SignalFX: Monitoring platform for modern applications

signalfxCTOvision is initiating coverage of the startup firm SignalFX.

SignalFX is a monitoring platform designed for modern enterprise applications. Their capability provides metrics, streaming analytics and analytics around interactions and services. And they do this at enterprise speed and scale. They have proven to be able to process 10s of billions of metrics daily.

From their website:

Metrics and Events at Scale

Send all your metrics and events, at frequencies up to every second and at any scale. SignalFx takes care of the infrastructure and plumbing to process, store, and run analytics against that data in real time for you — so you can focus on interpreting the data and finding application patterns or anomalies as they occur.

SignalFlow™ Streaming and Historical Analytics

Apply custom analytics pipelines to your data as it comes in, choosing from a comprehensive library of functions like sums, percentiles, moving averages, and standard deviations. The output of analytics pipelines is within seconds of the raw data — so you can find, observe, analyze, interact with, and compare data against historical performance in real time.

Multidimensional Metrics & Flexible Metadata

Provide multiple dimensions for any metric to enable easy filtering and aggregation. Append additional metadata on data already in SignalFx to enable more efficient searching. Combine any of this with SignalFlow to get up-to-the-second insights on how your apps and your infrastructure are serving your users.

Meaningful Alerts

Build alerts on better signals, such as fleet-wide behavior in percentiles or service-level error rates, rather than individual systems or static thresholds. Define a rule once without having to change or refresh it as services scale. Compare incoming data against historical patterns and get notifications within seconds of the raw data so you don’t have to wait minutes or hours to catch them.

We were introduced to SignalFX by reading Ben Horowitz's blog.  He provided personal context revealing insights into the spirit of SignalFX co-founder Phil Liu, then shared insights into Ben's view on why neww approaches to systems management are required. They include:

Traditional systems are server centric — Even relatively modern systems management products like New Relic treat servers as sacred resources which must be kept alive, but Facebook loses servers every day and it doesn’t matter. Facebook doesn’t care about servers; they care about services. Knowing when a cluster of services that provides, for example, an identity service is out of capacity is critical, but getting paged in the middle of the night because you lost one server in a cluster of 20 is asinine.

Developers are central to the business — Developers are now playing a much more critical role in the business and need an application intelligence solution the same way marketers need business intelligence. Developers need to answer questions like: Which APIs are being used the most frequently by which customers? Is a sudden spike in latency for my top customers the result of an increase in load or some upstream service using my APIs inefficiently? Which customers are taxing my infrastructure in the most expensive way? How should I think about scaling my systems if my user base were to double?

Monitoring is now an analytics problem — How many milliseconds should a packet take to travel from the database to the application server for the photo app? Don’t feel badly if you can’t answer that because it would be a silly thing to know, yet monitoring systems have wanted people to know such things for years. How about a system that reports the moving average and anomalies such as 3 standard deviation variances from it?

Applications are now a collection of micro-services — These micro services are often managed by separate teams with all sorts of upstream and downstream dependencies. Having a solution that tracks all the relevant metrics across all the services fosters a much more collaborative environment where teams can communicate with one another (versus logs, where only the developer who wrote the app can really understand what's going on).

Time is money — Facebook is now a $10B company. That means that if the site is down for an hour, that’s roughly $11.5M. So, logged data and dashboards that aren’t real-time won’t cut it. Every second counts and a proper system must enable you to see all of the data in real-time.

These five key drivers of change in systems monitoring are clearly factors in today's enterprise environment and will only grow in importance.  This means SignalFX is positioned well to serve in enterprises now and in the future.

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