Monitoring the System

By Jeff Cogswell  |  Posted 2008-10-21 Print this article Print

Back in the Dashboard, I clicked on the server name, "Mephisto all-in-one v7," and got the main page for the server. This page included several tabs and scrolling down showed several other aspects of the server, including Amazon EC2 information such as "instance type" and "kernel information."

Typically, server software needs to write to a console log, and programmers and system administrators need access to the log. With the Console Output tab, the current log is displayed. I won't print it here; it's not particularly useful to the article. However, I saw things like "GACT probability on" that meant nothing to me (I'm just a programmer), but probably had meaning to a system administrator. But I also saw items that made reference to various Unix devices, such as /dev/sda1, which again showed that we were really running a server here.

Next, I clicked on the SSH Console button. This opened a new Firefox window containing a Java program that is an SSH [Secure Shell] program; the SSH shell program logged me right into my server, where I saw the Unix shell prompt, complete with the bin directory and everything you could ask for.

Back in the server page, I clicked on the Monitoring tab. This brought up a bunch of thumbnail images of graphs and charts that I could click on to look at the current server status. This was particularly cool because it included status reports named cpu, df, disk-sda1, memory, mysql, processes-mongrel_rails, and others: in other words, the hardware and running software.

The Scripts tab includes several built-in scripts that I could run simply by clicking a Run button. For example, one script let me back up my data to Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service).

Finally, so I wouldn't use up all the minutes in my free trial, I clicked the Terminate button.

More to do

What I've described so far is just the surface. On the left of the Dashboard is a tree list of various things programmers can do; for example, there is a category called Design, which lets programmers customize the design of their servers. This includes two sections, Servers (which included the templates I mentioned earlier) and EC2 (which included the various images). The Images section includes several server images created by RightImages,, RHEL, rBuilder and others. There are hundreds of options under all of these, so programmers will want to take a look and scroll through them and see what's available.

There is also a Reports section where users can get reports on their own servers, as well as reports about usage and audits.

Jeff Cogswell is the author of Designing Highly Useable Software ( among other books and is the owner/operator of CogsMedia Training and Consulting.Currently Jeff is a senior editor with Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to joining Ziff, he spent about 15 years as a software engineer, working on Windows and Unix systems, mastering C++, PHP, and ASP.NET development. He has written over a dozen books.

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