SevOne: Performance Appliance Solution

By Subraya Mallya - June 2009 | Topics - SaaS

In a world where instant gratification is name of the game, companies providing business services are expected to provide exceptional service to meet those needs. While it maybe more of a whim in many a case, in services like financial services, health care, emergency services the time sensitivity of a service truly assumes critical nature.

So how does a company go about dealing with such demands. Technology plays  a big role no doubt. Optimizing the technology infrastructure underpinning these services enables a company in a good position to fulfill the demands.

Performance management, at both the network and application level, has become paramount. It can no longer be relegated to a reactionary activity. Companies are investing in proactive monitoring and addressing potential issues. The service levels in terms of response times and up times are essential parts of all contracts signed between a service provider and service consumer. When you consider the amount of churn that IT infrastructure goes through during a period of time, performance management assumes a more critical nature in any IT program.

As part of our research we had a chance to sit down with Mike Phelan CEO, and Vess Bakalov, CTO of SevOne and discuss their company,  their product – Performance Appliance Solution (PAS) and role their product plays in helping companies provide time-critical services.

SM: Hello Mike, Vess. You might have heard this question before. This is such a crowded space with so many vendors and solutions. So why SevOne?

MP: Yes we hear that question often. I feel that there is too much generalization of the “Performance Management”. If you look at the literature, marketing messages of companies in this space it is easy to assume that there many companies that provide the same solution that we do. I feel that people that ask us this question should really try and get a deeper understanding of the real problems customers are facing. Performance Management is done at various levels using various methods.  Our distributed network management solution is based on a unique peer-to-peer extensible architecture that allows companies to manage their entire network  and diagnose problems significantly faster than competing solutions.

Let me tell you the history of SevOne. The company was founded by two adjunct professors out of University of Delaware who taught at night and worked as network architects for two of the world’s largest financial institutions. The problem they saw was there was gross disparity in what they taught and what was being practiced at companies. There were real business problems caused by lack of acceptable performance. Companies were still using homegrown and legacy tools built at a time the networks were not as complex. As a result the levels of service provided, left a lot to be desired. So they started the company to build a integrated advanced performance management tool to help companies get a real time view of their network and manage their performance proactively.

Just so you know, our company still operates out of the University of Delaware campus.

SM: So how do you offer this service? How do you charge? Are you a software vendor or software+hardware? Are you hosted or customers install and manage your product?

MP: We sell our solution as an appliance. Considering the time-sensitive nature of the problems we are dealing with we think we should be closer to the problem and help alert the right people as soon as needed. While we have a SaaS like offering that customers can license initially on a pay-per-use basis, it is not the traditional user based pricing model. It is still an appliance located on the customer’s premise. The licensing is based on the number of nodes that are managed. But most customers eventually graduate to the full-fledged solution where they either buy 10,000 network elements or 20,000 network elements.

VB: Our solution is built on a customized, optimized version of Linux kernel and a embedded SQL database. We work with people responsible for critical services. We feel that providing a traditional solution of software with prerequisites like database, storage, hardware etc and asking the customers to then deal with assembly, installation, maintenance is merely going to add to their challenges. While addressing the real need that we intend to meet, we also want to make our solution simple and not add additional maintenance overhead. Our customers can start using SevOne within minutes and start monitoring their network.

SM: So how does this fit into the overall IT ecosystem at a customer site? Considering that you have a all encompassing solution of application, hardware, storage in one. Can your appliance be rolled into the corporate backup/recovery process or fail-over process?

VB:Here is how it works. The appliance comes in various configurations in terms of size, capacity, 10K, 20K in terms of number of network elements that need to be monitored. Companies usually have hot standby appliance – replicated real-time from the main appliance.  In case of a failure, the standby will detect the failure and take over. We have a distributed High Availability architecture that customers can deploy our appliance in. In terms of storage, we use a traditional relational database internally to store the metadata and performance data collected. So companies can incorporate standard processes to backup the data in the appliance to their storage of choice.

SM: One of the big concerns of introducing additional monitoring and data collection processes on production instances is the overhead that the tool brings with it. This coupled with any instrumentation, agents that needs to be deployed and the change management processes around it are typical challenges I have seen with monitoring tools. How do you tackle those?

VB: We do not have any agents and we don’t need any instrumentation done for us to start data collection. Vendors that are in the application performance monitoring like Java performance monitoring or database performance profiling need to instrument code . We operate at a higher level the network and infrastructure. We do all our monitoring using the SNMP, IP SLA, NetFlow, NBAR protocols. The overhead that we bring is directly based on how frequently a customer wants to collect data. We have customers collecting data every 15 minutes or 15 seconds depending on the criticality of the element.

SM: What is the one thing that you think customer benefit the most with SevOne compared some of other tools out there?

MP: One of the key things we do differently is we maintain all of the raw data that we collect in its original form. We don’t aggregate them to monthly or yearly averages. This gives customers a tremendous benefit in being able to compare and contrast the performance over two periods of time using charts and graphs. It also gives them the ability to go down deep to a granular level to identify the root cause and quickly resolve the problems. These could be in the DNS response, HTTP response, QOS or a specific business process like order processing.

One example I would like to point out that clearly articulates our value proposition. In the financial services industry our customers deal with transactions valued in the millions of dollars. So when a hedge fund places a multimillion dollar trade a delay of seconds can result in millions of dollars worth losses. So the typical SLAs provided by trading companies include  specific amount of milliseconds to execute a trade. Our customers routinely get requested an audit of the performance data to measure the conformance to SLAs by their customers. The fact that we keep that data helps them in meeting those needs.

Some of our customers also use SevOne portal to allow their customers to view real time and historical performance metrics.  SevOne enables these customers to import any time stamped data into SevOne, including business metrics, and correlate these metrics with any IT performance metric.  In essence, SevOne serves as a real time performance management database, which we believe is rapidly becoming a compliance requirement.

VB: Our customers also use our dynamic baselining capabilities a lot. We are unique in that our baselines can be as granular as five minutes. It allows them to define baselines tied to the SLAs and then measure the actuals against baselines to identify deviations. They can take corrective or proactive actions against potential deviations. Adding to what Mike mentioned about data, we have a inbuilt real time reporting engine that allows customers to report on these, or schedule reports and have them sent to appropriate personnel for timely actions.

Thanks Mike and Vess for your time and for sharing information about SevOne.

Company Profile

Name:
ProductPAS Appliance, a comprehensive network performance monitoring appliance to manage IT networks in real-time. SevOne software, operators can quickly pinpoint emerging problems anywhere on the network and take steps to avoid future problems.
Key CustomersComcast, Cincinnati Bell, DBSi, Aramark more…
Critical Problem Solved
  • Integrated Real Time monitoring of all network elements across the enterprise
  • Access and compare the performance data across time intervals and measure conformance to SLAs
  • Ability to Audit, Report on performance data to enable proactive actions.
Case StudiesComcast, Cincinnati Bell, more…
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