Yowza! 20% of the companies in our space have a monitoring solution!

Yesterday, I was going through the list of vendors in our space, checking out websites and seeing who had anything that was notable or really interesting. About halfway through, I noted that there are an awful lot of vendors that have monitoring solutions, and since I always looked at them as sort of a commodity, I'd never really bothered to count them.

Yesterday, I was going through the list of vendors in our space, checking out websites and seeing who had anything that was notable or really interesting. About halfway through, I noted that there are an awful lot of vendors that have monitoring solutions, and since I always looked at them as sort of a commodity, I'd never really bothered to count them. 

It turns that out on our list, we have 20 21 vendors that have at least one monitoring solution--out of 100 vendors!  Without a doubt, they all have their differences, but it stands to reason that many of them fall into the category of a YAM (Yet Another Monitor).  Talk about overwhelming! That number doesn't even include all the other types of Virtual or Datacenter Management packages, of which I think there's easily another dozen.

Remember, our list of vendors only contains companies that are known to be targeting the application and desktop delivery space. There are many more companies with monitoring solutions targeting other areas of the enterprise and data center that also just happen to work with application and desktop virtualization.  If we counted the monitoring vendors at VMworld (all we'd need to do is list companies targeting "cloud" to find them), we'd probably have another 10 or 15. That said, here's our list:

  1. Akorri
  2. Aternity
  3. Citrix
  4. Clear2View
  5. Dell
  6. eG Innovations
  7. Gourami
  8. HP
  9. IBM
  10. Ingenica ManageView (they also own UniPrint)
  11. Lakeside
  12. Liquidware Labs
  13. Microsoft
  14. Premitech
  15. Quest (they have 950 apps - one has to be a monitor)
  16. RTO
  17. Symantec (they have 951 apps - one has to be a monitor)
  18. Terminal Services Log
  19. triCerat
  20. VMware
  21. XTS Inc

The list would've contained 23 names had I written it a few months ago.  Liquidware Labs acquired both vmSight and Entrigue this year, each of which had their own monitoring solution.

With so many of these companies out there and with so many different ways of actually collecting and reporting the data, I don't envy anyone looking for a monitoring solution from scratch. You could end up with a few solutions based on separate use cases, or you could end up with one overblown solution that does way more than you actually need (and might not even do exactly what you need).  Granted, some of these solutions, Liquidware Labs, for instance, exist for a different purpose than simply monitoring your environment or root-cause analysis, but every one of them has a niche or two where they claim to excel.

For me, 95% of the time, I prefer simplicity. For years as an admin, I had a box dedicated to WhatsUpGold (there's another one! 22 now.) sitting next to me that I paid no attention to unless it made a siren sound indicating that something went wrong. The other 5% of the time, though, I was in CYA mode. Since our technology is horizontal across all the systems that affect the user experience, we're always the first ones to get the call that something isn't right. That's when my A needs C'd, and that's when some of the more robust monitoring packages come in handy.  But is that a reason to have two packages (or one that you only use 5% of the time because it's too complex to use all the time)?

I believe that monitoring is important, but to what degree?  I'm sure many people are happy with Perfmon or a solution that just looks at Perfmon counters, but that limits you to Windows.  Others prefer an SNMP or agent-based solution that goes above and beyond the normal monitoring capabilities of your systems, and that allow you to get a more holistic view of your systems.

So I'll ask you: What's important to you in a monitoring solution? What factors did you use to make your decision? Is it based solely on your application and desktop delivery needs, or is it more of a big picture thing where the entire IT department is involved in the decision? Let me know what product(s) you use and why you chose (or didn't choose) a certain one.  If you don't want to leave a comment, I'd still love to hear your thoughts, so email me at gabe@brianmadden.com.

 

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In this space I had two issues/concerns.


1) The impact of any monitoring agent on performance


2) The amount of data collected and what to do with it.


