September 05, 2013

Linode Launches Longview, Takes Deep Look at Data Center and Server Performance


The words “customer experience” have taken on a life of their own. They now are applied to virtually anything to do with how all of us feel about our engagement online with people, applications and processes. And, while we “experience” company capabilities typically through a Web browser, it is all the things that go on behind the curtain that make our interactions either compelling or not so much. 

Putting aside interactions with call center agents, as we all know the engines that in many ways hold the keys to our online experiences are the data centers and servers that service providers employ to bring the virtual world to life. In short, it is their performance, or lack thereof, that dictates how we feel about what we are or are not getting. It is in regard to the performance of data centers and the servers that reside there that Galloway, NJ-based cloud hosting provider Linode is a company to which attention should be paid.

The company is out with two interesting announcements.

The release of their Longview solution is a Linux service statistics graphing service for performance analysis, which provides systems administrators with the metrics and analytics they need to avoid crippling logjams and downtime.

In conjunction with the Longview introduction, Linode also has revealed the results of its 2013 Outages and Anxiety Awareness Index, which is the result of surveys done with more than 2,000 Americans, age 18 and older, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive in August.   

The latter as we be explained below provides a fascinating and sometimes whimsical look at how average Americans feel about server performance that provides both food for thought and the occasional chuckle.

Longview takes a deep view

A little background on Linode is in order. From six data centers in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific, Linode provides hosting tools and services for 150,000 customers worldwide, who range from individuals to organizations of all sizes. Longview provides customers visualized data through interactive graphs across an entire fleet of servers on a single dashboard.

This is comprehensive, near real-time information that includes historical data, metrics and the detailed analytics system that administrators need to improve server performance, streamline costs, reduce system risk and scale resources to adjust for events which can strain resources and affect system performance. 

The benefits cited for Longview include the ability for administrators to:

  • Analyze system performance in an easy-to-use, graphically displayed dashboard  
  • Evaluate up-to-the-minute information concerning CPU, memory, network, and processes 
  • Record all systems activity allowing them to go back in time and investigate a problem or understand how a change impacted their infrastructure
  • Better prepare their budget by determining future resource needs from historical data, allowing businesses to scale resources as needed 
  • Reduce risk by testing new code and system configurations to understand their performance implications
  • Evaluate the load distribution across backend databases and Web servers
  • Gauge changes in server traffic from ad campaigns and news releases to prepare fully for high traffic events in the future

Linode Founder and CEO Christopher Aker stated that, “With Longview, we are expanding the insights that systems administrators have at the systems level for data centers and individual servers, giving them the statistics they need to make informed decisions and plan accordingly for future events with an easy-to-use, beautiful dashboard.” 

The nice thing is that Linode is making Longview free in its basic version and is offered in a more powerful, yet affordable enhanced version called Longview Pro, which are both available immediately.

The survey concerning server performance says…

Whether caused by malcontents or just human error or systematic breakdowns, the headlines have seemed recently like an endless chorus of server outages. These include the recent problems at AWS, Instagram, Vine, Airbnb, Microsoft, Google, Twitter and The New York Times, just to name a few.

As noted above Linode wanted to go beyond the headlines -- and the barrage of Tweets that accompany these outages -- to get a better understanding of how people feel about server performance. This might seem like a strange exercise given that the average person probably either does not know what a server is or why they should be losing sleep over server performance, but the survey results might surprise you.

Below are some of the more intriguing findings. Let’s start with the finding that 66 percent of Americans say they are very concerned about whether or not computer servers work. Among those concerned, the top fears included such things as times when:

  • I am about to buy something time-sensitive – 52 percent
  • There’s a massive outage on social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) or e-mail (e.g., Google, Outlook) – 35 percent
  • I see it on the news – 28 percent
  • I am using an app for driving – 18 percent
  • It’s the Christmas holiday – 17 percent

The one that caught my eye, out of pure curiosity concerning both why the question along with the responses, was that Americans hardly seem perturbed about server performance when the likes of Apple and Samsung make big product announcements. Only 8 percent said they would be upset if they could not learn immediately what Apple was announcing, while just 5 percent needed an immediate Samsung fix, whose problems would be cause for consternation. This left me to wonder what the response would be if the Victoria Secret simulcast on the Web of its new lines of lingerie was less than wonderful.

Where opinions become more fanciful is with the admission by 5 percent of those concerned that server concerns are an issue when they are using an app for “hooking up.” 

Illustration courtesy Mad Magazine
On a more important front, it also turns out that concerned women were more likely than men (40 percent vs. 29 percent) to worry when there is a massive outage on social media or e-mail.

This anxiety extends into the world of smartphone apps as well. In fact, 42 percent of Americans say they have concerns about new viral apps. Among those with any concerns, reasons ranged from form to function, including that:

  • Too many people using it will make it slow – 47 percent
  • Too many people using it will make it crash – 35 percent
  • It will take too much time for developers to discover bugs – 32 percent
  • It will no longer be cool – 16 percent
  • People will discover how I kill time at work – 10 percent

Plus, concerned men were more likely than their female counterparts to admit to being concerned about people discovering how they kill time at work (13 percent vs. 7 percent) and about viral apps no longer being cool (21 percent vs. 12 percent).

“The results of the survey indicate an increasing awareness among the American public that server stability can have a major impact on their lives, and that they may no longer have an expectation that Websites and apps will function 100 percent of the time,” noted CEO Aker in his comments on the study. He added in an observation that dovetails nicely with the Longview announcement that, “As an established leader in cloud hosting and active participant in the developer and system administrator communities, Linode knows just what information any size company needs in order to improve server performance, reduce risk and easily scale to adjust for potentially problematic events or flash-fire growth.”

With the cloud permeating almost everything we do personally and professionally, all kidding aside, the issue of server performance cannot and should not be taken lightly. Having the right tools to assure optimal performance is critical for the delivery of compelling user experiences whether they be as part of the lighter side of life, or impact the delivering of mission-critical applications and services. 

Because of the news, customers are becoming painfully educated on where their experience comes from. As the late Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch used to constantly ask, “How am I doing?” it’s one question that demands fast answers. This is true for service providers and customers alike.




Edited by Rory J. Thompson



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