|By Andreas Grabner||
|November 4, 2013 03:00 PM EST||
I personally don't like the term "War Room" when describing a firefighting situation that many software companies have to deal with when systems go down or have problems. The way these war rooms typically play out is that key personnel (engineers, operations, business) are summoned into a room until the problem is solved. This was the case back with the Apollo 13 mission and still is now when we look at the famous Facebook war room from Dec 2012:
The War Room back then - And Now: Not a whole lot different
What's the problem with these pictures? There are a lot of people in the room that have no clue whether the problem on hand is actually something they can fix or are responsible for. All of these people are summoned without first figuring out which people should look at the problem. Why is that? Because the collected "evidence" in the form of infrastructure monitoring data, log files, user complaints, etc., just shows symptoms but doesn't tell us anything about the actual impact and root cause of issues:
Would you know whom to bring into a war room based on these "facts"? Would you want to be one of them?
Looking at the previous image, it is hard to tell which people need to get in a room. Do we just need an Ops guy to restart the process that consumes all of the CPU? Or do we need an application expert that sifts through log files? Do we need to contact our mobile solution provider because it is an actual problem in the 3rd party mobile native app? The typical MO is to simply call-in everybody to figure out the root cause of the problem and with that pulling critical resources from other important projects without even knowing if these folks can actually help solving these problems. How can we change this? By asking the right questions first!
The 10 Real Questions to Ask
You don't need nice and shiny dashboards that show you an aggregated overview of twitter statuses, infrastructure health or insight into slow application transactions. You need data to answer the following questions - whether it is presented in nice dashboards or log files doesn't really matter:
Having answers to these 10 questions avoids calling too many people in a war room and improves handling of critical application problems
1. Is an individual user complaining?
Is it "just" the CEO that complains about a problem with your newly deployed internal app because a report doesn't work on his old IE6? Or is it "just" the end user in a remote location that still uses dial-up? Knowing whether a problem just happens for a single or a very small group of users is important to prioritize.
Analyzing the problem of the complaining user lets us assess whether it is a problem related to just "that" user, e.g, using an unsupported browser version, slow network connectivity,...
2. Are "all" users impacted?
If a large number of users are impacted but you may not have individuals that really complain about it you still need to know as it is very critical to you fix any problems that impact a large number of your users?
Having the evidence that a large number of people in a certain region, using a certain browser or a certain device makes it easy to prioritize this issue
3. Is the problem in the application?
The next question, after knowing whether users are impacted or not, is to figure out if the problem is in the application or not. This allows us to call in the application experts, architects and developers if needed. Looking at the performance distribution gives us an overview where our hotspots really are:
Where are the performance and problem hotspots? Is it really the application? Or do we need to involve other teams?
4. Is there a problem in the delivery chain?
Modern web applications rely on a long list of services along the delivery chain that lies outside of our own data center. That includes CDNs, third-party services, ISPs or mobile networks. Knowing the status of these services and their impact on end user performance of our own application allows us to answer whether to look into our own data center or calling up Akamai, Facebook & Co:
Do CDNs or other third-party services experience any performance issues and is that the root cause of our complaining users?
5. Is one uncritical transaction impacted?
When the error rate goes up - is it a critical transaction such as search? Or is it rather uncritical such as the Contact Page. Or is a BOT causing lots of errors because it crawls through pages that do not exist anyway or that require authentication and with that skews the overall error rate?
Analyzing which transactions drive the error rate may show you that these are not critical because either caused by a BOT or on pages that are not business critical
6. Are critical transactions impacted?
What if your critical transactions are impacted such as the landing page, login, search, or entering a ticket in your support system? These are critical transactions to you, your end users, or your colleagues that need to use the back office software for their daily tasks. If these are impacted you need to act fast. Therefore it is important to monitor these critical transactions on failure rate as well as performance. If these are impacted it is more important to act than other transactions that are not vital to your business - and - you also know which subject matter experts to call:
Monitoring your critical transactions allows you to identify problems on those areas that are critical for your business
7. Is the problem related to bad coding?
If application response time is getting slower, the first question is whether it is because of bad coding. Analyzing the performance hotspot to the code level can tell you whether most of the time is spent because of inefficient algorithms or just not following coding and architectural best practices:
Throwing thousands of exceptions to control program flow is not a good coding practice and also impacts performance
8. Does the infrastructure cause an issue?
What if it is not the app itself, but the app is running low on resources provided by the infrastructure? What if the CPU required to run the Garbage Collector is not available because the machine also runs lots of other services on an already over utilized machine? In that case it is time to think about the infrastructure - better distributing these applications and services or scaling the infrastructure:
Where does the memory shortage come from? Does it impact other processes on that machine? Which processes to move to a different machine?
