Monday, August 24, 2009

IT and log search as SaaS gains operators fast, affordable and deep access to system behaviors

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Complexity of data centers escalates. Managed service providers face daunting performance obligations. And the budget to support the operations of these critical endeavors suffers downward pressure.

In this podcast, we explore how IT search and systems log management as a service provides low-cost IT analytics that harness complexity to improve performance at radically reduced costs. We'll examine how network management, systems analytics, and log search come together, so that IT operators can gain easy access to identify and fix problems deep inside complex distributed environments.

Here to help better understand how systems log management and search work together are Dr. Chris Waters, co-founder and chief technology officer at Paglo, and Jignesh Ruparel, system engineer at Infobond, a value-added reseller (VAR). The discussion is moderated by me, BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner.

Here are some excerpts:
Waters: [Today] there’s just more information flowing, and more information about the IT environment. Search is a great technology for quickly drilling through a lot of noise to get to the exact piece of data that you want, as more and more data flows at you as an IT professional.

One of the other challenges is the distribution of these applications across increasingly distributed companies and applications that are now running out of remote data centers and out of the cloud as well.

When you're trying to monitor applications outside of a data center, you can no longer use software systems that you have installed on your local premises. You have to have something that can reach into that data center. That’s where being able to deliver your IT solution as software-as-a-service (SaaS) or a cloud-based application itself is really important.

You've got this heterogeneity in your IT environments, where you want to bring together solutions from traditional software vendors like Microsoft and cloud providers like Amazon, with their EC2, and it allows you to run things out of the cloud, along with software from open-source providers.

All of the software in these systems and this hardware is generating completely disparate types of information. Being able to pull all that together and use an engine that can suck up all that data in there and help you quickly get to answers is really the only way to be able to have a single system that gives you visibility across every aspect of your IT environment.

And "inventory" here means not just the computers connected to the network, but the structure of the network itself -- the users, the groups that they belong to, and, of course, all of the software and systems that are running on all those machines.

Search allows us to take information from every aspect of IT, from the log files that you have mentioned, but also from information about the structure of the network, the operation of the machines on the network, information about all the users, and every aspect of IT.

We put that into a search index, and then use a familiar paradigm, just as you'd search with Google. You can search in Paglo to find information about the particular error messages, or information about particular machines, or find which machines have certain software installed on them.

We deliver the solution as a SaaS offering. This means that you get to take advantage of our expertise in running our software on our service, and you get to leverage the power of our data centers for the storage and constant monitoring of the IT system itself.

The [open source] Paglo Crawler is a small piece of software that you download and install onto one server in your network. From that one server, the Paglo Crawler then discovers the structure of the rest of the network and all the other computers connected to that network. It logs onto those computers and gathers rich information about the software and operating environment.

That information is then securely sent to the Paglo data center, where it's indexed and stored on the search index. You can then log in to the Paglo service with your Web browser from anywhere in your office, from your iPhone, or from your home and gain visibility into what's happening in real time in the IT environment.

This allows people who are responsible for networks, servers, and workstations to focus on their expertise, which is not maintaining the IT management system, but maintaining those networks, servers, and workstations.

The Crawler needs some access to what’s going on in the network, but any credentials that you provide to the Crawler to log in never leaves the network itself. That’s why we have a piece of software that sits inside the network. So, there are no special firewall holes that need to be opened or compromised in the security with that.

There is another aspect, which is very counterintuitive, and that people don't expect when they think about SaaS. Here at Paglo, we are focused on one thing, which is securely and reliably operating the Paglo service. So, the expertise that we put into those two things is much more focused than you would expect within an IT department, where you are focused on solving many, many different challenges.

Ruparel: For 15 years, we [at Infobond] have been primarily a break-fix organization, moving into managed services, monitoring services. We needed visibility into the networks of the customers we service. For that we needed a tool that would be compatible with the various protocols that are out there to manage the networks -- namely SNMP, WMI, Syslog. We needed to have all of them go into a tool and be able to quickly search for various things.

We found that the technology that Paglo is using is very, very advanced. They aggregate the information and make it very easy for you to search.

You can very quickly create customized dashboards and customized reports based on that data for the end customer, thus providing more of a personal and customized approach to the monitoring for the customers.

Some of the dashboards are a common denominator to various sorts of customers. An example would be a Microsoft Exchange dashboard. Customers would love to have a dashboard that they have on the screen. At the end of the day, I look at it very simply as collecting information in one place, and then being able to extract that easily for various situations and environments.

These are some things that are a common denominator to almost all customers that are moving with the technology, implementing new technologies, such as VMware, the latest Exchange versions, Linux environments for development, and Windows for their end users.

The number of pieces of software and the number of technologies that IT implements is far more than it used to be, and it’s going to get more and more complex as time progresses. With that, you need something like Paglo, where it pulls all the information in one place, and then you can create customized uses for the end customers.

If I go and set things up without Paglo, it would require me to place a server at the customer site. We would have to worry about not only maintenance of the hardware, but the maintenance of the software at the customer site as well, and we would have to do all of this effort.

We would then have to make sure that our systems that those servers communicate to are also maintained and steady 24/7. We would have multiple data centers, where we can get support. In case one data center dies, we have another one that takes over. All of that infrastructure cost would be used as an MSP.

At the end of the day, I look at it very simply as collecting information in one place, and then being able to extract that easily for various situations and environments.

Now, if you were to look at it from a customer's perspective, it's the same situation. You have a software piece that you install on a server. You would probably need a person dedicated for approximately two to three months to get the information into the system and presentable to the point where its useful. With Paglo, I can do that within four hours.

Waters: We have a lot of users who are from small and medium-sized businesses. We also see departments within some very large enterprises, as well, using Paglo, and often that's for managing not just on-premise equipment, but also managing equipment out of their own data centers.

Paglo is ideal for managing data-center environments, because, in that case, the IT people and the hardware are already remote from each other. So, the benefits of SaaS are double there. We also see a lot of MSPs and IT consultants who use Paglo to deliver their own service to their users.

Ruparel: As far as cost is concerned, right now Paglo charges a $1.00 a device. That is unheard of in the industry right now. The cheapest that I have gotten from other vendors, where you would install a big piece of hardware and the software that goes along with it, and the cost associated with that per device is approximately $4-5, and not delivering a central source of information that is accessible from anywhere.

As far as cost, infrastructure cost wise, we save a ton of money. Manpower wise, the number of hours that I have to have engineers working on it, we save tons of time. Number three, after all of that, what I pay to Paglo is still a lot less than it would cost me.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Paglo.

Automatically discover your IT data and make it accessible and useful. Get started for free.

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