Cloud Server Performance Monitoring – It’s Not Just About Raw Data Any More

Filed in Product & Development by Paul Ford | March 10, 2010 3:47 pm

There are a number of different tools that are essential for monitoring your server infrastructure. These include services like Pingdom[1], an external tool that alerts you when your website or service is down, and internal tools like Scout that monitor resource usage – covered previously here[2] on the Rackspace Cloud Blog.

These tools are excellent at providing you with the essential data you need when you have server problems, and triggering alerts based on it.  However, there’s usually extra work required to get to the root cause of the issue and fix it. While Sysadmin expertise is always going to be needed to a certain degree, I’d like to highlight some of the features of an alternative Cloud Tools Ecosystem Partner tool that works to be more proactive in how it helps you do your job.

Server Density[3] is a hosted server monitoring tool that provides graphing, e-mail, SMS and iPhone push notifications, but also goes much further than just the raw data…

Server Snapshot – What Was Running?

A common problem, especially with things like load spikes, is that by the time you’ve received an alert and logged into your servers, the issue has disappeared.

Using the server snapshot feature of Server Density, you can click any data point on the graphs to view exactly what was running on the server at that point in time. Using the process list and resource breakdown graphs, you can see exactly what caused the alert.

Ideal for troubleshooting, it means you can track down the culprit who’s using too much CPU or memory, and fix the problem right away.

Statistical Analysis

Some of the trickiest problems that arise are those that are caused by an unnoticed change. Over time, servers tend to do the same kind of repetitive tasks, so any sudden or unexpected changes are almost always worth investigating.

Server Density uses behavioral trend analysis to learn what the resource usage data from each of your servers usually looks like. If this changes more than what was expected, then it highlights these anomalies for you to investigate.

For example, if you have a backup job that runs every night spiking your network traffic but that suddenly fails, Server Density will pick up the fact that the usual traffic is missing. Or it could detect a sudden increase in Apache requests that might be caused by a spider leeching from your website.

The point of this feature is to help you ensure that your servers continue to work properly on a daily basis by being proactive and not just reactive.

Installation

Getting Server Density monitoring set up is really easy. Once you have signed up for the free trial and added a server, instructions for installing the monitoring daemon are provided. The daemon is open source and written in Python (no programming knowledge required!), and it posts back every 60 seconds over port 80 (HTTP) or 443 (HTTPS).  It can even be installed and managed using your favorite OS packages like RPM[4] or apt-get[5].  In addition, it also supports dynamic scaling[6] so you can automatically start monitoring Cloud Server instances as soon as they’re launched.

Alerting

Based on your server specs, Server Density will make a few basic suggestions for what alerts you should configure to start with. You can get notifications sent by e-mail, SMS or iPhone push notifications provided through their[free iPhone monitoring app[7], which also includes the graphing feature.

Server Density is available as a free trial, after which you can pay for the extra features or continue use the free version. Give it a go and let me know what you think!


Paul Ford, from Rackspace Corporate Development, is Your Connection to the Rackspace “Cloud Tools Partners” Ecosystem [8].  To find out more about how Server Density and other tools can increase your productivity, satisfy your IT needs, and generally make your life easier, contact him any time at paul.ford@rackspace.com[9]

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Endnotes:
  1. Pingdom: http://www.pingdom.com
  2. here: http://www.rackspacecloud.com/blog/2010/02/25/scaling-your-monitoring-with-scout-2/
  3. Server Density: http://www.serverdensity.com
  4. RPM: //www.serverdensity.com/docs/agent/redhat/
  5. apt-get: http://www.serverdensity.com/docs/agent/debian/
  6. dynamic scaling: http://www.serverdensity.com/docs/agent/clouddeploy/
  7. iPhone monitoring app: http://www.serverdensity.com/iphone/
  8. Rackspace “Cloud Tools Partners” Ecosystem : http://tools.rackspacecloud.com/
  9. paul.ford@rackspace.com: mailto:paul.ford@rackspace.com

Source URL: http://www.rackspace.com/blog/cloud-server-performance-monitoring-its-not-just-about-raw-data-any-more/