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East of Data Center Alley: Our Trip to Data Center World

 

dcw-raffle2A good deal of the Internet traffic that flows to government sites and commercial sites like Amazon, LinkedIn and Facebook go through “Data Center Alley,” which is just minutes to the west of our Fairfax, VA-based headquarters.

Given that we offer enterprise-grade IT monitoring and analysis solutions that can work with data centers, we ventured to Data Center World a few weeks ago at National Harbor, MD to investigate how we could help.

We were welcomed into the data center industry as attendees were open to our questions and curious about what Sightline Systems could do.

While we talked about how we monitor and analyze the infrastructure that makes IT work inside businesses, other exhibitors showed us cooling, wiring, racks and power products that help fuel the IT infrastructures that we support.

Sightline Systems CEO Brandon Witte was also on hand to talk to business leaders, tell them about our solutions and handed out a $250 Amazon gift card to our raffle winner, Rahman Khaalis.

Leaving the show not only helped us understand the work and planning that goes into data center development and management, it gave us a new appreciation for the massive windowless buildings that we see on our daily commute.

Sightline's Comments on the Agent vs Agent-less Monitoring Debate

If the Agent-based or Agent-less debate has got you down, why not use both? For over fifteen years, Sightline Systems has delivered industry-leading agent-based data collection capabilities for mission-critical IT systems. This detailed data is critical for forensic root cause analysis and detailed capacity planning activities. But what about when this level of data collection is not required? Sightline Systems has the answer — our Agent-less data collection product allows you to collect data from systems without the need to deploy local agents.

Need high-level performance data quickly from a farm of servers? No problem!

Want to gather performance metrics from network or storage devices? We have you covered!

Our new framework offers the ability to take advantage of a variety of collection options without additional software installations. Agents are and will continue to be the industry standard mechanism for the collection of performance data on mission-critical systems. They offer security and availability that cannot be matched by Agent-less collection products. So end the debate — you can have your cake and eat it, too! Contact Sightline Systems today and enjoy the best of both worlds. (703) 563-3000

Installing and Updating the Power Agent on Windows Systems

Sept30

Creating a Response File

We have had several inquiries about silent installs and updates for the Sightline Power Agents. Silent installs and updates for Windows Power Agents are accomplished by creating a response file, documented here.

The Problem With Ghost Servers

Ghost servers are a growing problem for enterprise infrastructures. The term, which denotes unused or underutilized servers, has grown recently as companies perform cost, security or performance plans for their big networks. Back in 2013, a BizTech article entitled The IT Monster in the Closet: Ghost Servers cited an industry estimate that ghost servers may make up to 15 percent of the enterprise marketplace. With the growth of global enterprise networks over the last two years, 15 percent might be a conservative estimate in 2015.

In terms of cost, ghost servers consume power and require cooling. Typically the use of these systems have either have been deprecated but not removed from the network because they might still run one or a few VMs or other applications. Time and power equals money and while ghost servers might not break the bank, finding, removing or optimizing them can make IT teams gain visibility when companies are looking to lower IT costs.

Having any unmonitored systems attached to a secure network always increases risk. Ghost servers might not directly contribute to a significant rise in security breaches but they could, at least in theory without monitoring, supply hackers with a potential backdoor into your secure network. Back in 2006, Computer World reported that such a server was used to hack into Ohio University’s alumni database and obtain 170,000 social security numbers and personal information. How’d it happen? The IT team thought the server was offline.

Now for the good news. Ghost servers might also provide a vital and inexpensive way to increase infrastructure performance for teams looking for more processing power on-premises. Applications that might consume significant CPU or memory resources on a multi-VM servers might be moved to a ghost server or teams can increase performance by adding such servers to their load balancing activities.

So where do you start? First, teams need to find the servers and use a monitoring solution such at Sightline’s EDM to look at all the servers on a network to see which servers are on, operational and what applications are running. For systems that are powered on but idle, teams can use EDM to create groups of potential ghost servers to watch.

