Thoughts on…

Java Middleware & Systems Management

One Step Closer…

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I played a little word association game with my team today. I asked them the following,

With respect to RHQ, when you hear the word ‘configuration’, what is the first word that comes to mind?

Though the answers were varied – resource, edit, product, settings, and properties – they were all perfectly in line with my suspicions. All were either synonyms of configuration, or actions you would take against something that is configurable.

So what’s wrong with that? Well, RHQ is a platform that, in a nutshell, performs systems management AND monitoring. However, these results show that people initially, predominantly, and perhaps only think of ‘management’ when they hear ‘configuration’.

Maybe the question wasn’t fair. I DID ask them to only give me one-word responses. Maybe they would’ve also mentioned monitoring had they had the ability to answer less pointedly.

Or…maybe not. More than half of the responses I got were NOT one-word answers. They were short phrases, or even multiple full sentences explaining why certain words came to mind. Granted, there is a chance the results could be skewed, because the mailing list I asked this question on has only a few dozen people subscribed to it; but it’s enough evidence to show me that the common association is management, not monitoring.

The next version of RHQ will close this gap and bring to the fore monitoring capabilities around configuration. This solution is actually twofold:

1) Detecting agent-side configuration changes

The RHQ agent, since it already knows how to discover the configuration for some managed product on demand, simply has to keep a record of what the last known configuration was. After that, it would need a mechanism to periodically scan for the current configuration, and test whether or not the last known was different than the current. If it was, the RHQ agent would send the results up to the server, which would persist it as the new configuration for that resource and at the same time add an element to the configuration audit trail, so that administrators can see what changed over time.

This development work was committed last week, and the QA for it (RHQ-988) can be tracked in JIRA here.

2) Alerting against changed configurations

This logic is completely server-side, and deals with the ability to set up alert definitions against resources that support configuration. As a consequence of doing this, alert templates will be able to create “monitors” across a large segment of the inventory quickly, thus making it easy to receive notifications when any managed resource in your enterprise has its configuration changed external to the RHQ infrastructure.

This feature has been on the docket for nearly 6 months, but depended on configuration change detection (see above) to be written first. So, once I saw the bits for RHQ-988 in SVN, I wasted no time implementing RHQ-342. That development work was completed this past weekend, and the QA can be tracked here.

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that any plugins that have written configuration support for the resources they define can now be managed AND monitored.

Below is a short list of the various different configurations provided by the base plugins found in the RHQ project:

* APT repository locations
* GRUB kernel entries
* hosts file mapping of IP to canonical names
* SSHD settings, advanced configuration, and X11 properties
* PostgreSQL configuration files as well as runtime properties; database user settings, passwords, and privileges; and table schemas
* RHQ agent configurations

At the time of writing, this author knows of at least one other project that builds extensions to the RHQ platform, and it is called Jopr. Its primary focus is to provide plugins for JBoss Application Server and related services. Simply by dropping the Jopr plugins into your RHQ distribution, you would extend the configuration monitoring capabilities to the following items:

* datasource configuration and advanced settings
* connection factory properties
* JMS queue & topic information

Configuration monitoring just scratches the surface of some of the feature enhancements targeted at the 1.2.0 release of RHQ, but it does bring the platform one step closer to being a complete, end-to-end management and monitoring solution for your enterprise.

If you’re interested in helping to improve the base platform, have ideas for new plugins or extensions to existing plugins, or just want to be closer to the action, please visit the development team in #rhq on irc.freenode.net – my handle is joseph42.

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Written by josephmarques

October 21, 2008 at 5:21 am

Posted in rhq

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