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Suggestions For Cheap Metrics Eye Candy Software?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the compiz-plus-millions-of-stats-widgets dept.

GUI 201

Banquo writes "I have a friend who has a small datacenter (SQL/Mail/IIS/File Repository ... 5 or 10 servers) and he was saying that his boss wants to see some kind of 'visual display of changing metrics' — Net/server/sql stats with moving lines and graphs and pretty colors. Basically they want something to display on a big LCD panel that will give a tiny bit of 'Wow' factor to customer visits. Back in my datacenter days I saw a million packages to do this stuff, but I was always blessed with an IT budget for metrics/monitoring. Can anyone suggest a free/cheap package that will make pretty moving pictures, moving lines, graphs, etc. from server/net stats? There's no worry about actually using this for real data tracking or metrics purposes. He has a pretty robust log/alert/metrics setup, but command line is a little too dry for marketing purposes. I jokingly suggested he just use a looped flash animation but he actually does want stats that are coming from and reflect his environment. Anyone know of any cheap or free data center stats/metrics 'Eye Candy' software out there?" Better yet, can you think of any particularly interesting ways to display that sort of information?

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201 comments

rrdtool. (5, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#25904941)

and maybe one of the projects that use it [oetiker.ch] .

Re:rrdtool. (-1, Redundant)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905155)

MOD PARENT UP. yes. rrdtool is exactly what you need. There are tons of plugins for it too.

Re:rrdtool. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905273)

as you can see from this graph [oetiker.ch] our Santa projections for next quarter are very promising.

Re:rrdtool. (5, Interesting)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905895)

I'd actually argue against this.

rrdtool is great to show a graph of disk usage and so forth - for management of servers and for management of managers - but showing it to clients on a tour? Big whoop. Any hick can go make a graph (I personally graph /dev/random a fair bit and give it good titles - or the Fibonacci sequence when I want to get more hardware) so showing it to a bunch of clients (or at least making it the focus) is not such a great idea. Someone further down recommended glTail and I have to agree - it's cute, it's flashy, it feels "Web 2.0" and it gives an accurate on the spot idea of what the server is doing.

Anyone have a link to the google projector where they throw up the current search term on the wall? Completely useless but freaking awesome. That's the sort of thing you want to show clients, not a bunch of graphs about bandwidth usage and CPU speed.

Pandora FMS (5, Informative)

draxbear (735156) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905173)

One option I'm reviewing at the moment is Pandora FMS
http://pandora.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Not bad and there's a pre-built vm you can download to quickly give it a go.
http://www.vmware.com/appliances/directory/1236 [vmware.com]

Re:Pandora FMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905739)

Threading is so abused...

Re:rrdtool. (2, Informative)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905225)

and maybe one of the projects that use it [oetiker.ch] .

mrtg and rrdtool are the grand daddies of the monitoring eye candy set. http://oss.oetiker.ch/ [oetiker.ch] for all the projects he made.

just write something (2, Insightful)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 5 years ago | (#25904949)

could something not be written customised to the data being held there? that way it could be alot easier to make things move and flash, and change colours. (my boss is the same, if it doesnt flash, move and change colours, it doesnt work)

Re:just write something (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905379)

It's rather difficult to coordinate several hundred stats at minute resolution and make things move like a speedometer. RRDTool is fantastic, present it the right data and all is good. When there are many pretty widgets to look at, 5 minute resolution is often better than good enough. RRDTool can be used to display aggregated RRD data as well, so you can have simple go/no_go indicators as well as pretty widgets. A bit of PERL and you can do wonderful things with data fed to RRDTool.

logs jgraph (3, Interesting)

weighn (578357) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905723)

can't believe it hasn't occured to you?! you have the logs, you mentioned the CLI is dull looking. Set up a cron job to generate graphs using jgraph. Use a html page with a timed refresh coded in ...

Screensaver (5, Funny)

agendi (684385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25904981)

We use the Matrix screen saver. Senior management were very impressed at how hard our datacenter was working.

Re:Screensaver (5, Funny)

Gemdog (1418099) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905541)

Or were they looking at the girl in the red dress?

Re:Screensaver (3, Funny)

Sentry21 (8183) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905981)

I don't even see the code anymore, all I see is bomb, BSOD, kernel panic...

