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  • Pulling a Rabbit Out of Hat…Collecting Metrics from RabbitMQ

    Posted by on October 30th, 2014

    Rocky: And now….
    Bullwinkle: Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.
    Rocky: But that trick never works.
    Bullwinkle: This time for sure. Nothing up my sleeve….PRESTO! (Bullwinkle pulls Rocket J. Squirrel out of his hat.) Well, I’m getting close.
    Rocky: Now, here something we hope you’ll really like.

    System monitoring is not magic, but first requires data from the service or application to be monitored (No deference to Bullwinkle’s magic skills: Bullwinkle Pulls a Rabbit Out of a Hat). In similar fashion, when a magician pulls a Rabbit out of his hat, the same goes for the Boundary Plugin for RabbitMQ which is able to pull key metrics (“Rabbit”) out of the RabbitMQ broker (“The hat”) to observe RabbitMQ’s state and performance.

    “I imagine that right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?
    ― Morpheus, The Matrix

    For those not familar with RabbitMQ, it is an open source, highly scaleable, message-oriented middleware that can be communicated with via the Advanced Message Queue Protocol (AMPQ). The defining features of RabbitMQ are...

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  • Pulling a Rabbit Out of Hat…Collecting Metrics from RabbitMQ

    Posted by on October 30th, 2014

    Rocky: And now….
    Bullwinkle: Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.
    Rocky: But that trick never works.
    Bullwinkle: This time for sure. Nothing up my sleeve….PRESTO! (Bullwinkle pulls Rocket J. Squirrel out of his hat.) Well, I’m getting close.
    Rocky: Now, here something we hope you’ll really like.

    System monitoring is not magic, but first requires data from the service or application to be monitored (No deference to Bullwinkle’s magic skills: Bullwinkle Pulls a Rabbit Out of a Hat). In similar fashion, when a magician pulls a Rabbit out of his hat, the same goes for the Boundary Plugin for RabbitMQ which is able to pull key metrics (“Rabbit”) out of the RabbitMQ broker (“The hat”) to observe RabbitMQ’s state and performance.

    “I imagine that right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?
    ― Morpheus, The Matrix

    For those not familar with RabbitMQ, it is an open source, highly scaleable, message-oriented middleware that can be communicated with via the Advanced Message Queue Protocol (AMPQ). The defining features of RabbitMQ are message orientation, queuing, routing (including point-to-point and publish-and-subscribe), reliability and security. AMQP client APIs bindings are readily available for a diverse set of programming languages (Java, Python, .NET/C#,C,Ruby).

    The highly scaleable messaging services provided by RabbitMQ are integral to many web scale applications and as such they should be monitored for their health and performance. The Boundary RabbitMQ Plugin collects critical metrics, the list of which can be found here, and displays them with second resolution.

    Installation of the plugin by default provides a graph of these metrics in a single dashboard as shown here (Click on the image to see the animation):

    rabbit

    The RabbitMQ plugin is now available in Boundary Premium, so work your magic and install the RabbitMQ Plugin so you can pull your own rabbit out of at hat metrics from your RabbitMQ instance at one second resolution.

    “Alice:How long is forever? White Rabbit:Sometimes, just one second.”
    ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


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  • Helping our customers get the most value

    Posted by on October 28th, 2014

    A common attribute across our customers is that they are often dealing with many concurrent tasks and a lack of time to do them. When it comes to learning or getting full value from new products, it is usually done between other high priority tasks, which makes it difficult to keep track what was done and what not.

    Our customers don’t have the time or the inclination to read product manuals but rather prefer the product to be self explanatory and allow them to quickly understand and use the functionality on offer to help them to do their job. We have added a new feature to help ensure our customers get maximum value in minimum time.

    Snip20141025_37

    If you have logged into your Boundary account during last 24 hours you might have noticed the Boundary logo has moved into the corner, and got “smarter”. Now when you mouse-over, it will show you a check-list of the major areas to explore in the product. The check-list automatically updates itself as you use the functionality and serves as a great reminder of “things to do with Boundary”.

    Snip20141025_38

    Clicking on each item will take you directly to the...

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  • Helping our customers get the most value

    Posted by on October 28th, 2014

    A common attribute across our customers is that they are often dealing with many concurrent tasks and a lack of time to do them. When it comes to learning or getting full value from new products, it is usually done between other high priority tasks, which makes it difficult to keep track what was done and what not.

    Our customers don’t have the time or the inclination to read product manuals but rather prefer the product to be self explanatory and allow them to quickly understand and use the functionality on offer to help them to do their job. We have added a new feature to help ensure our customers get maximum value in minimum time.

    Snip20141025_37

    If you have logged into your Boundary account during last 24 hours you might have noticed the Boundary logo has moved into the corner, and got “smarter”. Now when you mouse-over, it will show you a check-list of the major areas to explore in the product. The check-list automatically updates itself as you use the functionality and serves as a great reminder of “things to do with Boundary”.

    Snip20141025_38

    Clicking on each item will take you directly to the right window in the product where you can quickly perform the task. We recommend to start by installing an agent (the list of currently supported OS is here, and our next version (currently in final customer test) will support more OS and versions – see below). Then proceed to create your first custom dashboard and so on.

    Snip20141025_40     Snip20141025_41

    Once complete, the number of “to do” tasks is decremented and the corresponding task is marked as “done”. And yes, we call it “Push the Boundaries”.

    Snip20141025_47

    We hope this feature will help new users to learn Boundary functionality faster and ensure that you’re using it to its potential. Of course, it is not a full list – it just briefly touches on plugins, and does not include notificationsinstrumentations, filters, etc.  

    Legend Bar learns new tricks also

    One of Boundary distinctive features is the interactive legend bar. It not only shows the color for the metrics on the current dashboard charts, but also allows you to show/hide and focus/unfocus. Now we have also added “quick filter” and advanced selection buttons.

    “Quick filter” is stronger version of “hide” – it shows up as small “x” icon, when the user hovers the mouse over the source name. If user clicks “x”, this source is immediately filtered out from the current dashboard. Then you can save the current filter to re-use it later. If it was done by mistake, you can always bring it back using “Sources” dropdown control (just on top of the legend bar)

    Snip20141027_3

    Going to the right side of the legend bar, the previously lonely “reset selection” button has morphed into “Select All” button and got two new friends – “Select Inverse” which reverses the selection, and “Select None” which helps when you need to hide most sources and select only one or a couple of them.
    Snip20141027_1

    Going wider in OS support

    We are very close to announcing general availability of the all-new Boundary agent. We are super proud of our agent, which we believe provides the most capabilities for the lowest overhead of any monitoring agent. Partly this is because we write it in C as opposed to Python or another high level language and partly because we have a super talented team of engineers dedicated to constantly enhancing it (detailed blog post to follow). Apart from all the new features, it also adds support for a number of new platforms e.g. SmartOS and also for recently released versions e.g. CentOS 7. Make sure to read the Wednesday Wave newsletter published weekly for these and other announcements.

    If you are not subscribed to the Wednesday Wave or if you have feedback on these features or other features you’d like to see, send us a note at service@boundary.com.


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  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #5

    Posted by on October 22nd, 2014

    ISSUE #5 – 22nd October 2014
    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”


    Welcome to the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.


    Don’t have a Boundary account?  Sign up here.

    Latest Product

    Pre-release programs (contact services@boundary.com to participate):

    • New broader OS support for the following:
      • Amazon Linux AMI – all versions
      • CentOS 5.x-7.x
      • Engine Yard Gentoo
      • Fedora Linux
      • Free BSD 9.0-10.0
      • Linux Mint 13-17
      • openSuse 12.1-13.1
      • Oracle Linux 5.x-7.x
      • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.x
      • Scientific Linux 6.x-7.x
      • SmartOS – all versions
    • Generic JMX Plugin – see new blog: Are you Experienced?
    • AWS Relational Database Service (RDS) Plugin
    • AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) Plugin (about to start)
    • Redis Plugin
    • AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) Plugin
    • PostgreSQL Plugin (now finalizing certification)
    • RabbitMQ Plugin (now finalizing certification)

    Required Reading from our CTO & engineering team

    Show more...

