Case Study - AC Nielsen

Network Mapping System

AC Nielsen is the leading global provider of marketing research information, analytical systems and tools, and professional services to manufacturers and retailers of consumer packaged products.

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The Requirements

Because of the huge array of systems running on the company’s mainframe, staff members were finding it difficult to understand the complex network of applications and their inter-dependencies.

Our Solution

Blueberry proposed that AC Nielsen migrate their current mainframe applications to a web-based system. The online system would then display an interactive map of the applications running on their mainframe, using Microsoft Server technologies – with MS SQL Server as the database, and MS IIS / ASP.NET as the web server.

Furthermore, the online system could be integrated into AC Nielsen’s existing user-access control systems, which were based on Active Directory, and given support for two levels of access: read-only and read-write.

This approach would make the system immediately accessible to users throughout the company, and would allow information collection to be delegated to the individuals responsible for the actual systems.

To allow users to interact with an online diagram, the system would include a small Flash module to draw the application map, allowing users to pan, zoom and link through to other information on each application.

The problem of how to load the diagram layout information into the system was solved by using Microsoft Visio to make the system drawings, which were then exported to XML and imported into SMS.

To make the system as accessible as possible, Blueberry recommended:

  • Using a graphical representation of the application map to make the information as accessible as possible.
  • Ensuring the system allowed users to easily view dependency information, and to ask questions like: “if we turn off this application, what is affected?”
  • Providing a search tool to allow users to find all applications matching specific search criteria.
  • Allowing system accessibility to all permitted users within the organisation, and to make it possible for remote users to update the information stored in the system.

The complexity of the mapping project depended on whether the applications had widespread dependencies on each other – because the greater the inter-dependencies, the more complex the framework would be.

The Results

The AC Nielsen Systems Mapping Systems project is unique in a number of ways. It makes extensive use of existing technologies: diagrams of the systems were first constructed in Visio, then exported to XML and imported into SMS. Blueberry created a custom flash control, which allowed the Visio diagram to be reproduced on the web without Visio. The flash control allows the user to zoom and pan around the diagram. If a user clicks on an application, the system shows an Application Form, which the user can complete to enter information about the application.

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