GL Tail (5, Informative)

vidiot4 (826262) | more than 5 years ago | (#25904983)

GL Tail: http://www.fudgie.org/ [fudgie.org] Discussed here: http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07 [slashdot.org] /10/07/1232245

Re:GL Tail (0, Offtopic)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905023)

Mod parent up. That looks like just the thing.

Re:GL Tail (2, Informative)

solafide (845228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905043)

Seconded. Don't know if this is the same project, but Sandia Labs' Center for Cyber Defense has something like this; watching it run on their network is quite cool.

Re:GL Tail (1)

nawcom (941663) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905187)

GLTrail ftw. If you want, you can schedule an appointment and have the servers get extreme amounts of requests. I would say post the link to the IIS, but it looks like there is more to show off than just that in this datacenter. Oh well, GLTrail is what you want to show off the power of the datacenter in a graphical way. Eyecandy? Well I guess it is eyecandy, since there isn't much to visually show off with a server other than numbers.

Look at Munin (5, Interesting)

jaa101 (627731) | more than 5 years ago | (#25904993)

Munin [sourceforge.net] is a very useful monitoring tool that can be configured to warn of server issues (full-ish file systems, high load averages, etc.) You can also easily configure a web view that auto-updates at intervals with pretty graphs. You can monitor whatever you want via trivial shell script plugins.

Re:Look at Munin (1)

kbahey (102895) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906217)

Here is a second vote for Munin.

It is really useful for historical info on almost anything, CPU, memory, network, mail, MySQL, Apache, swapping, you name it.

I've only used it on Linux systems, so don't know much about its Windows features.

Its default page may not be useful as is for a WOW display. But you may be able to write an HTML page with a meta refresh to pull a few interesting graphs and display them in a custom page.

A dozen xterms... (4, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25904997)

...each running 'tail -f' on a log file.

Re:A dozen xterms... (2, Interesting)

klokop (614549) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905431)

.. or one term running multitail [vanheusden.com] .

Windows 2008 (2, Informative)

Matheus (586080) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905011)

Since you mention IIS I presume this is a windows environment. One of the things M$ actually did right with 2008/Vista is their new monitoring suite. It won't neccessarily report on everything you're asking BUT it has plenty of important looking displays to fill the boss' eye-candy needs.

Accessed most easily through the old-style task manager --> Performance Tab --> "Resource Monitor" button.

Of course if you're not up to 2008 on your servers (like most of the world) this is useless advice :)

Nisca (4, Interesting)

dusanv (256645) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905013)

I found Nisca [sourceforge.net] better and easier to extend than rrdtool. I liked the fact it has full history so you can zoom in on the stats at any point in the past. But it is a difficult to set up for the first time and seems half-abandoned now.

Re:Nisca (1)

gullevek (174152) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905983)

yeah, but the nice thing about rrd, the database will NEVER get bigger than what you have defined. And for Most stats I really don't need the minute values from 6 months ago ...

Ain't it nice that .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25906431)

.. it's a page for the "eye candy" graphing tool and the only screenshot they have is that of an installer .. wait .. wait for it .. wait .. IN A TEXT MODE !

Lies (4, Insightful)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905021)

Yep.. lies, just like those big ol' blinkenlights computers in Jurassic park, they just built a routine that looked good. Marketing is lies, get over it... just tweak how false you want to be. You are selling a dream of what you could be - deal with it.
--
Lost your job? Keep one eye open on craigslist, even just for gigs http://www.bigattichouse.com/oneeyeopen.html [bigattichouse.com]

Re:Lies (1)

Sanat (702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905323)

Reminds me of the movie Office Space when the chick only had 15 pieces of bling but the real go getter guy had 37 or something like that... and so the boss was on her about it. It doesn't really make a difference but it does look like something is happening and that someone cares... whether they do or not is pretty much immaterial.

Don't know why you were modded down. Probably a marketing guy got mod points by mistake.

Re:Lies (5, Insightful)

beav007 (746004) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905585)

That's "flair". Geek card please!

Re:Lies (1)

Sanat (702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906083)

God, you are right. How could I mess that up... sigh

I stand corrected

user #90765 with the Linux Counter... # Interpreted as mar 1997

Re:Lies (4, Insightful)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906547)

Asking the three-digit Slashdotter for his geek card just doesn't seem right!

Movie clip (1, Offtopic)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905045)

Take *.computermovie and play back the computer closeups on a loop.