  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #5

    Posted by on October 22nd, 2014

    ISSUE #5 – 22nd October 2014
    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”


    Welcome to the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.


    Don’t have a Boundary account?  Sign up here.

    Latest Product

    Pre-release programs (contact services@boundary.com to participate):

    • New broader OS support for the following:
      • Amazon Linux AMI – all versions
      • CentOS 5.x-7.x
      • Engine Yard Gentoo
      • Fedora Linux
      • Free BSD 9.0-10.0
      • Linux Mint 13-17
      • openSuse 12.1-13.1
      • Oracle Linux 5.x-7.x
      • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.x
      • Scientific Linux 6.x-7.x
      • SmartOS – all versions
    • Generic JMX Plugin – see new blog: Are you Experienced?
    • AWS Relational Database Service (RDS) Plugin
    • AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) Plugin (about to start)
    • Redis Plugin
    • AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) Plugin
    • PostgreSQL Plugin (now finalizing certification)
    • RabbitMQ Plugin (now finalizing certification)

    Required Reading from our CTO & engineering team

    Partner of the Week

    • TriNimbus is a leading AWS Consulting Partner. The TriNimbus team has an unparalled depth of knowledge and experience in AWS deployments, optimization, management and devops services.

    Boundary Office Hours (recurring)

    • Boundary’s Office Hours NOW EACH THURSDAY. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop.  Join at your convenience!

    Knowledge Base

    We’re Hiring

    • Lead Java Developer, Austin TX
    • Java Senior Developer, Austin TX
    • Senior Operations Engineer, Austin TX
    • Controller, Mountain View CA
    • Content Marketing Manager, Mountain View CA
    • Head of Marketing, Mountain View CA

    Have a great week!

    The Boundary Team
    @Boundary


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  • The JMX experience – Are you experienced?

    Posted by on October 22nd, 2014

    At the weekend I was at a music quiz and one of the few questions that I got right was about a Jimi Hendrix Experience album released in December 1967. Jimi Hendrix and the Jimi Hendrix experience feature heavily in my music library which is now stored in Google Play Music. In hindsight, I should probably have retained it on vinyl, as original versions of Axis Bold as Love swap hands for considerable amounts of money. The title of this blog however borrows from their first album, “Are you experienced” (no question mark), that was released earlier in the same year.

    JMX – Java Management eXtensions – are you experienced? Well I am now as I have just spent the last week or so working on a generic JMX capability for Boundary. As part of the Boundary plugin development project we have been looking for ways to quickly prototype monitoring of JMX based technologies. The reason is because nearly every “self-respecting” modern Java based technology has a JMX management interface that can be used for getting meaningful metrics out of those technologies. There may be other ways for...

    Show more...

  • The JMX experience – Are you experienced?

    Posted by on October 22nd, 2014

    At the weekend I was at a music quiz and one of the few questions that I got right was about a Jimi Hendrix Experience album released in December 1967. Jimi Hendrix and the Jimi Hendrix experience feature heavily in my music library which is now stored in Google Play Music. In hindsight, I should probably have retained it on vinyl, as original versions of Axis Bold as Love swap hands for considerable amounts of money. The title of this blog however borrows from their first album, “Are you experienced” (no question mark), that was released earlier in the same year.

    JMX – Java Management eXtensions – are you experienced? Well I am now as I have just spent the last week or so working on a generic JMX capability for Boundary. As part of the Boundary plugin development project we have been looking for ways to quickly prototype monitoring of JMX based technologies. The reason is because nearly every “self-respecting” modern Java based technology has a JMX management interface that can be used for getting meaningful metrics out of those technologies. There may be other ways for certain technologies e.g. a specific management endpoint, but JMX is a good enough for most people’s needs and is effectively a common standard across them all.

    As I mentioned before in a previous blog, my Java skills are rusty but after the last five days working on a generic JMX collector, I am starting to see the shine appear again. With about 200 lines of code remaining in the IDE and untold numbers discarded to the shredder I can now claim to be at least an intermediate coder. In case you are concerned about this please note that the real Boundary engineers write the real code. Others can only write plugins and other non impacting extensions.

    Below is a little taster of the generic JMX metric collector that allows you to specify a set of MBeans and attributes as well as the Boundary metric definition parameters. The collector will create the Boundary metrics for you and then poll the JMX provider for the values and store them in Boundary.

    We are currently looking for useful MBeans to monitor so would be really interested in hearing from you if you have some suggestions!

    For more details see the GitHub repository: https://github.com/mrivingt/Boundary-Generic-JMX-Collector

    {
    “mbean”:”org.apache.cassandra.metrics:type=Compaction,name=BytesCompacted”,
    “attribute” : “Count”,
    “boundary_metric_name” : “CAS_COMPACT_BC_D”,
    “metric_type” : “delta”,
    “metric_displayName” : “Cassandra compaction bytes compacted (delta)”,
    “metric_displayNameShort” : “Cassandra COM BC D”,
    “metric_description” : “Cassandra compaction number of bytes compacted (delta)”,
    “metric_unit” : “number”,
    “metric_defaultAggregate” : “AVG”,
    “metric_defaultResolutionMS” : “10000”
    },

    {
    “mbean”:”org.apache.cassandra.internal:type=FlushWriter”,
    “attribute” : “PendingTasks”,
    “boundary_metric_name” : “CAS_FW_PT”,
    “metric_type” : “standard”,
    “metric_displayName” : “Cassandra FlushWriter pending tasks”,
    “metric_displayNameShort” : “Cassandra FW PT”,
    “metric_description” : “Cassandra Flush Writer number of pending tasks”,
    “metric_unit” : “number”,
    “metric_defaultAggregate” : “AVG”,
    “metric_defaultResolutionMS” : “10000”
    },


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  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #4

    Posted by on October 16th, 2014

    ISSUE #4 – 15th October 2014
    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”


    Welcome to the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.


    Don’t have a Boundary account?  Sign up here.

    Latest Product

    • Pre-release programs (contact services@boundary.com to participate):
      • AWS Relational Database Service (RDS) Plugin (new – about to start!)
      • AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) Plugin (new – about to start!)
      • Redis Plugin
      • AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) Plugin
      • PostgreSQL Plugin (now finalizing certification)
      • RabbitMQ Plugin (now finalizing certification)

    Partner of the Week

    • SoftCart offers software and services from worldwide top vendors for the Israeli market, providing customers complete solutions for many aspects of IT and challenges faced.

    Boundary Office Hours (recurring)

    • Boundary’s Office Hours are each Wednesday. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop.  Join at your convenience!

    Show more...

  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #4

    Posted by on October 16th, 2014

    ISSUE #4 – 15th October 2014
    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”


    Welcome to the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.


    Don’t have a Boundary account?  Sign up here.

    Latest Product

    • Pre-release programs (contact services@boundary.com to participate):
      • AWS Relational Database Service (RDS) Plugin (new – about to start!)
      • AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) Plugin (new – about to start!)
      • Redis Plugin
      • AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) Plugin
      • PostgreSQL Plugin (now finalizing certification)
      • RabbitMQ Plugin (now finalizing certification)

    Partner of the Week

    • SoftCart offers software and services from worldwide top vendors for the Israeli market, providing customers complete solutions for many aspects of IT and challenges faced.

    Boundary Office Hours (recurring)

    • Boundary’s Office Hours are each Wednesday. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop.  Join at your convenience!

