How Watchdog Server Alerts Could Have Saved the Millennium Falcon; How They Could Save Your Servers

Han and Chewie never knew if their hyperdrive was going to work when they needed to escape the evil clutches of the Galactic Empire. How can you use Watchdog's server monitoring alerts to save your company’s uptime from going down the Sarlacc pit?

Remember how the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive was consistently breaking, all the way from Star Wars Episode IV to VI? Han Solo and Chewbacca could have benefitted by having system alerts — instant alerts about critical hardware and software system components — installed on their “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.” (And yes, at Blue Matador, we do talk about Star Wars like it’s a documentary, not a sci-fi movie.)

Watchdog's server alerts should be a critical part of your overall DevOps monitoring strategy. Or at least they should be. Also called “metric,” “core,” “system,” or “hardware” alerts by others, these crucial notifications let you know if your servers’ CPU usage spirals out of control, disk space is dangerously low, increased latency is clogging the pipes, or when you’ve just “got a bad feeling about this.” They’re a great complement to Lumberjack’s log alerts, which tell you something’s wrong with your servers and applications.

So here’s an honest question: Why don’t monitoring tools include these types of alerts out of the box? We all want to have high uptime on our servers, and these are the most common culprits for failure, so why aren’t metric alerts set up for you automatically? Just think: in 2017, do you really want to be spending time setting up alerts on swap usage? You see, as much as we like system and app logs here at Blue Matador, we haven’t ignored the crucial system metrics that indicate the health of the hardware your servers run on, either.

In a nutshell, monitoring platforms should have one goal: Increase uptime. Unless you’re a hawkish daytrader, you don’t monitor for monitoring’s sake. As a DevOps engineer, you want to be able to detect errors and prevent problems from affecting your server so you can go home at the normal end of your day to your family/friends/Minecraft server and enjoy the rest of your evening. And on the lowest level, Watchdog's server monitoring alerts help you achieve that goal.

Daytrader Monitors

Daytrading and DevOps has a lot more in common than you think. Can you tell which field this headache-inducing setup comes from? You can be on top of everything you need to know about your servers’ hardware health with Watchdog's automatic server alerts — 14 monitors not required.

Having used Splunk, Loggly, Datadog, Nagios, and more, we have experience o’ plenty with monitoring tools at Blue Matador. We’ve noticed a thing or two about hardware alerts in the logging and monitoring space: They’re never configured for you out of the box.

Case in point: Splunk, the most expensive and complicated logging solution on the planet, offers these system alerts but doesn’t even bother to set up baseline alerts for your hardware automatically after installing.

Here’s a story that illustrates why this is important. A couple of our engineers are alumni of Lucid Software, a software company that makes cloud-based chart and page layout software à la Google Docs. Lucid relies on Linux servers that generate PDF exports for users wanting to save and share their creations.

One day, customers started complaining about exporting errors. The DevOps team (comprised of our humble founders and others) spent copious amounts of time investigating and troubleshooting the issue, all while customers went without export capabilities. Turns out what caused the failed exports was faulty code that wasn’t deleting old PDFs from the servers’ hard drives like it should have been, so the PDF mount point filled up. The logging solution used at the time didn’t report any errors because there was nothing wrong in the logs. Instead, the problems could have been detected by system metrics that monitor server disk usage, but — you guessed it — those hadn’t been set up on that particular mount point.

We know what this kind of frustration feels like, so we are building Watchdog, our AI-powered server monitoring tool, with out-of-the-box hardware alerts included. After installing Watchdog (it only takes 23 seconds on Linux or Windows), metric alerts with finely tuned defaults are automatically configured for you, so you’ll never be surprised by running out of inodes ever again.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the kinds of Watchdog configures for you:

  • CPU usage & system load
  • Memory allocation & usage
  • Disk bandwidth, latency, & usage
  • File systems (inodes)
  • Software interrupts
  • Swap activity & usage
  • Network bandwidth & latency

And because our smart agent is written entirely in lightning-quick golang, it’s extremely efficient on your server and has lower overhead than our closest competitors (<2%), because we don’t subscribe to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

We know that you’ll find out about errors before your customers do, unlike we did with our logging solution at Lucid. Here are some other use cases where Lumberjack’s metric alerts will save your time at work (and your nights at home):

  • Not a backend person, but need some robust alerts? Use a single program and monitor everything on your servers.

  • No time to constantly update alerts & thresholds? We do it automatically for you.

  • Already have basic system alerts, but need something more substantial? Use centralized logging, which aggregates all your logs in one place.

We’re excited to bring Watchdog to market this year so you don’t have to monitor your systems like a hawk, freeing you up to do more about what you love to do in DevOps. Want to be a part of our beta? Request your invite here.

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Blue Matador Staff

Author Bio

Blue Matador is the AI-powered DevOps monitoring platform that solves the "Franken-monitor" effect, enabling organizations to have all their monitoring tools in one place.

What is Blue Matador?

Blue Matador is the AI-powered DevOps monitoring platform that provides real-time, predictive alerts that help your team decrease downtime and increase customer confidence in your brand. Learn more

Our Monitoring Products

Watchdog is the free server monitor that sends you and your team proactive system vitals alerts, proactively notifying you of all the metrics you need to know to prevent downtime. Install for free

Lumberjack is the AI-powered centralized log management tool that proactively warns your DevOps team of impending server and app issues that affect uptime. Try free for 14 days