Next, teams need to discover when and how those servers have been used and resolve ownership of them. This might be the hardest part since teams might not have access to that data. Yet, it’s a vital way to ensure IT tranquility by avoiding the potential for shutting down a seldom used but vital server or VM.

Once identified, teams will need to figure out of the server is needed for another task or should be removed from your network. Regardless of the decision, optimization or offline, identifying ghost servers should be a priority for any company looking to increase performance or ensure additional security for their infrastructure.

VMware released vCenter 6.0 in April 2015. Like many IT professionals, we were interested in seeing what changes were made. After we upgraded to vCenter 6.0, we discovered that while it was more locked down, its shell could still give us more access.

While we can monitor vCenter, ESX hosts and VMs agentlessly, our Power Agents offer a lot more data about what’s going on inside VM’s (mainly process level information), including the vCenter appliance. In fact, Power Agents included with Enterprise Data Management 4.8 provide you with the real-time data you need to make smarter, more cost effective decisions. EDM is an award winning platform for managing the continuous stream of time series data that is being produced and will help you:

  • Monitor systems
  • Analyze trends and patterns
  • Diagnose costly issues quickly
  • Reduce cost
  • Conduct root cause analysis
  • Automate capacity planning

 
These are steps you can take to access, and add a firewall port exception to the built-in firewall that comes with the appliance.

VMware, of course, provides instructions on how to manipulate the firewall. But it only allows adding an ip, or ip range to the allowed list of systems that can communicate with vCenter.

In short, it doesn’t allow you to open a port. That was a problem since our Power Agent uses port 1645 for communicating and sending detailed performance data back to our analytics engine. We needed to open that port and that proved to be harder than we thought.

Adding a Port to vCenter:
1) First, you’ll need console access. This presents a familiar screen for admins who have accessed the ESX server consoles before. This is new for the vCenter 6.0 appliance.

vm1

2) Here, you’ll want to navigate to a hidden screen by pressing ALT+F1. Then, you’ll get this login screen:

vm2

3) Here, login with admin credentials and you’ll get a list of help commands.

4) Now, run the following:

vm3

After running “shell.set –enabled True” and “shell”, you’ll get a standard Linux-style prompt.

There is a warning about using the pi shell, and it’s only for advanced troubleshooting. As such, continue at your own risk.

5) Navigate to /etc/vmware/appliance

Here is where you can add custom firewall port changes in the services.conf.

vm5

6) WARNING: Initially, we tried to add a new group to the json in service.conf, and we ended up losing SSH access to the VM. It seems that VMware has a hardcoded limit of 4 rules. Adding a 5th seems to bump the first out.
7) To get around this, we just added our rule to the ssh rule.
run “vi services.conf”

8) We added a comma, and then the section in red.

vm6

9) Then, reload vSphere vCenter 6.0 Appliance FW rule by executing:
/usr/lib/applmgmt/networking/bin/firewall-reload
or simply reboot the vm.

After we rebooted… we could now access our performance monitoring tool on port 1645.

The New Sightline Systems Site. Earlier this summer we launched our new website. It’s clearer, more responsive, works on mobile devices and offers a cleaner, more modern look. You’ll also notice that we’ve added a blog and an area for past editions of Sightline Highlights.
Visit the new Sightline Systems Site

EDM 4.2 Released. EDM 4.2 expands its list of purpose-built features with automated and dynamic threshold settings for any monitored device, unlimited coverage to capture data from SNMP and customer-requested chart feature that gives IT administrators a quick way to prioritize infrastructure concerns.
Read Sightline EDM 4.2 Delivers Dynamic Alerts, Rapid Visualization and Quick Chart Feature

We Made the Most Promising Red Hat Solution Providers 2015 List. CIO Review’s annual top Red Hat Solution Providers list selects Sightline Systems for its dedication to providing the right tools that help companies transform server and application performance data into actionable business goals.
Read More About the Award

We’re Hiring. Think that you or a friend has the right stuff to join our team of experts? We’re hiring for six new positions in our Fairfax, Virginia office: Chief Architect, Mid Level Java Software Engineer, Senior Sales Representative, Solution Architect and a UI/UX Developer.
Need a New Job?