    Required Reading

    Knowledge Base

    Mentions

    We’re Hiring

    • Lead Java Developer, Austin TX
    • Senior Operations Engineer, Austin TX
    • Controller, Mountain View CA
    • Content Marketing Manager, Mountain View CA
    • Head of Marketing, Mountain View CA

    Have a great week!

    The Boundary Team
    @Boundary

     


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  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #3

    Posted by on October 8th, 2014

    ISSUE #3 – 8th October 2014
    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”


    Welcome to the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.


    Don’t have a Boundary account?  Sign up here.

    Latest Product

    • New Features pushed:
    • Pre-release programs (contact services@boundary.com to participate):
      • Redis Plugin (new!)
      • AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) Plugin
      • PostgreSQL Plugin
      • RabbitMQ Plugin

    Partner of the Week

    • 1030Tech.  We’re very excited to launch our newest partnership!  1030Tech is a consultancy specializing in the architecture, management, and security of web application environments with an emphasis on information security, PCI Compliance, and AWS Architecture.

    Boundary Office Hours (recurring)

    • Boundary’s Office Hours are each Wednesday. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop. Join at your convenience!

    Show more...

  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #3

    Posted by on October 8th, 2014

    ISSUE #3 – 8th October 2014
    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”


    Welcome to the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.


    Don’t have a Boundary account?  Sign up here.

    Latest Product

    • New Features pushed:
    • Pre-release programs (contact services@boundary.com to participate):
      • Redis Plugin (new!)
      • AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) Plugin
      • PostgreSQL Plugin
      • RabbitMQ Plugin

    Partner of the Week

    • 1030Tech.  We’re very excited to launch our newest partnership!  1030Tech is a consultancy specializing in the architecture, management, and security of web application environments with an emphasis on information security, PCI Compliance, and AWS Architecture.

    Boundary Office Hours (recurring)

    • Boundary’s Office Hours are each Wednesday. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop. Join at your convenience!

    Required Reading

    Knowledge Base

    Mentions

    We’re Hiring

    • Lead Java Developer (Austin, TX)
    • Senior Operations Manager (Austin, TX)

    Have a great week!

    The Boundary Team
    @Boundary

     


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  • Host Selection Filters (Part 3)

    Posted by on October 7th, 2014

    This is 3rd part of blog post series, dedicated to the new host selection filter control. For those readers who missed them, the previous posts are here and here.

    Boundary follows an iterate rapidly process for new capabilities, including the filter functionality. On Friday, we enhanced it again adding the ability to save filters as saved “groups” and associate them with the dashboards.

    Consider the following scenario based on real user feedback. When moving their application from running on-premise to a cloud provider, they replaced hardware load balancers with software load balancers, using HAProxy. Naturally, they wanted to ensure the new technology performed as expected by monitoring not only server metrics (CPU, memory, disk and network interfaces), but also HAProxy specific metrics. Fortunately, Boundary provides an ever increasing number of technology plugins, including one for HAProxy.

    Snip20141006_1

    However, in this article we will focus on defining and re-using the filter groups for this use case. Let us define the filter. First, unselect all servers, then type ‘load’ and click...

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  • Host Selection Filters (Part 3)

    Posted by on October 7th, 2014

    This is 3rd part of blog post series, dedicated to the new host selection filter control. For those readers who missed them, the previous posts are here and here.

    Boundary follows an iterate rapidly process for new capabilities, including the filter functionality. On Friday, we enhanced it again adding the ability to save filters as saved “groups” and associate them with the dashboards.

    Consider the following scenario based on real user feedback. When moving their application from running on-premise to a cloud provider, they replaced hardware load balancers with software load balancers, using HAProxy. Naturally, they wanted to ensure the new technology performed as expected by monitoring not only server metrics (CPU, memory, disk and network interfaces), but also HAProxy specific metrics. Fortunately, Boundary provides an ever increasing number of technology plugins, including one for HAProxy.

    Snip20141006_1

    However, in this article we will focus on defining and re-using the filter groups for this use case. Let us define the filter. First, unselect all servers, then type ‘load’ and click ‘Sources’ to select both of them. Note, the ‘Save’ button to the right of filter control becomes enabled. Click it to show the ‘Save Filter’ dialog and type ‘Load Balancers’.

    Snip20141006_2            Snip20141006_4

    Clicking on ‘Save’ adds this filter to the list of Saved Filters. It is added to several other saved filters, which we defined earlier. Note, each saved filter also shows the number of servers contained inside.

    Snip20141006_5

    Now, this filter is available to be re-used in any dashboard. We made it even easier to locate it by re-using the search field for the saved filters, in addition of list of sources.

    Snip20141006_7

    What if you would like to remove the filter? Just click on ‘Settings’ button and go to ‘Filters’ tab, which allows viewing and deleting of saved filters.

    Snip20141006_8

     

    And one more thing…

     

    Each time one selects a saved filter for the active dashboard, the dashboard “remembers” this selection, and the filter will be the default selection when this dashboard is chosen. Changing the filter will affect all dashboards, which use this filter.

    Snip20141006_6

    We believe this feature will help you to better manage application groups. Please send us your feedback and suggestions for future improvements. And watch this space – very cool features are coming soon.


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  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #2

    Posted by on October 2nd, 2014

    WEDNESDAY WAVE – ISSUE #2 – 1st October 2014

    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”


    Welcome to the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.


    Latest Product

    Boundary Office Hours (recurring)

    • Boundary’s Office Hours are each Wednesday. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop. Join at your convenience.

    Events

    Show more...

  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #2

    Posted by on October 2nd, 2014

    WEDNESDAY WAVE – ISSUE #2 – 1st October 2014

    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”


    Welcome to the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.


    Latest Product

    Boundary Office Hours (recurring)

    • Boundary’s Office Hours are each Wednesday. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop. Join at your convenience.

    Events

    Required Reading

    Knowledge Base

    Mentions

    • @TysonKroeker: “Just got @boundary up and running on my servers. Simple to use and install. Support is super friendly.”
    • @AdamOwenIT:  “Totally in love with @boundary’s dashboard :) Support is great too (Lee’s a Star!)”

    Have a great week!

    The Boundary Team
    @Boundary


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  • Host Selection Filters (Part 2)

    Posted by on October 1st, 2014

    One of the many advantages of being agile and delivering a SaaS solution is that we can release new features very quickly, and enhance them iteratively in a rapid fashion. Last week we released new filter control, and now we have already improved it. Note the new ‘Sources’ option at the top of servers list, which allows to select or unselect all visible servers with a single click.

    Snip20140930_38       Snip20140930_45

    Consider following use case – I would like to see only web servers and load balancers on my dashboards. Previously I would have to filter out all unneeded servers one by one, but now I can do so in just a couple of clicks. First, unselect all servers. Then type ‘we’ to filter web servers only.

    Snip20140930_39

    Select them all by clicking in ‘Sources’, clear the search expression by clicking on small round ‘x’ and type ‘loa’, to select load balancers.

    Snip20140930_40

    Now with one more click select them all, and “Voilà” – mission accomplished.

    Snip20140930_46

     

    And one more thing…

    What if I want to remove one of those servers? Of course it can be quickly located using the filter control and unselected, but being a bit crazy about...

    Show more...

  • Host Selection Filters (Part 2)

    Posted by on October 1st, 2014

    One of the many advantages of being agile and delivering a SaaS solution is that we can release new features very quickly, and enhance them iteratively in a rapid fashion. Last week we released new filter control, and now we have already improved it. Note the new ‘Sources’ option at the top of servers list, which allows to select or unselect all visible servers with a single click.

    Snip20140930_38       Snip20140930_45

    Consider following use case – I would like to see only web servers and load balancers on my dashboards. Previously I would have to filter out all unneeded servers one by one, but now I can do so in just a couple of clicks. First, unselect all servers. Then type ‘we’ to filter web servers only.