Not free but pretty cheap (3, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905051)

If your friends time is worth anything then I highly suggest using WhatsUp Gold [whatsupgold.com] from Ipswitch. Dead simple to setup yet very customizable. Tons of canned reports and graphs. We use Firefox Showcase and ReloadEvery addons to display a 3x3 matrix of graphs to monitor overall system health.

cacti (4, Interesting)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905061)

I just grabbed a Cacti virtual appliance from rPath. No installation required really - just load it into VMWare (you can also get isos) and configure it. No chasing down prereqs or dependencies. I'm not affiliated, just impressed with the ease.

http://www.rpath.com/rbuilder/ [rpath.com]

Re:cacti (1)

steveg (55825) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905149)

Cacti is fairly easy to install on either a Linux or a Windows server. It seems to be very configurable -- I'm still figuring out how to do some things.

The Cacti community has a bunch of scripts and templates that can be imported into your setup. The templates seem to be version specific, so if someone created it in a version other than what you're using, you may not be able to use it.

Other than that it seems pretty easy to set up.

Re:cacti (3, Informative)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905371)

I started playing with Cacti recently too. I do use it for data gathering, but it also has the "oooh pretty" factor for when people stop by.

Not quite, but just as funny: (2, Funny)

drijen (919269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905065)

How about that software that plays music, and is attuned to the load of each server?

Or how about using driftnet, pipe the output to a monitor in the lunchroom, complete with login name, so that everyone sees who is looking at amazon.com/porno?

Yeah I know it's not precisely what you asked for, but you can't say you didn't have the same thought.

(driftnet: http://ex-parrot.com/~chris/driftnet/ [ex-parrot.com] )

Re:Not quite, but just as funny: (2, Funny)

Wiseazz (267052) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905861)

How about that software that plays music, and is attuned to the load of each server?

You could tie it in with the lighting and environmental controls - if someone walks in on you and the lights are dim, it's hot as hell, and there's dramatic music in the background they know to leave you alone. Perhaps some torture-chamber sound effects could be included.

Windows Sidebar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905077)

With a bunch of widgets!

Just make a movie (0, Offtopic)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905117)

If it doesn't have to actually display anything real, fake it.
No one outside the company will know.

Logstalgia (2, Interesting)

rocketpants (1095431) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905135)

Logstalgia (http://code.google.com/p/logstalgia/) does a great job for Apache servers, but unfortunately there seems to be no support for IIS formatted log files as yet.

Ganglia (2, Informative)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905143)

We use Ganglia (http://ganglia.info) at work.

If you prefer command line, try nmon. Originally for AIX, but there's a Linux port. Works well. On a large green-on-black terminal it looks pretty cool :D

Re:Ganglia (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906139)

Sounds like Japanese tentacle porn.

Re:Ganglia (3, Funny)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906539)

I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Quartz Composer (5, Interesting)

Ilyakub (1200029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905169)

If the LCD panel is connected to a Mac, you may want to try using Quartz Composer.

It's a flow-based programming language included in the developer tools package. You can use it to make just about any kind of animation (music visualizations, image filters, screensavers, etc.), and hook it up to live data.

I've set it up for my office, but didn't have time to write a very complex program yet, just a flashy 3D RSS feed of Twitter posts mentioning our product.

Spotlight on Windows (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905191)

Jesus, did any of you even RTFS? I'd hate to see software requirements from any of you fools.

  He asked for moving pictures and lines:
Quest's Spotlight on Windows.

Screenshot at http://www.quest.com/images/popup.asp?path=/spotlight_on_windows/img/screenshots/5.png&width=1280&height=993

Re:Spotlight on Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905495)

I installed a trial for Spotlight on Exchange once long ago.

If you want spinning widgets, moving lines, and something that looks like it belongs in Hollywood this is about as close as you are going to get.

It's definitely clunky and expensive, but I think it would work for the purpose intended.

Last time I checked there were still free demos available. If you get the demo up and running in front of your boss, that may be all you need to justify the price.

MRTG (2, Informative)

Spasemunki (63473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905231)

MRTG can graph pretty much anything. It's primarily used for bandwidth (I think- given the name), but a former company used it to graph pretty much everything about all its servers: CPU load, motherboard temperature, bandwidth, disk capacity, web server hits, mail system access. It's written in perl and pretty easy to customize, from what I understand; essentially, anything that can dump two numbers into a file can be used to produce a graph, and the look and feel of the graph can be changed in the config.

etherape (1)

johno.ie (102073) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905269)

http://etherape.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

I dunno if that project is still maintained though.

I got bored with fancy data visualisations a few years ago.

