Intelligent Infrastructure for DevOps: Using a GUI to manage and monitor instead of scripts

Application Performance Management tools have been around in one form or another for many years, mostly operating anonymously and unnoticed. While most of these tools were home grown, there were a few vendors who supplied generic APM tools. These tools addressed application infrastructure needs in the background and were not considered a strategic part of IT; they kept applications running with a series of scripts developed by the architects of the applications. Since this software is neither development nor operations specific, they were often not claimed by either department. Until DevOps became a buzz word, they operated under overhead accounts or were assigned to different departments in spite of the job that they did. However, since Agile Development has become mainstream, the need for an intelligent infrastructure and the unification between Development and Operations (DevOps) has refocused attention on APM tools. Agile infrastructure is now a necessity to ensure the rapid and accurate deployment of newly developed applications as fast as the Agile Development tools that were used to implement the new business logic. For years companies have developed their own script based infrastructure and due to internal changes it has evolved into obsolescence over the years. This has happened for a variety of reasons, but mainly because the scripts were written for one purpose and once the author departed, no one knew exactly how it worked – so it fell into disrepair. Out of this need, many companies have turned to DevOps companies like Chef and Puppetlabs, et. al. that have developed command line, template or script based tools to provide this intelligent infrastructure, primarily focused on the linux platform. Some of these scripts are Ruby based, but in most cases the scripts and templates are a proprietary language. These proprietary scripting languages can perform many different intelligent functions to handle deploying new applications and even creating new systems to deploy them to. The advantages of this approach is that scripting language is very powerful and simple to learn, making the ability to generate intelligent infrastructure easy to implement and deploy.

The problem with using scripts is that they are:

a. written to handle a specific action, requiring constant change whenever the infrastructure changes.

b. written for specific platforms, so one change has to be propagated to the others.

c. requires knowledge of the infrastructure.

d. requires knowledge of the scripting language.

More complex scripts becomes difficult to read and understand beyond a few lines of trivial operations, which makes it hard for maintenance by anyone other than the author. Unlike the goal of DevOps, which is intended to unify Development and Operations as a team with one goal, scripting languages requires an analyst maintain the scripts so that new development can be seamlessly managed or deployed. Operations typically does not have this knowledge and it can be difficult for them to develop this skill (not being programmers as such). In order to facilitate a DevOps environment, the complexity of the scripts required to implement this infrastructure intelligence needs to be abstracted into simple actions so that operations can use it. This is usually accomplished with a Graphical User Interface. Historically, Operation’s goal is to keep everything in system running smoothly and applications are an unknown area: they perform business logic on data, consume resources indiscriminately and typically don’t handle system problems very well. So operations rarely understands the infrastructure of each application; they simply monitor it from the system resources aspect to see if there are any problems. Using scripts to automate this function is helpful, but tools to display the results are arcane. They are more familiar with desktop tools that have menus and displays because they are easy to use, easy to understand, and easy to modify. Operations is familiar the system operations and how it provides resources to applications like CPU, Memory, Disk and Network speed. These are things they can understand using commands for. However, for DevOps to be successful, using command line scripts  or knowledge of the application infrastructure should not be required to manage applications. What is needed is a tool that manages the infrastructure from the application side and notifies operations of any potential problems before they impact the overall system.

Now application management and monitoring tools have been around for many years and a few of these existing tools can be adapted to meet this need. One such tool is a third generation application management tool called NXTmonitor. NXTmonitor’s heritage comes from the Open Environment and Borland tools known as Netminder, Appminder and AppCenter. These tools evolved from simple monitors to a three tier architecture (presentation, business and database layers) to manage applications with a rules-based configuration file to specify each application’s environment. By leveraging middleware to facilitate multi-tier communication for agents and master servers, these tools were built on a fast, scalable infrastructure that enabled UNIX and Windows applications to be managed by an independent middle tier through a GUI presentation layer. The best description of this powerful tool is Application Orchestration: a tool that enables the definition and maintenance of complex applications and powerful monitoring capability with definitions of interdependencies across multiple platforms. This allows a complex structure to be captured in an intelligent, XML based configuration file that is built with the help of a Graphical User Interface (GUI). By recording the structure required to start the applications across multiple nodes to a configuration file, NXTmonitor can replicate the development environment exactly and even scale it up for production use. The use of environment variables enables NXTmonitor to assign variable infrastructure components to values that can be changed, making the tool easy to use in defining and replicating a complex environment. When the environment changes, these variables can be captured in environment variables which are different for each environment.

