This is the blog for Scout, Enterprise-grade server monitoring without the bloat.
70+ plugins, realtime charts, alerts, and Chef/Puppet-friendly configuration.

Updating monitoring on 100 servers with 1 mouse click

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UPDATE – Copy and Paste has been replaced by Server Roles.

You realize a default alerting threshold is too low or you want to add additional monitoring functionality to all 100 of your servers.

Do you login to every server, update the scripts, and reload? Maybe build a custom script to automate this?

Follow the lead of the smart people at Railsware – Web Apps Made with Passion. Railsware, an Agile Rails development firm which manages a large cluster on Amazon EC2, saves a lot of time (and a lot of pain) using Scout to monitor many servers:

It’s difficult to imagine updating monitoring scripts across dozens of our servers manually. What takes a couple of mouse clicks with Scout might take hours with traditional monitoring software.”
- Yaroslav Lazor, Railsware Co-Founder

Video Demo

 

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3 competitive advantages of developer-run businesses

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Older baseball players typically have plenty of power and discipline but are slow runners with lower batting averages. It’s kind of obvious: as we get older, we get bigger and more patient, but we also get slower. This characteristic even has a name, described as (you guessed it): old player skills.

Bill James, a famous baseball historian, studied these players and found that younger players that start with these skills fade away faster than than their peers. The players that have long careers are often those that have speed when they’re young and are able to adapt as the gifts of youth fade.

What does this have to do with small, self-funded, developer-run businesses like us?

 

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What makes a great developer?

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James Gray, lead developer of the Scout Agent, takes a stab at the eternal question “What makes a great developer?” in the latest RailsCoach Podcast Episode.

Besides talking about Scout’s blended open-source approach to monitoring, James also talks about The Pomodoro Technique (a time management process), his time at the helm of the RubyQuiz, NoSQL, and other topics.

You can listen to the podcast episode here and follow James on Twitter as well.

 
 

Rackspace & Scout Webinar - Monitoring in the Cloud

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A couple of months back when we announced our partnership with the Rackspace Cloud I mentioned that 1 of 5 hosts monitored by Scout is in the cloud. Monitoring in a cloud environment brings some unique challenges.

On Thursday, January 21st at 1pm Central I’ll be leading a webinar with Rackspace where I’ll show how Scout makes monitoring your cloud enviroment a snap. Using Scout, I’ll show how to:

  • monitor cloud servers automatically when they boot
  • update monitoring on your entire cluster in one click

In other words, you’ll learn how to get the day off the next time your monitoring infrastructure needs to be updated.

If you’re looking at deploying more of your infrastructure to the cloud and are curious about monitoring solutions this webinar is for you.

 
 

Free memory on Linux: free -m vs /proc/meminfo

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How much memory is really available on your Linux box? Don't use /proc/meminfo to find out, use free -m instead. You may have more memory available than you thought.

Here's an example. /proc/meminfo says about 330MB is free:

    ~ $cat /proc/meminfo 
    MemFree:        340996 kB
    ..

free -m gives the following:

    ~ $free -m
                             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
    Mem:          1024        691        332          0         86        288
    -/+ buffers/cache:        316        708
    Swap:         2047         68       1979

You'll see the "buffers" and "cached" columns, which tell you about the amount of memory that the kernel is using for filesystem buffers, etc.

This sort of cached data will be freed by the kernel when an application tries to allocate more than what is "free", which is why the "-/+ buffers/cache" line is really the important line to pay attention to when you're checking out the free memory on a system.

So in this example, 708MB is how much memory is technically available for allocation should an application need it. The "buffers" (86MB) and "cached" (288MB) will be released by the kernal if they are needed.

All credit for this post goes to Eric Lindvall, who also wrote the memory profiler plugin.

 

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Sphinx Monitoring Plugin

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Sam Sinensky wrapped up ‘09 with a Scout plugin for monitoring Sphinx, an open-source SQL full-text search engine. The Sphinx Monitoring Plugin can be found here.

