Scout Opens to Public

By Derek Bullet_white Comments 3 comments

The floor is waxed, the windows are washed, and the paint is fresh.

Scout, our server monitoring and reporting application, is at your service.

As a web developer, there are few things I value more than a solid block of focused development time. Because Scout has largely removed the lingering question “Is everything working?”, I have more of this time than ever before.

We believe Scout represents a shift in how web resources are monitored, primarily in 3 ways:

1. Monitoring has to be Open-Source

No single organization can keep pace with the speed of technical advancements. We believe the best monitoring practices are abstracted from real-world experience, not from a single organization attempting to cover the monitoring field. It’s our responsibility to make it as easy as possible to build, share, and present data from monitoring scripts built by the community. We all win when web services become more reliable.

2. Monitoring isn’t just for Sys Admins

We’re asking more of people than ever before – you’re now a product manager/front-end developer/AJAX wiz/database administrator/sys admin. The service that collects the most data doesn’t win – it’s the one that makes it understandable and actionable to a variety of people quickly that does.

3. If you’re just looking at the server, you’re missing 1/2 the story

When you’re just looking at data collected from your server, you’re looking at symptoms. You’re forced to take educated guesses, and wrong decisions can be extremely costly and time consuming when determining your resource needs.

It’s far easier to make resource decisions when you can see trends between server data and outside information like web application data (number of users, orders, etc) and analytics data (unique vistors, page views, etc). This data needs to be collected along with internal data to give a real-time view. Before Scout, it was time-consuming to pull all of this data together.

So, go ahead and get started with Scout!


Hands on with Scout at Atlanta Ruby User Group

By Derek Bullet_white Comments 2 comments

Last night, I demoed Scout to a room-full of Rubyists at the Atlanta Ruby User Group Meeting.

I would love to share all the wonderful feedback, but instead, I’ll share some of the excellent questions (and more elaborate answers) that were asked of Scout:

What are the security pitfalls, i.e. can someone simply write a ‘rm -rf’ plugin?

To answer that, let’s look at the architecture of Scout first:

  • You install the tiny Scout client (which is a Ruby gem) on your server.
  • The client connects over https (always) through a 256-bit secure, encrypted connection (the same encryption your bank uses).
  • Scout never logs in to any of your servers.
  • All communication is initiated by the client.
  • The client downloads a pre-loaded plugin plan, consisting only of plugins of your choosing, so it cannot run plugins you didn’t explicitly authorize.
  • The server also uses that same secure encryption for all communication. Individual accounts are protected.
  • Client keys (uniquely generated) can be revoked at any time, disabling the client.

The security measures needed for Scout are the same as for any other software. In fact, in some ways, it’s easier to be more secure – the plugins are relatively few lines of code and easy to review. For a more closed environent, you can create a copy of the plugin code and host it on one of your own servers (a plugin is plain text).

Is Scout open source?

The Scout client is completely open source. The gem is a normal Ruby gem, open for development, and distributed under the MIT and/or Ruby License (whichever you prefer). The Scout Plugins people write are also completely open, in fact, they are surrounded and fostered by a community that encourages branching, fixes, and general open-ness.

The Server, where you aggregate your data, do reporting, and in general, collect information about your account is not open-source. We maintain the server, and keep all your data safe and sound.

When does it launch?

We’re doing the plumbing now – account subscriptions, a new home page, privacy policies, backup procedures, etc. We’ve recognized that lots of people are anxious to get going and we’re working to get it ready for public use as fast as possible.


Graphing Rails Performance With Scout

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Examples Bullet_white Comments Comments

We’re using Scout, our monitoring and reporting application, to graph the performance of our Rails applications and servers.

I’ve uploaded a video that looks at how one of our applications, PlaceShout, impacts the server load and Mongrel memory usage. I also compare PlaceShout’s footprint to another server.

Watch the video: Graphing in Scout (1 min 47 sec)

Past Videos on Scout:

Installing the Scout Client (1 min 39 sec)

Installing the Rails Requests Plugin (1 min 55 sec)

Signup for our launch email list

We’ve started emailing invites to Scout. Signup on our homepage, and we’ll give you access to Scout before the public launch.


