If you frequent the various product and geek speak blogs here on Thwack, you've likely at one time or another stumbled upon some reference, and possibly sneak peek glimpses, into what has affectionately been referred to as the "AppStack". The Application Stack, or "AppStack" for short, is a term used to describe all the various moving parts that make up today's complex application delivery infrastructure. This begins at the bottom with the backend storage arrays where data is housed, through the various different virtualization layers, up to the server that hosts the application, until finally we reach the application itself. The AppStack Environment View shown below accompanies the SAM 6.2, VMAN 6.2, and SRM 6.0 beta releases.
The image below isn't the latest incarnation of the Candy Crush sensation, but rather a visual representation of all the various infrastructure components that make up my lab environment. Historically, all of this status goodness was tucked away under each respective categories product tab. Correlation and association of these various objects was a mental exercise based on a working knowledge of the infrastructures initial deployment, or legacy information that has been passed down from systems administrator to systems administrator before them. To make matters worse, todays infrastructure is dynamic and ever changing, so what you thought you knew about the organizational layout of your supporting infrastructure may have changed dozens, or even hundreds of times since it was initially deployed.
The AppStack Environment provides a 10,000 foot overview of your entire environment. At first, this may seem a bit overwhelming as there's a lot of status information contained within a single view. To that end, our UX research team toiled tirelessly to ensure that the AppStack provides as much useful information possible, while reducing or completely eliminating any extraneous noise that could distract from identifying problems in the environment and their likely cause. Perhaps most unnerving to most when first presented with the AppStack Environment View is the lack of object names displayed. Well fret not my dear friend because our UX masterminds thought of everything!
In most cases, when trying to get a high level overview into the health status of the environment, you're trying to get as much information represented in as little real estate as possible. If the status is good (green) then likely it's not of any concern. For those objects that are in distress however, you may want to glean additional information into what they are before digging deeper. As with most things in Orion, mouse hovers are available extensively throughout the AppStack Environment view to expose information, such as the objects name and other important details. However, if you're trying to determine the object names for a multiple of objects in distress, a mouse hover is a fairly inefficient means for determining what those objects represent. To address this need you will find a "Show Names" link in the top left of the AppStack. Clicking on this link will expose the name of any object currently in distress. Object names for items that are up (green) remain hidden from view to reduce visual clutter, so it's easier to focus on the items currently in distress.
The AppStack Environment functions as a status overview page that is valuable when visually attempting to identify issues occurring within the environment, such as in the case of a NOC view, or perhaps the view you keep on your monitor while you go about your usual daily routine. Any changes in status are updated in real-time for all objects represented in the AppStack. No browser refresh necessary. What you see in the AppStack Environment view is a real-time representation of the status of your environment.
Leveraging application topology information gathered across various different products, from Server & Application Monitor (SAM), Virtualization Manager (VMAN), and the all new Storage Resource Monitor (SRM), Orion is now capable of automatically compiling relationships and displaying them in a meaningful fashion between all the various infrastructure components that make up the application stack. Object associations are updated and maintained in real-time, and automatically, as the environment changes. This is important in todays dynamic environments where VMs are vMotioned between hosts, and storage is so easily reprovisioned, reallocated, and presented to servers. If someone had to maintain these relationships manually, it would likely be a full time job that could drive a person insane!
Clicking on any object within the AppStack selects that item and displays all relevant relationships the object has to any other object represented within the AppStack Environment. In the case below, I've selected an Application that's currently in a "Critical" state. I can see in the selection bar that this is a Microsoft SQL Server; one I've been having a bit of trouble with lately, so I'm not at all surprised to see it in a critical state. From here I can see which server SQL is running on, the fact that it's obviously virtualized because I can also see the host, virtual custer, datacenter, and data store the VM resides upon as well. None of those appear to be my issue however, as their status is "green". Moving further down the AppStack I can see the volumes that the VM is using, the LUN where the Data Store this VM resides upon, and the Storage Pool itself. So far, so good. Wait a minute, what's that I see? The backend array this VM is running on appears to be having some trouble.
Double clicking on the Array object, or selecting the array and clicking on the object name from within the selection bar (for those of you rocking a tablet or other touch enabled device) takes me to the Array Details view. There I can see the I/O on this array is exceptionally high. I should probably vMotion a few VMs off the hosts that are utilizing this array, or provision more storage to those hosts from different arrays and balance the VMs across them.
In this example, the AppStack Environment view was able to cut through the all the various information Orion is capable of collecting across multiple products to expose a problem, provide context to that problem, and identify the root cause. This can be done across the entire environment, or custom AppStack Environment views can be created to focus on a specific areas of responsibility. Perhaps you're the Exchange Administrator, and all you care about is the Exchange environment. No problem! Creating a custom AppStack environment view is simple. You can filter the AppStack by virtually any property available in Orion, such as Application Name, or Custom Property by adding filter properties.
Once you've filtered the AppStack to your liking and saved it as new layout, you can reference it at any time from layout selector in the top right of the AppStack Environment view. These custom AppStacks can also be used in rotating NOC views for heads up displays, or added to any existing summary view.
In addition to this new AppStack Environment View, you will also find a contextual AppStack resource on the Details view of every object type that participates within the AppStack. This includes, but is not limited to...
Node Details (For Servers)
Storage Pool Details
Storage Pool Details
Hyper-V Host Details
ESX Host Details
Virtual Center Details
The AppStack Environment resource provides relevant contextual status information specific to the object details being viewed. The image on the right, taken from the Node Details view of the same SQL server shown in the example above, displays the relationships of all other monitored objects to this node. This context aware application mapping dramatically reduces time to resolution by consolidating all related status information to the object being viewed into a single, easily digestible resource.
Relationships aren't limited exclusively to the automatic physical associations understood by Orion however. These relationships can also be extended using manual dependencies to relate logical objects that are associated in other ways, such as SharePoint's dependency on the backend SQL server. This capability further extends the AppStack to represent all objects as they relate to the business service, and significantly aids in root-cause analysis of today's complex distributed application architectures.
Earn $100.00 & 2000 Thwack Points!
SAM 6.2, VMAN 6.2, and SRM 6.0 beta participants have been given a special opportunity to earn $100.00 and 2000 Thwack points simply for taking part in these betas and providing feedback. To participate you will need to sign-up to participate and install at least two beta products that integrate within the new AppStack Environment view.
If you're not yet participating in the Server & Application Monitor 6.2 beta, then what are you waiting for? All SAM product owners under active maintenance are welcome and strongly encouraged to join. Simply sign-up here. If you also happen to own Virtualization Manager or Storage Manager, then now is a great time to try out these awesome combined beta releases, and earn a little cash in the process.
Space is limited, so please reply to this post letting us know that you're interested in participating. You'll not only fatten your wallet in the process, but you'll also be helping us to build better products! Here’s how it’s going down.
What you’ll do:
What you receive:
When you receive the beta bits for 2 or more products
Have a 15 minute phone call with our UX team to review what to expect and tell us about your job and technical environment
My eternal gratitude!
2 to 4 days after installing two or more participating beta products
Send us a 1 to2 minute video telling us about your initial experiences with AppStack. You can make the video with whatever is easiest for you; most people use their phone.
$50 Amazon gift card
7 to 10 days after installing two or more participating beta products
Send us another 1 to 2 minute video telling us about how you've used AppStack. What are your favorite things? What drives you crazy?
$50 Amazon gift card
12- 14 days after installing 2 or more participating beta products
Spend one hour with us showing us how you use AppStack. We’ll meet using GoToMeeting so that you can share your screen and walk us through some typical use cases.
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