Newvem's Amazon Cloud Heat Map Tool Shows Trouble

Color-coded Utilization Heat Map visualizes AWS workloads that are near their peak capacity and those idling or underutilized.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

March 11, 2013

4 Min Read

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Newvem, the Israeli and San Francisco cloud-monitoring startup, has brought a graphic way of viewing workloads in the Amazon cloud into quick focus. Its recently released Utilization Heat Map service can show use levels of an individual server, a group of servers or aggregated workloads in a color-coded map.

Amazon Web Services' CloudWatch service also shows use levels, particularly if a customer plugs certain data from Amazon's own monitoring system into the CloudWatch dashboard or chooses to chart parts of it. But Newvem has organized the flow of data on a server's operation into a Cloud Capacity Utilization Heat Map that analyzes it and comes up with a projection of what servers, or group of servers, are being heavily, moderately or lightly used.

Unlike Amazon's CloudWatch, which deals with only the most recent 14 days of data, the Newvem heat map can show data from a 30-day period. Newvem's system stores it for historical use, although the Utilization Heat Map is currently able to work with only 30 days of data. In its next release -- before mid-year -- the heat map will be able to perform historical analysis on both the current 30-day period and the one that preceded it.

[ Want to learn more about how Newvem analytics can help find savings on AWS? See Amazon Cloud Costs: Startup Finds Hidden Savings. ]

DevFactory is a large AWS EC2 customer that has just implemented the Utilization Heat Map system after using Newvem cloud monitoring without it for eight months. DevFactory hosts a development environment that it calls "a software assembly line." Customers produce software while working on servers activated on AWS's EC2. Jeff Manley, DevFactory VP of software development, said DevFactory "is running thousands of virtual machines on EC2" at any given time.

DevFactory also uses AWS's CloudWatch and has tried Amazon's recently released Trusted Advisor, but "they didn't really go to the level of detail that we needed ... Before Newvem, we didn't really have a way to do the tracking of groups or individual virtual machines that we wanted," Manley said. By tracking, he meant he wanted to be able to see a 30-day history, with its peaks and valleys.

That would be particularly helpful when assessing the virtual machines created by developers. "You know developers. They go in and over-provision a server -- the more the merrier -- and it ends up being underutilized," Manley noted. Over the past eight months, he estimates DevFactory has saved 20% to 30% of its monthly Amazon bill -- one of its largest business expenses -- by reallocating and consolidating resources among its leased servers to achieve a higher degree of use per server.

"Our CEO put out a message that we're going to have to cut costs," Manley said, and Newvem's AWS monitoring system has helped them do that, he said. Manley said Newvem's Cloud Capacity Utilization Heat Map's visualization of his aggregate cloud usage will be a valuable new tool. DevFactory has only a small amount of experience with the Utilization Heat Map, but Manley is counting on it to help his firm find further savings in the cloud.

Newvem is the one of the first monitoring services to produce a color-coded map of a customer's cloud servers. (See an example of the map on Newvem's website.) In addition to showing an aggregate picture of all workloads and the level of demand they are facing, it is a drill-down map that lets the IT manager examine sets of servers and individual servers within a set. The light blue areas of the map show the servers experiencing the lowest levels of use, while darker blue areas show more heavily used servers. The parts of the map that are black show those servers handling the heaviest workloads.

The map reflects data collected every five seconds from each server, and each hour in a month can generate a separate heat map. By consulting a sequence of times, an IT manager can see the use peaks for each group of servers and can drill into individual servers to get a sense of how close they are to exhausting their capacity.

Manley said he previously consulted volumes of data to find what now stands out visually as he looks at a heat map. He can spot use peaks and valleys for specific time frames. He can look at heat maps of his different instance types. He can spot consistent demand among his on-demand servers and have the option to shift them into reserved instances.

It will take time but he thinks the heat map will eventually help DevFactory cut its Amazon bill by 50%.

"I'm more of a chart person than a spreadsheet person," he said. The way the heat maps "transition from light blue to black is awesome," focusing his attention on the server areas and server details he needs to better manage DevFactory's use of EC2.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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