SpringSource Application Management Suite

SpringSource has made some recent announcements, in an effort to build up its commercial offering on top of the open source Spring framework. There is now a SpringSource Enterprise subscription which gives you access to an “enterprise” edition of the framework, some support and the SpringSource Performance Suite.

The first two components (enterprise edition and support) are common approaches to commercial open source.

The performance suite is a new product, comprised of the Tool Suite (for development), an Advanced Pack for Oracle (for better use of Oracle RAC features) and the Application Management Suite (AMS). Application and middleware management is what I care most about, so AMS is the part of the announcement that caught my attention.

The only publicly-accessible source of meaningful information about AMS that I could find is this blog post by Jennifer Hickey. AMS is built on Hyperic. The monitoring is based on collecting, through instrumentation, entry and exit times for monitored methods. The agents then reports this to a server. Add to this some discovery capabilities and the console can then report observed metrics on the discovered/selected resources.

The blog post ends by saying that “we’d like to make it as powerful and easy to use as possible for both Developers and Operations staff”. At this stage, I think it’s a lot more likely to be used for development than for operations. The instrumentation overhead is supposed to be “very slight” but, as always with monitoring, this warrants more precise data. Also, it is not clear if/how AMS can integrate with other management tools.

In any case, it’s encouraging to see an open source application development framework which doesn’t entirely focus on ease of development but also acknowledges the full lifecycle of an application (and concerns such as monitoring, as addressed here, but also configuration management, governance, business activity management…). That’s the difference between “the best framework to create an application” and “the best framework to create an application that is expected to be used”. Before open source became a business strategy, a defining characteristic was that the developers where also users of the product. Which naturally meant that it was heavily biased towards developers and development tasks.

From an operations perspective, the AMS team should focus its efforts on application modeling, metric collection and management integration rather than the dashboard. A simple specialized console is great for application developers. The ability to discover, model, configure and monitor applications in conjunction with the other elements of the IT system (e.g. underlying infrastructure, end user experience, business processes and other forms of application integration, etc) is what operators really need.

In any case, it will be interesting to test the practical value of “Spring-aware” application management, above and beyond generic Java application management.

Bonus question: the enterprise edition of the Spring framework is “warranted to be virus-free”. Since the enterprise version includes the base framework, to the extent that the enterprise version is virus-free then mustn’t the base logically be “virus-free” as well? And what does “virus-free” mean anyway?

6 Comments

Filed under Application Mgmt, Everything, IT Systems Mgmt, JMX, Mgmt integration, Spring

6 Responses to SpringSource Application Management Suite

  1. [ The blog post ends by saying that “we’d like to make it as powerful and easy to use as possible for both Developers and Operations staff”. At this stage, I think it’s a lot more likely to be used for development than for operations. ]

    I do not think it is designed for developers. I find it hard to believe that a developer would install a whole separate management server and then agent on a machine and then use a browser connected to the server connected to the agent to get a glimpse at some metrics through all the obvious chart junk (garnish colors and low data to ink ratio) in the dashboard. Why would a developer not simply fire up a debugger, profiler, or performance management solution that provides more information relevant to a developer (http://blog.jinspired.com/?p=167).

    AMS is intended to be sold to operations. Whether it is the right solution is another question. A much more interesting question is what are operations going to do with all those separately branded (coloring, graphics, plugins) hyperic dashboards for each new open source solution that picks this open source system availability management solution? Will they pay for each one in turn? Which color wins when their is clash?

    Ideally the AMS team should have focused on merely marking execution points and leaving the measurement and analysis to the application performance management experts but that is not a product you can sell.

  2. William L: basically I am saying “it won’t be very helpful for operators” and you are saying “it won’t be very helpful for developers”. Looks like the AMS team has better prove at least one of us wrong. :-)
    BTW, I agree with your assessment of the (limited) developer value compared to the alternatives. And you seem to agree with my assessment of the (limited) operations value.
    Your question “what are operations going to do with all those separately branded (…) hyperic dashboards” is part of what I mean when I write “it is not clear if/how AMS can integrate with other management tools”. Not just other Hyperic-based dashboard (you’d think that’d be the easy part but I don’t know enough about Hyperic to validate that), but also the other management tools out there. As you say, a proliferation of uncoordinated dashboards is not an operator’s friend.

  3. Hi William,

    Yes I doubt this will have any real value to operations but when you have “no insight” with your standard IT management solution then the view of senior management will be “anything is better than nothing”. I think that is what the SpringSource (commercial) company is counting on as well as appearing to fill out their commercial offering with trinkets.

    I am not saying that there are no alternatives on the market. There are and they are much better and with less overhead and not pinned to one particular technology stack other than the runtime itself. But when you [SpringSource] are in the door via the fanboy base you can paint a different picture to management (“our subscription based solution is the only solution on the market, trust us…..”) of the market place.

    The SpringSource team are obviously trying to milk the cow and being open to integration (and replacement) is not part of that plan.
    http://www.infoq.com/news/2007/12/springsource-support#view_15642

    With regard to the multitude of dashboards I can’t helping feeling that there has not been any real innovation in this area. The open source solutions which claim to be innovative seem to replicate the feature and look of previous generation of tools and the only thing different is when the real cost is incurred. I have been working on a new visual language for dashboards which I think should change things but I will have to wait and see how acceptable this new approach is when we will demo it at JavaOne.

    William

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  5. William Louth,

    Your Spring and SpringSource bashing is getting tedious. Such a coincidence that it has started only since you perceived SpringSource AMS as competition for your JXInsight product, and obviously set a Google alert for SpringSource AMS so that you could be sure not to forget to attack it wherever it was mentioned.

    Quote: “Why would a developer not simply fire up a debugger, profiler, or performance management solution that provides more information relevant to a developer (http://blog.jinspired.com/?p=167).” William, would it not have been more honest to mention that this was a link to your product, and that you’re hardly an unbiased observer?

    If you want to make money by selling monitoring solutions to the Spring community (which it’s evident from that link you hope to do–and nothing wrong with that), I would suggest that attacking the folk who develop Spring and built that community is not smart. Also, paranoia is not classy. I would encourage anyone to read the InfoQ thread you linked to and judge which of us is being reasonable, and which is indulging in rather pathetic insults. “Fanboy base” is a new one–keep inventing them, it makes my day. Btw don’t you think it’s rather sexist? Especially as the lead of AMS happens to be a female developer…

    Rgds
    Rod

  6. Rod,

    “Paranoia is not classy….”

    Thats rich coming from a guy that refers to everything else as “bloatware” “chubby” and that has never encouraged any level competition in his own playground by discounting standardization and then when he decides he needs to milks the cow turns away from open source and standards.

    Why would I be paranoid. I have never come across Hyperic in any customer account or vendor shoot off with regard to performance management and runtime diagnostics. This is not their area though that is not to say they do not think differently.

    “Btw don’t you think it’s rather sexist? Especially as the lead of AMS happens to be a female developer…”

    What has sex that go to do with the quality assessment of a product design and implementation and whether it is fit for purpose? It could be designed and developed by a bunch of monkeys and that would not change my opinion. I really do not get you on this one. What did I miss? Maybe I am fortunate enough to have never had such an obvious geek view on females working in the industry. Do you honestly think Jennifer likes you defending her work by directly referencing her sex? Did you not already break some US employment law by this?

    By the way I did not comment directly on Jennifer’s blog entry because she focused on the product and less on what you refer to as the “bloatware” of other vendors. But when someone like you Rodney twists the truth to suit your own personal “acquire me now because summer is coming” agenda and slangs off “others” which includes my life work then you better be prepared for a reality check.

    William