Announcing Gibraltar Hub for Easy CEIP

Gibraltar Hub is our new server-based product that works with Gibraltar Agent and Gibraltar Analyst to deliver an end-to-end solution for creating a customer experience improvement programs (CEIP) as well as remote debugging for customer support. We have been quietly developing and testing Hub for months and are thrilled with how well it’s working. We’ll be releasing it commercially later this Fall and are now inviting existing Gibraltar customers to participate in our beta testing program.

We’ve created a short video tour (3 min, below) to give you a sense of Gibraltar Hub as well as a podcast (8 min) of a conversation between Kendall and me talking about Gibraltar Hub and the problems it solves. You can read an abridged version of the interview below and we’ll be posting more technical details later this week.

If you like what you see and want to participate in our beta program, please shoot me an email.

More about Gibraltar Hub

What problems does Gibraltar Hub solve?

Gibraltar Hub is designed to address a couple key scenarios:

  • Collecting data from many application instances even past firewalls such as commercial software products.
  • Customer Experience Improvement Programs (CEIP) for proactively gathering feedback on application performance in the field through continuous data collection and analysis.

How does Gibraltar Hub complement Gibraltar Agent and Gibraltar Analyst?

Gibraltar Hub sits between Gibraltar Agent and Gibraltar Analyst making it easier to get data from users to the development team. It’s a web service providing two interfaces: one for Agents to submit logs, the other allowing logs to stream down into Analysts. With Gibraltar Hub you can collect, manage and analyze thousands of logs and provide every member of your development team with a consistent, near real-time view of all that data as well as simple, powerful tools to analyze the data and gain new insights into the areas of your applications most needing improvement.

Is Hub required to use Gibraltar?

No, Hub is totally optional. The existing email and file transfer mechanisms in Agent will continue to be supported. However, we believe Hub will provides the best user experience because both Analyst and Agent have been enhanced to support secure, reliable, background data transfers with Hub. This means the applications can be configured to silently stream logs in the background and the development team sees new data automagically appear like new mail popping into your inbox.

How does Hub help development teams?

Gibraltar Analyst has always made it easy to import and export packages containing logs. But some of our customers with large user communities or development teams with multiple members found it challenging to ensure that everyone had a consistent view of all the relevant data. With Gibraltar Hub each team member can subscribe to a shared feed and have all the data available and continuously updated.

What is a Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) and how does Gibraltar Hub help?

Microsoft coined the term Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) and describe it like this:

CEIP collects information about how our customers use Microsoft programs and about some of the problems they encounter. Microsoft uses this information to improve the products and features customers use most often and to help solve problems. Participation in the program is voluntary, and the end results are software improvements to better meet the needs of our customers.

The three components of Gibraltar correspond directly with the three key challenges for development teams wishing to create their own CEIP:

  • Agent efficiently collects data about how customers use programs and records details on problems they encounter.
  • Hub provides reliable, secure transmission of log data from end-users to each member of the development team. Data is highly compressed and the transfer protocol is firewall-friendly and reliable even when network connectivity is limited and intermittent.
  • Analyst indexes all that data and provides powerful visualization tools that help team members identify broad patterns spanning many logs as well as the ability to drill into each log to point the root cause of a single issue.

Does automatic transmission of logging data raise any privacy concerns?

Yes, dealing responsibly with information privacy is extremely important. At the same time, the considerations vary widely between different applications so we think that it’s important for Gibraltar to provide the flexibility to fit within a broad range of usage scenarios. For example, having a dialog for CEIP opt-in is a recommended best practice for a commercial software product, but for an in-house corporate application that is only used by employees, their employment agreement or computer login screen may already require informed consent to certain information being monitored. With this in mind, the default configuration settings for Gibraltar only transmit data on demand with explicit user consent. And we also make it easy to enable automatic background log transmission when appropriate.

UPDATE: Kendall has written a nice follow-up post on what Gibraltar Hub is, how it works and why we created it.

Want to get started?

Upon release you can either purchase your own private Hub to run on your own server or subscribe to the Gibraltar Hub Service we host. If you’re a registered user of Gibraltar you can try out the Gibraltar Hub Service right now. Just contact us to get your preview account set up. Depending on the final user feedback from this preview we expect the general release to be in the next 4 to 8 weeks.

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