NXTmonitor is the next evolution of DevOps infrastructure tools – managing the deployment of a multi-tier application with a GUI console which can define the intelligent infrastructure needed for agile development. Unlike other DevOps tools, NXTmonitor provides a full featured APM that supports application orchestration across multiple platforms like IBM i-series, z-series, OpenVMS, Windows, and UNIX in addition to Linux. Application Orchestration is a relatively new term: it is the ability to start a complex application consisting of multiple, discrete components that are interdependent in a concise manner so that the application can be ready to process information in an orderly manner. In essence, Application Orchestration captures the developer’s knowledge of the infrastructure in a configuration file that can be used as a playbook for starting up applications. It is intended to be displayed and monitored by operations staff, with mouse actions that allow them to easily inspect or modify the configuration for scaling or performance purposes. Action scripts and Timers enable custom execution of actions designed to resolve runtime problems and increase performance. The definition of Performance groups makes scalability simple and easy to modify capacity, failover and service levels.

One of the key benefits of using NXTmonitor is that the NXTmonitor Console GUI is designed to appear the same across all platforms and perform in the same manner regardless of the desktop software or the nodes upon which the applications are being managed. Once you understand the operation of managing applications on linux, you can do the same operations on Windows or OpenVMS, for instance. With this in mind, the Console is designed for maximum efficiency and understanding and includes these features:

  • Multiple node login capability from one console.
  • Short cut buttons at the top for quick reference and use.
  • Navigation panel to display nodes and components being managed.
  • Content panel provides complete application configuration and status information.
  • Audit function provide history of the process restarts, failures, starts and stops
  • System statistics for each node includes, CPU, memory bar chart, devices, and errors.
  • Operator access to the process table now includes the ability to stop or kill an individual process in case of deadlock or runaways
  • Performance groups can now have actions associated with state changes so that changes in status can be propogated to operations or development.
  • SNMP support for other tools like HP OpenView and BMC Patrol.

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Benefits

The benefits of using a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to monitor and maintain your infrastructure instead of creating scripts is as follows:

  • All Application sub-components are easily displayed in a console window.
  • Infrastructure rules are easy to change in a GUI.
  • Console GUI displays all application statuses in one, easy to understand display.
  • GUIs don’t require operations to learn a scripting language.
  • A GUI console can provide management, monitoring and configuration tools all with the click of a mouse.
  • Focuses interaction with the application performance and application monitoring.
  • A mobile device can display the GUI making management more dynamic.
  • Simple, pro-active health scripts prevent outages, increase performance.
  • Mouse click operations speed up scalability functions with copy and paste.
  • Configuration files capture application infrastructure for easy deployment to additional machines.

 

Summary

The difference in DevOps tools today is usability. Do you want to manage scripts for infrastructure intelligence, or would you rather use a Graphical User Interface? Is it easier to teach operations how to maintain scripts or learn an Operations console? It is faster to capture the developer knowledge in a script or in a configuration file read by a GUI console?

NXTmonitor, which has evolved application performance management for decades, has advanced the creation of this intelligence with a rich GUI console, making it easier to define, modify and monitor application configurations in Development, Test, QA and Production. Once you have the developer knowledge captured in an XML configuration file, you can monitor and maintain it easily in the NXTmonitor Console.