Just provide the paths to your Sphinx log files and Sam’s plugin reports the following data:

  • Queries per-minute
  • Average query time
  • Average time per rebuild
  • Index rebuilds
  • Average results returned

Like with any Scout plugin, you can plot metrics from the Sphinx Monitoring Plugin against other metrics. For example, the chart below shows the relationship between the Sphinx query rate and the server load:

Resources

 
 

SMS Notifications

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12/23 - UPDATE - Scout Agent v5 has exited the BETA phase. If you're already using Scout, upgrade instructions appear when viewing a server at scoutapp.com.

We’ve prepared a BETA release of the Scout Agent that supports SMS notifications and makes creating your own plugins easier. We and a group of beta accounts been running it internally for some time, and now we invite you to try it out.

Get the New Agent

1) Install the Scout agent gem version 5.0.2:

sudo gem install scout

2) Change your crontab entry for Scout so it runs every minute, which is just
* * * * * on Linux. Your current setup is */3, */10, or similar.

Dual-tier SMS Alerts (Ultimate Accounts only)

When things go really wrong it’s important you find out quickly. Using Scout’s triggers, you can now specify a separate threshold for SMS alerts. For example, send an email alert if disk capacity is over 70% and an SMS alert if disk capacity is over 90%). Here’s how:


1) Enter your SMS info in the new "notifications" section of Scout:


2) Edit/create a trigger. You’ll see a new option for the SMS threshold:

When the entered threshold is crossed, you’ll receive an SMS alert. SMS alerts are currently available only on Ultimate accounts.

Easier Plugin Creation and Editing

Because the new Agent pings us every minute, it is much more responsive to changes you make in configurations on Scoutapp.com. Any changes you make will be picked up within 60 seconds by the new Agent, regardless of your plan level.

Explicit Checkin Times

When you upgrade to the new Agent, you'll see the "Server Contact" box on your server homepage, providing visual confirmation of most recent and next checkin times:

Summary

Get your new Agent here:


sudo gem install


We’d love your feedback on the new Agent and functionality. Leave your comment here or send an email with with any comments.

 
 

Production Rails Tuning with Passenger: PassengerMaxProcesses

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Our co-author today is Jesse Newland, CTO of RailsMachine. Jesse keeps RailsMachine customers up and running and troubleshoots their toughest problems. We’re pleased to have him share some of his expertise on Phusion Passenger tuning.

Say your Rails application is running in production and it’s getting good traffic. Performance isn’t as good you would like. You’ve already determined that your database is not the bottleneck. What’s your next move?

There is a good chance that Passenger’s PassengerMaxPoolSize needs to be adjusted. PassengerMaxPoolSize specifies how many instances of your application Passenger will spin up to service incoming requests. If you were running Mongrels back in the day, PassengerMaxPoolSize is equivalent to the number of mongrels you configured for your app. The value of PassengerMaxPoolSize has a major bearing on your application’s performance.

 

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Partnership with Rackspace Cloud Computing

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Powered by Rackspace Cloud Computing

In less than two months, we’ve seen strong adoption of Scout’s simple cloud monitoring functionality. 1 of every 5 hosts monitored by Scout is in the cloud.

With more movement to the cloud, we’re happy to announce a new partnership with Rackspace Cloud Computing. Rackspace has an easy-to-use interface for provisioning servers backed by the fanatical support they are known for. Setting up monitoring on a Rackspace Cloud Server is trivial – install our Ruby gem and add a Cron entry.

If you’ve used Scout, share your experiences on Rackspace’s Cloud Tools page for Scout.

To learn more about Scout & cloud monitoring, checkout our blog post on the functionality, review our FAQ, or watch the short video below.

 
 

Tune triggers from your email inbox

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When you get started with Scout, we try to setup sensible default triggers for events you may need to investigate on your servers.

For example, Scout generates an alert if your disk usage exceeds 85% or CPU Load over the last minute exceeds 3.

However, every server and application is different. For example, a CPU load of 3 is fine on some servers but a problem on others. We’ve made it easier to tune Scout for your setup if Scout is sending too many alerts.

 

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