    Snip20140930_39

    Select them all by clicking in ‘Sources’, clear the search expression by clicking on small round ‘x’ and type ‘loa’, to select load balancers.

    Snip20140930_40

    Now with one more click select them all, and “Voilà” – mission accomplished.

    Snip20140930_46

     

    And one more thing…

    What if I want to remove one of those servers? Of course it can be quickly located using the filter control and unselected, but being a bit crazy about usability and speed, we added a shortcut – when hovering a mouse over the server name, a small X appears. Clicking on it will filter this server out.

    Snip20140930_41

    Clicking on toggle focuses on this particular server, just as before. However we changed the “Reset” button to make it more prominent.

    Snip20140930_43

    Hope you will like new functionality, we’ve got some big new capabilities rolling out very soon. Send us your feedback and requests – as you see, we do listen.


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  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #1

    Posted by on September 25th, 2014

    ISSUE #1- 24th September 2014
    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”

    Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.

    Latest Product
    Announcing
    • Boundary’s Office Hours each Wednesday. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop. Join at your convenience.
    Events

    Show more...

  • Wednesday Wave – Issue #1

    Posted by on September 25th, 2014

    ISSUE #1- 24th September 2014
    “All the News that’s Fit to Link”

    Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Wednesday Wave, Boundary’s weekly newsletter on all that is 1-second monitoring. The ‘Wave’ alludes to the sine wave in our much admired logo.

    Latest Product
    Announcing
    • Boundary’s Office Hours each Wednesday. Live 30 minute tech training/troubleshooting workshop. Join at your convenience.
    Events
    • @Stripefour“New kid @boundary could well give @newrelic a run for their money – pricing is superb guys!!!! free.boundary.com check it out :-)”
    • @davidleefox: “#monitoring literally cannot get easier. I just clicked a promoted @boundary tweet, signed up, ran a script, and POOF, monitoring…”

     

    Have a great week!
    The Boundary Team

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  • 6 ways to lose a customer before they are a customer (and 1 way not to)

    Posted by on September 23rd, 2014

    Over the last couple of months at Boundary, we’ve been evaluating several different SaaS solutions to help us run our business and serve our customers better. As part of this process, I’m always interested to see how other companies manage the evaluation/buying process – what can we learn in terms of best/worst practices?

    Today’s world is very much about instant gratification. The freemium model or instant-on trials have become the norm for many areas and as such, the users (in this case our) expectations have changed.

    Here are some things we didn’t like:

      The Pre-Qual Rep

    I hate speaking to a “pre-qualification” sales rep. I’m fine speaking to someone in sales, they’ve got a job to do and at some point you want us to buy something but, as was the case with one company, please don’t make me speak to someone who is clearly just reading through a list of questions to “qualify me”. I don’t mind being qualified – but make it a conversation. Give me some value back for the information I am giving you.

      The “speak to our technical people multiple times...

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  • 6 ways to lose a customer before they are a customer (and 1 way not to)

    Posted by on September 23rd, 2014

    Over the last couple of months at Boundary, we’ve been evaluating several different SaaS solutions to help us run our business and serve our customers better. As part of this process, I’m always interested to see how other companies manage the evaluation/buying process – what can we learn in terms of best/worst practices?

    Today’s world is very much about instant gratification. The freemium model or instant-on trials have become the norm for many areas and as such, the users (in this case our) expectations have changed.

    Here are some things we didn’t like:

      The Pre-Qual Rep

    I hate speaking to a “pre-qualification” sales rep. I’m fine speaking to someone in sales, they’ve got a job to do and at some point you want us to buy something but, as was the case with one company, please don’t make me speak to someone who is clearly just reading through a list of questions to “qualify me”. I don’t mind being qualified – but make it a conversation. Give me some value back for the information I am giving you.

      The “speak to our technical people multiple times before we will show you our product”

    One company had our technical director on the phone for 3 separate calls and they still hadn’t shown him the product or let us try it. We terminated the evaluation there.

      Death by PPnt

    An oldie but a goodie and still, remarkably, used by multiple companies. Show us product. If I cannot try it myself then at least show me it live.

      The free trial where you’ve got to enter your credit card first

    This one just happened yesterday. We had spoken to the company twice, explained our needs and they told us about the free 14 day trial and enabled us. But, step 1…enter a credit card. Sort of like the waiter insisting on your credit card before they allow you to order dinner.

    The response from the company was:

    We’ve made a conscious decision because of the work that we put in to a trial, to ask clients to have a valid credit card on file. Please let me know if you change your mind and we’ll be happy to get you into our trial process.

    Really? Why? Because you’re worried I will run off after eating your food and not paying? Or, are you hoping that we will forget to cancel the credit card.

      The overly complicated signup form

    Yeah, love this one. You make me enter so much information on the signup form that I’m asleep by the time I’m done but then, when I actually get to go into the product itself, you make me enter pretty much all the same information again.

      The bait and switch

    This one is really disappointing. This very well known, large and leading provider of a SaaS solution presents multiple “editions” on their web site. Below each edition is the description and the button “Try for Free”. I press the button for the Unlimited Edition, and the next screen states “xxxx – Unlimited Edition complete the form and enter the details.” Once I do that I receive an email to go into the product only the find out that no matter which edition I had selected on the web, they only give me the Professional Edition for the trial.
    This is the worst experience for me – bait and switch – I tried it multiple times because I couldn’t quite believe what was happening

    And to finish this post with a positive experience.

      The “even though we’ve got problems, we’re going to show you how much we want your business”

    One vendor we were dealing with were having a number of issues with their product during the trial. But they didn’t run away, they stuck with it and gradually solved their issues. Their CEO reached out and told us how important we were and that they were working hard to solve the issues. Because of the manner in which they reacted, we gave them time and….eventually we purchased. They cared about our success and because of this we’ve become a customer that is giving positive references to others.


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  • Host Selection Filters and more…

    Posted by on September 19th, 2014

    Host Selection Filters help manage larger number of hosts

    While we work on many major new capabilities that are coming very soon, there are number of smaller enhancements and capabilities which made their way into the product last week.  This blog post talks about new Filter control, new Alarm button and new Knowledge Base videos and articles.

    Snip20140919_61

    One of the most popular requests that we are getting from our customers is for many more ways to manage large numbers of servers and instances. Last week we pushed a new feature into the UI that allows users to quickly filter the hosts to be displayed. For example, I would like to quickly remove all my web servers (conveniently named ‘web…’) from my “default” dashboard.  So click on search button and start typing – the list is being filtered as you type – just as you would expect!

    Snip20140919_62

    Then mouse click on corresponding check-boxes to unselect those servers. The keyboard fans can use “arrow down”, “arrow up” and “space” keys to quickly move, un-select or select the servers. Note, there is no “OK” or “Apply”...

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  • Host Selection Filters and more…

    Posted by on September 19th, 2014

    Host Selection Filters help manage larger number of hosts

    While we work on many major new capabilities that are coming very soon, there are number of smaller enhancements and capabilities which made their way into the product last week.  This blog post talks about new Filter control, new Alarm button and new Knowledge Base videos and articles.

    Snip20140919_61

    One of the most popular requests that we are getting from our customers is for many more ways to manage large numbers of servers and instances. Last week we pushed a new feature into the UI that allows users to quickly filter the hosts to be displayed. For example, I would like to quickly remove all my web servers (conveniently named ‘web…’) from my “default” dashboard.  So click on search button and start typing – the list is being filtered as you type – just as you would expect!

    Snip20140919_62

    Then mouse click on corresponding check-boxes to unselect those servers. The keyboard fans can use “arrow down”, “arrow up” and “space” keys to quickly move, un-select or select the servers. Note, there is no “OK” or “Apply” buttons – the dashboard updates itself as you go.

