Dan's Take

Peeking Under Your Datacenter's Hood With Uila

A new entry in the performance management and monitoring field.

Chia-Chee Kuan, Uila co-founder and CEO, briefed me about the company's background and experience, and discussed how its product can help simplify monitoring and management of virtualized datacenter infrastructure.

The company's founders have a strong background in network monitoring and management, so Uila understands that today's critical applications are large-scale, distributed, and multi-tier. They might be housed locally in the enterprise's own datacenter, in the datacenter of a cloud service provider or in a combination of on- and off-premises datacenters.

The company has designed its product to help developers and administrators of applications, virtual infrastructure and physical infrastructure see what's happening in the bowels of a datacenter, to enable quick diagnosis of the root cause(s) of performance issues or failures.

Siloes for Staff
Kuan pointed out that DevOps staff can see what's happening within their applications; IT staff typically lack visibility into applications and the underlying physical infrastructure, but can view what the virtualization tools are doing; and the staff that monitors and manages the physical infrastructure often lack visibility into either the virtual environment hosted by that infrastructure or the applications hosted by the virtual infrastructure.

Uila has developed packet sniffing tools and data analytics that monitor the entire computing environment and evaluate the data coming in. It then creates a dashboard that's easy to understand and use, showing what's happening and where. The company calls this "full-stack application to infrastructure visibility." Their claim is that they can reduce troubleshooting time from days to minutes.

Uila says the dashboard allows staff to quickly see the state of the computing environment and probe into any components showing performance issues. The company's tool currently supports VMware, KVM, Hyper-V and containers virtual environments, and can directly interface with VMware's vCenter and other management tools. The company is working on including other virtual computing environments in the future.

Dan's Take: Trying to Stand Out in a Crowd
While Uila's demonstration was interesting, showing how easy it was to see something was going wrong and then probe into underlying layers of technology to see why the problem was occurring, I found parts of the dashboard garish and hard to see. The company has made no provision for users to adjust the colors or other factors in the display (they claim the colors make it easy to spot problems at a glance). I expect those niceties will be offered in future releases of the software.

It was clear that the company had thought through the fact that applications and workloads executing on industry standard x86 systems might be supported by databases or transaction systems executing on single-vendor UNIX or mainframe systems. Uila monitors performance on the links going out of the industry-standard computing environment and can highlight performance issues on "the other side of the wall."

I was a bit puzzled as to why Uila would enter a highly-contested market that has many highly competent competitors. Vendors like ExtraHop, Dynatrace and Virtual Instruments make many of the same claims and offer similarly impressive demonstrations. Management framework suppliers, such as BMC, CA and IBM can do the same. 

This means Uila faces an uphill battle in terms of getting on the radar of potential customers. That may be as big a hurdle as the technical challenges in building a comprehensive monitoring and performance solution.

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. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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