Read Edward Tufte first (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905341)

Get his books, and if you friend's boss will swing for his one-day course, all the better.

http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/index [edwardtufte.com]

you don't say.. (1)

sohp (22984) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905349)

Famous last words:

There's no worry about actually using this for real data tracking or metrics purposes

I agree with the other comments saying to just fake it with pretty gadgets. It's already a fake from conception, no point spending any effort beyond satisfying the requirement that it impress potential customers.

Re:you don't say.. (3, Insightful)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905407)

It seems like intentionally lying to your customers like that isn't a good idea. Eventually someone who knows what the fake graphs are showing is going to ask a question and you'll have to admit that it's all a lie to impress people.

Re:you don't say.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25906453)

Then you'll tell them that the servers are fake too. The real ones are in a secure, locked room somewhere, where no strangers, spies etc are able to trip over cables and do other mischief.

Your boss is a moron if he shows your hardware to strangers.

Re:you don't say.. (2, Informative)

Beezlebub33 (1220368) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905421)

If you want something cool with multidimensional data, do something with GGobi [http://www.ggobi.org/]

good summary here: (5, Interesting)

hunky-d (851885) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905359)

killer monitoring apps [infoworld.com]

Re:good summary here: (3, Interesting)

hunky-d (851885) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905393)

killer monitoring apps [infoworld.com]

From the article (there's quite a bit more): "Using the PHP Network Weathermap plug-in for Cacti, you can easily create live network maps showing link utilization between network devices, complete with graphs that appear when you hover over a depiction of a network link. In many places where I've implemented Cacti, these maps wind up running 24x7 on 42-inch LCD monitors mounted high on the wall, providing the whole IT staff with at-a-glance updates on network utilization and link status."

Short list (5, Informative)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905363)

Cacti [cacti.net] .
Ntop [ntop.org] .
Nagios [nagios.org] .
MRTG [oetiker.ch] .

Severed Head of PHB (2, Funny)

turgid (580780) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905401)

The best sort of visual indication of status to the PHB is the severed head of another PHB on a spike at the entrance to the data centre.

webminstats (3, Informative)

mcbridematt (544099) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905409)

Webminstats [sourceforge.net] is probably the easiest tool I've ever used to monitor a system over the network. Should be fairly easy to add some eye-candy to it.

Nagios+R2D2 (3, Funny)

kermit1221 (75994) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905435)

I know nothing about Nagios. But whatever you do, it should be displayed via R2 Unit [youtube.com]

Saw it bring a network down once... (4, Interesting)

jeko (179919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905471)

It was too funny. Some other chief sales drone insisted they wanted pretty dancing graphs like a stereo equalizer, so the cheap-salary french fry maker/network engineer in charge of it turned on every SNMP query possible at the core, dug up the command to give SNMP queries the highest possible priority, and then set their SNMP monitoring tool to query everything about a dozen times a second.

CPU Utilization, which was already at a heavy 70%, pegged. The whole network shuddered to a screaming halt. Trouble tickets flooded in, customers and everyone else screaming bloody murder...

Naturally, Fate saw to it this issue hit my desk. "Why," I asked, rubbing my temples and already fearing the answer, "did you do this?"

"They wanted it to look cool."

I raised me voice loud enough for the room to hear. "I'm sorry, we had some static, I didn't catch that. Could you repeat that?" Everyone fell silent as I hit the "speaker" and then "mute" buttons on my phone.

"I wanted it to look cool, you know, like 'the Matrix?'"

Everyone got a merrily constipated look on their face. One of my buddies across the room asked "We on mute?"

"Of course."

The room full of CCIEs laughed for a good three minutes. For weeks afterward, "I wanted it to look cool, like the Matrix" was a catch phrase.

wow (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905571)

you're a dick. given that this guy is low salary he probably doesn't have a lot of experience. you could have shown him the error of his ways, instead you publicly embarrass him in front of the whole company. glad I don't work with you.

Re:wow (3, Insightful)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905753)

you're a dick. given that this guy is low salary he probably doesn't have a lot of experience. you could have shown him the error of his ways, instead you publicly embarrass him in front of the whole company. glad I don't work with you.

On the one hand, you're right. Embarrassing the idiot was clearly a dick move.

On the other hand, this is a very useful bit of dickishness. The idiot didn't just make a mistake; he made a mistake with major consequences to a lot of people, and he made a mess that his betters had to clean up.

