Tag Archives: Analytics

Runecast: Overview and Service Provider Use Case

A few months ago I was lucky enough to spend time with a couple of the founders of Runecast, Stanimir Markov and Ched Smokovic and got to know a little more about their real time analytics platform for VMware based infrastructure. Soon after that I downloaded and deployed it in my lab and have been running it for a few months. In that time I’ve come to understand and appreciate the value that it adds to the operations and management of any vSphere platform.

Having been part of, and led teams that operated and managed large vSphere based cloud platforms one of the challenges of managing any platform of size is how to stay on top of issues operationally…not only when and as they happen, but also before then happen. Proactive monitoring and alerting that pinpoints issues before they happen is invaluable and up to this point I haven’t found a product that focuses in as specifically as Runecast does to help solve that challenge.

In the past I have researched and used more than a few tools on the market and probably the closest comparison that I can make with Runecast is what CloudPhysics tried to do with their Knowledge Base Adviser feature. For those that have used CloudPhysics in the past Runecast will feel somewhat similar in theory, however Runecast have taken what CloudPhsyics had done and taken it to the next level.

By using a number of resources within VMware’s knowledgebase Runecast is been able to deliver a platform that looks at best practices, log information and security hardening guides to monitor your vSphere infrastructure which in turn brings to your attention through a simple yet intuitive interface to issues that may exist.

Runecast for Service Providers:

Proactive analysis is the name of the game and it’s one of the holy grail’s for any operations team. Prevention of an issue before it occurs is what Runecast sets out to achieve and for service providers that are running critical line of business applications for their clients (which is all service providers) the ability to prevent service disruption is huge.

Apart from the obvious benefits around proactive analytics, one of the best features for service providers is the security hardening feature. Lots of service providers these days are being governed by specific regulations and compliance and security has become front and center of any platform owner. With the security hardening feature it points out specifically what passes and what fails as per the official VMware hardening guide.

I can also see how the specific inventory feature for vCenter objects can be developed in the future to allow service providers to expose certain information via the Runecast APIs to their tenants. I’d love to see some integration with vCloud Director, NSX and vSAN among other VMware platforms…there is serious potential here.

The API endpoints that are being exposed version to version means that service providers can take the information presented and manipulate it their hearts content. It providers a powerful way for service providers to take full advantage of the data that’s being collect and analyised.

Final Thoughts:

This is, for the most a targeted analytics system that focuses on getting you the relevant information quickly and without fuss and allows you to ascertain issues and work towards their resolution. I’m looking forward to seeing what the guys come up with over the next twelve to eighteen months as they further enhance the capabilities.

For your free 14 day Trial register here and if you are heading to VMworld this year make sure to visit them at Booth #832

Disclaimer: Runecast are sponsors of Virtualization is Life!

The Anatomy of a vBlog Part 2: Plugins, Site Optimizations and Analytics

Part 1 – Building a Blogging Platform

Having looked at hosting platform and operating system suggestions in Part 1, to conclude this two part series I’ll talk about how to make WordPress work harder for you through its plugin ecosystem as well as go through the site optimizations and caching improvements offered by CloudFlare. To finish off I’ll talk about GoSquared which is an external analytics engines that keeps track of site visitors and page views.

WordPress Plugins:

WordPress having been the defacto blogging engine for a number of years now has enabled a whole ecosystem of free and paid for plugins that are used to enhance the usability of your WordPress site. Think about these plugins similar to IOS Apps in that, just like just like the App Store they are easily searchable and installable from the Administration Plugin Menu and for better or worse…they are ultimately what keep you invested the WordPress platform…just like Apps on the iPhone.

In terms of plugin management, the WordPress platform makes it easy to install, configure and upgrade all the plugin from the one menu page. Up to this point I haven’t had any major issues with the plugins I use even. In terms of what plugins I use to help improve the readability, usability and socialability of the site, I’ve listed the plugins I consider core to this site below:

  • CloudFlare: Integrates your blog with the CloudFlare platform.
  • Crayon Syntax Highlighter: A Syntax Highlighter built in PHP and jQuery that supports customizable languages and themes.
  • GoSquared: Add GoSquared tracking code directly to your WordPress site.
  • Image Formatr: A simple plugin that goes through all the content images on posts & pages, and with zero user changes
  • Jetpack: Simplifies managing WordPress sites by giving you visitor stats, security services, speeding up images, and helping you get more traffic. Jetpack is a free plugin
  • Revive Old Post: Helps you to keeps your old posts alive by sharing them and driving more traffic to them from social networks. It also helps you to promote your content.
  • Yoast SEO: Written from the ground up by Joost de Valk and his team at Yoast to improve your site’s SEO on all needed aspects

TIP: Take a look at what features paid for plugins offer over free ones. Just like any software, you will always find an open/free alternative. Some plugins will also come in a lite version with certain features locked to a paid for version.

CloudFlare Optimizations:

As a new blog is starting off the amount of traffic hitting the site is generally small so having the site directly exposed on the internet isn’t usually a problem, however as your site grows you may need to consider fronting the site with a caching or performance engine. Security should also be a consideration to help protect you blog against malicious attacks or code vulnerabilities and exploits.

