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).