Big data monitoring in real-time – Q&A with Gary Read, Boundary

Chris Mayer

We chat to big data monitoring startup about their latest real-time release, the Big Data landscape and also the future for DevOps.

This week Boundary, a San Francisco big data monitoring company, announced that their latest SaaS solution is now generally available to all. Boundary think that it’s time to rethink big data monitoring and allow organisations to get handle on the huge amount of data at their disposal, ultimately on a real-time basis. Boundary claim to offer continuous quality of service and a greatly increased operational agility. This release is also significant as it allows DevOps teams to react swiftly to any change in a traffic trend.
We spoke to their new CEO, Nimsoft founder Gary Read to talk about the release, where Boundary are heading and the everchanging landscapes of big data and DevOps.
JAX – So a lot has changed since we interviewed Boundary back in November. Former CEO Ben Black left and you’ve stepped in. What attracted you to Boundary in the first place?
After I left Nimsoft I was looking for a really special opportunity. I wanted to find a company that was operating in a massive market with technology that was game-changing. I didn’t mind how early the company was. In fact, in many ways I prefer to be in on the ground floor.

But the most important characteristic that attracted me to Boundary was the people. I love to work with super-smart, highly motivated individuals that are also grounded and humble. I found an amazing team at Boundary led by the founder and CTO Cliff Moon.

What previous experience do you have in the field?

I’ve been working with monitoring and management tools for over 20 years. First, as a customer and user of them, then in multiple different companies as technical support, sales, marketing, product management, and, most recently, as founder/CEO of Nimsoft. So yes, I have a considerable amount of experience, but Boundary is doing things differently from those other companies – otherwise I wouldn’t be here!

Has there been a lot of upheaval or is the Boundary philosophy still present?

There hasn’t been much upheaval at all, actually – Boundary’s approach to monitoring for big data architectures is what initially attracted me to this opportunity.

There have been a few changes in some of the leadership positions at the company but we’ve remained true to the core philosophy of the company. Change is inevitable at start-ups, in fact it’s the ones that don’t change and adapt that most often die.

For those unaware of this recent start-up, can you explain where Boundary fits in with other cloud start-ups?

There is currently a huge amount of activity around Big Data. Everywhere you look, people are talking about big data, the benefits of big data analytics, the platforms and systems required to provide big data analytics and big data applications and architectures are being rapidly adopted.

But nobody is providing the monitoring and management tools to keep these environments performing at their optimum rates. This is pretty typical: monitoring tools typically lag the applications that need them by several years. Boundary is the first company to be supporting real-time monitoring of Big Data architectures.

Do you feel it’s important to adapt to the rapidly changing environment around you? Is real-time monitoring taking a bigger precedence for enterprises?

Yes. Central to my philosophy for running Boundary is to always be listening to customers and the market and adapting the company. Monitoring is already a multi-billion dollar market and has been very important to corporate enterprises; but with the pace of change of applications today and the complexity increasing, monitoring is becoming critical. 

Tell us more about your vision for Boundary

Our belief is that monitoring is fundamentally an analytics problem. Existing solutions that have tried this approach have often failed because they are limited by the manner and the amount of data that they collect.

All existing solutions are based on a methodology that includes “sampling” for data on regular intervals, generally doing so every 5 minutes or 15 minutes. This limits the effectiveness of these solutions because they are averaging over this interval and, as we all know, 5 minutes is a lifetime for modern web applications.

We believe that Boundary, by solving the fundamental issue around the volume and velocity of the data will lead a complete re-invention of the monitoring market.

One day, all monitoring solutions will be built this way and Boundary will be known as the company that spawned a whole new generation.

Where does this new platform fit in? What exactly new does it offer?

Boundary is providing customers the ability to spot potential issues in their big data application architectures before they affect (their) customers. The level of visibility offered by Boundary has never before been possible and when customers see the Boundary solution they have what we’ve been calling an “HD effect.”

By that, I mean that they see something that they didn’t previously know was possible but have a hard time living without now that they know of its existence. This is similar to the introduction of HDTVs to the market several years ago. It provides an unprecedented level of visibility that allows you to more fully process events.

What technologies have been used to make the platform? Did you discount any whilst testing?

Technologies that we are using for Boundary include Erlang, Scala, Java, Riak among others. We also tried and ultimately discounted others, including Cassandra, HBase, and Esper.

You’ve talked about the importance of big data. Do you feel enough enterprises are truly utilising big data metrics as well as they could?

I think that big data has a large amount of mind share at the moment and will move into mainstream adoption. The issue today seems to be that, while there is a lot of discussion and maybe a lot of “intent,” I think that it is harder than most people think and the skills that are required are in extremely short supply

DevOps seems to be talked about a lot in the industry at the moment. Do you truly believe it is the way forward for development?

Yes. The requirements of the business for increasing the rate of change and delivery of new application functionality will continue to accelerate – efficient and effective delivery of IT has become a competitive advantage.  
The only way for IT to respond effectively to these requirements is to become much more efficient in the way that it operates. Whether it’s called DevOps, NoOps or whatever other term is used, the efficiency and speed between development, QA and operations is the way of the future. It will of course take some companies much longer to adopt than others.

The DevOps movement has gained validation from vendors and analysts alike, and there’s a definite uptick in demand for DevOps-centric jobs. This trend was perhaps best described in a November 2011 Gartner report by Cameron Haight, which was aptly titled DevOps and Monitoring: New Rules for New Environments.
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