Dan's Take

Where In the World Is the System Failure?

CloudPhysics says its new feature can track the problem down, no matter where it's hiding.

A conversation with CloudPhysics' John Blumenthal, co-founder and vice president of strategy, and Chris Schin, vice president of product management, is always interesting. This time the conversation was focused on a new feature, Exploration Mode, that has been added to the company's analytics solution for VMware users. A short way into the discussion, I found myself humming the theme to the children's game show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

The Carmen series of video games and TV show encourages children to explore geography, history and a number of other topics by chasing a villain, Carmen Sandiego, who's stolen some valuable object. The object might be something like the Eiffel Tower or the Washington Monument. Children figure out clues left by the infamous Sandiego, traveling from place to place or different time periods to find the villain and recover the stolen object.

What's the connection to CloudPhysics? Well, the process of tracking can be similar to tools offered by CloudPhysics and other suppliers of monitoring and management software that are based on the collection analysis of operational data. IT admins or developers examine the clues left behind by an operational anomaly and uncover the root cause of a slowdown or failure.

Enter Exploration Mode
In CloudPhysics' words, the new Exploration Mode "enables admins to identify the root causes of server issues, by easily and interactively displaying resource consumption patterns and environment changes over time." The company has added a new feature to its VMware-focused monitoring and management tool that makes it possible to find the beginning of a performance anomaly and follow the events moment by moment.

Blumenthal joked that the feature allows IT administrators to "separate the victims from the culprits." He pointed out that many times appearances can be deceiving in complex, virtualized environments. What appears to be a database issue might, in reality, have been caused by a network outage, a failing storage volume or even a badly installed (or designed) patch from a vendor.

Being able to quickly and easily find the beginning of a performance anomaly then sift through the events to observe the resulting related but different issues can make it possible to hunt through time to find the virtual villain.

Dan's Take: Big Game Hunting Requires the Right Weapons
Like a number of suppliers offering some form of performance monitoring and management, CloudPhysics believes that the way to truly understand what's happening in a complex, virtual environment is to gather the data in operational logs, analyze it using Big Data analytical techniques, then visualize the results in easy-to-understand and simple dashboards.

Many of the competitors (who are also often CloudPhysics' partners) offer tools that, on the surface, appear to offer similar capabilities. CloudPhysics believes that its tools make it easier to "hunt for causality using time as a tool."

If your team finds itself hunting a virtual Carmen Sandiego, it would be worthwhile to examine what CloudPhysics offers.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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