Recently we invested in Boundary, a cloud-based application performance monitoring solution for distributed application environments. Boundary is a company at the forefront of the next wave of disruption hitting the systems management market.
Our investment in Boundary is predicated on the thesis that a world in which virtually the entire application stack is outsourced requires a new monitoring application. As the underlying infrastructure (servers, switches, routers, and storage) used by modern web applications has become a commodity, the need for custom-built monitoring has disappeared. Companies should be spending their capital building a differentiated product, not writing Nagios scripts to diagnose problems in a continuously-changing environment.
As the stampede to the public cloud gathered momentum, it became clear to us that there was a need for a cloud-based network monitoring offering. As we spoke to companies using the public cloud, three themes emerged:
1. Increased Complexity of Modern Web Applications
The era of the simple 3-tier web stack (MySQL – App Server – Apache) will soon be behind us. It was a model suited to websites with mostly static content accessed over a relatively slow wide-area network from a PC.
Modern web applications are now approaching the performance of desktop applications. They frequently combine Hadoop clusters, NoSQL databases, and a variety of web services making API calls all over the globe. These days it is difficult to pinpoint choke points and problem areas under different load conditions. When problems do occur, there is a mountain of diagnostic data that is often lost by the time the problem is identified. This problem is compounded when applications are distributed across different data centers and dispersed geographies.
2. Lack of Visibility into the Network Layer
As companies have migrated their infrastructure to public cloud hosting providers, an often-heard complaint from operations teams has been the lack of visibility into the network and unpredictable application performance. While there is a plethora of open-source network monitoring tools, with Nagios being the clear leader, there are few that combine both rich data and clear, graphical presentation. Even fewer perform well in an environment such as Amazon Web Services, where the network switches and routers connecting the servers are off-limits to the devops team.
A related problem is that the web is often a hostile environment. Bad bots, comment spam, and denial-of-service attacks are a source of frustration for all web properties. While there are methods of guarding against malicious traffic, it is often undetected and costly.
3. A New Feature On the Hour, Every Hour
Agile development cycles from engineering teams are resulting in web applications that are in flux as new features are released with a tempo that destroys the static, predictable calm beloved by old-school operations teams. Boundary’s ability to process staggering amounts of data in real-time is essential to rapidly isolating problems.
When I first met Boundary, it was apparent that their solution resonated perfectly with the problems companies were experiencing as they architected dynamic web applications on public cloud infrastructure. Real-time, second-by-second visibility into every aspect of a modern app is no longer a luxury; it’s essential.