JLizard’s Logentries: Reducing the Time Taken to Analyse Log Files via the Cloud

JLizard is a Dublin startup that provides cloud-based log management as a service for large enterprise systems. Its product, Logentries, collects, stores, analyses, and visualises the log entries from these large software systems, ensuring that the customer can monitor the functioning of their system, and quickly identify and eradicate any flaws that may be present.

JLizard is a spin-out from UCD, where company founder Trevor Parsons completed his PhD in the area of, “detecting design flaws in large enterprise applications from a performance perspective.”

Having initially considered this space to be one that was overcrowded, Trevor refrained from commercialising his PhD research at the time and took up a research position in conjunction with IBM and UCD building lab management technologies, especially for pre-production test environments.

“The systems, during the test would produce massive amounts of log data, and at the end of the test run management would come and knock on the door of the test team and say “has this test passed or failed?”, and the test team would turn around and say, “give us three days or five days to look at the log data and we’ll tell you.”

“So we developed a technology that would allow them to instantly understand, as soon as the tests were completed, whether the test data was clean or not. And if it wasn’t clean, they could figure out within minutes what type of events had occurred that were problematic, so were there errors in the system, were there warnings in the system, when did they occur and what was the distribution of those events?”

Following on from this project, Trevor and his co-founder Viliam Holub developed JLizard’s Logentries log management service.

“Essentially it’s useful for any company that has a customer-facing critical system, a system that is critical for the business,” explains Trevor.

“Any company with a website that they’re doing high volume transactions on, any company that has internal systems that are running their business, loses a lot of money when that system goes down.

“While we had developed the original technology for test environments, it can be applied, and is very much applicable, for live systems. So that’s what we’re focusing on right now, and really where we’re focusing is on day to day operations of these systems.”

As an illustration of the problem that JLizard aims to fix, Trevor gives a simple example of a large company with a critical IT infrastructure trying to manage log data manually, a daunting prospect.

“Any large organisation, say with over 1,000 employees, is producing terabytes of log data per month. That equates to about 100,000 events per second in your logs, so if someone has to manually open a log file of that size, they can’t because they’re so big. Then they have to gather them, correlate them, and trace through them, so it’s almost impossible to identify trends or particular events in that data unless you’re actually using a log management solution.”

The technology has three main identifiable use cases. The first is the predictive element, whereby through close, and real-time monitoring of a system’s logs, the technology can predict a potential crash before it happens, preventing system downtime, which Trevor describes as, “a huge cost saver for companies.”

“If you’re Amazon.com and you’ve a huge amount of online transactions, as soon as your system goes down, your shopfront is closed, you’re losing money.”

The other main use case is for situations where something does go wrong with the system. If it is not possible to predict and prevent downtime, the next priority is to resolve the problem as soon as it arises. In a large enterprise system, the collation and analysis of all the data across many different software elements presents a significant barrier to a swift diagnosis and resolution of the problem. Logentries will, says Trevor, speed up this process.

“Instead of having to grab log data from different systems across their whole IT infrastructure, they can simply use a real time monitoring solution and actually visualise in real time. So if there is a problem they can go immediately to their log data and they have a much more coherent view of that so they can very quickly diagnose the issue.”

The final area in which Logentries can be used is one that the JLizard team, “didn’t really design it for.”

“A lot of people are using it from a business perspective, where they’re trying to understand what’s happening in their system rather than just trying to just keep their system up. They’re trying to understand how many transactions they did today, or how many failed registrations did this system have today? So they’re using it from an almost business operations perspective to try and understand the types of activity happening in their system as well.”

JLizard is currently resident in NovaUCD’s incubation centre and has previously participated in the National Digital Research Centre’s LaunchPad programme, which Trevor describes as, “really, really useful”.

As JLizard takes Logentries out of private beta, and launches to market, the connections made through NovaUCD have proven invaluable.

“[At NovaUCD] you’re opening yourself up to a community in terms of customers, and even by talking to the different guys in here, you usually find a lot of leads out there, rather than being stuck in an office somewhere where you’re removed from that sort of environment.”

Having trialled the product with a number of large multinationals over the past twelve months, and gotten, “some really good feedback from some really big companies,” JLizard has begun to convert some of these trials into customers. Logentries is now available under a software as a service model, bringing years of research to commercial fruition.

Airpos: Helping Vendors from the Cloud

Martin Neill began his working life as a music journalist for the New Musical Express and The Guardian newspaper. He called time on his journalism career when he found himself becoming more fascinated with websites and the potential of the Internet.

He started his own business in 2003 specializing in ecommerce and online selling. It became clear to him that retailers needed to integrate their website activity with their business processes.

The classic model for point-of-sale (POS) operations is that a hardware manufacturer would make the hardware. Then, there would be a software vendor who would piggyback on the hardware. On top of that, there would be a network of dealers that go out, sell and install the POS apparatus.

