Web-Scale IT in the Enterprise

Enterprise IT organizations are turning to a portfolio of SaaS, PaaS and hybrid cloud services to quickly respond to the business at a lower price point while improving service levels. Yet a new level of transparency and data precision is required to effectively deliver on this promise. Only AppFirst delivers a miss nothing approach to collecting data across the entire IT ecosystem. With this foundational data set it is now possible for organizations to achieve:

  1. A steady-state high-definition view of your end-to-end application infrastructure as compared to the still- picture model that was state-of-the-art with legacy technologies.
  2. Significantly drive down costs while ensuring business critical service levels.
  3. A deterministic view of the n-tier application environment, eliminating the need to make probabilistic assumptions to manage the system.
  4. The correct data view to fully leverage automation and predictive analytics technologies.

This brief discusses the key learnings that Claus Moldt, former Global CIO for Salesforce.com took away from addressing these challenges. The need for a new approach is reiterated by the following Gartner research note on Building a Modern APM Architecture for the World of Web Scale IT.

Read the following report on Web-Scale IT in the Enterprise.

AppFirst on the APM Shortlist

ProfitBricks, a cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) company, recently included AppFirst on a short list of application performance management tools that provide full-stack visibility, complete with diagnostics and actionable recommendations based on sophisticated data analysis.

The problem: Modern enterprises require robust tools that can monitor resources used by applications, correlate that data with meaningful user insights, and align performance with business processes.

Check out what they have to say about AppFirst: http://blog.profitbricks.com/application-performance-management-tools/

It’s Here: The New AppFirst UI

We’ve been working very hard in recent weeks to prepare for the release of our updated user interface here at AppFirst. We are excited about all the new features and over the next few months we will add even more functionality and flexibility to our product.

I would like to share some of the new features available with the new user interface. There are many changes and improvements that have been made throughout the UI and we’ll touch on some of them in this blog post.

For starters we have incorporated responsive design to many of our views and are moving toward a full HTML5 implementation. With the plethora of devices on the market today we wanted a better experience for our customers across all devices. Additionally, we have improved several of the workflows to make them more intuitive and easier to work with.

So what are some of the new features? Here are some of the highlights:

Autodetect

Autodetect is a great new feature for our users. AppFirst has always supported some level of autodetection, however the new Autodetect is much more integrated into the user interface with “opt in” and “opt out” options at every step. For every software component we find, Autodetect can find and configure alerts, log sources, polled data items, progress groups, and dashboards.

First-time users will use Autodetect when they first install a collector. However, Autodetect is also available through Admin so users can run it at any time on any number of servers they choose. We are really excited about this new feature and we think our customers will be as well.

Dashboards

Customers have always loved our dashboards. Now we’ve taken them to the next level with new features customers have been asking for. For example, the ability to duplicate dashboards, copy widgets from one dashboard to another, copy widgets within a dashboard, and a new feature called TV Mode. TV Mode allows customers to display their favorite dashboards on a large centralized TV within their office or network operations center. Because some computer monitors are on the small side, TV Mode allows you to display more widgets than will fit in the normal view. Simply choose how many widgets to view and how often to rotate views and TV mode will rotate through all your widgets in an “ad rotator” fashion.

Dashboard Widget Market

Our new Widget Market is where users will find all of the widgets that can be added to dashboards. Widgets provide small templated views of specific metrics, whether it’s system metrics, log metrics, process metrics, or any other data source in AppFirst.

Many of our widgets now support an extra level of functionality as well.

  • The ability to drill down with Correlate in context of the data from that widget.
  • Using the Polled Data Metrics widget, you can create a more detailed view of specific application components, such as Apache, IIS, Oracle, and so on. We call this the “Widget Detail” view.

The market is still in it’s early stages and we plan to add many more widgets over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for updates!

Servers

The Servers view has also been redesigned to quickly and easily provide more information about all your servers, VMs, or cloud instances. Like many of the views in the new user interface, there are more options for searching, filtering, and paging large numbers of servers. Multiple metrics are shown for multiple servers and users can toggle between a list-view and a grid-view. Clicking on a single server displays a wide range of details in a tabbed view format.

