Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

New Continuous Support System 75

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the minding-the-store dept.
An anonymous reader writes "eWeek is reporting on a new continuous open-source support system that helps to keep tabs on your mission-critical applications by providing constant diagnostic monitoring. The system is designed to match specific 'signatures' from your applications to a database of over 200,000 possible 'problem' signatures and alert the user for correction or analysis. From the article: 'SourceLabs' Continuous Support System features what Sebastian calls "adaptive diagnostic probes" that are fully integrated and configured for customer environments. The probes identify production issues and begin to gather diagnostic information to help get to the root of the problem, he said. Indeed, the probes can be configured so that as soon as a problem occurs, the SourceLabs support team extracts system information to find and resolve the problem. And the system includes a database of more than 200,000 signatures of problems that might occur.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Continuous Support System

Comments Filter:
  • Please Clarify (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:49PM (#15624649)
    I dont understand. Is this an advertisement?
  • Real News or PR?!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:52PM (#15624664)
    Was that a news article or a fluff press release? It'd be nice if the editors could let us know in advance when a slashvertisement plug is posted to the front page.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:54PM (#15624678)
    Captain, I am receiving unusual data from the alien probe.

    Analysis Spock?

    Insufficient data. It may be a successful penetration from the Romulan sector. Or...

    Or?

    Or accounting is performing their end of month reconciliation jobs.

  • Puzzled (Score:4, Informative)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:55PM (#15624685)
    Is it just me or is the FA completely devoid of useful information about exactly what and how the "SourceLabs Continuous Support System, technology " works? A non article. I have no idea how it differs from say Zabbix or Nagios.

     
    • Re:Puzzled (Score:4, Informative)

      by bcat24 (914105) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @07:00PM (#15624708) Homepage Journal
      Indeed. You can find a little more information on their website [sourcelabs.com]. Because putting a link to the company in the article summary would just make things too easy for people, right?
      • It's not just no link in the summary, but none in the article, neither.

        Bruce P. summarizes it below, and a poster above mentions Zabbix and Naggios.

        There's been a bunch of interested work in monitoring and diagnostics with "Netsaint / Nagios for some time. SysAdmin has had a few *very* cool articles [samag.com] about not just network monitoring with it, but resource monitoring and preventative maintenance of all kinds.

        IT Groundwork's done some very interesting things. [groundworkopensource.com]
        SpikeSource is doing similar stuff (presumably so "y
    • Re:Puzzled (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @07:11PM (#15624768) Homepage Journal
      When your production Java program breaks, it tells you, and Sourcelabs. Various sorts of breakage are detected. Generally the interesting problems are in the Open Source stacks that Sourcelabs supports, not in your own code, although the system can sometimes tell you when you are tripping over a well-known sort of error or an API calling mistake in your own code. Depending on the problem, you get an automatic message and/or you hear from your support person at Sourcelabs. Sourcelabe may give you a patch, advice, etc.

      One interesting point is that you don't call customer service. They call you.Bruce

      • Re:Puzzled (Score:3, Informative)

        So tell me again how that's different than, say, Nagios?

        Insanely configurable -- can catch all sorts of problems. Can run a definable shell script when something breaks -- I'm not talking about "automatic message" or emailing someone at Sourcelabs, we had the thing configured to send an email/SMS to the main admin's phone. Cuts out the middleman -- the program calls me, I fix the problem. Works well when your "customer support" is often in-house.
        • Re:Puzzled (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bruce Perens (3872)
          Nagios detects failures elsewhere. This instruments the insides of your Java program and tells you about many different kinds of failures that can happen in there, and it generally also tells you how to solve the problem.
      • Hey, the sooner I know about a problem the sooner I can fix it. I think active monitoring and analysis will continue to grow. The overhead is always a concern but you find that good trade-off point.
        • The goal of this software is to give you more information so that you can spend less time fixing something. Perhaps some programmers will now have sufficient time to have lives because of it :-) Hm, maybe we should give them a manual on that.

          Bruce

          • I think the only shade of difference here is my OS/network centric reference and your programming/application performance reference. Upon a second look I didn't see anything that mentioned anything about OS and network issues that could be monitored, so I'm guessing it's a tool better suited to your area of expertise. The first thing I thought of as I reading this was that it could head off a lot of possible conflicts with OS upgrades and maybe monitor internal and external network connectivity.
      • by Jerky McNaughty (1391) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @08:28PM (#15625086)
        Here's the one-sided phone conversation, as heard from a neighbor of the support person at SourceLabs.