    Snip20140919_63

    Clicking on search icon again or hitting ‘Esc’ button will close the filter. As you can see, the dashboard’s charts and Legend bar now do not have any of filtered web servers.

    Snip20140919_64

    Look out for more and more great enhancements over the next few weeks.


    Many of our users told us that Alarms are really important to them. To make them more accessible, we added a toolbar shortcut, which will take you directly to Alarm Settings screen.

    Snip20140919_67    Snip20140919_65

    And one more thing…

    We have been quietly yet actively adding new content to the Knowledge Base, which is shared by Boundary Free and Boundary Premium offerings. It now has 12 recently added video tutorials, many new “How To” articles and also some advanced stuff, like plugins and SDKs for code instrumentation. All indexed and easily searchable. As said one of our users, “do not let slick UI fool you – there is a lot of powerful features hidden just a click away in this cool offering”.

    Snip20140919_68   Snip20140919_69

    We continue to welcome as much feedback as we can get. This helps us develop the product totally in line with our customer needs.


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  • The role of code in customer success measurement and improvement

    Posted by on September 18th, 2014

    acornatom

    So I finally did it. After living in the United States for 17 years, having an American wife and 3 American kids, today I became a US Citizen. The process was not too bad (unlike replacing my green card) and now I have to get up to San Francisco tomorrow to get a US passport (they cancel my green card when I get citizenship, so right now I cannot travel out of the country which is a weird feeling).

    But, continuing on the customer success theme from previous posts, and referencing Cliff’s post from earlier this week http://boundary.com/blog/2014/09/16/age-of-code, it is so true that all areas of the business have become dependent on the ability to write code (I also want to thank Cliff for writing a post that I can actually understand for a change).

    It’s not just marketing that needs the coding capability, but it is also critical for the customer success team, the product management team and yes, even the sales team.

    It’s about understanding what your customers are doing so that you can help them more, understanding how they are using your product so that you can make the...

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  • The role of code in customer success measurement and improvement

    Posted by on September 18th, 2014

    acornatom

    So I finally did it. After living in the United States for 17 years, having an American wife and 3 American kids, today I became a US Citizen. The process was not too bad (unlike replacing my green card) and now I have to get up to San Francisco tomorrow to get a US passport (they cancel my green card when I get citizenship, so right now I cannot travel out of the country which is a weird feeling).

    But, continuing on the customer success theme from previous posts, and referencing Cliff’s post from earlier this week http://boundary.com/blog/2014/09/16/age-of-code, it is so true that all areas of the business have become dependent on the ability to write code (I also want to thank Cliff for writing a post that I can actually understand for a change).

    It’s not just marketing that needs the coding capability, but it is also critical for the customer success team, the product management team and yes, even the sales team.

    It’s about understanding what your customers are doing so that you can help them more, understanding how they are using your product so that you can make the user experience better/deliver more value, understanding which customer may want some assistance and which prefer to be left alone. Without the instrumentation and the tools, customer success becomes a guessing game. Honestly, the advantages that SaaS companies have over providers of on-premise tools, just make it very unfair.

    Two of my kids are freshmen at high school this year, and it’s somewhat surprising to me that they don’t have a programming class. I would maybe consider it as important as learning a second language for their generation but even though my son is an avid gamer, he has no interest in learning to code at all (my daughter does however).

    For me, I have not written code for a very long time. I started when I was 14, saved my money from my paper-round (approx. 4 pounds a week) to buy an Acorn Atom (anyone remember that?), taught myself basic, then after leaving school I worked for a couple of financial institutions in the UK programming in SAS, Cobol, JCL and even did a tiny bit of assembler. But, I never normally tell anyone that because then they’d expect me to still be able, and I don’t want to go there.

    By the way, the specs for the Atom (thanks Wikipedia) were:

    • CPU: MOS Technology 6502
    • Speed: 1 MHz
    • RAM: 2 kB, expandable to 12 kB
    • ROM: 8 kB, expandable to 12 kB with various Acorn and 3rd party ROMs
    • Sound: 1 channel, integral loudspeaker
    • Size: 381×241×64 mm
    • Storage: Kansas City standard audio cassette interface


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  • The Power of One-Liners…Metrics!

    Posted by on September 17th, 2014

    A developer, a designer, and a data scientist walk into a bar…and then Facebook buys the bar for 3 Billion Dollars!

    I have always been a huge fan comedians who have the power of one-liners. My earliest exposure to a comedian that performs in this genre was Henny Youngman with his infamous wife jokes: “Take my wife … please.” The recently departed comedian and actor Robin Williams was also the master of the one-liner with: “Reality…what a concept” and “If it’s the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?” to quote just a few memorable quips.

    Similar to the comedians ability to incite laughter with a single line, a devops engineer is equally adept at issuing a one-liner in Bash, or similar shell, to query a process or service to collect metrics indicative of its health. Boundary Premium and the Shell plugin can amplify the power of the one-liner metric command by providing a graphical plot of the metric over time.

     

    How does it Work?

    Boundary’s Shell plugin is a generic plugin that allows the use of any program or scripting language to produce metrics for...

    Show more...

  • The Power of One-Liners…Metrics!

    Posted by on September 17th, 2014

    A developer, a designer, and a data scientist walk into a bar…and then Facebook buys the bar for 3 Billion Dollars!

    I have always been a huge fan comedians who have the power of one-liners. My earliest exposure to a comedian that performs in this genre was Henny Youngman with his infamous wife jokes: “Take my wife … please.” The recently departed comedian and actor Robin Williams was also the master of the one-liner with: “Reality…what a concept” and “If it’s the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?” to quote just a few memorable quips.

    Similar to the comedians ability to incite laughter with a single line, a devops engineer is equally adept at issuing a one-liner in Bash, or similar shell, to query a process or service to collect metrics indicative of its health. Boundary Premium and the Shell plugin can amplify the power of the one-liner metric command by providing a graphical plot of the metric over time.

     

    How does it Work?

    Boundary’s Shell plugin is a generic plugin that allows the use of any program or scripting language to produce metrics for the Boundary Premium product. The plugin relay expects a script or program to send metrics via standard output with the given format:

    <METRIC_NAME> <METRIC_VALUE> <METRIC_SOURCE>\n

    where:

    METRIC_NAME is a previously defined metric
    METRIC_VALUE is the current value of the metric
    METRIC_SOURCE is the source of the metric

    Here is one-liner example which outputs the current number of running processes:

    $echo "BOUNDARY_PROCESS_COUNT $(ps -e | egrep '^.*\d+' | wc -l | tr -d ' ') $(hostname)"

    which yields this output:

    BOUNDARY_PROCESS_COUNT 205 boundary-plugin-shell-demo

    We can take this one-liner and then configure the Shell plugin to periodically report and display this metric:

    bscreenconfig

    In configuration form above, we have defined our metric be collected by setting the command field with the one-liner as an argument to the bash shell using the -c command:

    bash -c "echo BOUNDARY_PROCESS_COUNT $(ps -e | egrep '^.*\d+' | wc -l | tr -d ' ') $(hostname)"

    The Poll Time field is set to 5 so that the metric command is run every 5 seconds to provide an update of our metric.

    We can now display our new metric in a dashboard as shown here:

    blog_dash_window

    Exit Stage Left

    If you want to know more about the Shell plugin and view more examples of its use, see the documentation located here.

    Okay, let’s end on a one-liner:

    Two MySQL DBAs walk in to a NoSQL bar, but they had to leave because they couldn’t find any tables!

    I’m outta here, good night!


