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Data, Information, Visualizations, Analyses, and Actions

Level 12

In our pursuit of Better IT, I bring you a post on how important data is to functional teams and groups. Last week we talked aboutnti-patterns in collaboration, covering things like data mine-ing and other organizational dysfunctions. In this post we will be talking about the role shared data, information, visualizations, and analytics play in helping ensure your teams can avoid all those missteps from last week.

Data! Data! Data!

These days we have data. Lots and lots of data. Even Big Data, data so important we capitalize it!. As much as I love my data, we can't solve problems with just raw data, even if we enjoy browsing through pages of JSON or log data. That's why we have products like NPM Network Performance Monitor Release Candidate , SAM Server & Applications Monitor Release Candidate and DPADatabase Performance Analyzer RC,  to help us collect and parse all that data.  Each of those products have specialized metrics they collect, meaning they apply to them and visualizations to help specialized SySadmins to leverage that data. These administrators probably don't think of themselves as data professionals, but they are. They choose which data to collect, which levels to be alerted on, and which to report upon. They are experts in this data and they have learned to love it all.

Shared Data about App and Infrastructure Resources

Within the SolarWinds product solutions, data about the infrastructure and application graph is collected and displayed on the Orion Platform. This means that cross-team admins share the same set of resources and components and the data about their metrics. Now we havePerfStack Livecast with features to do cross-team collaboration via data. We can see entities we want to analyze, then see all the other entities related them. This is what I call the Infrastructure and Application Graph, which I'll be writing about later. After choosing Entities, we can discover the metrics available for each of the entities and choose the ones that make the most sense to analyze based on the troubleshooting we are doing now.


Metrics Over Time

Another data feature that's critical to analyzing infrastructure issues is the ability to see data *over time." It's not enough to know how CPU is doing right now, we need to know what it was doing earlier today, yesterday, last week, and maybe even last month, on the same day of the month. By having a view into the status of resources over time, we can intelligently make sense of the data we are seeing today. End-of-month processing going on? Now we know why there might be slight spike in CPU pressure.

Visualizations and Analyses

The beauty of Perfstack is that by choosing these Entities and metrics we can easily build data visualizations of the metrics and overlay them to discover correlations and causes. We can then interact with the information we now have by working with the data or the visualizations. By overlaying the data, we can see how statuses of resources are impacting each other. This collaboration of data means we are performing "team troubleshooting" instead of silo-based "whodunits." We can find the issue, which until now might have been hiding in data in separate products.



So we've gone from data to information to analysis in just minutes. Another beautiful feature of PerfStack is that once we've built the analyses that show our troubleshooting results, we can copy the URL, send it off to team members, and they can see the exact same analysis -- complete with visualizations -- that we saw. If we've done similar troubleshooting before and saved projects, we might be doing this in seconds.

Save Project.png

This is often hours, if not days, faster than how we did troubleshooting in our previous silo-ed, data mine-ing approach to application and infrastructure support. We accomplished this by having quick and easy access to shared information that united differing views of our infrastructure and application graph.

Data -> Information -> Visualization -> Analysis -> Action

It all starts with the data, but we have to love the data into becoming actions. I'm excited about this data-driven workflow in keeping applications and infrastructure happy.

Level 15

Seems Perfstack is causing a flutter. Looking forward to today's "training"

Your comment about data over time is important. So often in monitoring people focus on the now, but without a picture of how things are changing you will always end up reacting.

Level 21

Nice--data's important to functional teams.

Certainly I've provided (and received) data to and from non-functional teams.  That's an exercise in wasting time.

I, too, look forward to today's training session.

Level 12

To me this is the significant difference in analytis in figuring out what is happening now versus other times.  Has the problem been getting worse? Is it "blippy" and erratic?  Do get that information I need to see metrics over time. And on specific dates.
Level 16

Good article

Level 15

Interesting thoughts about functional teams and the distribution of data.  I enjoyed the article and yes I attended the PerfStack training and I look forward to seeing what it will reveal.

Level 18

So what you are really talking about is a data warehouse, a CMDB, and near time visualizations of the represented data in a useful construct with the ability to produce alerts based upon thresholds...

Level 13

the more data the better...measuring is key, but you have to remember to measure the right things...garbage in garbage out.

Level 14

I do like Perfstack so far.

Level 12

Measure...and monitor, then alert the right things.  Which might vary by application and workloads.

Level 12

Not quite a CMDB (because these are inventory scans without a lot of enhancements and meta data, at least for now).  But in principle, it's similar.

Level 19

Looks like a perfstack month to me!  And look at SolarWinds on Gartner!


I'm not sure why they aren't moving SolarWinds further to the right yet though!

Level 21

I like seeing SW as the top best Challenger.  I imagine Gartner hasn't moved them into the top right quadrant because not enough people have said that Orion can manage just about every brand/model in a Gartner Magic Quadrant survey.

I've done a Magic Quadrant review for Gartner, and it appears that a product must have high marks for compatibility with multiple brands of equipment before they put it into the "completeness of vision" Leaders quadrant.  I'm OK with this, since SW works with all my hardware, and continues expanding capabilities while improving compatibility.

My impression of NetScout and Riverbed is they can't do 10% of what SolarWinds can do, but I don't own them--only have been watching their advertisements.  And I'd never even heard of Viavi before.

I'm not surprised to see that folks agree Solarwinds has the best Ability To Execute.  It's Top Notch for all my needs; an A-1 product with no comparable competitors, IMHO.

Level 12

Glad you added this.  There's a lot of confusion out there how MQ works. 

Level 21

I'd assumed Gartner actually had reviewed products in hand, used them in their own laboratories, and really knew the products before ranking and rating them.

After participating in a Gartner survey, I no longer have that impression at all.  Instead, it seems that only second-hand reports of a product's efficacy are used to rank & rate and compare it against other products in the same general sales category.

That's OK when the person doing the second-hand reporting has used all the products being compared.  But when the reviewer only knows one product, then the Gartner survey becomes much less accurate.  And who can own/know all the products?

A subjective report isn't one you expect or want.  Only a true comparison of the capabilities of products against each other is valid.

It seems as if Gartner uses some formula and selective phrases from their surveys' results to create the Magic Quadrant--which isn't magic at all; it's a kluge.

Maybe that's why my company stopped paying for a Gartner subscription . . .?

On the other hand, maybe my review of NPM at Gartner is (part of the reason) why Solarwinds ranks so high.  If so, one person really has the power to skew results.  I hope not.  I think anyone reviewing NPM and NCM would give them highest marks.

Level 13

Good article.  Got a lot out of it.

Level 13

i agree with rschroeder​ - solarwinds is a leader, and should be recognized as such...

Level 15

I think one of the things that keeps SolarWinds out of the Top Right is the perceived lack of vendor support. The Universal Device Poller allows us to add devices that don't have native "Full" support, but this doesn't fix the perceptions.

Level 21

rschroeder​ I think this is a great example of why you can't always trust the Gartner Magic Quadrants.  I think Orion has a great vision and should certainly be moved further to the right in the MQ.  I have seen people with a lot more expensive tools do much less than what I can do with Orion.

About the Author
Data Evangelist Sr. Project Manager and Architect at InfoAdvisors. I'm a consultant, frequent speaker, trainer, blogger. I love all things data. I'm an Microsoft MVP. I work with all kinds of databases in the relational and post-relational world. I'm a NASA 2016 Datanaut! I want you to love your data, too.