        Hey, is Arnold around? This is Frank over at SourceLabs.
        Hey, Arnold. It's me again. How's it going tonight?
        Oh, really, it's 2:30am there? Wow.
        Yeah, I know what you mean. Yeah, it's raining here in Seattle, of course.
        Hey, listen, the reason I'm calling is because your shit, yeah, yeah, it's crashing again.
        Hey, don't blame me. Talk to your manager about it.
        Well, he's the one that bought this support.
        Listen, though... the stack trace pops up on my screen here and I'm supposed to give you a call.
        Well, yeah.
        Yeah.
        I mean, it's 24x7. You're somewhere in that 24 and somewhere in that 7, so here I am.
        Yeah, I don't enjoy this either.
        I know what you mean.
        Well, the stack trace looks like your Oracle database is hosed again.
        Yeah, tell me about it.
        Well, you're using the thin-client drivers.
        Looks like you can't get any JDBC connections. What a bitch.
        I know, sucks that your site is down. What a pisser.
        Well, most people monitor this kind of basic stuff on their own.
        Yeah.
        Uh huh.
        Well, maybe some log4j and Nagios would work. Or something.
        Yeah, really. It'd save the time it takes me to call you. Good thing you're only taking like 100 orders/minute at this time of day. Heh heh heh.
        Yeah, I had to wake my ass up early this morning, too. I'd almost rather be doing drywall at the new McDonald's.
        Yeah, ok, cool. Well, see if you can get your Oracle P.O.S. back up again.
        Definitely.
        Cool.
        Well, I'll probably talk to you soon. Bye!
      • One interesting point is that you don't call customer service. They call you.

        Do I even have to say anything at this point?
      • One interesting point is that you don't call customer service. They call you. Bruce

        Don't you mean "We call you"? From the recent article on software patents:

        "Bruce Perens may be best known as the creator of the Open Source Definition, the manifesto of Open Source and the canonical rule set for Open Source licensing. He is currently a vice president of Sourcelabs."

        If this is true, I would certainly have expected a disclaimer in the interests of full disclosure.
        • I would have assumed you knew. There was enough press coverage when I took the job.

          Regarding my use of "they", I don't really have anything to do with this product or the people who would call you. I do other stuff at Sourcelabs.

          Thanks

          Bruce

          • I would have assumed you knew. There was enough press coverage when I took the job.

            No, I hadn't heard. In fact, this is the first time I've even heard of Sourcelabs. Of course, this proves the old adage about making assumptions.

            Regarding my use of "they", I don't really have anything to do with this product or the people who would call you. I do other stuff at Sourcelabs.

            Naturally. I was tongue-in-cheek referring to the "royal we" as you no doubt used what might be called the "royal they".

            Cheers.
    • The product might work something like Zenprise for Microsoft Exchange. The Zenprise product does the following:

      • discovers the layout of a Microsoft Exchange deployment (including Domain Controllers, DNS servers, Exchange (e-mail) servers, Active Directory, etc.)
      • starts a rule-based system that embodies the Microsoft Knowledge Base Articles for Exchange (a lot like Prolog rules) to actively monitor all the known configuration and real-time-failure conditions that can happen in an Exchange deployment
        • wi
  • I don't really trust these signature-based systems. Like viruses, you have to update them whenever there are new ones out, which means that the problem has to occur in order to get its signature. And, if you have something like this, you probably don't want the problem to occur at all.
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:56PM (#15624690) Journal
    he system is designed to match specific 'signatures' from your applications to a database of over 200,000 possible 'problem' signatures and alert the user for correction or analysis.

    The interesting thing is that no matter which 'signature' is noticed, the alert always reads "omfg n00b! read the fvcking manual!"
  • by fatboy (6851) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:56PM (#15624692)
    http referrers from slashdot.org :)
  • by IGotYourSidekick (980994) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:56PM (#15624694) Homepage
    How is this different from splunk? Now if it fixed problems for me...
    • Here are the differences we can spot from Splunk's website. Would love to hear from some Splunkers on this.

      Splunk seems pretty cool. While it does give you a view of a lot of data, there are no probes (so you can't see inside of apps that are broken to fix them, and it doesn't tell you when something is wrong), and apparently no advanced search/matching technology (e.g. pattern recognition) above and beyond human-operated search. One of the things our signature matching does is spot correlations that wo
  • by DuckWizard (744428) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:59PM (#15624705) Homepage
    I am really fascinated by this trend of selling support for open-source software. If a company creates a free, open-source product, and then uses support as their business model (RedHat, for example), doesn't that produce a conflict of interest in regards to the quality of their product? If the product is difficult to use, they will make more money off support. If it's rock-solid and completely intuitive, their revenues will crumble. Am I making any sense?
    • I think they rely on two things:
      1) Software almost always sucks to some degree
      2) People are excellent at finding new ways to break "rock-solid" software

      You know, the whole "make it idiot proof and someone will make a better idiot" type thing.
    • If the product is too difficult to use, no one will use it, and their revenues will crumble as well.