Consolidated Alerts

Alert History and Alert Status have been combined into a single new Alerts view, establishing a logical workflow to investigate alerts. Use the visual bar chart to easily identify the volume and criticality of alerts over time. You can then dive into the time interval you want to investigate and view the alerts that triggered at that point in time. We included a Resolve button so you can clear alerts of their critical or warning status, indicating to your team that things are now OK.

Administration

Virtually everything in Admin has been logically changed or redesigned. This new design offers a streamlined way for users to find and configure Admin options, including adding new users and collectors, organizing servers and process groups, and access to the new Autodetect feature. Users will also like the new Setup area for configuring alerts, logs, devices, and polled data items.

First Time User Experience

New users will now be guided through a much more complete experience when installing their first collector. Collector options have been expanded from Linux and Windows to include other operating systems like Solaris, FreeBSD, and AIX. Additionally, we’ve included links to easily access our integrations with configuration management tools like Chef and Puppet.

After installing the first collector, users will head to Autodetect where alerts, logs, polled data items, process groups, and even dashboards can be configured automatically. Now you can spend less time considering how and what data to collect in your environment.

 

So that’s a quick tour of some of the new changes and some insights into the usability improvements. We are excited about all the new changes and are always interested in hearing from you about what you like and what you think we could improve upon. Let us know your thoughts!

*Note – current customers will have the ability to return to the classic interface for the next several weeks to help with the transition.

The Pursuit of Complete Visibility

For those who didn’t have the chance to attend the Cloud Foundry summit, check out some of the highlights.

Wayne Seguin of Stark & Wayne, a leading consulting and product development company for all things Cloud Foundry, led a technical talk on “The Pursuit of Complete Visibility”. Below are his slides which highlight:

  • The requirements for enterprise monitoring
  • Data collection requirements
  • Partnering with AppFirst to attain that visibility

AppFirst Named One Of The “2014 Hottest NYC Companies”

AppFirst has been selected as one of the hottest technology companies in New York City by Lead411.  Appearing in this series for the second year in a row, we’re excited about the momentum we are building across enterprise IT organizations and are proud to be included on this list. Starting with 1429 companies and narrowed down to the top 87, we’ve joined the winners circle with notable companies, AppNexus, Apprenda and General Assembly.

Check out the full list.

Providing Continuous Visibility into Cloud Foundry

With the annual Cloud Foundry Summit upon us, AppFirst is proud to announce the release of a new integration for full-stack visibility into all components across Cloud Foundry. As the first solution to integrate with the BOSH framework, AppFirst is the only monitoring service to provide users with continuous insight into their large-scale distributed services.

BOSH, known as “the outer shell for cloud software,” is a Cloud Foundry project for release engineering, deployment, and lifecycle management of large-scale cloud software. BOSH can provision and deploy software over hundreds of VMs and perform failure recovery and software updates with zero-to-minimal downtime.

Through this integration, organizations leveraging Cloud Foundry’s open source PaaS to quickly develop, deploy, and scale applications can now gain insight into these deployments unlike ever before. Wayne E. Seguin from Stark & Wayne – a leading consulting and product development company for all things Cloud Foundry – sheds light on what this means for users…

“This integration sets the stage for creating automatic subsystem detection and identification across Cloud Foundry. This mechanism will auto-create dashboards representing the health and status of each Cloud Foundry subsystem such as router, message bus, DEA pools, cloud controller, uaa, etc.. Ultimately, it will enable a view of the Cloud Foundry subsystems which does not care about the servers themselves: it provides a comprehensive view spanning the entire system. We may then drill down to examine sub-components until we get to individual servers, processes, threads etc.. This will allow for forensic analysis of past issues, quick identification of current issues and assist with prediction of future issues helping reduce overall OPEX.”

