Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, TJ Randall

Related Topics: @DXWorldExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo

@DXWorldExpo: Article

What Is 'Real-Time' Anyway...?

One of my (least) favorite buzzwords in the logging space is “real-time."

I love a good buzzword...cloud, Big Data, analytics... And even more than the buzzwords, I love the liberties people tend to take applying these buzzwords to their new systems and services. Such buzzwords regularly get abused and often get washed into marketing material and product websites in an attempt to hoodwink and woo new unsuspecting customers. One of my (least) favorite buzzwords, that I've noticed popping up more recently in particular in the logging space is "real-time."

So what does real-time mean anyway? Like with all good computer science questions, it really depends on the context.  John Stankovic, in his seminal 1988 article in IEEE Computer entitled ‘Misconceptions of real-time computing' describes a real time system as follows:

"A real-time system is one in which the correctness of the system depends not only on the logical result of computation, but also on the time at which the results are generated."[1]

An example is, what are referred to as, "hard-real-time systems" [2], where computation must meet stringent timing constraints and one must guarantee that those computations must be completed before specified deadlines. Failure to do so can lead to intolerable system degradation and can in some applications lead to catastrophic loss of life or property.

Many safety-critical systems are hard-real-time systems, and include embedded tactical systems for military applications, flight mission control, traffic control, production control, nuclear plant control etc. and in many cases the real-time properties need to be guaranteed and proven - often using techniques such as formal methods [3] for example.

Near real-time is often defined as not having any hard constraints, but implies that there are no significant delay in processing of the event. In many cases this means within a few milliseconds or seconds of the event - again this really depends on the context. From a system monitoring perspective (of non-safety critical applications) near real-time, i.e. within a few seconds, is usually sufficient when it comes to alerting for example. And by non-safety critical, I mean, your site/app might be down, but it will not lead to loss of life. That being said it could be resulting in serious loss of $$$.

In such scenarios if there is something awry with one of system components you want to be notified about this immediately, so that right away you can go about rectifying the issue. A few minutes is usually unacceptable however, as generally this means that users/customers of your system/service are being effected without you knowing anything about this, resulting in damage to your brand and business top line.

This is what really surprises me when I see so many log management solutions that run their alerting as background jobs or saved searches which run periodically every 5, 10 or 15 mins. In my opinion this doesn't really cut it when it comes to alerting and is NOT real- time/near real-time by any standard. Consider this, if there was an emergency at home do you think it would be acceptable to wait 5, 10 or 15 minutes before you picked up the phone and called the emergency services. A few seconds, yes, a few minutes NO!

A further observation by Stankovic in his 1988 article was that another common misconception in relation to real-time systems is that throwing hardware at the problem can solve this issue - however as Stankovic rightly points out, throwing hardware at the problem is not the answer - it's all about the architecture.

That's why we have built a very different architecture to any other logging provider. In short, most log management solutions work as follows:

  • Data is sent to the log management service
  • It is indexed and written to disk
  • You can make use of their (complex) search language to dig into your data
  • If you want to create notifications you need to set up saved searches (using the complex search language) that you can schedule to run every 5, 10 or 15 mins.

At Logentries we have flipped this approach on its head and have built a unique pre-processing layer as part of our system architecture that allows for real-time processing of your data such that the analysis of your log events is done up front and in near real-time. And, when we say real-time, we mean real-time.

It works as follows:

LIVE_TAIL

  • Data is sent to Logentries
  • It passes through our pre-processing layer which analyzes each event for defined patterns(i.e.keywords,regular expressions,defined search expressions) in real-time
  • Notifications can be generated from our pre-processing layer such that you receive them within seconds of the important events occurring (e.g. exceptions, errors, warnings...)

The end result is that you get notified in seconds as opposed to minutes. In a world where time is money, and where buzzwords are only as useful as the architecture behind them, I vote for REAL real-time alerting - as it is an important requirement in any logging service!

[1] J. Stankovic, Misconceptions of real-time computing', IEEE Computer, 1988

[2] Jia Xu and David Lorge Parnas, ‘On Satisfying Timing Constraints in Hard-Real-Time Systems' IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Vol 19, No. 1, Jan 1993

[3] ‘Formal methods for the design of Real Time Systems', Springer, International School on Formal Methods for the Design of Computer, Communication and Software Systems, September 2004

More Stories By Trevor Parsons

Trevor Parsons is Chief Scientist and Co-founder of Logentries. Trevor has over 10 years experience in enterprise software and, in particular, has specialized in developing enterprise monitoring and performance tools for distributed systems. He is also a research fellow at the Performance Engineering Lab Research Group and was formerly a Scientist at the IBM Center for Advanced Studies. Trevor holds a PhD from University College Dublin, Ireland.

CloudEXPO Stories
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to the new world.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of computational needs for many industries. Their solutions provide benefits across many environments, such as datacenter deployment, HPC, workstations, storage networks and standalone server installations. ICC has been in business for over 23 years and their phenomenal range of clients include multinational corporations, universities, and small businesses.
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a member of the Society of Information Management (SIM) Atlanta Chapter. She received a Business and Economics degree with a minor in Computer Science from St. Andrews Presbyterian University (Laurinburg, North Carolina). She resides in metro-Atlanta (Georgia).
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Mike Johnston, an infrastructure engineer at Supergiant.io, discussed how to use Kubernetes to set up a SaaS infrastructure for your business. Mike Johnston is an infrastructure engineer at Supergiant.io with over 12 years of experience designing, deploying, and maintaining server and workstation infrastructure at all scales. He has experience with brick and mortar data centers as well as cloud providers like Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services, and Rackspace. His expertise is in automating deployment, management, and problem resolution in these environments, allowing his teams to run large transactional applications with high availability and the speed the consumer demands.
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.