Virtual Appliances Made Easy With Oracle Linux. John Park, our systems administrator extraordinaire, recently created a virtual appliance that will help future customers add EDM to their infrastructures more easily. We were so impressed that we asked him to blog about it… Oracle was too… the company added the blog to its latest Oracle Linux newsletter.
Read About Easy Virtual Appliance Creation

Ask John
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Ask John! If we use your input in a future newsletter, we’ll send you a $10 Amazon gift card.

Role: Mid level Java software engineer with a growing technology company located in Fairfax, VA that specializes in performance planning and capacity management software. 

Qualified applicants should send a cover letter and resume to recruiting@sightline.com.

Location: Fairfax, VA

Responsibilities

  • Design and develop high-volume, low-latency applications for systems delivering high-availability and performance.
  • Contribute in all phases of the development lifecycle.
  • Write well designed, unit tested, efficient code.
  • Ensure designs are in compliance with specifications.
  • Prepare and produce releases of software components.
  • Support continuous improvement by investigating alternatives and technologies and presenting these for architectural review.

Requirements

  • BS/MS degree in Computer Science, Engineering or a related subject
  • Proven hands-on Software Development experience
  • Proven working experience in Java development
  • Hands on experience in designing and developing applications using Java EE platforms
  • object oriented analysis and design using common design patterns.
  • Excellent knowledge of Relational Databases, SQL (PostgreSQL, MySQL, Oracle) and ORM technologies (Hibernate)
  • Minimum of 5 years experience in Web programming using tools such as Java, JBOSS/WildFly, JSP, JSF, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Jquery and Ajax, or equivalent knowledge

Other desirable technology experience: EJB, RMI, JMX, Rich Faces

Role: Mid level UI/UX Developer with a growing technology company located in Fairfax, VA that specializes in performance planning and capacity management software. We are seeking a creative, talented and knowledgeable user interface professional capable of producing stunning, user-centric browser and mobile user interfaces.

Qualified applicants should send a cover letter and resume to recruiting@sightline.com.

Location: Fairfax, VA

Responsibilities

  • Engage with the Business Development and/or Product Management early on to seek a deeper appreciation of the customers’ business problem/goals
  • Overall responsibility for understanding customer and product requirements and converting them into appealing, highly usable interface designs.
  • Ensure designs are in compliance with specifications
  • Contribute in all phases of the product lifecycle (analysis through design and development).
  • Write well designed, unit tested, efficient UI code.
  • Support continuous improvement by investigating alternatives and technologies and presenting these for architectural review.

Requirements

  • BS/MS degree in Computer Science, Engineering or a related subject
  • Proven hands-on user interface design and development experience
  • Conceptual understanding of User Interface Design and the Design Process.
  • Minimum of 3 years experience in Web programming using tools such as Java, JSF, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Jquery, Prime Faces and Ajax, or equivalent knowledge
  • Strong written and oral communication skills

Sightline offers a real-time operations intelligence solution focused on analytics, root-cause analysis and correlation of data from any source — critical IT systems, applications, storage, databases — down to the process level. Sightline’s powerful analytics go beyond point-in-time data to include over time and real time trend analysis, with abnormal behaviors or events dynamically communicated for appropriate actions. This position will be in our Fairfax, VA office.

Qualified applicants should send a cover letter and resume to recruiting@sightline.com.