The Need for a New Approach

The requirements for monitoring and managing services running on top of next-generation infrastructure and PaaS have left previous tools obsolete. Recent Gartner research discusses the need for a new approach in monitoring applications at scale. “Today’s application (and enterprise) monitoring tools increasingly fail to meet the needs of Web-scale application environments that IT operations teams are deploying to match the needs of modern agile applications.”[1] Furthermore, “Gartner predicts that fewer than 25% of conventional APM products will support pairing high-frequency metric collection and application context needed to facilitate Web-scale monitoring by 2016, up from 10% today.” [read entire report]

If you are unfamiliar with AppFirst, our patented technology provides a miss-nothing approach to collecting events across every machine in your OpenStack / Cloud Foundry environment. In addition, users can overlay any dataset they need to work with, including logs, statsd metrics, JMX, devices such as routers, or any one of thousands of Nagios plugins. Users deploy AppFirst for:

AUTODISCOVERY
Autodiscover all technology that runs your business – every app, component and process — and understand where they’re running and their respective interactions. This provides a complete ‘application footprint.’

FULL-STACK MONITORING
Full-stack monitoring for a baseline performance of all of your apps and infrastructure, including the PaaS layer. This provides service level accountability, identifies issues before they impact the user.

RECOMMENDATION
Take what was learned in the Discovery and Monitor phases in order to plan for capacity, optimize assets and manage risk. Leveraging these rich datasets alongside predictive analytics creates a recommendation engine unlike anything seen before.

INSIGHT FOR ACTION
Accelerate troubleshooting by automating repeatable processes.

How to get started

Start a conversation about monitoring Cloud Foundry with AppFirst.

Sign up for a free trial.

[1] Gartner, Building a Modern APM Architecture for the World of Web-Scale IT, Jonah Kowall, Cameron Haight, December 6, 2013.

AppFirst Beta UI: A Deep Dive into the Design

In our previous post on our new beta UI, we talked about some of the great improvements we’ve made to help bring visibility of your applications and infrastructure to the forefront. In this post, we’re going to dive deep into more of the design aspects we’ve added or improved upon.

Responsive Design

With the continued rise of mobile, many of our users mentioned they wanted to use AppFirst on the go on their tablets and smartphones. We took this feedback and converted our whole product into an optimized, user-friendly experience. So whether you’re at work on your computer, off-site with your tablet, or away from your desk on your smartphone, AppFirst’s product conforms to any screen size you’re using.

Here’s an example of how our Dashboards work with the new responsive design.

Here’s what a Dashboard looks like on an iPhone.

Dashboards aren’t the only thing responsive – the whole product is. Take a look at our new Alerts page on the iPhone.

A Consolidated Alerts View

We’ve redesigned our Alerts page to combine Alert History and Alert Status into a single, consolidated view. The top half of the page displays your alerts historically, allowing you to view your alert activity over any date range (or time range if you’re looking at a single day). Many of our users requested a better way to visualize their alerts over time so they can better identify trends in their data.

And now, without the need to go to a different page, you can simply look below to view what alerts were triggered in the range you’re viewing.

In the screenshot above, you can see we’ve helped distinguish your alerts with a color-coded key, helping you easily visualize the status of recent alerts.

Dashboard TV Mode

We touched on TV Mode a bit in our last post, but wanted to mention it again cause it’s that cool of a feature. Easily toggle to TV mode and keep a ‘hands free’ continuous watch of your most important parts of your IT environment. This is perfect for organizations with large monitors for the whole team to key an eye on.

Search/Filter Bars

As time goes on, applications and the infrastructure that supports them usually gets more and more complex. That’s why we built Search/Filter bars on nearly every single page in AppFirst. Forget the days of infinite scrolling to find that needle in the haystack. Where it’s searching for a specific Dashboard, one of your hundreds of servers, an individual alert, or one of your polled data scripts, we’ve got you covered.

One of our best examples is with our Servers page. There’s a Filter as well as a Search bar, allowing you to get very granular in how you view your data.

Use the Filter to view your servers that are part of a specific Server Group or Server Tag, or view your servers that are running or stopped.

