The world's most popular open source database
Christopher Cordray, a ScienceLogic founder and the principal software architect behind the EM7 appliances, has more than fifteen years experience with networking, management systems and technology-related operations. Passionate about improving IT operations and application efficiency, Cordray has architected and developed various commercial and custom solutions for companies including Verizon Global Networks, Interliant, Inc and Edison International.
Q: Tell us about your company.
ScienceLogic was founded in 2003 by technology professionals who were frustrated by the expensive and inefficient IT operations management products. We understood the problem, and we knew what the solution needed to be. That was the genesis of the EM7 appliances.
Q: What products do you develop and what problems do they solve?
We develop a line of EM7 appliances for comprehensive IT operations management – from performance and fault management for systems, networks and applications to service desk tools and asset and configuration management. EM7 appliances provide IT departments with visibility and control across the entire spectrum of IT infrastructure. The results are improved troubleshooting/reduced MTTR, reliable and highly available IT service delivery, and overall proactive instead of reactive IT operations management.
Q: Who are some of the customers that use your products?
Some customers: Legg Mason, BET, XM Radio, Hughes Network Systems, Sourcefire
Q: How are your products deployed by your customers?
EM7 solutions are deployed as an all-in-one management appliance or as a distributed system of multiple appliances for customer-specific capacity, network or security requirements. Many customers also use EM7 appliances for redundant monitoring with automated failover functionality.
Q: Describe the technology architecture of your products?
EM7 appliances are built on the LAMP stack using Python on the backend. The appliance includes an embedded MySQL database which serves as the cornerstone for all of the data processing and storage.
Q: What kind of proprietary software products have you used?
We license over a dozen individual components – some open source, some proprietary – all working within the LAMP stack, but overall we develop the bulk of our product’s software in-house.
Q: When did you start to use Open Source Software?
I began using Open Source back in 1994 with Slackware Linux.
Q: Did you have any concerns about using Open Source Software?
Support was the biggest concern. This is one of the reasons we chose MySQL over PostgreSQ; MySQL is dedicated to supporting the commercial markets.
Another concern that we had centered around future feature development and whether an open-source product could support our own future plans. One way in which we’ve resolved this issue is by sponsoring development of critical (to us) features within open source products like Net-SNMP, for example. Earlier this year, we worked with the chief developer of Net-SNMP to make it available for development in Python and then gave that back to the open source community.
Q: What are the primary reasons you use Open Source Software?
ScienceLogic was founded on the belief that there was a real need in our marketplace for a comprehensive, framework-like solution that didn’t have all the downsides of the traditional frameworks – the biggest downside being cost. Incorporating Open Source components like MySQL in an appliance framework lets us drive down our costs and pass the savings on to our customers.
Frankly most of the open source stuff we use is more stable than their commercial counterparts. Open source, especially Linux is so tried and tested that any fears about stability don’t really exist anymore. When you really think about it, commercial software can’t even come close to the kind of and extent of testing that popular open source software, such as MySQL or Apache, benefits from naturally.
Open source is very very modular – something that is critical in the appliance business because it allows us to get to market more quickly and efficiently. With open source, we’re able to pick and choose between modules and get the best one that allows us to deploy and utilize exactly how we need to do so for our customers.
An example is the Linux tree with its modular package architecture (RPM’s) which provide tremendous flexibility over, say Windows. Our development team has the freedom to select the necessary software packages that are needed, nothing more, nothing less. Each package can be maintained and/or upgraded individually, without being dependant on the vendor’s proprietary “Automatic Update” process. In the appliance business this means better control over what software is being pushed out to our customer’s systems. Today, EM7 is a fusion of hardware, operating system, application software, network stack, drivers, MySQL database, etc. With so many moving parts, development flexibility is key to optimizing what is included and how it all works together.
Popular open source software like MySQL usually has an extensive community of experts and resources to support it. In many cases, these are free experts that are willing to share their knowledge and experience with the rest of the community – certainly much more so than with commercial products.
Q: How did you decide to use MySQL? What other databases did you consider?
We looked at every major database on the market. MySQL was the only product that we felt matched our rigorous performance demands, as well as had a commercial offering and was still cost-effective. The result is passed directly on to our customer – faster systems, at less cost. It was a no-brainer.
Performance management requires our systems to store a lot of metrics for historical and trending reports and has a very high write to read ratio. Most databases can’t keep up with the I/O overhead as well as MySQL can which is a big performance factor.
Q: Are there any metrics you can share about MySQL?
One of our customer-deployed enterprise systems can perform about 200 million queries per day, at a 9:1 write ratio. This totals around 20 GB of constant flow of statistical data analysis per day. Not bad for one MySQL server.
Ongoing maintenance and changes or updates to data schema are far easier to package and deliver with MySQL. We can easily script this by doing comparisons, using great tools around the product (including a whole set of open source ones) that provide on-the-fly delta comparisons between production systems and those in development.
Q: What has been your experience with MySQL?
The fact is that MySQL is a business enabler for ScienceLogic. Without MySQL’s fantastic support model, continual improvement with enterprise-class features like clustering and great performance, it would have been very difficult to achieve the growth and recognition we have today.
Q: How do you plan to leverage Open Source Software for any future products?
As we consider new areas of expansion, we are open to endorsing best-of-breed Open Source tools. Our involvement with open source is a mutually beneficial one. As I described above, we commission specific enhancements to existing open gource projects that what we feel gives both tremendous value back to the community as well as allows us to enhance our offerings. If I can coin a term, this could be Open Source 2.0 – aligning business and open source design. We feel if every commercial entity gave back something, it would help fund independent development around real-world business initiatives to everyone’s benefit.
Q: What is your advice to a CTO/CIO who is considering Open Source Software?
The Open Source foundational technologies, such as LAMP derivatives, should be viewed as a framework from which you can build upon. Chances are many of the applications and systems you already have in your environment already use open source, which is the case for most network appliances today. The momentum behind Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Python and others is so tremendous that they will likely be around long after we’ve retired. The benefits of open source are obvious; the key lies in finding the right open source resources.
Things to look for: