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Monthly Archives October 2012

Our digs here at LogicMonitor are cozy. Being adjacent to sales, I get to hear our sales engineers work with new customers, and it’s not uncommon that a new customer gets a rude awakening when they first install LogicMonitor. Immediately, LogicMonitor starts showing warnings and alerts.  ”Can this be right or is this a monitoring error?!”,  they ask. Delicately, our engineer will respond, “I don’t think that’s a monitoring error. It looks like you have a problem there.”

This happened recently with a customer who wanted to use LogicMonitor to watch their large VMware installation. We make excellent use of the VMware API which provides a rich set of data sources for monitoring. In this instance, LogicMonitor’s default alert settings threw several warnings about an ESX host’s datastore. There were multiple warnings regarding write latency problems on the ESX datastore, and drilling down, we found that a singular VM on that datastore was an ‘I/O hog’ that was grabbing so much disk resource that it was causing disk contention among the other VMs.

Finding the rogue host was easy with LogicMonitor’s clear, easy to read graphs. With the disk I\O of the different VMs plotted on the same graph, it was easy to spot the one whose disk operations were significantly higher than the rest.

Write latency on VMware ESX hostWe’ve seen this particular problem with VMware enough that our founder, Steve Francis, made this short video on how to quickly identify which VM on an ESX host is hogging resources: (Caveat: You must be able to understand Austrailian)

All our monitoring data sources have default alerting levels set that you can tune to fit your needs, but they’re pretty close out of the box as they’re the product of a LOT of monitoring experience.  This customer didn’t have to make any adjustments to our alert levels to find a problem they were unaware of with potential customer-facing impacts. The resolution was easy, they moved the VM to another ESX host with a different datastore, but the detection tool was the key.

If you’re wondering about your VMware infrastructure, sign up for a free trial with LogicMonitor today and see what you’ve been missing.

- This article was contributed by Jeffrey Barteet, TechOps Engineer at LogicMonitor

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While most may not see Microsoft as a ‘disruptive innovator’ anymore, they seem to be claiming exactly that role in the enterprise hypervisor space, just as they did in gaming with the Xbox. As noted in “VMware, the bell tolls for thee, and Microsoft is ringing it“, Hyper-V appears to be becoming a legitimate competitor to VMware’s dominant ESXi product.  As described in the article, people reportedly now widely believe that “Microsoft functionality is now ‘good enough’” in the hypervisor – and it’s clearly cheaper (in license terms, at least.)  So is this change in perception really turning into more enterprises choosing Hyper-V?

From LogicMonitor’s view of the situation, we can say that in our customer base, virtualization platforms have been almost entirely VMware in the enterprise and most private cloud providers, with some Xen and Xenserver in the cloud provider space.  But, we have also been seeing more Hyper-V deployments being monitored in the last 6 months.   Still a lot less in absolute numbers than the number of ESXi infrastructures being added to LogicMonitor: but the rate of growth in Hyper-V is certainly higher.

This sounds like a “low-end disruption” classic case study from the Innovator’s Dilemma (Clayton M. Christensen), except for the fact that the Innovator is a $250 billion company!

Right now, Microsoft seems to offer the ‘good enough’ feature set and enterprise features, and ‘good enough’ support, reliability and credibility, leading to some adoption in the enterprise datacenter. (From our biased point of view – the metrics exposed by VMware’s ESXi for monitoring are much better than those exposed by Hyper-V. But perhaps Hyper-V is ‘good enough’ here, too…)  There are lots of ways this could play out – VMware has already dropped the vRam pricing; Microsoft being cheaper in license terms may not make it cheaper in total cost of ownership in the enterprise; VMware is starting to push VMware Go, which could turn into a significant disruptor itself.

So can the $250 billion Microsoft really prove to be more nimble than the $37 billion VMware? History would suggest Microsoft will deliver a solid product (eventually). Hypervisors themselves are becoming commodities. So the high dollar value will shift upward to management.  VMware may chase the upward value (like the integrated steel mills did, that were largely disrupted out of existence); they may go after the commodity space (reducing their profit margins, but possibly protecting their revenue).  Or they may push VMware Go, Cloud Foundry, and other cloud offerings, disrupting things entirely in another direction.

Of course, there are many other possibilities that could play the role of disruptor in the enterprise hypervisor space: Citrix (Xenserver) and KVM spring to mind, but these (currently) tend to play better in the large data center cloud space, rather than the enterprise.