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  • The Age of Code

    Posted by on September 16th, 2014

    I’m a big fan of science fiction, particularly the type of science fiction that holds up a mirror to what we’re experiencing in our own world. One of my favorite authors is Vernor Vinge, a computer scientist and math professor. As I live in a world purportedly being eaten by software, I find his vision of the future compelling. In particular, I’m struck by the peculiarities of human culture hinted at in “A Deepness In The Sky”. In this book there exists a subluminal trading society known as the Qeng Ho. The Qeng Ho rely on computer automation for the vast majority of work they perform, but their computing capacity is a far cry from the sentient AI’s of so many other stories. Instead, almost everyone on a ship and in their society is a programmer of some specialization. There are “programmer archaeologists” who specialize in plumbing the depths of the Qeng Ho’s substantial archive, which is rumored to having roots all the way back to the Unix utilities we use today. Pham Nuwen, one of the main characters, is described as a “Programmer-at-Arms”. The Programmer-at-Arms is...

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  • The Age of Code

    Posted by on September 16th, 2014

    I’m a big fan of science fiction, particularly the type of science fiction that holds up a mirror to what we’re experiencing in our own world. One of my favorite authors is Vernor Vinge, a computer scientist and math professor. As I live in a world purportedly being eaten by software, I find his vision of the future compelling. In particular, I’m struck by the peculiarities of human culture hinted at in “A Deepness In The Sky”. In this book there exists a subluminal trading society known as the Qeng Ho. The Qeng Ho rely on computer automation for the vast majority of work they perform, but their computing capacity is a far cry from the sentient AI’s of so many other stories. Instead, almost everyone on a ship and in their society is a programmer of some specialization. There are “programmer archaeologists” who specialize in plumbing the depths of the Qeng Ho’s substantial archive, which is rumored to having roots all the way back to the Unix utilities we use today. Pham Nuwen, one of the main characters, is described as a “Programmer-at-Arms”. The Programmer-at-Arms is responsible for automating the coordination of ship weapons systems for maximum effectiveness, going so far as to tune targeting priorities and other system parameters as the battle progresses. In “A Deepness In The Sky” Pham’s mastery of software automation proves to be his saving grace through much of the novel. His foes, the Emergents, use a technique called Focus to turn people into almost perfect organizational cogs to be assembled into a machine. Doing so comes at a great physical and mental cost to the Focused. Not to give away any spoilers, but the Emergent’s reliance on hierarchies of control and haphazard adoption of not well understood tech eventually leads to their downfall at the hands of Pham.

    We’re seeing that same theme play out in our own time. The DevOps movement, ill defined though it may be, can be characterized by a central theme: automation allows individuals to be responsible for delivery of business value in a holistic way. The removal of people removes hierarchy, organizational rigidity and political misalignment between individuals and groups. The gains in efficiency don’t just come from removing people from the payroll, they come from providing greater mastery to the individuals shipping code. The traditional role of sysadmin has morphed into the DevOps engineer whose job is to provide automation support to the rest of engineering instead of operational handoff. DevOps is just part of the story, however. We’re seeing the early stages of this transformation reaching into other areas of business and as the benefits become apparent it will only accelerate.

    The role of a growth hacker, although snickered at in some engineering quarters, reflects the new reality for the marketing arm of business: marketing is a cross cutting concern that requires engineering in order to be effective. Everything from putting tracking codes in web pages to building out sophisticated predictive analytics requires engineering effort. However, product engineering is run at 100% of capacity in virtually all organizations and getting pulled off of large product engineering projects to work on interruptive priorities for a disparate arm of the business is massively disruptive to productivity. Hence the role of growth hacker, someone who has enough command of programming fundamentals to automate their job without imposing new requirements on product engineering.

    In Vinge’s novels the characters don’t generally talk about software or code. For the most part they refer to those things as automation. I think that is very much intentional, to portray a culture that has completely internalized the power of computers and software. In our world, however, that internalization is still very much getting underway. So if you wanted a reason to learn to code, don’t just do it because IT jobs pay relatively well. You should do it because coding will soon be a basic literacy requirement for any form of knowledge work and many physical jobs as well. The power of automation is that its benefits compound over time, and a compounding competitive advantage cannot be ignored for long. As for me, well, I’m going to work on my archaeology skills.


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  • More RabbitMQ than Sainsburys

    Posted by on September 11th, 2014

    There is an old slang expression that I first heard while growing up in South London, “more rabbit than Sainsburys”. It was used in reference to a person and was a way of saying that they talked too much, almost incessantly and way more quantity than quality. For those of you not familiar with the expression it might help to know that Sainsbury was and still is a food retailer in the UK and that when I was a child, a lot of people ate rabbit and, in fact, rabbit was one of the cheaper cuts of meat and far more available than chicken as an example. The rabbit in the expression refers to “talk” based on the rhyming slang of “rabbit and pork”, talk.

    This week I was seriously impressed with a rabbit but not of the furry kind. It was in fact a software package called RabbitMQ that I am sure many of you know already. The reason that I was so impressed was that, despite my questionable competence in Java that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in another blog,  I was able to create a working RabbitMQ load simulator in just a couple of days, starting from a basis of no...

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  • More RabbitMQ than Sainsburys

    Posted by on September 11th, 2014

    There is an old slang expression that I first heard while growing up in South London, “more rabbit than Sainsburys”. It was used in reference to a person and was a way of saying that they talked too much, almost incessantly and way more quantity than quality. For those of you not familiar with the expression it might help to know that Sainsbury was and still is a food retailer in the UK and that when I was a child, a lot of people ate rabbit and, in fact, rabbit was one of the cheaper cuts of meat and far more available than chicken as an example. The rabbit in the expression refers to “talk” based on the rhyming slang of “rabbit and pork”, talk.

    This week I was seriously impressed with a rabbit but not of the furry kind. It was in fact a software package called RabbitMQ that I am sure many of you know already. The reason that I was so impressed was that, despite my questionable competence in Java that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in another blog,  I was able to create a working RabbitMQ load simulator in just a couple of days, starting from a basis of no understanding at all of RabbitMQ and not even knowing where to find the download. Perhaps in my subconscious I still had some primal knowledge from my brief exposure to IBM MQ Series back in the 1990’s and that in some way helped me get to success quicker, but I was amazed how easy it was to install, use and understand. The documentation was accurate and even entertaining at times. I even enabled the management plug-in for RabbitMQ to watch my application in action.

    rabbitmq 27

    From the above picture, you will also see that I enjoy listening to Ultravox and run Windows, two clear signs that I am definitely not a professional developer.

    The reason that I was doing this RabbitMQ exercise was twofold:

    1. To gain an understanding of RabbitMQ as part of our plans to expand the set of plug-ins that we will be providing in Boundary Premium. Right now, RabbitMQ is in the top 5 possibly the top 3.
    2. To simulate a Java workload that used a messaging service for data ingress and that would use many threads to process those messages. I wanted to create a simulation environment to replicate “Software Bottlenecks”. I was particular pleased with the way that the application increases the message rate gradually to a peak at the mid-point of the test and then declines after the mid-point. See the smooth curve in the top left of the picture above.

    double sleepTime = distanceFromMiddle/(messages/2)*define.INTERVAL + define.INTERVALBASE;

    Anyway, my exposure to RabbitMQ was fulfilling and enjoyable. It helped me understand more clearly that the overall customer experience (mine in this case) is a major part of a product or service. I am sure that I could have tried to install any other messaging service and achieved the same result but would I have had such a good experience that I wanted to blog about it?


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  • Swisscom selects Boundary for Cloud Monitoring and Operations Management

    Posted by on September 11th, 2014

    Swisscom, one of the largest providers of IT services in Switzerland, has selected Boundary to provide monitoring and operations management of its future cloud infrastructure and in parallel, Swisscom Ventures has made a strategic investment in Boundary.

