After a long time baking we’re happy to announce that Gibraltar 3.0 Beta 2 is available for immediate download. While this is still a beta release, we’ve run it through more testing than normal so it’d be ready for you to try out. This is just a quick overview of what’s new in Beta 2; stay tuned for drill in articles on the high points.
What’s it Mean?
Our focus with Gibraltar 3.0 is:
- Scalability: Big sessions, long running sessions, large data sets, lots of sessions… We want to up the limits in every direction.
- Easy Adoption: We want every team member from the project managers down to the junior developers to be able to get into Gibraltar and be comfortable.
- Servers and Data Centers: Where Gibraltar 2.0 was focused on applications shipped out to hundreds or thousands of computers, Gibraltar 3.0 adds features specifically for monitoring just a few servers in your own data center.
When we originally designed Gibraltar we had to pick some target limits for the number of log messages in a session and the number of sessions in a repository. Since our initial target was smart clients deployed to hundreds of systems (this was the customer base that we’d been working with for years that motivated creating the product in the first place) we went back and looked at the size and scale of what had been done in the past. We applied some scale up factors and came up with a target of 500,000 log messages per session and 2000 sessions in a repository.
This turned out to be laughably low.
We now know that people will cheerfully log millions of messages (biggest we’ve seen: 55 million messages in one session that was just 12 hours of data) and will gather tens of thousands of sessions per day. We’ve nibbled around the edges of this problem before - we added paging to the log viewer which let us get from around 1 million to about 2 million messages that still could be displayed.
For 3.0 we’ve made fundamental changes to how data is moved and tracked to make sure we’re ready for large, long-running sessions and lots of them. Still, this is more of a journey than a destination - if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that people will push scale until the infrastructure pushes back. We’re working hard to move those limits well out so you can get the most from Gibraltar.
Making it Easy
We’ve done some usability testing with Gibraltar and the results weren’t what we wanted to hear. The feedback we got was that we’d designed a tool for experts. Not expert developers, but experts in logging and performance monitoring. In one usability session we saw a junior team member be visibly startled by the information overload presented by Analyst. The developer closed it and didn’t want to go in again - too much information to find the detail they needed to work on. Now, we haven’t had a chance to incorporate this research into 3.0 Beta 2 but we have work already underway for the 3.0 release that is squarely aimed at making sure everyone on the team can get value out of Gibraltar. Stay tuned and wait for Beta 3 for a preview of these changes.
Servers and Data Centers
To help out with monitoring your own server applications we’ve added new session categorization features for tracking the environment and promotion level of each session so you can view information by where it was gathered (environment) or the stage in your development process (promotion level). You don’t have to use these at all, but when you want them they’re ready. We’ve enabled long running sessions like windows services to work much better with Gibraltar and added a real time log viewing capability specifically for internal server scenarios so you can see the contents of your web server logs as things are happening, all without affecting your application’s performance.
Internally we’ve made a few big changes:
- The Agent works just off files and directories without an index: We’ve dropped the index database approach Gibraltar 2.0 used to instead rely on scanning directories for their contents. This is much more resilient in the face of manipulating files and directories and eliminates the problem of upgrading the index database schema.
- The file format is now much smaller: We’ve extensively optimized our serialization format based on sampling hundreds of thousands of real-world data files. In many cases, log files will be around 30% the size they would be under Gibraltar 2.0. The benefits are particularly visible on large log files.
- Sessions are no longer merged in the Agent: Previously if a session was recorded into multiple files, these files were merged together in the agent before the data could be sent anywhere. This could take 5x as much memory as the file fragments in question, a real problem for long running applications. Now these individual fragments are handled individually all the way down to Analyst.
- There is a new live streaming protocol: In addition to writing data to a file it can now be sent across the wire via TCP/IP to be viewed in real time.
- Gibraltar Hub can now use SQL Server or VistaDB for its database: For larger customers, or situations where you want to do your own reporting and analysis, you can elect to have the Hub use SQL Server for tracking session data instead of VistaDB, which is included by default.
- Analyst is now 64-bit ready: We reworked the graphing in Analyst so we could make the whole application run in 64-bit, helping with large data sets.
Try it Out Today
You can](https://my.gibraltarsoftware.com/Licenses/Version_History.aspx “Gibraltar Version History”) right from our site. To install it you’ll need to have a valid Gibraltar license that’s up to date with upgrade assurance. If you’ve let your upgrade assurance lapse and want to give 3.0 a try, contact us to discuss your options.
If you aren’t a Gibraltar customer, you can get a trial key and then use that to try out 3.0 as well.
We’re planning on one more round of beta for 3.0 after this so there is still time for your feedback to make a difference. Don’t be shy, tell us where we’ve missed the mark by emailing support or post your comments on the forums.
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