Job Description

Responsibilities:

  • You will map Sightline performance monitoring solutions to customers business drivers.
  • You will manage technical leadership and ownership of key customer Proof of Concepts for Sightline performance monitoring solutions.
  • You will present to both Technical managers and IT Architects, as well as Business-Level IT stakeholders (Application teams, Development teams, LOB teams that rely on applications, C-Level execs)
  • You will stay abreast of competitors and the performance monitoring industry and trends, in order to serve as a trusted advisor to customers.
  • You will guide and lead sales teams in applying the appropriate Sightline Performance monitoring solutions to customer needs.
  • You will work with Sales Executives in a supportive position with the main focus on pre sales activities – including (but not limited to) technical presentations and demonstrations to “Fortune 1000” accounts in the local area.
  • You will design performance management solutions for customers through RFP responses, architectural diagrams and proposals, coverage gap analysis, and customer specific business value/ROI analysis studies.
  • You will drive enablement of partners to position and demonstrate Sightline performance monitoring solutions. This may be in the form of a WebEx, onsite training, lunch and learn, etc.
  • You will engage regularly and proactively with the SE and Sales leadership.
  • You will ensure that accurate & regular reports are completed and submitted as per business processes.

Qualifications:

  • You have a BS/BA degree in CS, EE, or MIS
  • You have skills in pre-sales role within the local area with a focus selling to Fortune 1000 type accounts. (7+ years’ experience)
  • You can successfully complete sales presentations on your own.
  • You enjoy traveling, working odd hours, and being very available.
  • You have skills in hands-on troubleshooting, configuration and implementation of enterprise applications and networks.
  • You have the business acumen to translate Sightline Performance Management technology into business advantage when speaking with C-level individuals.
  • You have skills in application instrumentation and IT Ops or Application Ops needs around monitoring and performance troubleshooting. Knowledge of both .NET and J2EE applications strongly desired.
  • You have in depth knowledge of vmWare, Linux and Windows server performance monitoring and tuning.
  • You have broad and deep knowledge of various performance monitoring and management instrumentation techniques including packet capture/analysis, flow capture/analysis, SNMP, and application server instrumentation.
  • in depth knowledge of advanced networking, SDN, virtualization, and storage architectures is beneficial but not core.
  • You have a deep understanding of enterprise business process related to APM and NPM.
  • You have wide industry expertise in Performance Management solutions in order to translate Large Enterprise business requirements into technical requirements and solutions.
  • You have worked with both Network Operations and Application Developers in large Enterprise accounts and understand how NPM and APM are applied across both disciplines

We offer all of the advantages you would expect from an industry leader including a competitive salary and comprehensive benefits package including medical, dental, vision, and life insurance, holiday and vacation pay, 401K, stock option plan, and much more.

Do You Need an Alerts Team?

alerts team

If you’re part of a team that’s involved with increasing or monitoring system, component or infrastructure performance, you already know about the “alert flood.” It’s that constant deluge of emails to notify you that the systems you or your team is responsible for has an issue. And thankfully, we’re working on decreasing that flood in our next release of EDM.

The flood part is because there are so many alerts. It’s a problem that we often hear from teams. To solve it, many choose to simply filter their reports, choose to not receive them, delete them or change their monitoring thresholds to receive less alerts.

Yet, those alerts may be part of a company’s SLAs or other agreements. When the important alerts happen, IT staff might simply miss the message. These alerts are important and in cases where there’s an internal review, it might come down to who was alerted and who was required to react. The results of that review might not be good for individuals who were required to react.

One idea to minimize that problem might be to create an Alerts Team to not only manage alerts but also set the rules on what’s monitored, develop new thresholds based on accumulated historical data and use industry or company best practices to minimize the flood to something more akin to a kiddie pool. Plus, as components are added, the Alerts Team can set the rules based on their expectations and not simply rely on the monitoring solution’s default settings.

We’ll agree that alerts can be a necessary evil. Yet, when one user changes the thresholds in order to minimize their alerts — it might be a mandated threshold alert for another staff member. For companies with a wide variety of operating systems, storage solutions and other devices, team members should reflect experts with knowledge of each system. For instance, few would want a Windows expert to set operating thresholds for a Linux server.

The concept is simple, with expertly-set thresholds the Alerts Team can keep alerts to a minimum and deliver the right message to the right person. For larger organizations, the establishment of an Alerts Team can help experts understand their role in the overall infrastructure and limit the amount of alerts going to the teams.