Let's take the example of Citrix Edgesight to illustrate. I like the technology and the concept of historic reporting etc. However the agent can impact performance when users are busy, and I had to play around with config a lot to figure to get it to work right. Even then there are instances I just simply turn it off. It collects so much information that often it send me off on wild goose chases that lead nowhere. Granted there are times where it did nail my problem. As a result I tend to use tools like Edgesight on an Ad-Hoc basis for troubleshooting. For that I'd prefer to have a perfmon like ability where to large groups of machines I can simply turn on counter x,y,z. Too cumbersome today. The reporting history is great, but never how I want it. The fact it leverages MS Reporting Service helps, since I can write my own reports and have operations consume them, however I just can't get our operations YET to do the right thing. They are just not very smart and stupid management.


As for many of others, MOM etc, I am just tired of email alerts. WAY too much noise that fills up my inbox.


So in general critical alerts are useful, but monitoring is mostly noise. What is needed is a way to rationalize all the noise and detect variance in patterns from the norm. Then the system can decide if something is worth bringing to my attention. Without that type of capability, I see limited value in my experience.


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I pretty much spent most of the 90's making monitoring products for the communications industry space.  While I am tired of these products, you do have to have something around.


They are very helpful when you want to change things and they are helpful when something is broken.  In between they represent overhead.


The argument for running them in between is always one of "how do you tell what changed if you don't monitor in-between".  In theory, you could write really good software to figure out what is important and what isn't.  But most of the time you still end up with too much noise coming out.  So you either ignore it or turn it off until you need it.  


I think the value in a really good system is along the lines you pointed out, Gabe.  Two systems.  You want something really simple that doesn't require a lot of overhead, training, or resources as a quick kind of backstop.  It shouldn't complain very often unless something is really out of wack.  You also want something that can generate tremendous detail -- end to end -- and understand how all of the data points fit together.  The latter is really hard and expensive to do, and always ends up overly complicated.  In theory, being able to monitor full time can help that software figure out what changed, but in reality nobody has done that well.  But when the C-level folks call because their people can't do their jobs you really want the latter available.


As to agent overhead, far to many of these products work either agentless with WMI or with an agent that utilizes either the PDH libraries to pull information from windows.  These interfaces are horribly inneficient (especially WMI, which then uses PDH).  Those products simply need a better implementation at the client end.


That there are so many companies with monitoring products is indicative that they all are hearing that customers are not happy with what they have in place.  But the number of vendors also hurt each of them in that they cannot generate a significant enough revenue stream to fully invest in the back-end analysis part.  So they either have another product that generates revenue, get acquired, or go into another business.  Were I stupid enough to launch a product in this space today, I would concentrate on that low end system that can look at the entire server/desktop/app space and blow a horn only once in a long while.  (And for the record, I am just dense, not stupid).


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Dude, I'm still laughing at the comment after Quest. That's hilarious.  In all seriousness, we do have monitoring solutions by the names Foglight and Spotlight.  vFoglight is targeted at the virtualization space and is one module/cartridge of the overall Foglight product, and is available via our Vizioncore company.  The rest of Foglight monitors just about everything one can imagine.  We're in the process of integrating vWorkspace with vFoglight, as we know it's a feature just about any customer would want.


When I said it monitors just about everything, I wasn't kidding.  The list here is pretty darn long:


www.quest.com/application-monitoring


Spotlight on the other hand is a realtime diagnostic utility set:


www.quest.com/.../overview.aspx


P.S.  I think you made a typo on number 19. Shouldn't that be "triCerat", not "tricera"?


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I agree with comments put forward by Gabe, Tim and AppD.


For me in my line of work I’m basically interested in just a handful of counters and a few basic health status checks.


Depending on what I’m looking for (or working with) I adapt this basic harvest for whatever it might be is useful for me. I’d like to leave the deep probing on as-needed basis.


Then again, the world is larger than my petty stuff, so there needs to be other checks, verifications and historical trends from various key observables within the overall picture of IT.


This is all fine, if it would be so… but the gruesome reality is that the need/desire for control is flooded by oceans of incompetence by the very ones wishing to do so, which, I guess, is the reason for the endless listings of different monitoring systems.


One interesting thing that Tim pointed out on his site a while ago and also tooled (for Hyper-V) is the fact  that the game is rather different now that all things goes virtual.


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Thanks, Patrick - good catch.


I'm actually surprised there's "only" two :)


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