In my experience, about 98% of the time, there are only two ways we learn. One is through pain. The network breaker, among many flaws, had insufficient caution, but I'm sure the pain of humiliation here taught him some. (That's one of the skills he'll need if he ever wants to be a highly paid admin.) The other way is through observing the pain of others. By making a semi-public example of the yutz, a room-full of network engineers (and I'm sure, a lot of their friends) got a great example of how not to behave. You can bet that at least some minor fuckups were avoided thanks to this.

Sysadmins are often dicks to fools for a reason: it helps a lot in their work. I didn't like hating everybody all the time, so now I'm a recovering sysadmin [faqs.org] . Bitch all you want, but however unforgiving sysadmins are, the machines they run are far less so.

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25906123)

I understand your point however there are ways to accomplish this without being a total ass. (oh, I've been a sysadmin for about 15 years now.)

Re:wow (1)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906583)

If he were a total ass, he wouldn't have done this just to a room-full of techs and muted the mic. He would have left the mic open so the guy could hear everybody laugh at him. And for bonus points, he would have recorded it and let it get forwarded around through the company.

Having the guy repeat himself once is only mildly dickish.

Re:wow (4, Insightful)

beaviz (314065) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906665)

This touched a nerve. I've been sysadmin'ing for a long time now (well, not THAT long. 10 years or so), and I've seen my share of abusive system administrators, it annoyes me every single time.

In my experience, about 98% of the time, there are only two ways we learn. One is through pain. The network breaker, among many flaws, had insufficient caution, but I'm sure the pain of humiliation here taught him some. (That's one of the skills he'll need if he ever wants to be a highly paid admin.) The other way is through observing the pain of others. By making a semi-public example of the yutz, a room-full of network engineers (and I'm sure, a lot of their friends) got a great example of how not to behave. You can bet that at least some minor fuckups were avoided thanks to this.

People don't learn anything useful from pain, they only learn behaviorism - and then they learn that their senior system administrators is some elitist assholes. Okay, the latter is somewhat useful to know.

Sysadmins are often dicks to fools for a reason: it helps a lot in their work. I didn't like hating everybody all the time, so now I'm a recovering sysadmin [faqs.org] . Bitch all you want, but however unforgiving sysadmins are, the machines they run are far less so.

Many system administrators are exactly as unforgiving as the machinery they run - and it don't have to be that way. System administrators must provide (as everybody in IT) vertical support for the entire organization, not the other way around. Many system administrators don't realize this. Instead they only accept one truth. Their own.

Re:wow (1)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906719)

I've seen my share of abusive system administrators, it annoyes me every single time.

Would you say this guy was abusive? If so, how?

People don't learn anything useful from pain,

I disagree.

Long ago, when I was a wee student, I accidentally formatted a drive. A boot drive for a workstation. A drive with a lot of people's files on it. What with one thing and another, it took me 28 hours to put things right again from backups. 28 hours in a row.

I definitely learned both from that pain, and from the entirely deserved ribbing I took from all concerned. I certainly learned caution. That was the very last time I lost other people's data through carelessness.

System administrators must provide (as everybody in IT) vertical support for the entire organization, not the other way around. Many system administrators don't realize this. Instead they only accept one truth. Their own.

I agree, and I agree that some sysadmins are dicks when it's not necessary or deserved. I'm not in favor of that either.

Relax, relax, he was on mute (1)

jeko (179919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906351)

Relax, he was on mute and never named. I'm only recounting the story here -- polished and dramatized a bit -- as a caution to the poster. Not only was there no public humiliation involved for the freshly minted MCSE, I also helped save his job, as well as giving him the Cliff Notes version of a CCNA course. I made sure his boss got a recap that emphasized the error of looking for bouncy little graphs, not the ineptness of forcing a box to respond to a few hundred SNMP queries a second.

As far as the speakerphone, that's SOP. Whenever a network of that magnitude is brought down for a reason that silly, rest assured the whole room is always made aware at the start of the situation. You'd be amazed how unscrupulous people can get when they think they're about to be fired for cause, and having witnesses to conversations like that is policy.

swfchart (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905527)

I couldn't find a piece of software that was pretty enough when I was asked to do a similar thing a couple of years ago. Used swfchart reading from a simple MySQL database of collected information (which was pulled using rrdtool, snmp, SQL, a stack of other collectors).

