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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How You Can Shorten the Defect Life Cycle

Ah, the software defect. It’s the bane of our collective existence, and it also seems unavoidable. Okay, frankly, it probably is unavoidable, for all intents and purposes. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless to do anything about it. We can chip away at its impact by reducing its severity and by shortening the defect life cycle.

What Is the Defect Life Cycle?

Muting the impact of defects is a self-explanatory endeavor, but what do I mean by “defect life cycle”? Well, first, consider the word “cycle.” This borrows from the lean idea of cycle time, which is fancy Six-Sigma speak for “How long does it take from start to finish?”

Okay, so why not just call it “defect lifetime”? I suppose I could have used that term. But it omits a subtle yet crucial consideration. A defect in our software moves through a series of phases and steps as people work to correct it.

“Lifetime” makes it sound like fate gives birth to the defect, and then it simply exists until it naturally expires. But that’s not at all what happens. Instead, the team collaborates methodically to track down the defect, assess it, address it, and roll out a fix of some kind. So we think about a defect life cycle rather than a defect just living its life quietly out in the country somewhere.

But terminology and philosophy aside, how do you shorten the defect life cycle?

Production defects tend to generate stress and keep people up at night. From the moment a user reports it until the moment someone resolves the problem, tensions run higher. Let’s take a look at how to reduce the length of that tense time.

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Zalando Engineering Team Standardizes on Scalyr for Log Management   

Overview 

Zalando, Europe’s leading online fashion platform, made the transition to the cloud two years ago. As part of the move to AWS, they were looking for a log management tool that was flexible enough to fit their agile engineering culture, powerful enough to scale, and fast enough to allow them to investigate incidents. After evaluating several solutions, they standardized on Scalyr as their log management solution across their entire engineering team.

About Zalando

Zalando is Europe’s leading online fashion platform for women, men and children. They offer their customers a one-stop, convenient shopping experience with an extensive selection of fashion articles including shoes, apparel, and accessories, with free delivery and returns. Their assortment of almost 2,000 international brands ranges from popular global brands, fast fashion, and local brands, and is complemented by their private label products. Their localized offering addresses the distinct preferences of their customers in each of the 15 European markets they serve: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Customer Challenges

Zalando transitioned to the cloud two years ago. They went from a monolith code base to microservices in the cloud, which changed their log management needs. They evaluated Scalyr along with three other solutions.

During their evaluation process, their evaluation criteria required:

  • An agent that can collect all the logs on every service
  • UI where engineers can search logs
  • Search specific applications
  • Ability to see every single log in the UI
  • Ability to scale
  • Would fit with the engineering culture of Radical Agility

After evaluating the four solutions, they narrowed it down to two to let the teams decide. They liked that with Scalyr it was easy to implement the agent and roll it out onto EC2 instances. They were able to define custom parsers for log lines.

The engineering culture at Zalando is built on Radical Agility. In order to empower their teams with autonomy, they need to automate everything around how they provision machines. This includes giving people the tools they need to do everything in a compliant way in their accounts. They found that the custom parsers were particularly important in giving each team flexibility to do things in their own way, which is a key pillar of the success of the engineering team.

Results of Using Scalyr

Scalyr is now deployed across the entire engineering team at Zalando. The main ways the team uses Scalyr are:

  • Respond to incidents and incident mitigation
  • Analysis of what’s happening on the service
  • Metrics for monitoring
  • Proactive investigations

They were able to get Scalyr up and running very fast. Once set up, their teams were enabled with access to their logs. They didn’t need to configure the agent and were able to instantly see their logs.

Given the number of autonomous services Zalando runs, they needed a coherent solution for how to get to the logs.

When asked how Scalyr has helped them, Tim Kröger, Head of Engineering – Visibility and Andreas Pfeiffer, Cloud and Network Architect, responded with it feels like asking how breathing helped you with your life.”

Before Scalyr, when an application crashed, the developer had to go to the log server, grab all the logs and find the host where the app was running. This would take at least 10 minutes. With Scalyr, developers can now deploy an application, get issues on the error, see the logs immediately, log into Scalyr, give the app ID and see all the logs from the deployment. They were able to go from 10 minutes of work to 13 seconds (which includes logging into Scalyr!).

Overall, Scalyr has helped Zalando make the transition to the cloud and mitigated the risk or increasing errors while moving to AWS.