The Nice New Italian Restaurant of Server Monitoring
David Heinemeier Hanson, the creator of Rails, has made one of his business strategy talks available recently. This is a great talk about how we all might be trying just a little too hard at what can be a fairly simple task.
We all hear advice like this over and over again, but we seem to forget it so fast that we need that constant reminding. Just today I saw a site redesigned to improve a section users haven't even seen yet (as that section isn't yet public). Is that really the top use of resources for an unlaunched portion of the site? How do we know they wouldn't have liked it? How do we know they will like the new version better? I'm sure it won't surprise readers to learn that this site is over budget on time and money.
The point of all of this is that I want to tell you about a new server monitoring tool the company I work for has recently launched. The new service is called Scout and we've done our dead-level best to keep to the simplicity principal both because we agree with David and because we flat out need it to work that way.
We build Rails applications for clients. That involves monitoring servers, naturally. If that process is heavy, it hurts our business in a very real way. We need to spend our time writing Rails code, not fiddling with server configurations. We've used many tools available for this in the past, but none of them hit our sweet spot. In short, we need to be able to:
- Setup a new client for monitoring in minutes
- Have a centralized interface where we can check up on all of our client machines
- Receive timely notification when events we deem important occur (or fail to occur)
- Be able to examine seemingly random data points side by side to locate possible trends
- Add any new data we can think up to the tracking quickly and easily
That's exactly what Scout does. Installing it on a new client involves filling out a short web form, installing a gem, and setting up a Cron job. You can then check in on all of your client machines at any time through the web interface or even have daily reports emailed to you. Scout can also email you alerts, say when a client fails to check-in or when your free disk space falls below a number you are comfortable with. You can graph any data from the clients that makes sense to graph, separately or with other data points. Oh, and adding a plugin to track anything you can think of is as simple as building a simple little Ruby script.
If that sounds like the low-hassle server monitoring you have been waiting for, bounce on over to the site and test drive one of our free trials. My hope is that you will find, as we did, that this dramatically reduces the work needed to keep tabs on servers.