Back in my days at StillSecure a major problem we had with our vulnerability management platform was managing vulnerabilities over a large number of hosts. How can you effectively manage so many hosts, visualize them across the entire deployment? It gave our GUI designers and developers fits.
In today’s world of virtual instances, containers and apps, managing a large number of hosts is even a bigger challenge. It is a daunting task that even the largest companies struggle with. In fact in some ways the bigger the company, the greater the amount of hosts and the harder it is to manage. I wanted to highlight today how one company, Datadog has tackled this problem with their Host Maps feature.
The trick to managing large numbers of hosts is to balance a global view with an individual host view. It is harder than it sounds though. It is almost like joining Einstein’s Theory of Relativity with Quantum Mechanics. How can we use one view to see things on both the galactic scale and the molecular level at the same time. Datadog has developed one of the best ways to do this with their instant grouping and drill down capability.
Instant grouping allows you to virtually (no pun intended) define groups on the fly by a large number of tags and filters. So for instance you can use standard AWS tags. You can also group hosts by tags and they will be visualized this way.
This was where we ran into the wall on our vulnerability manager. We were never able to create groups on the fly. You could define groups by certain filters but drilling down from there was out of reach. With Host Map feature you can create a group of hosts that have a certain feature or attribute in common and then drill down into that group with the click of a mouse. The YouTube video below shows you much better than I have described what I am talking about:
Datadog’s designers have also made great use of color selection and shaping to help make visualization much easier for the end user. Pretty nifty use of simple technology.
Not to turn this into a love fest for Datadog Host Map, but I am not aware of others who have instituted this kind of on the fly grouping and drill down capability to address this Big Data type of problem. If you know of one, I would love to hear about it.
From the point of view of looking at how the state-of-the-art has evolved from when we were trying to tackle this issue 10 years ago, it is impressive to see how far GUI has progressed. I think it is a clear case of “mother is the necessity of invention”. It would be near impossible to manage the kind of host deployments we see now without this type of functionality.
I did have a chance to speak to a few Datadog customers when I reached out to Datadog about Host Maps. It was unanimous that they feature was as valuable to them as it looked to me. Now of course one could say that Datadog wouldn’t refer me to customers who didn’t like the product. But my impression was that this feature was indeed a big help to them.
As we continue learn to better manage data flows and manage ever growing infrastructure, I think we will continue to see the evolution of management GUIs like what Datadog has done here.
What about you? What GUI functionality have you run across that you think is worthy of praise? I am sure others would like to know.