Martin realized that there had to be a better way of doing this, so he started AirPOS which began originally as a little side project and mushroomed from there.

Timing, as always, was very important. Cloud computing with its advantages of timely updates, real-time backup and freeing the end user from nearly all of the application maintenance chores, was becoming more prevalent and more accessible as a platform.

From day one AirPOS was built in the Cloud. Martin explains further, “What we set out to do was cut out all the middle points in the point-of-sale industry, although we utilize those if we need to.”

“We are creating a disruptive model: on the hardware that you currently have, in 90% of cases you would be able to install AirPOS directly. That is the software suppliers and the dealer network bypassed.”

“Therefore we can provide a very affordable point-of-sale solution to retailers with all the benefits of it being web-based.”

AirPOS is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland which Martin does not necessarily see as being a handicap, “Software as a service (SaaS) can be done anywhere. So being in Ireland, from that point of view, shouldn’t be an impediment when it comes to raising investment.

“When it comes to building something as quickly as possible and scaling as quickly as possible, then there are places where that might happen quicker, but things are getting better.”

He goes on to say that there are a few differences between how things are done in the US and how they are done in Ireland. “Americans are very accustomed to the risks involved when dealing with small software companies.”

“The people in Ireland aren’t so accustomed. They haven’t seen the big successes. But using Silicon Valley as a model for Irish entrepreneurs, it becomes simply a matter of ironing out the kinks and cultural disconnects.”

To help further iron out these kinks and develop better connections, Martin says, “Coming to the awards ceremony is a wonderful PR opportunity.”

“Every time we come across the people that are part of the ITLG (Irish Technology Leadership Group) and the technology leaders that are associated with it, we get rigorously challenged.”

“We certainly learn a lot from these people, even if we spend only two hours with them. You get a good going over in every aspect of the business.”

“For us, the PR opportunity is wonderful, but the feedback and direction from some of the leaders in Silicon Valley is invaluable.”

Feedhenry: Building Apps in the Cloud

Feedhenry is service that allows developers to build an app from a single source code base; have it processed in the Cloud and receive an output that is configured for use on the relevant major mobile phone operating system of choice – iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 or Nokia Web Runtime.

Applications are built using JavaScript which runs on Feedhenry’s open standards technology platform. Developers can construct their apps online through a browser or they can download a software development kit if they wish to work off their own computers.

Micheál Ó Foghlú is the CTO of Feedhenry and explains further, “It is an entirely hosted environment. The development platform is hosted as well as the server side cloud where the apps are deployed.

“On that website you edit html, javascript and CSS and you press a button and it spits out a binary APK file, for instance, that you can just upload on to your Android phone. Or it spits out a binary file that you can upload to the Apple Apps Store to put on your iPhone via itunes.”

Having a single source code base means that developers and client can work in a single cross-platform development environment and avoid having to write and update their app a multiplicity of times for multiple platforms.

Micheál cites an example of what can happen in the normal development process, “Usually the first thing a client may say is, ‘We want an app.’ Then they say, ‘We can hire these software developers to builds us an app.’ Then they say, ‘Hey guys, we’ll give you 5k, 10k, 20k. Can you build us an iPhone app?’

“The guys build them an app. Then they say, ‘Android have shipped more units in the States than iPhones did in 2010. Maybe we should have an Android app as well.’

“Typically, they go back to the same developers and say, ‘Can you build us an Android app?’ And they say, “No, we’re all Objective C guys. We know how to build iPhone apps. We don’t know how to build Android apps.’

“Then you have to pay another bunch of guys 5k, 10k, 20k to build the Android phone app and so on for Blackberry, Windows 7, Nokia Web Runtime.”

But the story doesn’t end there, “Then you have to update the app. So you have to pay the first guys to update the iPhone app, pay the second guys to update the Android app and so on across the handset operating systems.

“It becomes a nightmare in terms of code bases for what in terms of logical business functionality is a single functionality.”

The server side element which is hosted in the cloud allows easy back end integration into enterprise services. Sophisticated apps can be created using standard web technologies and be integrated into existing business and IT applications without any additional investment.

The three main market segments the Feedhenry team are looking at are enterprise solutions, telecoms operators and independent developers.

Its application delivery platform can deliver the same application interface to both smartphones and social media sites.

The original work on Feedhenry was done by the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) in Waterford, Ireland back in 2008 and now operates as a pay-as-you-go service with six full-time staff.

According to Micheál, “The purpose of TSSG is to try and be excellent at basic research, applied research and commercialization and to have a balance of all three. What Feedhenry represents is one our best attempts at having a real commercialization impact — to have a commercial spin out of the technology.

“It was a strong enough technology at the right time in the market place to make it worth getting investment and spinning out to make a play in the market place.”