Application Deployment Featured Article

Why Monitoring Next-Gen Appliance Stack Performance is Important

November 30, 2009


Even with top-of-the-line equipment, when the most basic things go wrong, it can derail operations completely.
Optimal appliance performance and uptime result from both hardware and software operating properly. Unfortunately, any number of things can go wrong and the best way to reduce downtime is to prevent it from happening at all.
At least that’s the conclusion reached by Canton, Mass.-based NEI, which recently released the white paper “Top Five Considerations for Deploying Next-Gen Appliances.”
The product came about, at least partially, as NEI engineers addressed the question: “How can you monitor the performance of the appliance stack?”
“The simplest thing that can go wrong is the hard drive failure,” Mike Slattery, director of software development for NEI, told TMCnet. “Most appliances are set up so you have a RAID configuration, so if one drive fails, the critical task is to get the replacement drive into the unit.”
NEI has positioned its latest ‘Element Manager’ appliance to routinely audit the operation condition of core appliance hardware elements -- and alert software vendors right away so they can order the replacement parts. 
In mid-November NEI announced the latest version of this flagship product -- Element Manager 3.0 – which now includes enhanced smart services for software developers.
With such services, developers can more easily build secure, hardened solutions that deliver on the promise of low-lifecycle maintenance. Enhancements include a “Smart Task Manager,” which reduces end-user maintenance requirements by predefining and scheduling cleanup, archive and backup tasks. The Smart Task Manager allows the end user to adjust schedule times and define the location to archive files on the local network.
This, plus a routine-auditing feature, makes life much easier for developers, Slattery told TMCnet. “So the element manager automatically goes into a rebuild mode, a self-healing mode, if you will.”
Additionally, Element Manager monitors the temperature via a sensor on the motherboard. Since overheating can damage appliance components, an alert goes out if the processor or motherboard goes into any type of overheat situation.
As soon as the warning is issued, the developer or operator can troubleshoot the problem, and discover, for example, that the air conditioning is not working.
Another thing the Element Manager 3.0 can do is we can monitor the output of the redundant power supplies, so the network manager can replace one when it fails.
“If it’s a dual power supply system, if one of the power systems fails, the software vendor gets notified,” Slattery said.
The result is a savings of many hours worth of maintenance checks by technicians, Slattery said. “We’ve heard of systems where the support analyst does two or three visits before it’s resolved.”

This is the first article in a series addressing the most crucial considerations for deploying next-generation appliances. Part 1 focuses on using a hardened, secure Linux OS.

Marisa Torrieri is a TMCnet Web editor, covering IP hardware and mobility, including IP phones, smartphones, fixed-mobile convergence and satellite technology. She also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet's gadgets and satellite e-Newsletters. To read more of Marisa's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri

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