    In a strategic effort to offer its customers additional solutions and take advantage of its unique capabilities, the company is in the process of building a public cloud primarily based on OpenStack, as well as offering multiple new cloud-based services. Boundary, designed specifically to monitor modern, dynamic infrastructures, was selected as a core component of this new solution.

    To maintain operational awareness, complete visibility is needed across all components of the infrastructure. Boundary accomplishes this by combining metrics data collection at one-second resolution with event/log ingestion and processing. By collecting and processing hundreds of millions of metrics and events every second using a highly scalable low latency streaming technology, organizations are able to find problems that were previously...

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  • Swisscom selects Boundary for Cloud Monitoring and Operations Management

    Posted by on September 11th, 2014

    Swisscom, one of the largest providers of IT services in Switzerland, has selected Boundary to provide monitoring and operations management of its future cloud infrastructure and in parallel, Swisscom Ventures has made a strategic investment in Boundary.

    In a strategic effort to offer its customers additional solutions and take advantage of its unique capabilities, the company is in the process of building a public cloud primarily based on OpenStack, as well as offering multiple new cloud-based services. Boundary, designed specifically to monitor modern, dynamic infrastructures, was selected as a core component of this new solution.

    To maintain operational awareness, complete visibility is needed across all components of the infrastructure. Boundary accomplishes this by combining metrics data collection at one-second resolution with event/log ingestion and processing. By collecting and processing hundreds of millions of metrics and events every second using a highly scalable low latency streaming technology, organizations are able to find problems that were previously invisible, hidden in averages and one-minute sampling.

    Boundary includes a rich set of APIs, which will enable Swisscom to easily integrate monitoring into their cloud offering. These coupled with the solution’s multi-tenant capabilities, make it an ideal solution to manage Swisscom Cloud, which will eventually host hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of server instances.

    “The dynamic nature of cloud infrastructures can provide a monitoring and management challenge,” said Torsten Boettjer, Head of Technical Strategy Cloud at Swisscom. “With Boundary, we’ll be able to provide our customers with the best possible levels of service for their applications that will be on our Cloud infrastructure.”

    Swisscom Ventures invests in innovative areas that are strategic for Swisscom with cloud-based solutions being a focused area of investment.
    “We were impressed not only with the Boundary solution but also with the management team and their innovative views of the future of Web-scale IT,” said Stefan Kuentz, Investment Director at Swisscom Ventures. “We are investing in their vision and are excited to support them on this journey.”


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  • Customer success and the Billy Bullshitter experience

    Posted by on September 5th, 2014

    About a week ago, I wrote a blog post about delivering high quality customer service and getting our entire organization aligned behind this goal.

    I have a few updates to share on this subject both good and errr, not so good.

    Let’s start with some dirty laundry. One of the success mantras for our team is that we should never have the same question asked more than once from our customers.

    If our product and documentation are not simple, obvious and helpful enough to enable customers to self-serve, then we are failing. If a customer asks us something, then that becomes an opportunity to improve – either the product or the docs. Remember how I talked about being proactive?

    Well, it wasn’t fully happening. In some areas we were doing really well but in others we were not. Not sure exactly why – maybe individuals didn’t feel empowered to be proactive, maybe they were worried about making a mistake, maybe just taking the easy path but whatever the reason, I consider it my failing that I have not managed to communicate and motivate the entire team to follow this path. (It was...

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  • Customer success and the Billy Bullshitter experience

    Posted by on September 5th, 2014

    About a week ago, I wrote a blog post about delivering high quality customer service and getting our entire organization aligned behind this goal.

    I have a few updates to share on this subject both good and errr, not so good.

    Let’s start with some dirty laundry. One of the success mantras for our team is that we should never have the same question asked more than once from our customers.

    If our product and documentation are not simple, obvious and helpful enough to enable customers to self-serve, then we are failing. If a customer asks us something, then that becomes an opportunity to improve – either the product or the docs. Remember how I talked about being proactive?

    Well, it wasn’t fully happening. In some areas we were doing really well but in others we were not. Not sure exactly why – maybe individuals didn’t feel empowered to be proactive, maybe they were worried about making a mistake, maybe just taking the easy path but whatever the reason, I consider it my failing that I have not managed to communicate and motivate the entire team to follow this path. (It was also a failure of some of our reporting metrics internally where we didn’t have the full visibility needed – which we do now). Need to improve.

    Another area we tackled this week is how we treat users when they sign up for our service. We tested many other monitoring solutions and in every case, we received only automated emails. Personally I don’t mind automated emails, they are maybe a necessary evil but what I do object to is automated emails that try and look like a real person. One large, very well known application monitoring vendor is clearly expert at this….trying to make automated emails look like a real person.

    We decided to try and do better, so we tasked our customer and technical success teams to respond manually to every user that signed up. We are not sure if this is scalable because already the volume is a little overwhelming but we tried to make it as easy as possible for our team to cope by giving them several different templates that they could use as their base and then to modify them accordingly. So, our current process is:

    1. User registers on web site
    2. User gets immediate access to product (no validation needed)
    3. This creates a “lead” in salesforce that, depending on geography is assigned to a Customer Success Manager
    4. CSM looks at the lead, looks at the individual that has signed up and sends an introductory email and also introduces the technical success manager
    5. If we haven’t heard anything, the technical success manager will follow up the next day trying to provide any assistance that the user may need or get feedback.

    We actually turned off the automated “welcome” email as part of doing this….welcome email is now from a human.

    Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. A user recently challenged us publicly….even referring to us as Billy Bullshitters (I love that)….suggesting that our emails were automated because they were sent from salesforce. Yes, our CSMs sit in front of salesforce and yes they use templates to help them deal with volume but no they are not automated and they are real people typing and pushing buttons to try and give just a little more personal service.

    We’ll see how it goes, but I am hoping that we can continue this path and not resort to automated everything as so many do – but then again I could be delusional and the robots may win.

    Would love to hear from others that have tried to be “better than the pack” – and will keep updating on progress.


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  • Rules of Thumb

    Posted by on September 4th, 2014

    Who ever said that 60% CPU was too high?

    In performance management there is something known as a “rule of thumb”. It is basically a guideline that has no real justification e.g. “as a rule of thumb, do not run your servers higher than 60% CPU busy”. People have lived by these rules for many years and rarely challenge them. Occasionally people will ask “why?” and be answered with a look of disdain as if they had asked a really stupid question.

    Truth is: many people don’t know why rules-of-thumb are valid in any circumstance. They just use them as they have no better basis for making judgments on performance.

    Recently at Boundary we had a situation where one of our own systems seemed to be creaking at the seams due to an apparent overload situation. The belief was that there was simply too much work coming in to the system and that we may need a bigger box or more boxes to handle it. The basis of that belief is in the title of this blog. When the application was starting to lag, the server CPU was hitting over 60% utilization. All other indicators were healthy – no...

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  • Rules of Thumb

    Posted by on September 4th, 2014

    Who ever said that 60% CPU was too high?

    In performance management there is something known as a “rule of thumb”. It is basically a guideline that has no real justification e.g. “as a rule of thumb, do not run your servers higher than 60% CPU busy”. People have lived by these rules for many years and rarely challenge them. Occasionally people will ask “why?” and be answered with a look of disdain as if they had asked a really stupid question.

    Truth is: many people don’t know why rules-of-thumb are valid in any circumstance. They just use them as they have no better basis for making judgments on performance.

    Recently at Boundary we had a situation where one of our own systems seemed to be creaking at the seams due to an apparent overload situation. The belief was that there was simply too much work coming in to the system and that we may need a bigger box or more boxes to handle it. The basis of that belief is in the title of this blog. When the application was starting to lag, the server CPU was hitting over 60% utilization. All other indicators were healthy – no memory issues, no disk queuing, and load average was low as well. As the application is a time critical streaming service, perhaps there weren’t enough CPU cycles in each nanosecond to process all the work in time. As a result, some people hypothesized that it must be a CPU issue based on the general rule-of-thumb.

