A successful realization of stress tests

Within the following step, the pertinent times of reading in different testing scenarios were investigated. At the end, the PRTG behavior under real conditions was verified through a final stress test with four synchronous speed tests. With the help of PRTG, the workshop participants monitored the times of reading and the use of CPU and RAM at PRTG server. Furthermore, the employees also dedicated themselves to another project: The users of different ÖBB customers should get reading access to devices that are important to them. At the same time, it has to be taken into consideration that the majority of devices can be accessible only to selected customers, whereas other devices can be seen by all of them. PRTG offers configurations of different access rights in order to grant the appropriate access to all parties. The explicit rights are an optimal option for ÖBB for gaining the best possible performance at any given time. During the workshops, the ÖBB and ITPS AG experts prepared their concepts of a new tool for import and transfer of access rights.

The unanimous positive feedback of the participants of the special PRTG trainings follows: "In the past, we have had very good experience with the PRTG system. Our enormous network requires top attention in every moment. The PRTG system will save us work resources and also possible expensive failures or even disruptions. Thanks to the training led by ITPS experts we also managed to gather other knowledge to help us with the current and future use of the solution."

„Out status of Paessler's ‚Certified Monitoring Partner’ already reveals it: “We are surprised by the efficiency of the PRTG system,” explains Thomas Wächter, ITPS AG General Manager. Due to the complexity of the data network, the special training at ÖBB was an extra challenge that the ÖBB employees and our experts managed to meet. The professional knowledge of our experts and the enormous experience of ÖBB professionals related to the operation of data network were perfectly complementing each other."

Summary

On the basis of the installation at ÖBB Infrastruktur it can be said that: No matter if it’s a small, medium or very large network, the PRTG system is flexible and top-class. Reliable, accurate and safe railway traffic is also based on a reliable ICT infrastructure. The management of the ÖBB network ensures that in the background everything will work as expected. PRTG is an important part of the solution for ÖBB network management. An empty track for trouble-free data traffic!