The Value of Context in Web Scale IT

Frequently in the world of monitoring we hear about the miraculous solutions provided from a single agent. How the world can be solved with transaction tracing, user experience monitoring and understanding the performance of the software pipeline as it applies to business.

All of these are great starting points, but today I’ll go through the case where the software pipeline is affected by the environment in which it lives, and application monitoring only shows the symptoms.

For example, my dashboard this morning:

AppFirst Dashboard Frontend Response Time Spike

The specific item in question, “Frontend Response Time” has a high value for a period this morning.

Frontend response time spike

And as I look into this value, it becomes evident that this is being caused by something external to the software stack.

As a quick background, the eCommerce solution I’m running (magento) uses files to keep track of each user as they access the site. A normal activity which isn’t excessively risky. However, due to this activity, thousands of session files exist which quickly eat up all available inode space if no action is taken.

Session files east up all available inode space is no action is taken

Now, performing normal maintenance, removing these excessive files is easy enough. However, a simple ‘rm -f’ command is insufficient (too many items). This is easily remedied with xargs:

Removing excessive files with xargs

However, execution like this takes time. Time that we can see with the data we’ve collected from the system, and graphed in-line with the web stack performance data.

System and web stack performance graph

The blue line is the ecommerce response time, the purple line the system disk utilization, and the orange line is the number of files being accessed by xargs. You can see the clear correlation between running the file removal on the response time, as well as the reduction in storage space. As soon as the files have been removed, the response time recovers.

If you’d like to stop treating symptoms and see how the environmental context affects your business, sign up for a free 30 day trial at http://www.appfirst.com/signup/.

New & Improved Dashboard Management

Our latest update to the AppFirst Product is a new and improved interface for creating, editing, and navigating between your Dashboards.

In an effort to save space and to give users a faster way to manage and switch between their Dashboards, we’ve moved them to a dropdown menu in the upper left-hand part of the product.

Creating a new Dashboard is easy – just click the + button to the right of the dropdown, and give it a name. Once it’s created, the Dashboard will appear in the dropdown.

If your list of Dashboards gets long, using the search box can help you find the Dashboard you’re looking for much faster.

Hovering over a Dashboard in the dropdown reveals options to rename, duplicate, or delete it.

Grabbing and dragging the leftmost icon lets you manually sort Dashboards in the list.

Our product now remembers which Dashboard you last visited; when navigating back to the product after leaving the site, you will automatically be directed to the Dashboard you previously had active.

The new Dashboard management interface is live and ready-to-use for everyone. If you have any feedback, make sure to let us know!

Windows Collector Version 67 Now Available

The Windows collector version 67 is now available. Updates include:

  • Increased stability in collector and Windows library
  • Decreased bandwidth requirements
  • Increased support with programs that intercept functions (such at Citrix XenApp)
  • Troubleshooting improvements
  • General bug fixes

Get this new version by going to Administration – Collectors – Update Collectors. 

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