Librato Hits Sweet Spot: Metrics and Management Without Refactoring

Librato hits the sweet spot for late adopters.  Developers that are not willing to host their systems in the cloud, but need to implement reliable, automatic Scaling should find Librato to be a realistic way forward.  It allows for existing applications to be wrapped in “containers” and “templates” which transform them into monitored processes that produce performance metrics.  Now with the Librato APIs, developers can now fully manage their process configuration set programatically. This company makes a serious offering to the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) space with technology driven on an excellent strategy and backed by 12 million in funding.

My money says that most developers out there don’t know they have a scaling issue until well after the service needs to scale.  Librato is well positioned to serve this need because it comes without baggage.  It can become the tool used to bring systems back in line because it doesn’t demand that the application be refactored to support it.  Spending a few hours to learn Librato’s basics is a great alternative to a system overhaul, especially if you’re under the gun.

Librato is actually offering APIs under two different banners:  Silverline & Metrics.  Silverline provides templates and containers for processes.  These wrappers specify all system components and resources that the process requires to run.  Further, Silverline allows the user to set limits on how many resources a process may consume during execution and tools to ensure resiliency during peak loads. Librato’s Metric’s API empowers the application designer with data to visualize application performance.  Metrics events are submitted to Librato through the API and can then be graphed and compared so that correlations can be seen and understood.

After reading a few knowledge base articles it seems that their technology is simple to install (under 3 minutes) and does not require any further modification at the system or application level.  It works by intercepting system calls and checking them against Resource utilization policies.  Librato is the traffic cop in your system, ensuring that individual processes do not unnecessarily block access to shared resources such as the RAM, Network, CPU, or disk.

I enjoyed discussing these APIs with Nik Wekwerth, VP of Marketing for Librato, while writing this article.  He made a few key points to me that I’d like to share.  The first is that Librato’s Silverline is definitely a unique offering that you won't find included offerings from hardware virtualization companies, yet.  Silverline’s strength in the cloud is that it can optimize server usage by allowing high priority and low priority process to run on the same server without conflicting.  Silverlive can ensure that “harvesting” processes only grab under utilized system resources.  This can result in fewer EC2 instances, for example, which would cut cloud operation costs.  The other main insight that I’d like to share is that the Libratio Metrics API is built to provide a rich data analysis suite, but with interoperability and openess as a key objective.  Librato wants to help you understand your metrics, but they don’t want to lock you in.  On the contrary they want to make it easy for you to integrate your metrics with offerings from other service providers.

Infrastructure as a service is part of a growing trend that delivers more and more capabilities to small development teams.  Recently we looked at a few backend as a service providers, and much earlier we profiled niche companies like ReportGrid and Loggly.  All in all it adds up to a lower barrier to entry when creating a high performance web application.

Be sure to read the next API article: Next Generation Travel Apps Need Locations Based Content