In the early days of the internet Akamai dominated web geocaching services and a lot of the world’s largest high volume sites used them to improved user experience and protect origin servers from traffic spikes. CloudFlare offers similar services to Akamai, but they do things differently… Their story is worth a read to get an idea of where they came from and what they are trying to achieve. https://www.cloudflare.com/our-story

CloudFlare-powered websites see a significant improvement in performance and a decrease in spam and other attacks. On average, a website on CloudFlare:

  • Loads twice as fast
  • Uses 60% less bandwidth
  • Has 65% fewer requests
  • Is way more secure

CloudFlare can be used regardless of your choice in platform. Setup takes most about five to ten minutes. Adding a website requires your domain’s DNS records to be hosted at CloudFlare (for free) and then make a couple of adjustments to the origin URL’s of your site and have the domain NS records point at CloudFlare’s name servers. A, AAAA, and CNAME records can have their traffic routed through the CloudFlare system. The core service is free and they do offer enhanced services for websites who need extra features like real time reporting or SSL.

As you can see below, CloudFlare offers a number of tweaking options, most of which are available on the free plan.

The efficiency in terms of bandwidth savings is also significant

The Firewall features is also impressive and works to block IP addresses trying to cause issues and launch brute force attacks on sections of the WorpdPress site such as /wp-admin

Having CloudFlare front your site is a no brainier and given that there is a very feature rich’s free version that is extremely effective its something to configure for all blogging sites. Or to add to your existing site. For a look at the specific plan capabilities, click here.

TIP: Comment SPAM can be a significant PITA for bloggers, and in the early days I would spend ten to thirty minutes a week cleaning up unmoderated comments. With CloudFlare in play the amount of comment SPAM has dropped down to almost non-existent levels.

GoSqaured Analytics:

GoSquared takes what JetPack does and elevates it to another level. This is one of the few external services that I have no trouble paying for because, as someone who loves numbers and trend analytics it delivers everything I need to keep tabs of what’s happening on the site. GoSquared offers real time stats on site visitors and as shown below gives you deep insights into not only, where people are visiting you site from, but a lot about what platform they are using to browse.

It works by downloading the WordPress plugin and entering the tracker code that in turn injects a bit of code onto every page from which the live tracking stats are received. They also have a free plan option, but it’s worth looking at the paid plans as your site grows.

https://www.gosquared.com/plans/

TIP: By looking at the site visit graphs you will start to get a feel for when your site is most accessed and from where the site visits occur. From this you will be able to deduct the best time for which to publish a new blog post.

Conclusion:

I hope this two part series has been helpful in breaking down the obvious and less obvious components of a blogging site and more specifically the Virtualization is Life! site that is running WordPress. As mention in Part 1, there is no right answer to what blogging platform is best, however my preference is to keep things under total control all while having a simple and efficient platform from which to create and distribute content. The tools that I have mentioned that go on top of the WordPress site are also vital in keeping things ticking over.

Hope this was useful for some!

CloudPhysics: Rightsizing Intelligence and Cost Calculator for Private Cloud

CloudPhysics have been a little quiet over the past twelve or so months with focus shifting from presenting data via Cards to Dashboards and also focusing on delivering on boarding solutions for managed service provider partners that has resulted in their channel business growing successfully. Before VMworld they announced the release of their Cost Calculator for Private Clouds in addition to releasing a couple more dashboards for their SaaS based landing page as well as adding a tagging feature for VMs and other objects.

CloudPhysics roots is all about data science and what can be achieved with literally billions of data points…so it’s no surprise that they are starting to put that front and center when it come to their new feature capabilities. Rightsizing at the 99th and 95th percentile usually cuts off the top 5% or 1% of metric peaks, and then presents the data at the nearest metric rate. In this way infrequent peaks are ignored, and the data is better suited to making decisions against. Now CloudPhysics rightsizing can be applied with intelligence to virtual machines and compute/storage infrastructure and capture savings by reducing workloads to match actual demands and reduce over provisioning.

The CloudPhysics Cost Calculator for Private Cloud lets you apply basic costing models to determine your actual costs per virtual machine (VM) in terms of power, compute resources, memory, storage, licensing, and more to generate a cost baseline.

As you can see below the new Card gives you the option to enter in cost points for most input items in a typical private cloud situation. They have not only included standard costs of servers hardware, memory and storage but also given you options to enter in depreciation terms, hypervisor cost details, environment costs relating to power and cooling but also additional 3rd party license costs that could be used for backup or acceleration software.

Once entered in you can filter through your platform as seen by the CloudPhysics Observer and get an understanding of what each individual VM is costing you in relation to your inputs. You also get a Cost as Configured amount that can be adjusted for the 99th and 95th percentile as well.

This view really gives you an understanding of what VMs are costing you the most and then get an idea of how to plan for any move to a public cloud where rightsizing based on more than just maximums is key. There is an option to click on the Compare Cloud Costs button which takes you to a new sister Card that displays the side by side cost of hosting your private cloud on AWS or Azure and again lets you manipulate the data with rightsizing.

