The Summer of #SmoothScalin

Welcome to the summer of #SmoothScalin.

Hi, I’m Brett, a rising junior in college, I’ve taken surprisingly few classes that really take a deep dive into my majors, Information Systems, and Marketing. With graduation on the horizon, this used to concern me because I felt unprepared to enter the working world as graduation looms on the horizon. However, this summer I was fortunate enough to land a marketing operations internship at Scalyr. I’ve gained experience, confidence, a network, and a few really cool t-shirts.

After being at Scalyr for six weeks, I can confidently say I’ve learned more about marketing and what it’s like to work at a fast-paced startup than I have in two years of undergrad business classes. While I may be an intern, I’ve had a chance to work in depth on many projects ranging from designing and building landing pages to creative brainstorming for projects and engagements. One of the projects I’ve been working on is #SmoothScalin and I’m pleased to share it with you now.

What is #SmoothScalin?

#SmoothScalin is a program benefiting engineers and DevOps teams at startups. Early days for a startup can be like rough waters (believe us, we know!), especially as your team grows and – especially if you’re delivering software -as you start really ramping development. So, to help you meet the challenges that that growth can bring, we want to give you access to Scalyr. We use Scalyr to monitor our own system, which helps a ton because we’re moving super fast (don’t worry, we have a backup to help us avoid recursive errors). But enough about that; let me get to the offer!

In short, we’re offering one free year (from now until October 31, 2019) of Scalyr’s blazing-fast log management platform to startups that have received their A or B series funding within the last year.

Why should you sign up for #SmoothScalin?

Plain and simple: You get a log management platform that will help your entire team aggregate, monitor, manage, and search all of your log files. We promise you will be blown away by our speed, simplicity, and shareability. And when you’re on the front line of software delivery, that means something. Our ability to search 1.5 TBs of logs per second will totally reduce the amount of time you spend troubleshooting and debugging time. What that means to you is the same query that takes you 15 minutes in your traditional log management tool will take you less than one second in Scalyr. Besides being wicked fast, we’re also simple to use. How many hours have you spent futzing around with the query language in those traditional tools (or waiting in line for the PhD guru gatekeeper who knows how to do it – ugh!). Finally, Scalyr is shareable. We don’t mean we have a share button (okay, we do have a share button), but that the whole team can use it. Traditional tools either charge by the user, slow way down, or the company will throttle your usage. We don’t. The whole darn team can pound the crap out of Scalyr and you’ll be fine. We’re architected for this sort of thing.

What does your free year look like?

You’ll receive all the features of the Scalyr platform, along with the ability to add as many users as you want. We will also offer support and setup assistance for those who would like it. Also, you can upload up to 5GB/day of log volume on a 15-day retention. (Note that anything over the 5GB/day amount will be charged at our per GB list price of $40 per month, so it’ll still be a steal for you if you’re lucky (and good!) enough to grow fast and generate a ton of data!)

Pretty straightforward, right?

So what do you need to do?

Start by checking out the details on #SmoothScalin.
Then submit your application and we’ll take it from there.

And if you want to know more about Scalyr, check out the information on our homepage.

Not a startup who’s raised an A or B round, but still dogged by slow, complex, or non-shareable log management? Check us out anyway because we’re still a great deal. Check out our customer love on G2 Crowd, or if you’re more of a starched-shirt type, read why Gartner named us a Cool Vendor.

And may your summer (and the entire year) be #SmoothScalin.

Scalyr Platform: Batch Log Export, Alerting, and UI

In the Scalyr platform, releases over the past month include batch log export to Amazon S3 and alerting and UI improvements.

Batch Log Export to Amazon S3

We will make batch log export available on June 11, allowing you to filter logs and export them to Amazon S3. This lets you archive log data for compliance purposes, store them for future use, or include them in your CRM or ticketing system. Moreover, the exports run in the background in Scalyr. Users receive email notifications when they are completed. You can read more at Batch Export to Amazon S3.

Scalyr Alert Email
Scalyr Alert Email

Alerting Improvements

As part of our effort to improve alerting, we’re making email notifications easier to use. We have grouped alerts into “new,” “ongoing,” and “resolved” sections, making new issues stand out more clearly. Additionally, each alert now provides direct, deep links to the exact spot in Scalyr search or graphs for the alert time range (or the current time).

User Interface Improvements

We have upgraded the UI, including adding expandable dashboard legends so you can make better sense of what you’re seeing.

