Recently, PCMag’s Paul Ferrill published a great review of Stackify’s .NET Application Performance Management (APM+) tool. We are proud to say we won PCMag’s Editors’ Choice Award in the APM category as well! The article is available to read below, or on the PCMag website. Stackify also made Ferrill’s list of Best Infrastructure Management Services of 2015. If you’re ready to try out Stackify’s .NET Application Performance Management tool with your own servers and data today, simply click here to get started!
“Stackify, which begins at $15 per month, is a solid IT management tool that provides coverage for those burdened with both infrastructure management andapplication performance management (APM) duties. However, while it can serve as an infrastructure manager, I found its deep application insight and exceptional data presentation for APM so impressive that it merits our Editors’ Choice award in the APM category. (However, it did not win our Editors’ Choice award in the infrastructure management category, a distinction we gave instead to MMSoft Pulseway.)
As I mentioned, pricing for Stackify starts as low as $15 per month; this is for basic application and server monitoring for a single server. Another tier offers a more advanced errors and logs management tool, with pricing starting at $20 per month for the first 10GB of logs. Then there’s a more advanced application management tool for $40 per month. Stackify focuses on using logs as a key source of information for the health of a server more than any of the other products tested.
Logs have always been critically important for monitoring and diagnosing application problems. Stackify leverages the logs available on most modern server operating systems, including Windows and Linux, to provide its insight into the inner workings and interactions between applications and the supporting environment. In leveraging this information, Stackify is following the strategy of companies like Splunk, which have built entire platforms on top of log file analysis to better adapt it for real-time operational intelligence.
Stackify’s deep application insight can be seen in Figure 1 which shows in one screen a graphical and tabular overview of theirStackify Sandbox website. The depth of application information provided by Stackify totally outshined the other products in this category, making it our Editors’ Choice for application performance management.demo application. Since many Web-based applications use some type of database to store information, it’s important to have the ability to see actual database transactions such as the list of SQL queries in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. Figure 1 also shows Web requests in both a graphical form and in a tabular list so you can see the actual data behind the graphics. You can see these same graphics on the
Installing a local agent was a breeze using the Stackify installer. It does require access to the Internet, but with the supplied links it only takes a few minutes. The downside here is you must install the agent using the supplied key on every machine you wish to monitor. It’s not a big deal for ten or even twenty machines, but beyond that it could get tedious without some type of automation. Other products in this category such as MMSoft Pulseway and Idera Uptime Infrastructure Monitor don’t require the use of a key making them somewhat easier to install.
Configuring error notifications consists of selecting a specific monitored item and then choosing what conditions will trigger that notification. Stackify uses a notification group that consists of one or more contacts associated with a specific app, server template, or resource monitor. Resource monitors include Azure queues, SQL queries, log queries and a website monitor. Each notification group also has adjustable time limits for sending an email or SMS reminder.
Configuring monitoring for custom apps at this point in time requires adding code to the app to create logs which can, in turn, be monitored by Stackify. Currently Stackify only supports Microsoft .NET-based applications using the NuGet package manager. The time it takes to add a few lines of code to an existing application will be well worth it in terms of the insight you will get into the inner workings of data moving between the different pieces of your system. The key here is to pinpoint bottlenecks and resource issues in order to make the system run better.
The primary operator interface is clean and uncluttered. Figure 2 shows the Monitoring screen for the server named SMSERV2012R2. Stackify makes use of the sparkline graphical element introduced by Edward Tufte to show trends in a small amount of screen real estate. Any server issues show up on the single status line as either a warning, critical issue or outage. Opening the details page for any server lets you quickly identify any alert items, and then one click on the issue of concern brings up a more detailed page to help you diagnose the issue. I liked the way Stackify presented a lot of information in a compact form when compared to either Idera Uptime Infrastructure Monitor or Ipswitch Whatsup Gold.
The basic server information displayed uses a customizable monitor template to display the data of most interest. Monitor templates can be modified to change existing threshold values or establish new ones. Initially, each Windows monitor template watches the disk sub system, network interface and general system health parameters such as CPU and memory usage plus a few more. Each of these default categories have additional information that can be displayed if needed.
By default the Stackify management console does not display any performance counters for a server, but they can easily be added. For Windows servers the list of available performance counters is huge and includes things like Hyper-V, Server Message Block (SMB), and many more. Once you add a new performance counter to the template it will show up on all monitored servers in the primary group. It’s also possible to assign new templates on a group basis or by individual server.
Figure 3 shows the Logs screen from the Stackify sandbox site. This screen shot is a good example of how the power in log analysis really comes into play with applications. The screen shown is highly interactive with multiple clickable elements. To see the information behind an error simply click on the View button next to the right-hand side of the screen. Similarly, the Trace buttons will launch a separate screen to show the steps taken and code behind that particular action. Through the use of byte code inspection Stackify provides deep insight into .NET applications. This includes the ability to see calls to external services and things such as Microsoft SQL database calls that include the query text.
Don’t Forget the Man-Hours
As mentioned earlier, basic monitoring for applications and servers costs $15 per server per month. A more sophisticated errors and logs module will run you $40 per server per month plus $20 for the first 10GB of log file storage. That represents only the software price, however. Because Stackify requires that code be added to custom apps for full functionality, be sure to include the man-hours needed to make that happen to your bottom line estimate before purchasing.
Even with this caveat, however, Stackify provides the most in-depth information of any of the products tested for Windows and Linux servers. The same can be said for applications written using the .NET framework. If you have applications to monitor written in something else such as Java, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Graphical elements in the dashboards are informative, and it’s easy to drill down with a few clicks to determine the nature of a problem.”
- The 7 Ps of High Performance Cloud Apps - December 23, 2015
- App Performance: Measuring Perception vs Reality - December 22, 2015
- How to Monitor Noisy Cloud Neighbors & Your Web Apps Using Stackify’s Retrace for APM - December 4, 2015
- What Microsoft Azure Got Right for Developers - December 1, 2015
- Stackify Gets PCMag’s Editors’ Choice Award for APM (Application Performance Management) - November 16, 2015