So the screens show a webpage which embeds the flash portion, which is given an argument of a CGI that returns XML data containing the actual figures. This means the flash can make the data move around when it changes, rather than refreshing the page.

http://www.maani.us/charts/index.php

The Matrix (5, Insightful)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905535)

When I want to look impressive at work I go into "The Matrix",

Top, and watch tail logfile really impress people.

This will make it look like you/your techs are amazing, and doing things that noone can conceive of. Pie charts and graphs make the job look easy, and noone wants to pay for easy.

My 2 cents.

Re:The Matrix (1)

Bottlemaster (449635) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906089)

I've found that doing my job well really impresses people.

But I still use your technique. When you have a screen full of busy terminal emulators, one of them can be running irssi or lynx (viewing Slashdot or an ebook) and it just gets lost in the noise. Always, always make sure you look like you're working.

Re:The Matrix (1)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906389)

Try htop, on top of being even more impressive looking, it has real functionality; it's basically top with ncurses interface. It's the first package I put on every box I use.

BSOD network visualisation (4, Informative)

Plug (14127) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905593)

Friends of mine at Waikato University have produced "BSOD" [wand.net.nz] , a network visualizer which shows packets flowing between your subnet and the Internet. It's great on a big TV.

Re:BSOD network visualisation (1)

laptop006 (37721) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905749)

Second that, it's easily the most awesome tool like that I've seen.

Lo-Tech solution... (1)

xristoph (1169159) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905659)

The looping Flash idea was not entirely bad. Flash can read XML and text files from a server/network drive. Just update the files frequently, and reload in Flash (read-only) just as frequently (every 1 minute or sth). With interpolation and trend continuation, it would even make an always moving chart, though not a too accurate one. But then, it's only for show anyways :D
Of course, Flash is not really free, but afaik it should also be possible to create such charts with browser-based technologies and use AJAX for update of data. Though how complicated this is to implement, I don't know.

Adobe Flex is free. (1)

arete (170676) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906313)

I realize this is probably not an answer to the OP, because this kind of time (learn Actionscript) is a lot more than really free.

However, to answer the parent - to do applications these days Adobe Flex is preferred to Adobe Flash. And while Adobe Flex Builder isn't free (Eclipse based IDE with GUI Dreamweaver mode) the underlying vanilla SDK/compiler IS free (as in beer, at least)

Perfect for this discussion, the singular thing the free version doesn't come with is the advanced Charting package, but it's totally reasonable to draw arbitrary charts however you want (and indeed, with more customization), it's just slightly less automatic.

The Flex IDE also has a 100% student discount.

If you actually want to communicate information.. (2, Informative)

IcyErasor (1176499) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905685)

You are explicitly searching for something cute and flashy to show customers, so this is kind of off-topic.

But if someone ever needs to visualize data so that other people can derive a lot of information in short time, i just can recommend reading Stephen Fews "Information Dashboard Design" [amazon.com] .
He covers the most common mistakes (i.e. using gauges, pie-charts, lots of color, wrong kind of interactivity, etc) and shows some of the worst dashboards from BI-Tools that are actually used in advertising the product. For most of these horrible examples a alternative, better solution is presented.

SCADA/HMI Software (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905697)

Look at some SCADA/HMI apps. Get some for chemical/refinery operations, with tanks, valves, pipes and tubes. Lots of tubes. Enough to make Ted Stevens feel at home.

Nethack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905757)

Just keep your game of Nethack open. That'll probably look exotic enough.

Try this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905777)

A host/service/network monitoring and management system
Nagios is a monitoring and management system for hosts, services and
networks.

Nagios' features include:

  o Monitoring of network services (via TCP port, SMTP, POP3, HTTP, NNTP,
        PING, etc.)
  o Plugin interface to allow for user-developed service checks
  o Contact notifications when problems occur and get resolved (via email,
        pager, or user-defined method)
  o Ability to define event handlers to be run during service or host events
        (for proactive problem resolution)
  o Web output (current status, notifications, problem history, log file, etc.)

Nagios was written in C and is designed to be easy to understand and modify
to fit your own needs.

This package is the new version 3.x series of nagios, which will eventually
replace the 2.x versions.

Nagios is a replacement of the Netsaint project. It accepts and uses the
previous Netsaint modules transparently.