      But otherwise, that's a basic conflict of all profit oriented processes. For example, the longer your products last, the less you will sell. So why should you produce durable products? Also, given that your doctor only earns something from you as long as you're ill, where's his incentive to make you healthy?

      Note that selling proprietary software licenses also leads to the same problem, just in another way: Yo
      • If the product is too difficult to use, no one will use it, and their revenues will crumble as well.

        I think there is ample evidence in the enterprise software industry to contradict this theory.
    • If the product is difficult to use, they will make more money off support. If it's rock-solid and completely intuitive, their revenues will crumble. Am I making any sense?

      Do you honestly think it's possible to make a product so that the majority of office working idiots will not find something to cry for help about?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      This only makes sense if you are talking about companies that sell support via time and materials, e.g. when something goes wrong, they charge you $XXX per hour.

      In the case that you sell subscriptions, the software needs to be rock solid because you lose money on hard support calls. Large companies will still want support because of the case that something does go wrong, they need someone to call. Long term, as the market matures, you would expect support contracts to take into account the statistical ch
      • I'm not entirely sure I follow. Let's take Linux as an example of an open-source product for which there are companies selling support.

        Company A takes a vanilla distribution of Linux, and differentiates themselves by providing "better" support than the others.

        Company B takes a vanilla distribution of Linux, and differentiates themselves by adding innovative new features that people want (for example, package management a la Debian or Gentoo). Despite the fact that these new features are open source, Compan
    • It's pretty obvious you have never worked in a support business that is actually a profit center - not just a cost code.

      In the commercial software world the trick is that you get everyone to pay about 18% (that is the norm) of upfront licensing fees every year as an ongoing maintenance / support contact. This provides you with good cash flow.

      If your software is anywhere near decent you will probably find only a small percentage (say 10%) of these customers actually have problems that cost you anywhere near
  • If you take away my morning coffee, I can probably generate all 200,000 matchable problems in a day's work...

    Maybe they should just assume the marketing and sales adage "The customer is always right" and just forgo the whole support system all together.

    P.S. Sorry for the lack luster sarcasm, but a story about customer support and problem signatures is a bit to exciting for me to make fun of. Seriously.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pongo000 (97357) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @07:03PM (#15624729)
    What kind of signatures? What kind of diagnostics? What the hell, exactly, is this article about?

    And no, I'm not going to RTFA...if the submitter isn't articulate enough to succinctly describe what it is he or she is submitting, I'm not going to waste my time following the link.

    Instead, I'm going to waste my time writing inane comments such as this...
    • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Informative)

      by bcat24 (914105)
      Don't worry, the article is almost as bad as the summary. You didn't miss much by not RTFAing.
      • Don't worry, the article is almost as bad as the summary. You didn't miss much by not RTFAing.

        All of the components are there: the Rob Enderle-tainted eWeek runs a shill "review" of a product that they were paid to look at, then the company's PR flack sends it to Slashdot as an "anonymous reader". Who knows if money is involved on the Slashdot side, but the mechanism is the same.
    • It finds problems that happen in somebody elses shop. Not yours.
  • The most common problem in their database -- PEBKAC.
  • Yea, right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigCheese (47608) <dennis.hostetler@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @07:06PM (#15624747) Homepage Journal
    I can't count how many times I've heard this before. You either get spammed silly by alerts or turn the alerts down and then do what you did before you bought the product.

    Sometimes you can get some use out of them but you've got to spend a whole lot of time with it in setup and ongoing adjustments.

    Too many managers buy these things expecting a "Magic Bullet" solution.
    • There is an incentive for the FA to mark cybercrud as such. If the FA doesn't do something to keep a useless report from being emitted, he'll keep getting it from each and every customer.

      Bruce

  • It's already working - they have redundancy in place in this advertisement :). In case you missed the first occurence of 200,000, the second should help!.
  • This sounds like a marketing gimmick from AOL to add even more useless software to my computer and use even more system resources.
  • Eat all you want and NEVER gain a pouind with our revolutionary Continuous Support System! That's right folks! And how much does it cost? Don't answer yet!.....
  • Zenprise (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sfcat (872532) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @07:17PM (#15624803)
    I previous worked for a company [zenprise.com] where I developed something very similar to this 'Continuous Support System'. But it was targeted at Exchange (MS, boo hiss, I know, I dislike them too).

