Thursday, July 9, 2009

Paglo SaaS offering provides means to harness untamed collection of log and IT resources data

Paglo, the IT management software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, recently announced a new low-cost service that allows companies to tackle the Herculean task of trying to winnow out a rapidly growing mountain of log data.

With log data piling up in terabyte leaps and increasing regulatory pressure to maintain that data for several years, companies now find themselves in danger of being swamped with information about operational events and the daunting challenge of making sense of it. [Disclosure: Paglo is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Paglo, Menlo Park, Calif., has upgraded its SaaS log management application, Paglo Logs, for IT professionals to automatically capture and store their logs and instantly search and analyze them. The expanded service provides a powerful Google-like search capability to enable rapid discovery of key operational events, a platform for meeting compliance requirements, and a way to accelerate the investigation of security incidents.

I was impressed with Paglo when they first came out, and the additional services -- now extending to capture and search of expansive sets of IT assets and other metadata on their performance -- makes it a powerful tool for the cloud era.

How can you be responsible for performance on systems that cross company or provider boundaries? With SaaS offerings like Paglo, you can set up log gathering and search across all the systems that support a business process, regardless of their sourcing. Very cool.

As on-demand and with a "zero footprint" architecture, the Paglo Logs service collects rich systems data from all networked devices and requires no additional software or appliances to use. Paglo Logs allows users to:
  • Accelerate problem resolution by going directly from the logged events to the underlying infrastructure, to view health and performance data or to access a particular machine.

  • Meet the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) by tracking all devices, software and configurations, monitoring wireless access, and securing central log collection.

  • Provide both developers and operations the ability to troubleshoot application issues and understand user behavior without logging into the production servers.

  • Improve their security profile and incident response by immediately receiving alerts and using saved searches and dashboards.
To maintain security, each business using Paglo has its own search index that keeps the log and network information separate and private from other subscribers. Setting up requires no appliances, on-site dedicated servers

As I said in the Paglo release on the news, "Companies need to harness and analyze the information explosion coming from all of their computer, server, network and log data. It's a very productive way to improve operating efficiencies, gain a clear understanding of true IT costs, and to meet compliance requirements. As an on-demand service, Paglo helps drop the complexity barriers to quick and effective log search and analytics."

The services come in three flavors, Paglo IT, a more complete offering; Paglo MSP, targeted at managed services providers, and Paglo Logs, for the full search and visualization services (and with a free introductory offer). The services are designed to appeal to security professionals, IT administrators, and developers of on-demand applications and services.

The new Log Management service is available immediately and accounts can be created directly online. A free trial is available at Paid plans start at an aggressive $99 per month.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Don’t use an ESB unless you absolutely, positively need one, Mule CTO warns

“To ESB or not to ESB,” that is the question Ross Mason, MuleSource CTO, raises in a his blog this week.

It would be heresy among marketers at many vendors, but the MuleSource CTO is actively discouraging architects and developers from using an enterprise service bus (ESB), including his company’s open-source version, unless they are sure they really need one.

Misuse of ESBs leads to overly complex architectures that can be more difficult to remedy than a straightforward Web services-based architecture that omits the ESB in early versions of an enterprise application, Mason argued in a phone conversation about his blog.

“There are two main mistakes I see most of the time,” he told BriefingsDirect. “There’s not enough of an integration requirement or there’s not enough use of the ESB features to warrant it.”

You don’t need an ESB if your project involves two applications, or if you are only using one type of protocol, he explains.

“If I’m only using HTTP or Web services, I’m not going to get a lot of value from an ESB as opposed to using a simpler Web services framework,” Mason said. “Web services frameworks are very good at handling HTTP and SOAP. By putting in an ESB, you’re adding an extra layer of complexity that’s not required for that job.”

Architects and developers using an ESB in these cases are probably engaging in "resume-driven development (RDD)." If anybody asks you if you’ve deployed an ESB in an application you’ve worked on you can say, yes. And then you can hope the hiring manager doesn’t ask if the application really required the technology.

Another mistake, Mason cites, is using an ESB and thinking that you are future-proofing an application that doesn’t need it now, but might someday.

“You’ll Never Need It (YNNI), that acronym has been around awhile for a reason,” Mason says. “That’s another killer problem. If you select an ESB because you think you might need it, you definitely don’t have an architecture that lays out how you’re going to use an ESB because you haven’t given it that much thought. That’s a red flag. You could be bringing in technology just for the sake of it.”

Adding his two-cents to the “Is service-oriented architecture (SOA) dead” debate, the MuleSource CTO says such over-architecting is one of the things that contributes to the problems being encountered by IT in SOA that has given the acronym a bad name. “Architecture is hard enough without adding unnecessary complexity,” he said. “You need to keep it as simple as possible.”

Ironically, adding an ESB because you might need it someday can lead to future problems that might be avoided if you left it out to begin with and then added it in later, Mason said.

“The price of architecting today and re-architecting later is going to be a lot less than architecting badly the first time,” he explained. “If you have a stable architecture, you can augment it later with an ESB, which is going to be easier than trying to plug in an ESB where it’s not going to be needed at that time.”

While the conversation focused on the pitfalls of using an ESB where you don’t need one, the MuleSource CTO naturally believes there are architectures where the ESB makes sense. To begin with, you need to be working on a project where you have three or more applications that need to talk to each other, he explained.

“If you’ve got three applications that have to talk to each other, you’ve actually got six integration points, one for each service, and then it goes up exponentially,” Mason said.