Upstream URL: http://www.nagios.org/

It's OpenSource = Free (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25905815)

About Nagios
Home > About
Get proactive.
Save time, money, and your sanity.
Nagios is the industry standard in enterprise-class monitoring for good reason. It allows you to gain insight into your network and fix problems before customers know they even exist. It's stable, scalable, supported, and extensible. Most importantly, it works.
What does Nagios provide?
Comprehensive Network Monitoring

        * Windows
        * Linux/Unix
        * Routers, Switches, Firewalls
        * Printers
        * Services
        * Applications

Immediate Awareness and Insight

        * Receive immediate notifications of problems via email, pager and cellphone
        * Multi-user notification escalation capabilities
        * See detailed status information through the Nagios web interface

Problem Remediation

        * Acknowledge problems through the web interface
        * Automatically restart failed applications, services and hosts with event handlers

Proactive Planning

        * Schedule downtime for anticipated host, service, and network upgrades
        * Capacity planning capabilites through usage monitoring

Reporting Options

        * SLA availability reports
        * Alert and notification history reports
        * Trending reports through integration with Cacti and RRD-based addons

Multi-Tenant/Multi-User Capabilites

        * Multiple users can access the web interface
        * Each user can have their own unique, restricted view

Integration With Your Existing Applications

        * Trouble ticket systems
        * Wikis

Easily Extendable Architecture

        * Over 200 community addons are available to enhance Nagios

Stable, Reliable, and Respected Platform

        * 10 years in development
        * Scales to monitor 100,000+ nodes
        * Failover protection capabilities
        * Winner of multiple awards
        * Constant media coverage

Huge Community

        * 250,000+ users worldwide
        * Active mailing lists
        * Extensive community website network

Customizable Code

        * Open Source Software
        * Full access to source code
        * Released under the GPL license

Get Started With Nagios Now

        * Download Nagios
                    o Get everything you need to run Nagios
        * Read the Quickstart Guide
                    o Get up and running quickly
        * Join the Community
                    o Get assistance with installation, configuration, best practices

Cacti (1)

tfiedler (732589) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905821)

Get yourself Cacti and install it... if you have no Linux skills, then get the vmware version, download the free vmware server and run it up.

Configure SNMP with a non-trivial read string on everything you want to monitor (you might need to grab a couple of cheap licenses for the SNMP-WMI add-ons if there are things you want to track that cannot be reached via SNMP like Exchange or SQL server metrics) and then add the devices to Cacti. Next generate graphs for each metric. Wait an hour so your graphs have something and then put together a couple of web pages with the URLs to the graphs and set the meta-refresh to 5 minutes.

We monitor almost 18k data points every 5 minutes with Cacti and this is exactly what we do. It works great and the execs can always browse to a web page, even on their iPhones and BBs to show it off. We display it in our area on a couple of large LCDs where all of network admins can see it and over time you will come to understand what looks normal and be able to recognize what isn't.

Couple such a setup with mon and you have some reasonable monitoring and historonics for not a lot of money and it is rock solid reliable.

What I and my work use... (1)

pjr.cc (760528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905823)

I personally use cacti.. which is capable of importing stats on just about anything and converting them into graphs. But supports just about anything that can publish data through snmp also (great for routers and stuff). Has quite a nice interface too (http://www.cacti.net/).

Otherwise, hobbit with rrd (http://hobbitmon.sourceforge.net/) is pretty decent and can track most things. Generally speaking, i've used many MANY commercial products and I've not seen anything that really works as well (and as simply) as hobbit does.

Best of all, both are free.

takes some work and isn't free (1)

houstonmat (1375373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905837)

Crystal Xcelsius has some pretty sweet visualization capability, and the reports can be published to SWF and updated real-time. Embed in PDF, HTML, PPT, etc. You can download a trial version as well as lots of moderately cool templates from the BusinessObjects website.

Use Processing (2, Interesting)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905877)

Try coding it up in Processing [processing.org]

You could visualize events as swarming butterflies! [vimeo.com]

Re:Use Processing (1)

ivar (31153) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906273)

Try coding it up in Processing [processing.org]

You could visualize events as swarming butterflies! [vimeo.com]

I was about to suggest Processing as well, but I found this post at the bottom of the comments and thought I'd add weight to it.
It's unclear what data is already available, but assuming you already have raw data, something like processing would be the biggest bang for the buck in terms of converting input into beautiful imagery. (If you don't have data, most of the other threads will give you relevant tips.) Processing's even got some dead tree books devoted to it now too.

Re:Use Processing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25906379)

Processing books [processing.org] have titles such as OReilly's "Visualizing Data" and "Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists" -- seems like a good fit to me.