For more information, go to: http://www.ecubesystems.com/nxtmonitor.html

eCube Systems Announces DevOps Visual Solution NXTmonitor at DevOps Summit/Cloud Expo in New York

eCube Systems is attending its first DevOps Summit at the Cloud Expo and will give a presentation on NXTmonitor, the APM Visual tool for DevOps.

eCube Systems, a leading provider of middleware modernization, integration, and management solutions, announces the release of NXTmonitor, a full featured Application Performance Management tool with extended capability for DevOps. NXTmonitor, which inherited the code base of NXTminder, has been extended to support multi-discipline processes and will act as a DevOps utility in a heterogeneous enterprise environment. Previously, NXTminder was packaged with NXTera middleware to configure and manage Entera and NXTera RPC servers.

“Since its first incarnation as Netminder, this solution is perfectly adapted to DevOps, but has never been marketed for that capability. In addition to its ability to monitor and resolve application runtime issues, NXTmonitor has the ability to capture application dependencies and infrastructure in a portable configuration file that can be exported from Development to Production,” says Kevin Barnes, President of eCube Systems.

NXTmonitor will provide immediate benefits to operations as a distributed application configuration, deployment, testing, and monitoring tool. It will aid in the migration and deployment of an application throughout its entire life cycle as it progresses from development to testing to production environments.

As a DevOps utility, NXTmonitor can:

• Proactively detect, report and fix problems (whenever possible)
• Notify operations of current application state
• Provide audit logs for problem resolution
• Manage application dependencies
• Monitor application health
• Perform intelligent restarting and capacity planning

To learn more, come see us at SYS-CON’s DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo, on June 7-9, 2016 at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.

About NXTmonitor:

NXTmonitor is a platform-independent process control and application management tool designed to simplify the runtime operation and dependability of web, cloud, and enterprise applications built on distributed processes, services, and scripts.

About eCube Systems

eCube systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies turn to eCube Systems to reduce risk, extend ROI, and increase productivity as they consolidate existing capabilities and evolve legacy systems to contemporary SOA platforms.

eCube Systems Extends NXTware Remote Development Platform to Linux

NXTware Remote, a distributed development platform using Eclipse developed for OpenVMS, now works for the Linux platform.

eCube Systems, a leader in legacy systems evolution, today announced the addition of the Linux platform to its NXTware product line, NXTware Remote Server and NXTware Remote Studio.

The products, marketed jointly as NXTware Remote, work together to make it easier for teams of developers to develop code on local workstations running Eclipse — to compile, debug and deploy on a remote OpenVMS or Linux server.

Previously, NXTware Remote development wizards and tools were only available on OpenVMS – taking advantage of a distributed development environment, where they could offload development resources to a workstation. Now with NXTware Remote for Linux, advanced development functions on OpenVMS can now be used for Linux so that developers on both platforms can share the same interface, saving time, reducing costs and speeding development. Customers continue to look for simpler and faster means to develop and deploy applications. The new NXTware Remote suite of tools for Linux servers help customers, who have standardized on Eclipse, to gain the benefits of the distributed development on Windows, linux or Mac.

“Until now, OpenVMS customers migrating to Linux had to train their developers on different skills,” said Kevin Barnes, Professional Services Manager, eCube Systems. “Now with NXTware Remote, OpenVMS and Linux can share the same development platform, saving time, reducing costs and speeding delivery.”

NXTware Remote allows developers to follow their usual Eclipse-based development processes to complete tasks on either OpenVMS or Linux. No changes are required to their routine. Users can quickly, compile, debug and deploy code remotely on OpenVMS from their local workstation, while easily integrating with source code management systems.

The server component of NXTware Remote, NXTware Remote Server, executes all of the operations called from Eclipse and returns results instantaneously. The same technologies that made this distributed environment successful on OpenVMS will enable remote development for Linux. NXTware Remote for Linux supports all its existing functions including remote login, browsing, editing, debugging and advanced developer tools in COBOL, Fortran and C/C++.