9. Is the AppServer the issue?
Depending on the AppServer you are using you have multiple configuration options to optimize the usage for your environment. The question remains whether the AppServer might be responsible for performance issues caused by an incorrect setting or corrupt deployment. Correct resource pool (threads, database connection, ...) sizing, security settings or logging options can impact the performance. If it turns out that the AppServer is the problem contact your IBM, Oracle, Microsoft ... specialist:
A global synchronized logging feature of IBMs WebSphere caused this performance issue which can be resolved through configuration settings in the AppServer
10. Is the problem in the virtual machine?
Leveraging virtual compute power - whether it is from your local running VM server farm or running in one of the cloud providers - provides lots of flexibility. But it can also be the reason for performance problems if the virtual machines are not properly sized or are battling for resources with other virtual machines on the same virtual server. Knowing the impact of virtualization on the application allows you to call in the VM experts and not the app developers to solve a problem:
Understanding what is going in EC2, Azure or your VMware ESX Server allows you to figure out whether the virtualize environment is the root cause
Have an Answer to These Questions?
Now that you have an idea about the right questions to ask before you call a war room session together - or before you accept a call into such scenario, you can start focusing on preventing these sessions. Whether you are a developer, architect or on the business side, make sure you have the real facts available in order to get through these situations as fast as possible by calling in the RIGHT people and giving them the RIGHT data to analyze.
Better than spending time in War Rooms however is to prevent the number of times these situations come up. If you want to learn more about this check out some of the other blogs we recently wrote such as Performance-focused DevOps or - in case you happen to be getting ready for the holiday shopping season - Verify Readiness in Test & Pre-Production.
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Feb. 1, 2015 09:30 AM EST Reads: 2,467
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Feb. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 3,010
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Feb. 1, 2015 06:45 AM EST Reads: 3,285
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Feb. 1, 2015 06:30 AM EST Reads: 2,048
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
Feb. 1, 2015 05:15 AM EST Reads: 3,252
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
Feb. 1, 2015 03:00 AM EST Reads: 3,617
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Feb. 1, 2015 02:00 AM EST Reads: 3,219
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
Jan. 31, 2015 11:30 PM EST Reads: 3,136
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Jan. 31, 2015 07:30 PM EST Reads: 3,260
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
Jan. 31, 2015 03:00 PM EST Reads: 3,668
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Jan. 31, 2015 02:30 PM EST Reads: 2,787
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
Jan. 31, 2015 02:00 PM EST Reads: 3,929
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Jan. 31, 2015 01:15 PM EST Reads: 2,759
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
Jan. 31, 2015 01:00 PM EST Reads: 2,095
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
Jan. 31, 2015 12:45 PM EST Reads: 2,004
“With easy-to-use SDKs for Atmel’s platforms, IoT developers can now reap the benefits of realtime communication, and bypass the security pitfalls and configuration complexities that put IoT deployments at risk,” said Todd Greene, founder & CEO of PubNub. PubNub will team with Atmel at CES 2015 to launch full SDK support for Atmel’s MCU, MPU, and Wireless SoC platforms. Atmel developers now have access to PubNub’s secure Publish/Subscribe messaging with guaranteed ¼ second latencies across PubNub’s 14 global points-of-presence. PubNub delivers secure communication through firewalls, proxy ser...
Jan. 31, 2015 12:45 PM EST Reads: 1,837
Jan. 31, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 8,210
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Jan. 31, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 2,886
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Jan. 31, 2015 11:45 AM EST Reads: 3,740
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
Jan. 31, 2015 11:45 AM EST Reads: 2,873