Use CSS and meta-refresh (3, Interesting)

thoglette (74419) | more than 5 years ago | (#25905961)

A List Apart has discussed this at length.

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/accessibledatavisualization/ [alistapart.com]

Generating overlapping squiggly lines is a small variation on the spark charts (you're just placing 1px high objects)

Personally I'm using Tiny webserver and a dozen lines of Perl (yes, I'm old) to provide similar functionality.

For display, play with your IE/Opera/Ffox window toolbar settings to get rid of everything bar the screen and job's done.

In my case, the fun part is getting the data out of Wireshark (http://www.wireshark.org/) automatically :-)

Animated graphs = Flex (1)

PTMH (1398769) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906049)

If you want eye catching animation, something based on Flash would seem pretty sensible. If the metrics could be made available in XML, you could load it into a Flex application. There are a lot of graph and chart components available for Flex these days, eg http://demo.quietlyscheming.com/drillDown/app.html [quietlyscheming.com] . Not all of these components are free mind you but at least the FlexSDK is open source now.

The early version (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906205)

Way too many years ago, in 1971, I did something like this for a UNIVAC 1108 mainframe. We had a big CRT hanging from the ceiling of a glass-walled computer room, showing some basic information like current job status, memory utilization bar chart, backlog, and console messages. Every four seconds, the display changed to a new screen.

People would actually come up to the glass wall to watch. For the first time, there was some indication of what the mainframe was doing. The mainframe's console was a teletype, and the operator could make some status inquiries, but at 110 baud, you couldn't get mucn insight into what was going on. (That operating system viewed the operator as a peripheral; most of what appeared on the console consisted of orders for the operator to mount tapes, change paper in printers, and such.)

Today you need more entertainment value. If you want something really cool, you might try outsourcing the job to a Flash developer. Provide some way for Flash to get the needed data, and do all the eye candy in Flash.

Flash Came to my Mind As Well (1)

Layth (1090489) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906323)

There is some open source actionscript called Flex, built by adobe, which provides a ton free data visualization components that are incorporated into the flash player.

A lot of these can probably provide the sort of visualizations you're looking for, and it's only a matter of plugging in the data.

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/3/html/help.html?content=charts_types_11.html#227719 [adobe.com]

This also comes with a lot of tools for xml parsing and binary data transfers between client and server.

Windows? Out of the box + free? (1)

dweinst (218284) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906251)

Perfmon. Looking to go higher end... System Center

Corda (1)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906315)

I have used Corda for this very thing.

http://www.corda.com/?gclid=CMzq_aDFlJcCFQNbxwodfEbudg [corda.com]

The place I used to work used Corda with Coldfusion. It worked really well and gave really good support. You define chart layouts with an XML-based language (there was an IDE for this task.) You then feed it serialized data. The charts look nice, have drilldown capability, and the company provided us with excellent support. The few times we had to call them they were responsive and fixed any bugs we found. I'd recommend them.

Don't do this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25906511)

If you use a freebie software from the net which is *only* for eyecandy your would-be customers will latch on to it very quickly - and they will not be amused.

Bad Idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25906513)

If there's one thing IT people regret, it's giving bosses a graph that they can stare at all day. When they see a giant drop/spike in said graph, guess who they're going to bother. Hence making it that much harder for you to solve the problem.

PoSHboard (1)

DeAgua (707093) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906553)

This can get you there...with a little work, and it's as cheap as it gets. http://www.codeplex.com/Poshboard/ [codeplex.com]

Pretty Dashboards. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906581)

"Better yet, can you think of any particularly interesting ways to display that sort of information? "

There's a word [wordpress.com] for what you're trying to do.

Oh, that thing! (2, Informative)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906605)

About, oh two years ago, there was a slashdot article about someone who had built something PERFECT! It was open source, and I spoke with the gentleman, who's willing to alter it for you if you haven't the time. It was basically something written for linux, I think it was written in perl with its graphics thing.

It basically had two columns, one on either side of the screen, each being a list of somethings. URLs, recent humans, whatever. And every time a web-page was served, it spit out a little round circle, the size was proportional to the time to generate the page, or the amount of data sent, or whatever. And then certain events, like a user login, or a purchase, appeared as text faded in, and then flew upwards.

The system was designed to work with any data source, not just web stats.

I remember little more. There was a little video showing it in action.

Use conky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25906721)

Conky, http://conky.sourceforge.net/
very live and configurable

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