Sometimes the truth hurts. Well the truth is what we didn’t find at DevOps Days was a throng of adoring fans waiting to throw their undergarments at us. Come to think of it, that would be kind of gross anyway, especially with the DevOps crowd…no disrespect.
What we did find was:
a) our marketing table nestled so close to our competitor’s that…if our tables had been teenagers, we would have sent them to the Principal’s office (see PHOTO below…with competitor’s name shamelessly Photoshopped out and replaced with ours) … and,
b) a lot of companies and DevOps teams that were fairly embedded in their custom-rigged, hard-fought and hard-won monitoring solutions.
In our last blog post we talked about the “suck” factor in monitoring. Well, maybe for some, blessed with sizable IT budgets and IT brains, monitoring doesn’t suck so bad at all. In fact maybe for those who take pride in their ability to cobble together a patchwork of complex solutions into one grand “comprehensive” solution, it’s sort of a way of life… a job within a job, a golden chalice, a worthy opponent for any Real Mensa up to the task.
When I was a kid I entered a Soapbox Derby – a racing event where the entrants spend the better part of a year (usually with their dads) making, honing, tweaking, and polishing their own motorless downhill race cars. Well I was new in town and my dad was busy with a new job, so I saved up and bought a Soapbox Derby Car from an enticing ad in the back of Popular Mechanics. The car was amazing. It was beautiful, took me fifteen minutes to put together, and with very little time, effort, or expense I placed an easy second in the popular Derby out of more than three dozen entrants. I loved it.
When, on the trophy stand, I told everyone I’d bought the car, they called an emergency meeting and, despite having no written rule to back up their judgement…took the trophy right out of my hands and disqualified me from the race. My car was arguably better, faster, sleeker and more attractive than most of the others in the field, but I hadn’t spent hundreds of hours and piles of money and put the requisite amount of blood, sweat and tears into it… so it didn’t count.
Sometimes the truth hurts. Well the truth is I just completely made up that story. Sorry, but I was searching for something analogous to what we didn’t find at DevOps Days and that fake memory seemed to kind of fit. It seemed more rich (and fun) than just coming straight out and saying, “When I was out last week I went to DevOps Days – an event where the participants spend a good part of their year (usually with their team) searching, honing and tweaking a multitude of products like Nagios, Cacti, collectd + graphite + pnp4nagios, Muni, etc. etc. to create their own monitoring solution…” and so on.
Plus, admit it, it conjured up a nice little twinge of boyhood nostalgia for a few seconds, didn’t it? Oh well, it did for me. It also caused me to realize what to do with the rest of this quarter’s marketing & event budget – we’re taking out a full page ad in the back of Popular Mechanics.
There’s some interesting discussion around “Monitoring Sucks”, and has been for a while. (Go check the twitter hashtag #monitoringsucks). This is not a new opinion – the fact that I thought monitoring sucks is why I started LogicMonitor.
But it’s interesting to assess whether LogicMonitor meets the criteria for not sucking. Clearly our customers think we have great monitoring – but probably only 30% of our customers are SaaS type companies, and may or may not have the DevOps mentality.
So the initial criteria for why monitoring sucks, at least on the referenced blog post, were:
But does monitoring REALLY suck? Heck no! Monitoring is AWESOME. Metrics are AWESOME. I love it. Here's what I don't love: - Having my hands tied with the model of host and service bindings. - Having to set up "fake" hosts just to group arbitrary metrics together - Having to either collect metrics twice - once for alerting and another for trending - Only being able to see my metrics in 5 minute intervals - Having to chose between shitty interface but great monitoring or shitty monitoring but great interface - Dealing with a monitoring system that thinks IT is the system of truth for my environment - Perl
Let’s look at these points from the point of view of LogicMonitor
Having my hands tied with the model of host and service bindings. I’m not sure how you not tie someone’s hands to some degree, but LogicMonitor certainly tries to give flexibility. Services do generally have to associated with hosts – but can be associated by all sorts of things (hostname, group membership, SNMP agent OID, system description, WMI classes supported, kernel level, etc.)
Having to set up “fake” hosts just to group arbitrary metrics together. LogicMonitor avoids this mostly with custom graphs on dashboards, which allow you to group any metric (or set of metrics based on globs/regex’s) with any other set, filtered to the top 10, or not; aggregated together (sum, max, min, average) or not. Also, some meta-services are associated with groups, not hosts, to allow alerting on things like number of servers providing a service, rather than just whether a specific host is successfully providing the service.
Having to either collect metrics twice – once for alerting and another for trending. We certainly don’t require that. Any datapoint that is collected can be alerted on, graphed, both or neither. (Sometimes datapoints are collected as they are used in other calculated datapoints, derived from multiple inputs.)
Only being able to see my metrics in 5 minute intervals. Again, we don’t impose that restriction – you can specify the collection interval for each datasource, from 1 minute to once a day. (I know going to only 1 minute resolution is not ideal for some applications – but as a SaaS delivery model, we currently impose that limit to protect ourselves, until the next rewrite of the backend storage engine, which should remove that.)
Having to chose between shitty interface but great monitoring or shitty monitoring but great interface.I think we have a pretty good interface and great monitoring. Certainly our interface is orders of magnitude better than it was when we launched, and a lot of people give us kudos for it. But there’s lots of room for improvement.
Dealing with a monitoring system that thinks IT is the system of truth for my environment. LogicMonitor thinks it is the truth for what your monitoring should be monitoring – but it’s willing to listen. It’s easy to use the API to put hooks into puppet, kickstart, etc that automatically add hosts to monitoring, assign them to groups, etc. We’re looking at integration with Puppet Lab’s MCollective initiative and other things to get further along this issue.
Perl. Our collectors are agnostic when it comes to scripting. They support collection and discovery scripts in the native languages of whatever platform they are running on – so VBscript, powershell, C# on Windows; bash, ruby, perl, etc on linux. But as our collectors are Java based, we encourage Groovy as the scripting language for cross-platform goodness. The collectors expose a bunch of their own functionality (snmp, JMX, expect, etc) to groovy, so it makes a lot of things very easy. So it’s the language we use for writing and extending datasources for our customers. But if Perl is your thing, keep at it.
So, does LogicMonitor suck? I don’t think so, and hopefully DevOps Borat does not either.
I’ll be at the DevOps Days conference in Austin this coming week (LogicMonitor is sponsoring), so hopefully we’ll get some more feedback there.
Or post below to let us know what constitutes “non-sucky” monitoring.
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