The ESB technology is also needed where the protocols go beyond HTTP. “You should consider an ESB when you start using Java Message Service (JMS), representational state transfer (REST), or any of the other protocols out there,” Mason said. “When communications start getting more complicated is when an ESB shows its true value.”

BriefingsDirect contributor Rich Seeley provided research and editorial assistance on this post. He can be reached at

Monday, July 6, 2009

Consolidation, modernization, and virtualization: A triple-play for long-term enterprise IT cost reduction

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

As the global economic downturn accelerates the need to reduce total technology costs, IT consolidation, application modernization, and server virtualization play self-supporting roles alone -- and in combination.

Taken apart these initiatives offer greater efficiency and reduced IT energy demands. But combined, these initiatives produce much greater costs controls by slashing labor and maintenance costs, producing far better server utilization rates, and removing unneeded or unused applications and data.

These initiatives when done in coordination can do more than cut costs, they improve how IT delivers services to their businesses. A better IT infrastructure enables market agility, supports flexible business processes, and places the enterprise architect in a position to better leverage flexible sourcing options such as cloud computing and SaaS.

To dig into the relationship between a modern and consolidated approach to IT data centers and total cost, I recently interviewed John Bennett, worldwide solution manager for Data Center Transformation Solutions at Hewlett-Packard (HP).

Here are some excerpts:
Bennett: It’s easy to say, "reduce costs." It’s very difficult to understand what types of costs I can reduce and what kind of savings I get from them.

In my mind, the themes of consolidation, which people have been doing forever; modernization, very consciously making decisions to replace existing infrastructure with newer infrastructure for gains other than performance; and virtualization, which has a lot of promise in terms of driving cost out of the organization can increase aspects like flexibility and agility. ... [These allow companies] to grow quickly, to respond the competitive opportunities or threats very quickly, and offer the ability for IT to enable the business to be more aggressive, rather than becoming a limiting factor in the roll-out of new products or services.

By combining these initiatives, and taking an integrated approach to them, ... you can use them to address a broad set of issues, and realize aspects of a data center transformation by approaching these things in an orderly and planned way.

When you move to a shared infrastructure environment, the value of that environment is enhanced the more you have standardized that environment. That makes it much easier not only to manage the environment with a smaller numbers of sys-admins, but gives you a much greater opportunity to automate the processes and procedures.

... I no longer have the infrastructure and the assets tied to specific business services and applications. If I have unexpected growth, I can support it by using resources that are not being used quite as much in the environment. It’s like having a reserve line of troops that you can throw into the fray.

If you have an opportunity and you can deploy servers and assets in the matter of hours instead of a matter of days or months, IT becomes an enabler for the business to be more responsive. You can respond to competitive threats, respond to competitive opportunities, roll out new business services much more quickly, because the processes are much quicker and much more efficient. Now, IT becomes a partner in helping the business take advantage of opportunities, rather than delaying the availability of new products and services.

We’ve seen some other issues pop up in the last several years as well. One of them is an increasing focus on green, which means a business perspective on being green as an organization. For many IT organizations, it means really looking to reduce energy consumption and energy-related costs.

In some of the generations of servers that we’ve released, we see 15 to 25 percent improvements from a cost perspective and an energy consumption perspective, just based on modernizing the infrastructure. So, there are cost savings that can be had by replacing older devices with newer ones.

We’ve also seen in many organizations, as they move to a bladed infrastructure and move to denser environments, that the data center capacity and energy constrain -- that the amount of energy available to a data center -- is also an inhibiting factor. It’s one of the reasons that we really advise customers to take a look at doing consolidation, modernization, and virtualization together.

[These efficiencies] have been enhanced by a lot of the improvements in the IT products themselves. They are now instrumented for increasing

What we’re doing as a company is focusing on the management and the automation of that environment, because we see virtualization really stressing data center and infrastructure management environments pretty substantively.

manageability and automation. The products are integrated to provide management support not just for availability and for performance, but also for energy. They're instrumented to support the automation of the environment, including the ability to turn off servers that you don’t know or care about. They’re further enhanced by the enhancements in virtualization.

With virtualization ... it becomes a shared environment, and your shared environment is just more productive and more flexible if it’s one shared environment instead of 3, 4, 5 or 10 shared environments. That increases the density and it goes back to these other factors that we talked about. That’s clearly one of the more recent trends of the last few years in many data centers.

A lot of people are doing virtualization. What we’re doing as a company is focusing on the management and the automation of that environment, because we see virtualization really stressing data center and infrastructure management environments pretty substantively. In many cases, it's impacting governance of the data center. ... So, you really have full control, insight, and governance over everything taking place in the data center.

Our recommendations to many customers would be, first of all, if you identify assets that aren’t being used at all, just get rid of them. The cost savings are immediate. ... Identify all of the assets in the environment, the applications, software they're running, and the interdependencies between them. In effect, you build up a map of the infrastructure and know what everything is doing. You can very quickly see if there are servers, for example, not doing anything.

If I've got 10 servers doing this particular application and I can have that support the environment by using 3 of those servers, get rid of 7. I can modernize the environment, so that if I had 10 servers doing this work before, and the consolidation gives me the opportunity to go to only to 6 or 7, if I modernize, I might be able to reduce it to 2 or 3.

On top of that, I can explore virtualization. Typically, in environments not using virtualization, server utilization rates, especially for industry standard servers, are under 10 percent. That can be driven up to 70 or 80 percent or even higher by virtualizing the workloads. Now, you can go from 10 to 3 to perhaps just 1 server doing the work. Ten to 3 to 1 is an example. In many environments, you may have hundreds of servers supporting web-based applications or email. The number of servers that can be reduced out from that can be pretty phenomenal.
Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.