What Makes RockSolid Different?

published: 2015-11-06 09:30

RockSolid SQL is a software and services vendor that delivers powerful database system management software. I am regularly asked by prospective customers as to what makes us different. One of the key areas in which we excel above others is our understanding, focus and experience in working “at scale”.

The whole approach to system management varies significantly when one is managing tens of thousands of things compared to managing tens of things. Every aspect of service delivery changes, from the way in which problems are identified and triaged, to how resolution is undertaken, though to details such as the level of prior knowledge a technical resource may have of a given system. RockSolid stands out because the “scale challenge” has been our focus from day one. It is a core component of our DNA; everything we do we think about what happens if we multiply this by 1000x.

Integral to the RockSolid DNA are three key components:

  • Monitoring & Issue Analytics
  • Automation
  • Service Management

Monitoring & Analytics

There are lots of database monitoring tools on the market and in small environments many of these do an excellent job of collecting data and identifying issues. However, as the size of the environment grows, the ability and overall benefit that many of these tools provide start to erode. RockSolid’s plumbing is what makes it a powerful monitoring tool for large environments. We have the capability to monitor dozens of service indicators, in real-time, for thousands of systems and aggregate that data into the central RockSolid system. The processing power of RockSolid is something we are truly proud of. For example, in a 2000 server environment the central RockSolid data processing functions can process more than 40,000 rows of monitoring data per second! Gathering, centralising & processing - all while causing minimal impact on the monitored hosts and relative network pathways.

When processing this data, RockSolid takes a different approach to many other systems on the market. When you have a small environment with known operational ranges it is relatively easy to configure specific range monitoring thresholds. For example, you might configure a threshold that says CPU utilisation greater than 90% is bad and to raise an alert under this condition, then have this process is repeated for all the other monitored indicators on a given host. But what happens when you have many indicators on thousands of hosts, i.e. potentially tens of thousands of unique indicators? What happens when workloads vary from one extreme to another? What happens when some systems have usage profiles where it is normal for response time to be 10-20 seconds but in others 10-20 milliseconds is considered normal? In many environments this fine grained analysis is disabled as the level of effort required to configure such alerts becomes prohibitive.

As we have always focused on scale, RockSolid takes a different approach to system analysis. Instead of having administrators configure fine grained KPIs, RockSolid goes through a learning phase for environments being managed. For each system RockSolid monitors, it creates a usage profile based on observed behaviour during that learning phase. This learning phase sets the analytics baseline, so when KPIs start to fall outside established typical ranges, this is when issues are raised and flow into the service management components of RockSolid for resolution.

Automation

With many tools used in large environments, raising more alerts is often not beneficial to a service delivery team as this is just creating more “work” which they may not have resources to address. RockSolid recognises this as a serious limitation on improving service management for enterprise clients; we can’t just focus on raising more and more proactive alerts without providing customers a means to reduce the time required to resolve and/or prevent the alerts.

This is where our automation component goes hand in hand with RockSolid’s monitoring and analysis features. RockSolid Automation is comprehensive and highly sophisticated, designed to allow enterprise clients with defined standards and resolution processes to enter them in the RockSolid application and have RockSolid deliver them as part of automated L1 support.

RockSolid Automation

All aspects of provisioning, patching & configuration through operational issue resolution can be undertaken automatically by RockSolid using the standards and processes defined by our customers’ administration teams. By doing this customers have the potential to generate a significant ROI on their RockSolid investment by significantly reducing the resources required to manage enterprise systems. Through automation, time spent on system deployment and configuration can potentially be reduced by over 90% and time spent on resolving common system operational issues can potentially be reduced by over 80%.

Service Management

To tie all this together, we need to ensure that the administrators and users of RockSolid have clear visibility and control over all aspects RockSolid influences within their environment. RockSolid is a tool designed for enterprise environments, meaning it must be consistent with enterprise change procedures and auditing procedures while supporting multiple different teams, networks and organisation entities. Importantly, it also allows multiple sets of standards to be defined, including those for exception management. Finally, we must allow RockSolid to integrate with other key organisational monitoring, service desk, asset management and change management tools.

RockSolid, via our RockSolid connector module, includes native integration support service desks such as ServiceNow and several other tools such as Microsoft TFS or custom integration through public APIs.

Summary

So in answer to the question of what makes RockSolid different, I think the answer can be summarised as “enterprise systems management at scale”. We provide the process driven nature, control and integration that enterprise customers demand at a scale which vastly exceeds the capability of most other operational management products. The result is a highly powerful and effective operational management platform which delivers true and significant ROI regardless of the size of deployment.

Tony Bain
Tony Bain is the founder of the RockSolid product and is one of the Directors of the RockSolid SQL business. Tony has a long history of delivering products and services in the field of database management and was previously responsible for Red Rock Consulting’s SQL Server division.

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