Still, VMware is very much in a position of strength and is well suited to lead the next round of innovation which I see as the release of a product which allows for the movement of VM’s seamlessly from my own infrastructure to a cloud provider’s and back, while maintaining control, security and performance (and monitoring) that IT is accustomed to.  Let’s see if I am right. Fun times ahead!

- This article was contributed by Steve Francis, founder and Chief Product Officer at LogicMonitor

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We use snmp a lot, and know it well. However, not everyone of our customers has spent years working with OIDs in ASN.1, MIBs, Access types, and so on – and nor should they. (As we like to say, “Your monitoring solution should make your life easier, not harder.”) So one question we often get is the difference between the different SNMP versions.

So here’s the quick rundown:

  • SNMP version 1: the oldest flavor.  Easy to set up – only requires a plaintext community. The biggest downsides are that it does not support 64 bit counters, only 32 bit counters, and that it has little security. A community string sent in plaintext, possibly from a restricted range of allowed IP addresses, is as good as the security gets. In other words, no security from someone with access to the network – such a person will be able to see the community string in plaintext, and spoofing a UDP packet’s source IP is trivial.  (On the other hand, if your device is set up to only allow SNMP read only access – the risk is fairly small, and confined to evil people with access to your network. If you have evil people with this access, SNMP is probably not what you need to be worrying about.)
  • SNMP version 2c: in practical terms, v2c is identical to version 1, except it adds support for 64 bit counters.  This matters, especially for interfaces. Even a 1Gbps interface can wrap a 32 bit counter in 34 seconds. Which means that a 32 bit counter being polled at one minute intervals is useless, as it cannot tell the difference between successive values of 30, 40 due to the fact that only 10 octets were sent in that minute, or 30, 40 due to the fact that 4294967306 (2^32 +10) octets were sent in that minute.  Most devices support snmp V2c nowadays, and generally do so automatically. There are some devices that require you to explicitly enable v2c – in which case, you should always do so. There is no downside.
  • SNMP version 3: adds security to the 64 bit counters. SNMP version 3 adds both encryption and authentication, which can be used together or separately.  Setup is more complex than just defining a community string – but then, what security is not?  But if you require security, this is the way to do it.

Note that while you may have to configure the snmp version on your devices that are being monitored, you do not have to configure the version to be used in LogicMonitor. LogicMonitor will automatically try version 3; if that does not succeed, it tries version 2, and only if that does not respond will it use version 1. We try to keep the work away from you when we can.

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VMworld 2012 took place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco a few weeks ago. The weather was surprisingly nice, but the real buzz was inside the convention hall.  We had a pod in the New Innovators section of the Vendor Expo in Moscone West.  It being our first VMworld (as a sponsor), we were very impressed.

I was initially a little skeptical of our location, but it turned out we got a good bit of traffic and talked to dozens of prospects who were very interested in learning more about cloud-based technology infrastructure monitoring.  One of the surprises of the event was how many current customers stopped by to say hello and share how LogicMonitor is working out for them.VMworld Cloud Monitoring Booth from LogicMonitor

One customer had an interesting story about how LogicMonitor saved his movie. He had gone to see the latest Batman movie “The Dark Knight,” and apparently he’s one of those guys who pays attention to his phone while in the movie (you know, like every other SysAdmin in the world).  Half way through the film he got a text message alerting him to an issue.

He immediately logged into LogicMonitor and checked the systems he was responsible for and quickly realized the problem wasn’t on his end. He proceeded to dig around in the other systems in LogicMonitor and was able to pinpoint the issue and relay it to the team responsible.  Ironically, he was the super hero at that moment.  LogicMonitor not only helped him save the day, but it also saved the movie.

The takeaway here is that LogicMonitor helps provide insight into the entire infrastructure and so helps with collaboration across multiple teams.

You never know when the storage guy might help the virtualization guy or the database guy solve a major problem, even if by just proving the issue isn’t the database. This type of collaboration is invaluable when it comes to monitoring. It streamlines the troubleshooting process and motivates the right professionals to action sooner, allowing them to focus on and solve the problem much quicker.

I don’t think there is one SysAdmin out there who enjoys the length of time it takes during the thrill of the hunt, when trying to pinpoint the reason for a major problem or outage.

Needless to say we felt we had a great show. It was fun to be there and talk to really smart and interesting people. If your organization uses VMware in their infrastructure I would highly recommend attending this conference next year – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

 

 

 

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