Uila Are Using Your Network (And Some Smart Analytics) To Understand What’s Really Going On

I frequently get briefing invitations from various companies focused on storage and data centre infrastructure. Sometimes their product isn’t directly related to things I might write about, but I like to take these briefings when I can because it gives me something new to learn. Whilst infrastructure and application monitoring plays a big part of in the data centre, it’s not something I write about with any great frequency. All this is a long way of saying that I took a briefing with Uila recently and was pleasantly surprised.


What’s a Uila Then?

Pronounced “wee-luh”, Uila is focused on full-stack visibility. They aim to provide you with the ability to:

  • –Troubleshoot complex issues to root cause quickly
  • –Monitor end user, application performance, availability and infrastructure health
  • –Perform planning, optimisation and issue prevention

The cool thing is they don’t just focus on virtualised workloads.

[image courtesy of Uila]


Application and Network Intelligence

The key to Uila is the network-centric approach to monitoring. This is done primarily via the Virtual Smart Traffic Taps (vST):

  • Distributed VMs (vST) sniff packets from (D)vSwitch
  • Deep packet inspection
  • Network performance and flow analysis
  • 4000+ application identification and meta data analysis
  • Application transaction response time & volume tracking


Compute & Storage & OS Process Intelligence

The Virtual Information Controller (vIC) takes care of all the integration pieces, offering:

  • API integration with cloud virtualisation system;
  • SNMP integration with network switches;
  • SSH & WMI  API integration with application server; and
  • Service availability monitoring via active tests.


Management & Analytics System

There’s also a “Management Analytics System” available as either a SaaS offering from Uila or on-premises. It offers:

  • Scalability & Redundancy with Hadoop/Hbase;
  • Full stack correlation for root cause identification; and
  • An analytics visualisation engine.


IT is Hard

IT operations can be hard at the best of times. At any given time in all but the most mature infrastructure organisations something is on fire. Sometimes literally. Understanding where to look for the problems is difficult. It’s also difficult to identify the root cause of these issues in a fast and efficient manner. The first reaction is often to treat the cause, not the system. Another thing I’ve noticed is that the various silos of support staff (storage, virtualisation, OS support, network, security, etc.) all like to use their own tools to do their troubleshooting. I once worked in a place that had deployed 4 or 5 monitoring platforms in various states of usefulness. When there was a problem it took hours just to get everyone to look in the same place at the issue.

As much as I’m reluctant to trust a lot of what networking folks say, I think Uila’s approach to monitoring and root cause analysis is a smart one. This isn’t the nineties, and networks are everywhere in your enterprise nowadays. Why not leverage that pervasiveness and get a real feel for what exactly is going on in your environment? But it’s not just about collecting data, it’s about what you do with that data. And this is where I think Uila shines, based on the demonstration I saw and what I’ve read thus far. Having a bunch of data at hand is great, but oftentimes we need to get to the root cause of the problem to understand what’s really happening (and how to fix the problem). Uila are heavily focused on making this a quick and easy process. I’m looking forward to looking at their offering some more in the future (when I get my act together and put the lab back into production).

Uila presented at  Tech Field Day 13, and you can see video of their presentations here, and read Thom Greene‘s thoughts here. You can also read more about Uila’s architecture here.

Stormons Professional Edition Available

Disclaimer: I don’t work for Stormons, and I’ve not been compensated for this post. I just think it’s a cool product that is worth checking out.

Didier from Stormons recently got in touch to let me know there’s now a Professional version of the software available now as part of a subscription deal. I’ve previously covered Stormons here and here and think it’s pretty good stuff – and definitely worth checking out – particularly if you have a large environment to work with. Apparently EMC in Bangalore are heavy users of the product as well. The Professional Edition is offered on a subscription basis, and they’re running a discounted rate until May to celebrate the release. Find out more about it here. You can also still access the free edition from the downloads page.

Get cracking with Stormons 1.3.2 GA

I covered the release of Stormons 1.3.2 GA here and mentioned a few of the highlights of the new version. In between doing some vCD stuff and the general faffing about that seems to happen at this time of year, I’ve had a chance to install it on my lab PC and monitor our two CX4-120s. I’m not going to regurgitate the installation manual (which can be downloaded from here). I thought it might be more useful if I covered off the bits that weren’t obvious to me when I first installed the product. Note that if you’re used to deploying web apps and familiar with Apache configuration files, you won’t have as much of an issue with getting this working as I did. As it happens, I’m more idiot than savant when it comes to these things so it took me a little longer than it should have to get going.

Windows Server 2003 is listed as the supported OS. I used 32-bit Windows 7, as that was the OS on my laptop at the time. I used Apache 2.2 as the web server. There’s a bunch of supported models listed in the installation guide, but I’ve only used this product with EMC CLARiiON CX4 arrays. I can’t speak for its usefulness with NetApp FAS, EMC Symmetrix, EMC Celerra or Brocade FC devices.

I copied the extracted (and renamed) installation files to C:\tools\ and set the System Variable accordingly. Here’re the changes I made to my httpd.conf file to get things working. If I’ve done things really badly, feel free to chime in.

The first bit is to add a Directory for the location of the SM1.3 installation.

<Directory "C:/tools/SM1.3/http">
SetEnv STORMONS_HOME "C:/tools/SM1.3"
AllowOverride None
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks ExecCGI
Order allow,deny
Allow from all

I then added in Aliases for the /SM and other directories.

Alias /SM "C:/tools/SM1.3/http"
Alias /capa_spk "C:/tools/SM1.3/repository/capacity/spk"
Alias /perf_spk "C:/tools/SM1.3/repository/performance/spk"

I also uncommented the .cgi handler under

AddHandler cgi-script .cgi

And that was it from the Apache side of things. After that I ran through the Stormons configuration as per the installation guide, setting paths to various binaries, etc. Note that if you’ve just copied RRDtool from the internet it’s worth running it first. I was missing the msvcr100.dll and it was crapping out without my knowledge (re-installing the Visual Studio 2008 redistributable fixed that). When you’re installing the Stormons polling service, make sure that you’re running a command prompt with sufficient privileges to install services, or you won’t get any useful results. I’m still having problems with RRDtool drawing pictures, but I’m working on that.

I’m hoping to do a more thorough run-through on some of the stuff you can do with Stormons in the next week or two.

Stormons 1.3.2 GA Released

Didier from Stormons recently got in contact (I knew a degree in French would eventually come in handy for something) to let me know that Stormons 1.3.2 GA has now been released. I’ve been meaning to give this tool a run in the lab for a while now, and I’m hopeful that I can do something in the next few weeks when work gets a bit quieter. You can download pre-compiled Windows (32 and 64-bit) binaries or Linux source code here. I won’t go into all of the features now, but here’re a few highlights:

In terms of the code, it is comprised of 43000 lines of Perl 5.14, 70 HTML reports, a multi-threaded engine and a scheduler.

Some reports offer the ability to compare configurations between two dates (helpful for trending and capacity planning).

Detailed alerts can be created.

“Storage Classes” can be created and used as a basis for Chargeback reports.

There’s a bunch of other features, including support for Brocade fabric traffic monitoring and some Nagios integration. And, as mentioned previously, there’s 70 HTML reports covering RAID Groups, CX Storage Pools, MirrorView, NetApp Volumes, Celerra LUNs, and so on. The program has been written for storage admins by a storage admin. I’m looking forward to testing it out on our CX4s, and Mat might even have a little less work to do as a result.