How popular are you? Find out with Scout

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Examples Bullet_white Comments Comments

Tracking the results of your blatant self-promotion campaign can be a time-consuming effort. You might be using Google Analytics for web traffic and FeedBurner for blog subscribers. You’re probably checking link referrals. You’re querying the database for usage statistics (user signups, logins, etc.), etc.

Scout is an honest friend that gives it to you straight. Our friendly retriever will track, mash, and graph all of this data in real-time.

For example, below is a graph generated by Scout. It shows the FeedBurner circulation of this blog (in red) vs. unique visits from Google Analytics on our Highgroove homepage (in blue):


It doesn’t look like there’s a huge correlation there. What about unique visitors on PlaceShout (in red) vs. unique visitors on our Highgroove site (in blue)? Data via Google Analytics:


There’s a correlation there. Traffic to PlaceShout appears to drives traffic to Highgroove.

Currently, 3 Scout Plugins exist for grabbing external data:

Seeing this data is extremely useful for answering questions that take quite a bit of work to find out manually (and can’t be updated in real-time):

  • How many of our unique visitors create a shoutout on PlaceShout?
  • As the number of sites linking to us increases, how does this impact traffic on our site?
  • How is traffic impacted when we publish our email newsletter?

The great thing about these reports is they don’t require any updates – Scout continually grabs new data and updates the graph.

Signup for our launch email list

We’re launching Scout this winter – click here to signup for our launch notification. We’ll email that list before the public launch.

Get Immediate Access to Scout

I’d like to create a plugin to report back the number of people linking to a url on, but haven’t had time yet. Want to create this plugin? Shoot me an email at (derek at highgroove dot com) and I’ll give you immediate access.

Past posts on Scout:


Get notified of slow Rails web requests with Scout

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Examples Bullet_white Comments Comments

When something bad happens you want to find out about it as quickly as possible.

You’re probably notified of uncaught exceptions. What about slow web requests, which can be just as annoying to a user?

Find about about slow web requests (and what might be causing them) in near real-time using Scout and the Ruby on Rails Request Monitoring Plugin.

Here’s how it goes down:

1. Install the Scout Client   watch a video (1 min 39 sec)

Picture 8.png

2. Install the Plugin   watch a video (1 min 55 sec)

Picture 11.png

...that’s it – you’re no longer a performance slacker.

3. Scout reports back data

Every 10 minutes, Scout collects information:

Picture 12.png

If you have a slow request, an alert is generated. You can view the offending requests and their request times:

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View Web Requests on a Graph

You can easily graph this data as well with Scout’s built-in graph builder:

Picture 16.png

Compare to other Rails applications

...but that’s not all. You probably have multiple Rails applications. You can compare their performance on a single graph as well:

Picture 17.png

Look for trends against other data

...we’re not done yet though…how about comparing the average request time vs. the size of the mongrel threads through the Process Usage plugin?

Picture 18.png

Since it’s easy to plot different data stats on Scout, you can quickly rule out possible reasons for slow performance. That’s half the battle.

Signup for our launch email list

We’re launching Scout this winter. Signup on our homepage, and we’ll give you access to Scout before the public launch.


See Scout Run - 2 screencasts added

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Examples Bullet_white Comments 192 comments

I’ve added 2 videos to the Scout homepage – they demonstrate 3 things:

  • Installing the Scout client on a remote server is almost too fast
      Watch the video (1 min 39 sec)
  • One-click plugin configuration (I’m installing the Ruby on Rails Request Monitoring Plugin, so if you’re a Rails developer, there’s an added bonus)
      Watch the video (1 min 55 sec)
  • My awkward narration voice (I think my voice actually cracks on one of them…I assure you, I am not 13 years old).

If you’re looking for an easier way to monitor your servers and web apps, check out the videos. There’s a launch notification form on the Scout homepage as well – we’ll email people on this list before publically launching Scout.


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