About NXTware
NXTware is an Enterprise Evolution technology platform that enables legacy assets to be enhanced, maintained and integrated from within Eclipse. NXTware Enterprise Platform include the NXTware Integrated Maintenance Environment IME, NXTware Server and NXTware Remote. The entire NXTware Enterprise Platform is available for all major operating systems including Unix, Linux, and OpenVMS.
About eCube Systems

eCube Systems offers a family of legacy evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies turn to eCube Systems to reduce risk, extend ROI, and increase productivity as they consolidate existing capabilities and evolve legacy systems to contemporary SOA platforms, such as ESB and Web Services.

eCube Systems, LLC, is headquartered in Montgomery, Texas, with marketing offices in Boston, MA and R&D in Montreal Canada. For more information, contact eCube Systems by email, on the World Wide Web at http://www.ecubesystems.com or by calling +1-(866) 493-4224.

Flexible IDEs and the Future Success of OpenVMS

In our OpenVMS survey, we asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:

Flexible OpenVMS IDEs will play a major role in the future success of OpenVMS.

The majority agreed with the statement: 77% agree and 23% disagree.

q8

At eCube, we think IDEs are vital to the future success of OpenVMS. NXTware Remote, our Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment, allows developers to write code on a local workstation and then deploy, compile and debug on any remote server. Developers are more productive (even of they are not familiar with OpenVMS and its infrastructure) and the code quality improves.

What roles do you see for IDE’s in the OpenVMS space? Can a modern integrated development environment make for a more vibrant and successful/productive OpenVMS Community?

We are writing a white paper about the survey results.  Sign up to receive a copy via email.

Can a Modern Development Environment, Best Practices and Development Management Tools Improve OpenVMS Development?

Now that the uncertainty about the long-term future of OpenVMS has lessened, focus can turn to improving OpenVMS development. We think a modern development environment, best practices and development management tools can improve OpenVMS Development by:

  • Removing talent pool questions
  • Improving software quality
  • Speeding time to market
  • Improving task management
  • Simplifying management oversight
  • Adding organizations standardization and flexibility

We asked respondents if they agreed. The majority agreed that a modern development environment, best practices and development management tools would remove talent pool questions, improve software quality, speed time to market and add organization standardization and flexibility:

q7

What do you think? Are there other tools that can improve OpenVMS Development?

We are writing a white paper about the survey results.  Sign up to receive a copy via email.

Hosting OpenVMS Servers in the Cloud

In a previous post, we raised the possibility of OpenVMS cloud solutions. Although the cloud is everywhere these days, it hasn’t had an impact in the OpenVMS Community. To get a better sense of where companies stand, we asked survey respondents if their company would consider hosting OpenVMS servers in the cloud.

Here is what they said:

q5

Would you consider hosting OpenVMS servers in the cloud? Do you have any concerns? Without considering technical and licensing challenges, what role could the cloud play?

We are writing a white paper about the survey results.  Sign up to receive a copy via email.

NXTware Remote Brings Greater Security to the OpenVMS Development Process

eCube Systems, the leading provider of modern development tools and best practices for OpenVMS, announced SSL support for NXTware Remote Debugging to increase security and to comply with financial and federal requirements.

eCube takes security very seriously and is constantly making security enhancements to NXTware Remote.  NXTware Remote allows developers to write code on a local workstation and then deploy, compile and debug on any remote server.  Remote debugging provides many benefits, but it also introduces security risks.  When a debugging session is done on a local network, any computer on the network can try to attach to the session.  Passwords help ensure the client accessing the debug session is authenticated, but they need to be encrypted.  If the password is not encrypted, the transmission of the password is not secure.

To increase security during the debugging process, eCube added secure debugging to NXTware Remote.  In environments that require encryption for compliance reasons, the connect to the debugger can be secured using SSL.