Scalyr Dashboard Expandable Legend
Scalyr Dashboard Expandable Legend

Going Forward

We are developing Scalyr for the engineering front line with a focus on our three value pillars: fast, simple, and shareable.

We will continue to revamp common workflows to refine the user experience. Right now, we are focusing on alerts. Soon, we will add improved alert management, including bulk actions and better silencing options, plus a more useful alert landing page.

Feedback

Your product (or any) feedback is always welcome. Please reach out to us at support@scalyr.com.

CI/CD Tools: How to Choose Yours Wisely

Continous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD) tools allow teams to merge, build, test, and deploy code branches automatically. Implementing them along with conventions like “commit frequently” forces developers to test their code when it’s combined with other people’s work. Results include shorter development cycles and better visibility of code evolution among different teams.

Once you commit to using CI/CD in your software development cycle, you’re immediately faced with a galore of options: Travis, Jenkins, GitLab, CodeShip, TeamCity, and CircleCI, among others. Their names are catchy, but they hardly describe what the tools do. So here’s a roadmap for choosing the right tool for your needs.

CI/CD Tools: Choosing Wisely

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Scalyr Platform: Kubernetes Monitoring, Performance, and Usability

Our Scalyr platform releases over the past month have focused on Kubernetes monitoring, query performance, and making improvements to usability.

Kubernetes Monitoring
Scalyr Kubernetes Data Visualization

Kubernetes Monitoring

We have added Kubernetes monitoring to our agent. We recommend running it as a DaemonSet on your cluster for efficiency and minimal disruption. Find the new Scalyr agent on Github, and don’t forget to download our Kubernetes monitoring best practices document.

Query Performance Hits New Benchmark – 1.5 TB/second

We have continued to optimize for performance, leading to a new throughput query performance benchmark. Our streamlined database architecture, combined with the brute force technique of applying every core in our cluster to every user query, helped us surpass the 1.5 TB/second benchmark – up from 1 TB/second late last year. Last month, we made a number of improvements, including how we load data from disk, manage concurrent queries, and map data to RAM cache pools.

User and Group APIs

We have added APIs to manage granular user and group permissions. These include adding, listing, editing, revoking access, and providing permissions to users, groups, and users within groups. Learn more in our API documentation.

Billing and Usage Page

We made a number of usability improvements last month, the most notable of which is our revamped billing and usage page, providing at-a-glance information for cost management. Learn more in our Billing and Usage page at the top right dropdown (company@scalyr.com > Billing Plan).

Going Forward

We are developing Scalyr with the DevOps front line in mind, and with a focus on our three value pillars – fast, simple, and shareable. The next several releases will focus on the simple part of that equation and include such improvements as making export to Amazon S3 buckets easy and revamping our alerting capability.

Feedback

Your product (or any) feedback is always welcome. Please reach out to us at support@scalyr.com.

Scalyr Platform Dashboard

Scalyr Platform Update: Dashboards and Performance

We are excited about our Scalyr platform releases over the past month, which largely focused on dashboard improvements and optimizing our performance.

Scalyr Platform Dashboards

You can now take advantage of the following improvements to our dashboards:

  • Simplified dashboard creation and editing
  • More granular time intervals for dashboards walls
  • Improved dashboard look-and-feel, with legends at the bottom for readability

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Surprising Use Cases for Log Visualization

People commonly say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  So I wonder if log visualization is worth a thousand log entries.  The math equivalency might be a little hard to prove, but the idea is worth exploring.

You’re recording all sorts of information in your log files, but are you visualizing that information?

Do you have dashboards and graphs that help you picture production behavior?  Or does the information sit buried within digital mountains of arcane strings?  The proverbial needle in the haystack?  Does anyone who wants to use it need to engage in laborious searches?

If you’re not visualizing your logs, you’re missing out.  But I don’t necessarily want to make the case for visualization today.  Instead, I’d like to offer some ideas for visualization that you perhaps hadn’t considered.  Let’s take a look at some use cases for log visualization that you might not have considered.

Prerequisites for Log Visualization

First things first, though.  Before I can take you through the use cases, you need to have a setup that allows log visualization.  Specifically, you need modern log file management, which includes the following things that concern us:

  • Log aggregation (gathering and storing log files).
  • Meaningful parsing of the data contained in the log files.
  • Powerful search capabilities.
  • Log visualization tools.

