Accedian Skylight Review

Helps us identify where a bottleneck is and has significantly reduced our MTTR

What is our primary use case?

We use it to troubleshoot application issues. For instance, when an application is slow we can identify where the bottleneck is in the chain.

How has it helped my organization?

In terms of network troubleshooting, we had an issue with an application, that it was slow for certain users. We didn't understand why. We started to investigate and, thanks to Skylight, we were able to see that the application was very chatty. It was fetching lines one-by-one. That meant it had to do many transactions to get the full bundle from the host. Skylight helped a lot in this case because we could see that there were 1,000,000 small transactions instead of just a few.

We didn't have a tool before to investigate end-to-end performance issues. Thanks to Skylight we have a tool for this kind of investigation. When business users are complaining about application problems, we are able at least to identify where the bottleneck is. Of course, if the bottleneck is on the server itself, we will use tools other than Skylight because it is more for network investigation than on the server side. With Skylight we can identify that most of the time is spent on the database or on the proxy or on the application server. It has sped up investigations a lot. Before, we had to spend more time to identify in which block the bottleneck was found. Now it's much faster. It has reduced our mean time to respond by at least 50 percent.

In addition, sometimes users complain that they are not getting the data they want. Thanks to Skylight and the PCAP functionality, we are able to capture the traffic and to confirm whether the data was transmitted or not. It's quite important in terms of proof.

Skylight has helped to improve the interaction between our network data center and application teams. The server people are now aware of the possibility of investigating the traffic. Thus, when a technical team is facing an issue, they always think, "Okay, maybe I can get more information thanks to Skylight."

What is most valuable?

The application modules are quite interesting. I mainly use a CTP module, but I also use a SQL module as well to note the queries sent to the database. We are going to use another module for Active Directory.

What is also very interesting is capturing traffic. The solution generates a PCAP and after we can view the PCAP in Wireshark. Currently, with our configuration, we don't capture the payload of the packets, just the header. But when we want the body, the payload of the packets, we can do a PCAP, and then analyze it within Wireshark.

The UI is quite straightforward. We can easily identify the menu we need to get specific statistics. It's okay. We are not yet using the dashboarding, which is a recently added feature.

What needs improvement?

It's a bit slow. When I execute a query, something general with a short timeframe that covers one month, for instance, and I do not specify the IP source or IP destination, it can take ages because it has to query the whole database. That is a bit slow. It can take two or three minutes to get the results. It would be helpful if they improved the way the database is optimized. To improve on this, we have purchased an appliance with disk. Up until now, we used mechanical disks. We are going to change our Skylight architecture and use an SSD disk with the appliance. We are tackling this issue with a new architecture.

Another negative point is the fact that we don't know where the retention of data occurs. But the more we go into the past, the less data we get. And it's not crystal clear at what point we are losing data. For example, if I take the data from one week ago, it's less detailed than data from one hour ago. We don't know at which point we are losing the granularity. We need to be aware that if we are looking for data from two days ago, we only have granularity of one hour. If we are looking for data from one hour ago, we have granularity of one minute. This is not indicated in the application. It's not mentioned.

One other issue is that it is not so easy to get the binaries from the website, for updating. Once we know where to find the binaries, updating easy.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Skylight is very stable. I do not remember having an issue with it. It can be slow when we are running big queries on a large timeframe, but if we do small queries it's fast. I don't remember any crashes. It's quite stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is our issue. We are collecting more and more data but we are still on mechanical disks. That's why we have decided to go with a new appliance with a local SSD disk. We expect to have better scalability with the new architecture. This is something to keep in mind with the product: The number of flows, the type of disk, and the amount of data.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is good but we are going through our partner. They are responsive. They answer quite fast and usually with the right solution.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

We are using PRTG and Nimsoft. These are more general monitoring tools, not specialized in network analysis. We are also using a network tool for latency.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. It was a fast installation. The deployment took less than five days.

We had to identify where to put the probes because we could put them on a physical connection or on virtual connections. We have a network which is quite complex, with more than 200 sites and two data centers. So the first question to answer was where to put the probes. After that was decided it was easy. We put the appliance in the rack and we asked the network team to cable the connection with the router. It was simple.

The setup required one person from the external consultant and we dedicated one network engineer for a couple of days. After installation, maintenance of the solution requires half a day per month; maybe four or five days a year. It's minimal. And when there is an update, deploying it is quite straightforward. It's not a big deal, it takes one hour.

What about the implementation team?

We used an external consultant to install the product. They helped us a lot with the setup for a reasonable price. It was matter of days to get everything working. In addition, they gave us support in terms of training. When we ask questions they're quite responsive.

What was our ROI?

It may have saved us money but it's difficult to quantify. But if we are able to demonstrate that we can identify where a problem is, that's already something positive. Before, we struggled a lot to say, "Okay, the problem is on the database or the problem is with the application server." But thanks to Skylight, we can say, "Okay, the problem is there," and we can investigate more within that specific block.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's not for free, clearly. But on the other hand, it offers very interesting functionality. We pay around €100,000.

Maybe they should have a price for public sector organizations. I don't know if they differentiate between public and private sector organizations.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We are a big organization with around 10,000 people and 200 sites. So we are considering other APM solutions that are highly rated in industry reviews. We are considering Dynatrace, but we have not yet purchased that product. We are still with Skylight.

What other advice do I have?

It provides a better view of your infrastructure. You know better when the big flows are going through. It gives us a better picture of where the pain points are. For instance, if there is big traffic between 9 pm and 2 AM, that's due to the backups. It gives a better overview of how the data flows are working.

We have VMware onsite but we are not using an external cloud so we are not using it for performance and traffic monitoring of a cloud environment.

We currently have four people using the tool: me and two people on the network team and one person on the end-user computing team, because sometimes people complain that their PC is slow.

People are already aware that it exists within our organization. The next step is to extend it to a few people. There is a notion of the privacy of the data. We can't give the tool to everybody. Otherwise, they will see that Mister X is surfing on this website, etc. It's very important for our organization to have this under control. So maybe there will be two or three more people using it, but not 100 people.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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