    Anyway, it was a very interesting and difficult problem. One of the biggest rubs was the level of assurance you had to provide. In otherwords, can you let the system make changes on its own or should it just recommend changes? If the system mis-diagnoses even one problem, it might break more stuff than it fixes. Most monitoring tools have big problems with 'false positives'. Add to that that the system can't necessary 'undo' all changes. Our solution was to allow the administrator to run the system in a variety of modes so they could choose if the system applied the fix automatically, with approval, or just suggested how to fix the problem.

    As for how the system actually works, it basically takes a middle approach between ML (machine learning) and KR (knowledge representation). Basically, either you can hard code all the types of problems you have in a KR language, or setup some big neural net (or other ML algorithm) and let the system 'learn' problems. We split the difference and added some domain knowledge. Certain types of 'features' (parts of a diagnose such as the disk is slow) were diagnosed by ML algorithms, but ultimately KR rules written by Exchange experts actually diagnosed the problems and suggested repairs. A very time consuming, but more reliable solution (but less cool).

  • Ain't it great that open source tools can now benefit from the same meaningless marketing drivel which has consistently been a strong feature of proprietary software?

    From the company website [sourcelabs.com]:

    • "tools for gathering and aggregating information from throughout the open source community. "
    • "Sash Open Source MiddleWare"
    • "the service-quality leader of enterprise support and maintenance for Open Source infrastructure software."
    • "Continuous Support System, providing unprecedented timeliness and effectiveness
  • I've written a program, and immediatly adapted my failure signatures database. My database now contains 3 failure signatures:
    - No output
    - Non zero return status
    - Any output that is not 'Hello world'

    If it wasn't the first program I've ever written and I had more time, I probably could get to 200000.
    • Well, your failure signatures database is obviously incomplete. Other possible failure modes are:

      - Does not even start (e.g. you forgot to compile it, or didn't give an absolute pathname and it's not in your PATH)
      - Does start, but doesn't find a required DSO (e.g. libc.so)
      - Does start, outputs "Hello world", and then additionally outputs something else
      - Does output just "Hello world", but needs half an hour to do so
      - Does start and outputs "Hello world", but doesn't ever end (enters infinite loop)
      • You can eliminate a few of those easily:

        - Does not even start (e.g. you forgot to compile it, or didn't give an absolute pathname and it's not in your PATH)
        - Does start, but doesn't find a required DSO (e.g. libc.so)

        Depending on your shell / dynamic linker, that falls under either "No output" or "Output that is not 'Hello, World'". Additionally, I can almost guarantee you'll get a non-zero return status.

        - Does start, outputs "Hello world", and then additionally outputs something else

        Which would indica

  • "unprecedented timeliness and effectiveness for enterprise software support"

    I'm sorry, but I thought I need support when something unusual occurs or I want to do something unusual with the software. Timeliness and effectiveness is allways required, but how can a 'bot provide support? Support is one of things that explicitly is *not* provided by software but by humans, no? Our does this software include automatic hacking attacks and phone pranks on OSS developers that don't update, bugfix or document their
  • ...for NewsForge, but we don't have staff to waste on regurgitating press releases. We tend to wait until we can either review a product ourselves or until we can find some actual companies using the product and talk to them about their experience with it.

    But that's just us...

    - Robin
  • RUN CARTMAN RUN!
  • My firm uses a product called Black Box to do some similar things in the .NET world. It detects exceptions (based on how you compile the application into your code) and allows both messaging to a host server as well as data collection for collecting data on exceptions that might occur in production environments.
  • I'm still looking for a way to monitor all my favorite software for updates and possibly even download/install them automagically. Sure some programs have Internet updating capability, but I want an all in one app! Every time I want to make a new install CD that puts all my apps on for me I spend hours going through bookmarks getting the latest versions. Some combination of RSS feed reader and web page scraper is prob what is needed, but with the ability to download files. Hell I've been thinking of writing
  • When we put together multiple-redundant systems with a view to achieving high availability, we tended to find failure modes which we called 'sympathy sickness'. One of the pair would fail for an unanticipated reason, and then that would induce a new failure mode in the second; and you'd have to diagnose a more complex failure situation by hand to get things going again. I've got this suspicion that having a list of 200000 'problem cases' to look for will just ensure that you don't find any of these 200000 p

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

Working...