Use the Search to view specific servers based on hostnames or nicknames.

APPFIRST GRANTED U.S. PATENT FOR NEXT-GENERATION ‘MISS-NOTHING’ DATA COLLECTION PLATFORM

NEW YORK – May 13, 2014 – AppFirst, the world’s only platform to provide enterprises with continuous and complete visibility into all applications and supporting resources in their IT ecosystem, has been granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its next-generation data collection technology.

U.S. Patent 8,707,274 was awarded to AppFirst’s Co-Founder and CTO, Donn Rochette. Mr. Rochette’s unique experience developing life-critical systems for organizations such as NASA is paramount to the development and successful implementation of this technology.

“We’ve applied the system expertise and development principles required for life-critical systems and applied these to AppFirst’s collection technology,” said Mr. Rochette. “Our ability to understand how a system operates from the silicon through the software stack allows us to deliver an extremely high level of performance and scale. This enables us to gather foundational operations and application data like never seen before, all without impacting application performance.”

This allows enterprise customers to deploy this technology across their entire ecosystem, not just a single stack. For example, a Fortune 500 Global Pharmaceutical Company is leveraging AppFirst after a significant investment in consolidating data centers that service thousands of internal applications. For all of the tools and monitoring software that have been in place, there has been a lack of visibility into what is really happening. They have turned to AppFirst to see all the technology that is running their business, including how it performs and the dependencies amongst components. This allows them to improve performance for the business while reducing the costs associated with over-provisioning capacity and fighting fires.

“With today’s flexing and scaling systems, customers are demanding a complete and continuous view of the performance and asset consumption of every application running on all resources across the enterprise,” said David Roth, CEO and Co-Founder of AppFirst. “Historical solutions are only capable of providing small snapshots of the health of an application, typically at one second to several minute intervals. This patent breaks the traditional barriers of time and visibility. It proves that AppFirst is the first company to get to the sub-second level across all applications, system components and network. This resets the bar for how organizations bridge business to IT, proactively troubleshoot, plan for capacity, feed automation systems, and provide business units with granular chargebacks.

Need for Technology Reinforced by Gartner

The need for this technology is reinforced by Gartner’s research entitled, “Building a Modern APM Architecture for the World of Web-Scale IT”. According to Gartner, “Today’s application (and enterprise) monitoring tools increasingly fail to meet the needs of Web-scale application environments that IT operations teams are deploying to match the needs of modern agile applications.”1 Furthermore, “Gartner predicts that fewer than 25% of conventional APM products will support pairing high-frequency metric collection and application context needed to facilitate Web-scale monitoring by 2016, up from 10% today.”

This patented “collector” technology aggregates events as they occur across every process, component and application. It provides:

  • The first collection technology to auto-discover and capture every event across the entire infrastructure, (physical, virtual, public, private and hybrid clouds) including every process, socket, thread, registry access and configuration behavior.
  • Comprehensive data collection for both custom and packaged applications without agent technology. This requires no changes to the application or system, with zero application impact.
  • A fully correlated timeline of events across the entire n-tier environment, including the collection of log files, data from thousands of plugins and the ability to easily integrate data from any other data source.

About AppFirst

AppFirst’s patented technology provides enterprises with continuous and complete visibility into all applications and supporting resources across their IT ecosystem, regardless of the infrastructure. With AppFirst, organizations can experience never-before-seen information about their systems, allowing the ability to proactively troubleshoot, increase system performance and asset utilization, enable highly accurate chargeback capabilities, and reduce overall IT costs. Founded in 2009, AppFirst is based in New York City, with venture backing from FirstMark Capital,First Round Capital,Javelin Venture Partners andSafeguard Scientifics (NYSE:SFE). For more information, visit appfirst.com, Follow Us on Twitter @AppFirst or subscribe to the AppFirst blog.


1Gartner, Building a Modern APM Architecture for the World of Web-Scale IT, Jonah Kowall, Cameron Haight, December 6, 2013.