Contact us to for more information, to request an evaluation or schedule a demo.

About NXTware Remote

NXTware Remote is an Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that makes it simple for developers to write code and then compile and debug it remotely. Enterprise IT organizations doing strategic development in COBOL, FORTRAN, C, BASIC, PASCAL, and JAVA on a variety of platforms use NXTware Remote to develop on OpenVMS, Linux and Unix servers from Windows, MAC or Linux workstations.

About eCube Systems

eCube Systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies turn to eCube Systems to reduce risk, extend ROI and increase productivity as they consolidate existing capabilities and evolve legacy systems to contemporary SOA platforms.

eCube Systems, LLC, is headquartered in Montgomery, Texas with marketing offices in Boston, MA and R&D in Montreal, Canada. For more information, visit us at http://www.ecubesystems.com/Contact.html

Why Companies Move or Consider Moving off of OpenVMS

There are numerous reasons companies continue to use OpenVMS, but there are also a lot of challenges companies who use OpenVMS encounter. The challenges cause some companies to view OpenVMS as a liability and are a factor companies consider when they evaluate whether or not they should stay on OpenVMS.

As part of our survey, we asked respondents to rank the following factors that might impact their company’s decision to migrate from OpenVMS:

q4

Why do you think companies move off of OpenVMS? Are these challenges unique to OpenVMS?

We are writing a white paper about the survey results.  Sign up to receive a copy via email.

Why Companies Continue to Use OpenVMS

Companies are drawn to OpenVMS for a variety of reasons including security, reliability and performance. Without the uncertainty over the future of OpenVMS, companies have more confidence about staying on OpenVMS and many are postponing or dropping plans to migrate off of OpenVMS.

In our OpenVMS survey, we asked respondents (on a scale of 1 to 5) how important the following factors were in keeping their company on OpenVMS: security advantage, reliability recovery, operational performance, language support and risk/cost of change.  5 of the 6 factors had a weighted average greater than 4: security advantage, reliability recovery, operational performance, risk/cost of change and promise future versions. The majority of respondents viewed these factors as important or very important. Language support was the only factor that had a weighted average lower than 4.

q3

What did you think? Why do companies continue to use OpenVMS? Are there other factors that are key to companies staying on OpenVMS?

We are writing a white paper about the survey results.  Sign up to receive a copy via email.

Entera Upgrades to support Big Data with latest version of NXTera

eCube Systems, a leading provider of middleware modernization, integration and management solutions, announced the availability of NXTera 6.5, a high performance RPC middleware. With NXTera 6.5, Entera applications can support Hardoop, the file-based data store, and Hive, the ANSI-based query engine.

Hadoop is an open-source software framework for storing and processing big data in a distributed fashion on large clusters of commodity hardware. It provides companies two major benefits: massive data storage and faster processing.

Hive TM, the other addition to NXTera, allows SQL developers to write Hive Query Language (HQL) statements that are similar to standard SQL statements. The HQL statements are then broken down by the Hive service and turned into Hadoop jobs. Finally, the Hadoop jobs are executed across a Hadoop cluster.

Companies that upgrade to NXTera 6.5 will have the power they need to grow their application so it can handle big data. Contact us for more information.

About NXTera

NXTera offers support for both optimized JDBC connectivity to Hive and native inline HQL support for COBOL, FORTRAN, C/C++ and Java applications. These can be legacy Entera applications or new applications that need heterogeneous language support across multiple middleware architectures. Learn more: http://www.ecubesystems.com/nxtera_LM.html

About eCube Systems

eCube Systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies turn to eCube Systems to reduce risk, extend ROI, and increase productivity as they consolidate existing capabilities and evolve legacy systems to contemporary SOA platforms.

eCube Systems, LLC, is headquartered in Montgomery, Texas with marketing offices in Boston, MA and R&D in Montreal, Canada. For more information, visit us at http://www.ecubesystems.com/Contact.html