    To explain the 60% rule-of-thumb you can look to a branch of mathematics, known as queuing theory. It is something that I actually studied a very long time ago and understood just enough to help me project an air of expertise when I was a performance management consultant.

    The one formula that I can still quote is: “total time equals service time over one minus the utilization”. It includes the Greek alphabet letter “rho” for the utilization number and this use of a dead language symbol adds to the mystique of the formula. This formula is for a single server queuing system with “exponential arrival rate” and “exponential service times”. It turns out that a CPU with a single processing unit with a varied workload fits this model quite well. If we use 1 second as an example for the service time we can estimate how long a “transaction” would take relative to the utilization of that single CPU.

    Utilization Total Time Time in Queue
    20% 1 * (1 – .2) =  1.25 seconds 0.25 seconds
    40% 1 * (1 – .4) =  1.66 seconds 0.66 seconds
    60% 1 * (1 – .6) =  2.50 seconds 1.50 seconds
    80% 1 * (1 – .8) =  5.00 seconds 4.00 seconds

    If you draw this as a curve and fill in a few more data-points:

    rivington-rules-of-thumb-graph-600

     

    You can see that the curve has a significant acceleration phase at the 60 – 80 percent utilization range. Which is why 60% is viewed as a good rule-of-thumb for CPU utilization. But the key is that this ROT is based on “exponential arrival rate” and “exponential service time” for a single server system. In our case, we are running a high volume service that runs in Java Virtual Machines and is deployed on physical servers that have up to 40 CPUs. There is no other work on those systems. It turns out that none of the characteristics of arrival rate or service time applied in this case primarily due to the nature of the streaming application and the way that the JVM manages its own workload. As a result, the 60% CPU utilization ROT was unlikely to be valid and so we spent more time diagnosing the issue. Cliff Moon, our CTO, found the real issue (thanks Cliff!) and it had nothing to do with the CPU. In fact it had nothing to do with any hardware resource. We had a software bottleneck in the system, a simple JVM setting that had been propagated from when this particular application ran on smaller servers. By increasing the maximum number of threads that the JVM could use, the application immediately started to consume more CPU and the workload lag was history. In a sense that software bottleneck was like a trap that sprung when the workload hit a certain level. Right up to that level, everything was fine. But over that level and the lag started to appear. It was pure coincidence that it happened at 60% CPU.  In this case 60% CPU utilization was not a problem at all and, in fact, was too low!

    The final result is that we have proven that we can now run those servers at almost 100% utilization on average over long periods, and have achieved workload rates that we had never seen before. The takeaway here is that if you really want to maximize performance then you may need to challenge some long held rules-of-thumb and examine performance in a much more clinical way.


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  • Actors, Green Threads and CSP On The JVM – No, You Can’t Have A Pony

    Posted by on September 3rd, 2014

    I really wish people would stop building actor frameworks for the JVM. I know, I’m guilty of having done this myself in the past. Invariably, these projects fall far short of their intended goals, and in my opinion the applications which adopt them end up with a worse design than if they had never incorporated them in the first place.

    Let’s take a step back, however. What the hell are actors, and why is everyone so hot and bothered by them? The actor model describes a set of axioms to be followed in order to avoid common issues with concurrent programming, and in the academic world it provides a means for the theoretical analysis of concurrent computation. Specific implementations can vary substantially in how they define actors, and in the restrictions on what actors can and cannot do, however the most basic axioms of the actor model are:

    1. All actor state is local to that actor, and cannot be accessed by another.
    2. Actors must communicate only by means of message passing. Mutable messages cannot be aliased.
    3. As a response to a message an actor can: launch new actors, mutate its...

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  • Actors, Green Threads and CSP On The JVM – No, You Can’t Have A Pony

    Posted by on September 3rd, 2014

    I really wish people would stop building actor frameworks for the JVM. I know, I’m guilty of having done this myself in the past. Invariably, these projects fall far short of their intended goals, and in my opinion the applications which adopt them end up with a worse design than if they had never incorporated them in the first place.

    Let’s take a step back, however. What the hell are actors, and why is everyone so hot and bothered by them? The actor model describes a set of axioms to be followed in order to avoid common issues with concurrent programming, and in the academic world it provides a means for the theoretical analysis of concurrent computation. Specific implementations can vary substantially in how they define actors, and in the restrictions on what actors can and cannot do, however the most basic axioms of the actor model are:

    1. All actor state is local to that actor, and cannot be accessed by another.
    2. Actors must communicate only by means of message passing. Mutable messages cannot be aliased.
    3. As a response to a message an actor can: launch new actors, mutate its internal state, or send messages to one or more other actors.
    4. Actors may block themselves, but no actor should block the thread on which it is running.

    So what are the advantages to adopting the actor model for concurrent programming? The primary advantages center around the ergonomics of concurrency. Concurrent systems are classically very hard to reason about because there are no ordering guarantees around memory mutation beyond those which are manually enforced by the programmer. Unless a lot of care, planning and experience went into the design of the system, it inevitably becomes very difficult to tell which threads might be executing a given piece of code at a time. The bugs that crop up due to sloppiness in concurrency are notoriously difficult to resolve due to the unpredictable nature of thread scheduling. Stamping out concurrency bugs is a snipe hunt.

    By narrowing the programming model so drastically, actor systems are supposed to avoid most of the silliness encountered with poorly designed concurrency. Actors and their attendant message queues provide local ordering guarantees around delivery, and since an actor can only respond to a single message at a time you get implicit locking around all of the local state for that actor. The lightweight nature of actors also means that they can be spawned in a manner that is 1:1 with the problem domain, relieving the programmer of the need to multiplex over a thread pool.

    Actor aficionados will probably reference performance as an advantage of actor frameworks. The argument for superior performance of actors (and in particular the green thread schedulers that most actor implementations are built upon) comes down to how a server decomposes work from the client and how that work gets executed on a multi-core machine. The typical straw-man drawn up by actor activists is a message passing benchmark using entirely too many threads, run on a cruddy macbook. It’s easy to gin up some hackeneyed FUD against threads to market an actor framework. It’s much harder to prove a material advantage to adopting said framework.

    Unfortunately, actor frameworks on the JVM cannot sufficiently constrain the programming environment to avoid the concurrency pitfalls that the actor model should help you avoid. After all, within the thread you are simply writing plain old java (or scala or clojure). There’s no real way to limit what that code can do, unless it is explicitly disallowed from calling into other code or looping. Therefore, even the actor frameworks which use bytecode weaving to implement cooperative multi-tasking amongst actors cannot fully guarantee non-blocking behavior. This point bears repetition: without fundamental changes in how the JVM works, one cannot guarantee that an arbitrary piece of code will not block.

    When making engineering decisions we must always be mindful of the tradeoffs we make and why we make them. Bolt on actor systems are complex beasts. They often use bytecode weaving to alter your code, hopefully without altering its meaning. They quite often rely on Java’s fork/join framework, which is notorious for its overhead, especially when it comes to small computations, and is fantastically complicated when compared to a vanilla thread pool. Actor systems are supposed to make parallel computation dead simple, but every lightweight threading system on the JVM that I’ve seen is anything but simple.

    Lest you think that I am a hater, I genuinely like actor oriented programming. I have been an enthusiastic Erlang programmer for a number of years, and I used to get genuinely excited about the activity around adding this paradigm to Java. However, I am now convinced that without support from the platform these lightweight concurrency libraries will always be a boondoggle. I’m not the only one to make this observation, either.

    We shouldn’t be trusting vendors who are pushing manifestos, decades old tribal knowledge about thread implementations, and misleading benchmarks. We should be building the simplest possible systems to solve our problems, and measuring them to understand how to get the most out of our machines.


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