Evolven passively monitors you of changes across your server farm or data centre, helping you to control any unexpected events and keep an eye on any differences in configuration data from minute to minute. Although 100% uptime is not a modest claim, it’s one that the Evolven documentation makes with pride. But can Evolven bring you any closer to the utopia of a rock-solid, unfaltering infrastructure?
The application has two components (assuming a single server set-up): there’s a crawler agent which sits on your own server, and the cloud application which sucks information from the agent into the cloud. The cloud side runs on a secure server and can be accessed anywhere, with data being spread among numerous unnamed cloud hosts.
Naturally, it’s reasonable to assume the data is US hosted, or crosses US boundaries, which may cause alarm for a subset of organisations based in the EU. Those who are more security conscious, or need to abide by strict security policies at their organisation, can run the Evolven application locally. This isn’t the default set-up, though: Evolven is primarily designed to be delivered on a SaaS basis.
Getting started with Evolven
Evolven are proud of their setup procedure: they boast that you’ll be up and running in minutes. There’s no server to install, and minimal technical administration. Evolven agents are available for Linux, UNIX (Solaris/AIX) or Windows, although UNIX users can’t download the agent directly from the website.
Once everything’s installed on your server, the crawler dynamically harvests information about systems and environments (with, they add, minimal server load and near-zero performance degradation). It scans everything according to a schedule you define, monitoring applications, servers, operating systems and the server hardware itself. Data is captured to an impressively deep level: registry keys, database structures and configuration data are all scanned, recorded and monitored. If you have stored procedures, those are monitored as well.
The Evolven interface
Evolven’s UI opens in a dashboard which immediately notifies you of any changes since your last login. All data is consolidated into a single screen with tabs across the top, and from the default tab, you can see precisely what has changed via an intuitive toolbar at the top of the interface.
By switching between different servers in the configuration node, you can drill down to find out where change has taken place, and a comparison table at the bottom of the screen tells you exactly what’s changed. It’s comprehensive without being crowded, and the navigation is pretty efficient despite some of the icons being on the small side. It’s not overwhelming, nor has it been softened to a level which makes hard to use.
Stepping through the interface
Evolven’s analytics engine helps change management staff to make informed decisions quickly. Using a range of charts and visual clues through the upper half of the default tab, it’s easy to skip through reported changes and assess their importance.
Changes are grouped in circles according to types, or groups. This system of circles doesn’t feel like a good use of space, at least in the tutorial provided, but you can rearrange them to suit, and you can also drag the horizontal divider upwards to reveal more of the lower pane.
The Comparison tab allows you to compare two environments side-by-side, zooming and panning to the area you want to compare. The Inventory tab acts like an Explorer view, allowing you to trace a path from the root of your environment to any location and examine the configuration and changes. A compact toolbar and RAG chart helps you to see, at a glance, whether anything needs attention, and how urgent the issue is likely to be.
Changes can be classified according to status, likelihood of impact on a core service and possible interruption to stability or security. Insignificant changes can be defined and filtered out and similar changes are grouped; you can also create custom filters according to your own parameters to make determining important change even easier.
In the Status tab, users see an overview of each environment with colour-coded cues and bar charts alerting them to anything new.
To identify risks before they become outages, Evolven produces charts, graphs and analytics reports from the Administration tab. It can be customised to send alerts via email when certain values are reached, and you’re free to customise the users and the frequency of emails. This could help you to monitor configuration changes which drift over time but which may not warrant action yet. Of course, alerts can also capture important events as soon as they happen, forwarding notifications to technical teams or support staff.
Comprehensive and clean
Evolven is a highly complex application delivered in a surprisingly accessible format. It arguably has the power of a desktop application, but is simple enough for any function within an organisation to be able to pick up on its clues.
The only question is the issue of security and whether your organisation is happy to store so much sensitive configuration data, and details of its environment, in the cloud. This isn’t an issue solely for Evolven, of course, but this data is perhaps more sensitive than some. Although there is a self-hosted option, the ease of setup would undoubtedly be lost as a compromise for the total security lockdown it provides – but at least the option is there if you need it.
You can try Evolven (with a 14 day free trial) at http://www.evolven.com/
Category: Initial Reviews
About the AuthorClaire Broadley is a technical author and SEO copywriter. She reviews cloud applications and SaaS products for Rated Cloud.
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