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Pingdom of Heaven: Monitoring Cloud with SolarWinds

Cloudy Acquisitions

In the IT management and monitoring market, SolarWinds is not exactly the new kid of the block. They have a legacy in the space. When I think of the company, it’s generally their strong networking monitoring portfolio that comes to mind. But the company has a wide array of offerings. Most recently, the company has made key moves to expand their cloud offerings.

If you haven’t followed SolarWinds’ portfolio since 2014, they’ve made some key acquisitions to get up to speed on cloud monitoring, using them to form the backbone of a comprehensive solution. The best part is, though SolarWinds views this as a full stack solution, it’s not inherently bundled so you can use the components as needed. Their oldest acquisition in this span was the Swedish company Pingdom. Let’s take a look at how SolarWinds is using that IP.

Pingdom <3 Uptime

Pingdom was acquired by SolarWinds in 2014. It’s designed to monitor performance and uptime of web apps. This is based on client monitoring. At its most basic, Pingdom looks simply at uptime. However this can be configured to probe mail servers, set multiple locations, and set how sensitive the check is before sending an alert. The idea is to give administrators a full fledged view of exactly when a web app goes down. All of this can be further integrated into an organization alerting tools via web hooks, so you’re not locked into their specific alerting scheme.

It’s also useful for situations that require more interaction with a site to make sure everything is working properly. This is called Transaction Monitoring, and allows with a simple scripting language to have Pingdom interact as specified with a page at a given interval. This can include clicking on buttons, or even filling out a form. I could see this being a critical need for sites need to reliably gather lead generation information, where an unnoticed outage or error could have major business implications.

Synthetically Natural

Of course, just because a web app or site is up and running doesn’t mean it’s running well. So Pingdom offers a speed monitoring tool, which allows you to have a cloud-based web browser run load analysis on the site, and graph out the performance. Besides an overall letter grade of performance, admins can drill down into the time it takes to download and run each element of a given site, helping to clarify where a slowdown is specifically coming from.

Finally, Pingdom also offers real user monitoring to show what people are actually experiencing in the wild. This requires an embedded javascript in a page to essentially provide tracking codes to funnel the information for monitoring. This can show how the site is loading across geography, as well as attempt to gauge “user frustration”, via defined latency thresholds.

I’m a little skeptical of the isolated usefulness of real world data, just because it’s a rather noisy metric with a lot of variables that could impact performance. But when combined with the more synthetic speed monitoring, it should give you a well rounded idea of where any pain points are cropping up.

Pingdom is by design a highly specific offering, focusing on just uptime and web app performance. It’s limited scope is tempered by it’s stablemates within the SolarWinds Monitoring Cloud family.  These additional offering add in cloud log management (Papertrail), real time dashboards (Librato), and distributed application monitoring (TraceView). These were all acquired by SolarWinds, and shows they have a very clear idea of what they want to offer when it comes to cloud monitoring. Pingdom is a highly focused tool for network admins, but one that offers a comprehensive look into web app performance.

Check out their presentation at Tech Field Day for more detail on their other Monitoring Cloud solutions.

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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