I usually think of SolarWinds as a suite of on-premises software that helps monitor and manage many aspects of IT and application infrastructure. While this is true, it isn’t the complete story. As I have heard at a couple of Tech Field Day events (TFD13 & TFD16 plus TFD disclaimer), SolarWinds also has a suite of online services that can help monitor and manage, even without on-premises SolarWinds management. This shift, towards SaaS solutions for management, is essential in a couple of ways. It seems evident that cloud-native applications would be managed by cloud-native management platforms, it makes sense to use current application architectures. Initially, it was less clear that managing on-premises infrastructure from cloud-based services was a smart idea. For some uses it is still not acceptable, some on-premises infrastructure does have to be managed wholly on-premises. But there is a lot to like about a management application as a service, it is always up-to-date and was implemented following the vendor’s best practices. It always has enough capacity for your business growth without a lot of planning by your IT team. So, what are these online management products that SolarWinds has?
In the beginning, Pingdom was about making sure that your website was up and accessible from different locations around the world. During the large DynDNS DDoS attack in 2016, Pingdom was able to identify which DNS servers were under attack and see that the ones near me in New Zealand were still functional. The global distribution of Pingdom sensors also helps ensure that your CDN is doing its job. From availability, Pingdom moved on to web application performance monitoring, identifying page load times and the elements that contribute to slow page loads.
Log management is one of those things that some organizations do exceptionally well, while others do an abysmal job. I find that smaller organizations seldom have a good logging infrastructure because it is just too much hassle to set up. I was surprised that there two different log analysis products in the SolarWinds suite, but they have very different audiences. Papertrail is aimed at the IT operations teams and their needs. The service provides a destination for infrastructure logs (via syslog) and enables IT operations functions with those logs. You can search and monitor logs to help with fault resolution. You can also setup alerting on your logs, to notify you of impending issues.
Papertrail is for infrastructure logs, and Loggly is for application logs. Loggly has integrations and analytics for application platforms like Node.js, PHP, and Python plus a variety of AWS services. Loggly’s analytics and visualizations are where it shines, identifying trends and anomalies in application log data. The feature set is aimed at developers, and particularly DevOps practitioners who need to keep track of the results of rapid applications changes in real time.
AppOptics is another DevOps oriented tool; it provides distributed tracing mainly for cloud-native applications. The tracing aims to analyze how each user activity moves through the application and identify which application component is failing or causing poor performance. This tracing is vital in distributed and micro-services architectures where a single user action, such as shopping cart check-out, might involve a dozen separate application parts and so a dozen different development teams.
More Infrastructure Management SaaS
I expect to see a lot more SaaS-based infrastructure management software as time goes by, we already see new products from startups, but I also hope more established vendors like SolarWinds to offer SaaS as a deployment option. For customers the ease of a SaaS deployment is excellent, almost nothing to deploy, no capacity management, no versioning, no patching, and OpEx based cost rather than a big CapEx. For vendors SaaS is even more beneficial, money comes in regularly with a monthly subscription and support cost is lower because every customer uses the latest version of the software. Is your organization ready for infrastructure management from the cloud?
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