In talking with the CloudPhysics team I’m hopeful that they will add to this card to include vCloud Air Network service providers running vSphere based IaaS platforms. I’m sure the 4000 odd vCAN SPs would appreciate a direct comparison for potential new customers looking to make a choice between the hyperscalers and their on platforms.

New Dashboard Items and Tags:

As mentioned in the opening paragraph CloudPhysics also added a couple new dashboards that can be configured to look at a number of different VM and Host metrics and show a trend over the last one, seven for thirty days. These new dashboard items as shown below are extremely handy for being bale to pick up problem objects in your infrastructure.

Also added is the basic ability to add Tags to VMs for easier searching from withing the CloudPhysics interface. In future these will be possibly integrated with vSphere tags which would be a welcome feature as more and more people are implementing tags for Storage Based Policy Management and Backup Management.

All in all another great set of enhancements to the CloudPhysics platform and I can tell you all that you need to keep an eye on what the team has in store for the next 6-12 months as I believe they are ready to take their offering to the next level and expand well and truly beyond anything they have done up to this point.

They have a free edition which you can tryout here: CloudPhysics Free Edition

Additional Content:

Chris Schin from goes through some of the new features during VMworld.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percentile

http://vmblog.com/archive/2016/08/25/cloudphysics-unveils-cost-calculator-for-private-cloud-with-public-cloud-comparison-tool.aspx#.V9au3Lh94-W

CloudPhysics Exploration Mode – New Host View

Late last year CloudPhysics released their VM Exploration mode feature which allowed for a detailed look into what was happening holistically to a VM with the ability to view key metrics and VM related events over an extended period of time. Last weekend CloudPhsyics extended this to also include Hosts. Extending Exploration Mode to include Hosts further improves the proactive monitoring and analysis capabilities of the CloudPhysics platform as it looks to break away from its roots of Card Views.

With Exploration Mode now encompassing both VMs and hosts, administrators can focus in on a workload performance issue and “replay” the environment to correlate events, resource utilization patterns, and environment changes in the seconds, minutes or days leading up to a problem in application performance or availability.

To view a Host with Exploration Mode, you use the new Search Virtual Machines and Hosts bar at the top of the CloudPhysics Web Console.

Once the Host has been selected you get taken to a dashboard that gives you configuration details of the Host, any changes (Power Operations, Snapshot, vMotions) that have been done against that VM in the provided date range and a performance graph that covers CPU, Memory, Network and Storage. There is also an Issues section which alerts you to any possible configuration issues or mismatch.

There is also the introduction of a Tab View which allows you to have open multiple Hosts and/or VMs to compare against…what would be nice would be the ability to overlay both Hosts and VMs to try and pinpoint events or key metrics points as they happened.

Below is a YouTube video from a recent webinar where the CloudPhysics VP Product Management Chris Schin walks through the way the platform uses Exploration Mode to identify root causes of VM Performance issues.

If you are interested in giving CloudPhysics a try, they have a free edition which you can register for and download here: CloudPhysics Free Edition

Quick Post: CloudPhysics Weekly Digest

CloudPhysics are still quietly working away in the background continuing to improve their analytics service…and apart from recently announcing record results for 2015 have started to send out a weekly digests which gives a great snapshot of whats happened in your vSphere environment over the course of the previous week.

The digest contains the following:


 

Environment Summary As of 1 Feb Weekly Change
vCenters 3 0
Observers Online 3 0 —
Observers Offline 0 0 —
VMs 4071 0
Powered on 3086 3 ▲
Powered off 979 2 ▼
Suspended 6 1 ▼
Templates 0 0 —
Hosts 169 1
Clustered 168 1 ▲
Standalone 1 0 —
Avg. VMs (on) / Host (on) 30.7 0.4 ▼
Clusters 13 0
Datastores 64 0
Total Storage 1805.09 TB < 0.01 TB ▲
Free Storage 1477.48 TB 2.02 TB ▲
Events: 25 Jan – 1 Feb
VMs with Config Changes 90
VMs Created 7
vMotions 337

Issues: As of 1 Feb

We found 5 critical issues from VMware and top datacenter vendor knowledge base articles that are highly relevant to your vSphere installation.

Visit KBA Card

1 virtual machine(s) have snapshots using more than 75% of the disk space used by all their respective virtual disks.

Snapshots Gone Wild

4 host(s) are running unsupported VMware ESXi versions.

3 host servers are not supported by VMware.

Host Inventory

26 VM(s) have experienced performance degradation due to datastore contention in last 24 hours.

VM I/O Contentions

2 datastore(s) are in inaccessible state.

Datastore Space

Best Regards,
CloudPhysics


 

They have also made public the vCenter “Deep Linking” feature which I had been beta testing and using for a while…its a great mechanism to attend to issues directly from the CloudPhyics web UI and have the vCenter Web Client launch directly to the areas that requires attention.

Click here to start a free trial that can be up and running in 15 minutes!