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Revisiting AppStack™

Product Manager

After a long tenure working on the Orion® Platform, I’ve recently shifted my responsibilities to fully focus on Server & Application Monitor (SAM). Features designed on the platform and in SAM have eye-opening similarities due to deep integration between SAM, Virtualization Manager (VMAN), Web Performance Monitor (WPM), and other heavy hitters in our systems portfolio. The same tenets of componentization and shareability demanded by the Orion Platform exist in AppStack the way they do for PerfStack or the newest generation of Orion maps.

In honor of this revelation and how far our integration story has come since the first introduction of AppStack in 2014, I’d like to revisit this milestone feature and show those new to the SolarWinds systems portfolio the power of what we provide. For those who enjoy nostalgia, revisit the first AppStack post here https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/product-blog/blog/2014/11/03/appstack. Personally, I was taken aback by the amount of change that’s occurred in the UI itself.

Welcome to 2014, amirite? (I stole this screenshot from Jeremy's original 2014 post.)
appstack.png

Fast forward to 2019, the look and feel is quite different. Navigate to AppStack through the menu bar, or enjoy the contextual AppStack widget on the details page for an entity.

appstack1.png

appstack2.png

For those who land on the full AppStack view today, you'll notice we have new entities appearing in the stack with the inclusion of container monitoring.

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When we as Product Managers introduce the capability to monitor new entities such as containers, we must first ask if it deserves a place in the AppStack. For containers, this is certainly true, due to their ephemeral nature and clear distinction as a generic entity type. The same can be said for the improvements to Cisco UCS monitoring, where SAM added chassis, blade, and rack server statistics into the AppStack view. However, in the case of VMware vSAN entities, you'll notice their inclusion into AppStack in a subtle approach aligned with customer expectations for hyperconverged infrastructure.

appstack3.png

In 2019.2 versions of the platform and later, the spotlight workflow is still an effective tool to quickly analyze where the problem might lie along your infrastructure stack.

2019.2 appstack spotlight.gif

The subtle difference lies in the changes to node status in the Orion Platform 2019.2 release. With simplified status calculations, and clear contributors detailed in the popovers, it's easier than ever to navigate to where you need to drill in for detailed troubleshooting. 

appstack4.png

With additional changes from VMAN 8.4 to add virtual entities as status contributors and the ability to control the status contributors via the Node status contributors page, the AppStack solution becomes even more powerful. Through continued improvement and integration throughout the Orion Platform and the system portfolio, AppStack in 2019 has aged well and can help you navigate the intricacies and quirks of your environment.

appstack5.png

Supplementing AppStack capabilities, through the addition of new Orion Maps and PerfStack, you now have a full toolset available to visualize your environment, narrow down the problem, and then troubleshoot the problem in-depth in real time.

Now that we've walked through how AppStack has grown over the years, I'd love to hear from you, both new and familiar to AppStack. What was your introduction to AppStack? Was it back in 2014 or the newer versions available today? What would you like to see improved in the future and what would you like to see preserved to keep the heart of AppStack beating strong for the next generation of Systems Management product releases? Put your feature request into Server & Application Monitor Feature Requests  for tracking and community input.

6 Comments
Level 12

I was introduced to AppStack recently. In my opinion AppStack is good but not great. Having to hover over the icon to know what component it represents is one reason why, besides the fact that even when hovering over the icon it is delayed or doesn't always show what component it is so I have to click on the icon to know that.

Product Manager
Product Manager

jfaldmo  wrote:

I was introduced to AppStack recently. In my opinion AppStack is good but not great. Having to hover over the icon to now what component it represents is one reason why, besides the fact that even when hovering over the icon it is delayed or doesn't always show what component it is so I have to click on the icon to know that.

Jon, this is great feedback. Do you like the icons that are used in Orion maps? If we switched AppStack over to use visually distinct icons, would that improve your experience?

MVP
MVP

As above, having to hover over the icons to find things can sometimes be annoying - especially for volumes if there are a lot of disks on a server.

Additionally, if you have the Application Dependency Mapping running and it finds two servers communicating, on the Node Details view for server A the AppStack resource will show the volumes/applications from BOTH servers making the above worse. It doesn't hurt to display the connected objects but maybe show them separately (i.e. another column in the AppStack resource, but no extra column if no ADM).

Presumably the AppStack resource on Node Details is configured to show the user all of the possible sources but one of the first things I do on new installs is edit the resource to hide the sections if no objects. Otherwise the resource scrolls off the page taking up room with no data.

Level 12

I have the same issue/concern as you, shuth​, about seeing "the volumes/applications from BOTH servers." I put this idea in to make a separate category for applications that are from a different node. 

Level 12

I'm not sure what visually distinct icons mean. To me the purpose of the AppStack is to see where the problems are quickly. When there is so much red and yellow icons in the full AppStack view you really can't get to the root of a problem quickly. Maybe I'm doing it wrong and want to use AppStack for triage when an issue is occurring instead of using it just as one pane of glass view to jump to where any unspecified (I don't know what I am looking for) issue is.

Product Manager
Product Manager

jfaldmo  wrote:

I'm not sure what visually distinct icons mean. To me the purpose of the AppStack is to see where the problems are quickly. When there is so much red and yellow icons in the full AppStack view you really can't get to the root of a problem quickly. Maybe I'm doing it wrong and want to use AppStack for triage when an issue is occurring instead of using it just as one pane of glass view to jump to where any unspecified (I don't know what I am looking for) issue is.

Interesting, what would you say is the root cause of so much red/yellow on your AppStack? has Orion Platform 2019.2 - Enhanced Node Status  helped with the intelligence of status?

About the Author
Serena has been a software developer, program manager, product owner, and has found her passion in being a product manager. She loves building solutions for customer problems. Currently she's a Senior Product Manager at SolarWinds, enthusiastically responsible for Server & Application Monitor.