Don’t get me wrong.  You could implement all of this stuff yourself.  But then again, you could also implement your own source control and text editor.  Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

If you want to get serious about visualizing log files without burning tons of time, you need tooling and infrastructure in place to help you.  Once you have that, though, let’s take a look at some of the things you might do.

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Creating an Audit Trail for Your Business

No matter what you do, there will be aspects of your job that you absolutely love.  And then you’ll have the things that you tolerate out of necessity.  I’m guessing that, for almost everyone reading, “audit trail” sounds like something that fits squarely into the “tolerate” bucket.

Even if you don’t know what it is, it probably sounds equal parts intimidating and boring.  The closest word association you’ll likely have with “audit” is that it’s what the IRS does to you when it simultaneously takes a fine-toothed comb to your life and demands more money from you.  And looking to avoid angering the IRS is probably not what you dreamed of on career day as a child.

But building and maintaining an audit trail for your business doesn’t have to be onerous.  Far from it.

Magnifying glass looking at a graph

What Is an Audit Trail, Anyway?

I’ve thrown the word around a few times, but let’s get a little more precise to set the stage for a post.  What is an audit trail?

To get a good working definition of “audit trail,” consider the definition of “audit.”

An official examination and verification of accounts and records, especially of financial accounts.

It has official overtones to it, and it involves taking a detailed look at relevant records.  So when you commission an audit, you ask someone to come in, on the record, and take a detailed look at what you’re doing.

Building and maintaining an audit trail for your business doesn't have to be onerous.

An audit trail, then, is what you do to facilitate this activity.  You make sure to dutifully document and capture anything that an auditor might need.  What’s the reasoning for this?  Generally speaking, you do this to demonstrate that you operate with a high degree of transparency and that your activities are all ethical, responsible, and legal.

Take the aforementioned case of the IRS mandating an audit for you.  This will tend to go much better for you if you’ve made sure to create an audit trail: saving receipts, noting business expenses, keeping careful track of all income, etc.

 

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Building a Sustainable Startup

Although Scalyr has been around since 2011, it feels like we are really just getting started.

So many tech startups come roaring out of the gate, pursuing growth at all costs. Sometimes this leads to spectacular success, but much more often it leads to burnout and retrenchment, if not outright failure. Many promising startups have failed due to early over-reach.

At Scalyr, we’re taking a different approach. We spent over three years with a small team, literally above my garage, taking our time to build the right product in the right way. Only after we’d built a differentiated product that our early users loved did we set out to grow the team and the business.

We have been absolutely blown away by the results:

  • Customer devotion: since we signed our first customer in mid-2013, we have not had a customer leave us for another solution. The sheer performance of our log management service has been a pronounced and sustained differentiator.
  • Word of mouth: once adopted, Scalyr tends to spread within an organization. We have had multiple instances of customers beginning at five-figure annual revenue and growing to seven figures.
  • Scalability: through multiple orders of magnitude of growth, we’ve been able to maintain the performance and functionality that makes Scalyr special.

We are building a real business with real customers, and I’m excited to share some of our recent progress.  

 

Origin story

Rewind to 2006. Amazon EC2 and S3 were still under wraps, Facebook was only available to .edu addresses… and Google had just acquired my startup, Writely – soon to be known as Google Docs. Pretty soon, I was leading a project to build a new storage infrastructure for applications such as 

Docs, Sheets, Drive, and Picasa. Google has a strong culture of internal tool development, and we soon found ourselves using 17 different operational visibility tools to maintain a reliable service. Seventeen! Together, they provided a lot of functionality, but juggling that many tools was a bit of a nightmare.

It was clear that there was a lot of room for improvement. Around the industry, it’s more common to see teams using four or five visibility tools, rather than 17. But everyone suffers from too many tools, too little insight, and too much time spent investigating issues. In 2011, after leaving Google, I started Scalyr to create a better solution. Our ultimate goal is to revolutionize operational visibility, making it easy to understand the behavior of modern, complex cloud stacks.

The first step on this journey is our log management service. Logs provide the most detailed view of server and application behavior and are a critical piece of the operational puzzle. But existing log management tools were so clunky and slow that people avoided using them. Most of these tools are built on traditional keyword indexes, a technology originally designed to search books. Rethinking the problem from first principles, we built a profoundly more efficient solution, proving blazing-fast search over terabyte-scale aggregated logs.

The early response was beyond what any of us thought possible. We raised $2M in seed funding in 2015 to jumpstart the business.

 

Building a Sustainable Business

We have a long way to go to fulfill our long-term vision. To accomplish that, we have to build a sustainable business with solid fundamentals. We’ve been thoughtful about our growth to date, building the team in proportion to revenue. In fact, we’ve been hovering around breakeven – some months even profitable – for the past several quarters.

Sustainable growth requires a delicate balance: be aggressive enough to seize opportunities, but conservative enough to maintain company culture and healthy finances. Combining growth with healthy, sustainable practices requires more than simply pacing yourself. It requires efficiency. With VC cash burning a hole in your pocket, it’s tempting to throw money at all your problems; but then you’re quickly looking for your next round, and you’ve fallen off the sustainable path. So we’re always looking for ways to become more efficient.

It helps tremendously that we have a sustainable product differentiation – performance – that’s linked to a fundamental technological advantage.

 

Powering the next stage

With solid revenue, delighted customers, and a clear path forward, we’re limited only by the speed at which we can execute. So I’m excited to share that we have raised a $20M Series A led by Shasta Ventures, with participation from Heroic Ventures, Susa Ventures, and Bloomberg Beta – bringing our total amount raised to $28M. 

 

By the way, we’re hiring 🙂

This is the 6th startup I’ve [co]founded. People sometimes ask which one is my favorite. Writely was certainly the splashiest. Spectre was pretty cool (and was the last time I got to hack assembly language). But I can say without hesitation, Scalyr is the most satisfying, rewarding project I’ve been lucky enough to work on. I truly believe this is going to be one of those companies where people will look back and say “I wish I’d been there when…” – well, right now is “when”.

There couldn’t be a more exciting time to join! We’re hiring across all teams – especially engineering, sales, marketing, and customer success. Take a look at our Careers Page and become part of the journey.

Log File Too Big — What Should I Do?

You have a problem. But you don’t just have an ordinary problem. You have one of the most frustrating kinds of problems in the technical world. In the most basic terms, you’re trying to open a log file that’s too big to open. But “log file too big” doesn’t fully capture the frustration or the problem.

You need something out of your log file, so you go to open it. Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

After some amount of time, your text editor just crashes. Hoping it’s a fluke, you try again, waiting 15 minutes before another crash. So you’re half an hour in and not only have you not solved your actual problem — you haven’t even successfully taken what should be the simplest imaginable step toward solving it.

This combination of a long feedback loop with a non-deterministic outcome is what makes this so maddeningly frustrating. But fear not. Let’s take a look at how you can solve this, starting with the quickest and most superficial route and working toward root cause analysis.Log file too big? It can seem as though the thing is crushing you.

Pick a Different Tool at Your Disposal

If opening this log file is crashing an editor, like, say, Notepad, then your easiest step is to use a different editor. At least that way you can know that fate will reward your waiting with an opened file rather than with a crash.

Your path of least resistance here is to use something you already have installed. So consider the following utilities for each application.

  • For Windows, you can use WordPad. If you have enough memory to cover the size of the file you want to edit, WordPad will load it. So these days, that’s quite likely to apply to files even topping a gig in size.
  • For Mac, use Vim. It should be able to handle as big a file as you have memory, and with good search besides.
  • There are a lot of different flavors of Linux out there, so it’s a little harder to talk about default installations. But if you have it, you can also use Vim here. If not, you can install it easily, and you can use tail -X at the command line, where X is the number of lines you’d like to see.

That should at least get you started. You should be able to see your file without needing to wait for something to maybe or maybe not crash.

Download and Use a Text Editor Meant for This

If you have a little more patience, you should ask yourself whether your current need is a one-time-only situation or if you’ll be viewing and editing a lot of large files. If the latter, you’ll want to get more deliberate about the tools in your toolbox. I might suggest this even if you think this is a one-time need. Familiarizing yourself with a new, powerful text editor can’t hurt anything.

The number of text editors available to you is FAR too large to enumerate here. But Wikipedia has an extensive page on them, including specific information about file size.

If the problem solved by opening your large file isn’t too pressing, you could always engage in some yak-shaving. But you should probably solve that problem first, using a tool at your disposal. Then come back and spend some time evaluating your text editor options. Find one that can open large files and that has other features you like besides. I’d say even try out a few of them.

If large files figure to be part of your life going forward, you should have a plan of attack for them.

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