What is most valuable?
I work in a distributed simulation. It's a much smaller network and it is a closed one. It's classified and it's behind encryption devices. You can't actually get there from the outside.
We had a unique situation here. We are using this solution with distributed simulation for military purposes. Packet loss is equated with a lack of credibility in your simulation. You basically can't trust the data if you lose packets.
After a lot of testing and verification, we decided that we cannot afford more than 1% packet loss. You can't say zero, because zero isn't possible to achieve. We tested and we said that if 1% packet loss is all we have, then that's what we can live with.
How has it helped my organization?
The question we had was how we can measure the 1% data loss in a distributed environment. We instrumented all of the sites with this solution. There are about 25 sites in the hub. The interface is going to decide. We're collecting data on that. I worked with the development team in Australia to give us a script that exports the data for us so we can actually obtain the data. We made our own dashboard out of it. It's a dashboard, or a line chart, that shows the usage on each interface, but all of the lines are on one graph.
Statseeker didn't have that capability. I don't know if they have that now. Rather than looking at 25 charts and trying to figure out which one might be going over 50 MB, we put all of the charts into one chart. We had one inbound and one outbound chart, and we normalized it to 50 MB so we would see, at one glance, if somebody is overriding. One person overriding ruins the whole experiment. This was a unique use of Statseeker.
It's different than what most IT enterprise people use it for. They look at their environments one at a time. They look at one connection from a server to a client. In our case, we wanted to see all of it combined into one. We can't afford any losses. even at the most insignificant site, a loss means losing the credibility of the event.
It's very expensive to set these up. It costs a couple million dollars for each experiment that runs only for two weeks out of the year. We can't afford any loss during that time. The best choice for that was Statseeker. We exported the data in real time and we're putting it on our dashboard charts ourselves.
What needs improvement?
One of the things we talked about with the developers, who are very smart guys, brilliant engineers, is to improve the dashboard. The dashboard they have is great, but is doesn’t have the multiple line charts combined into one.
If they could offer that, then we wouldn't need to do that unofficially on the outside. We wrote the software ourselves in Java and did it ourselves. If they had something like that in a dashboard to have all the lines combined, that would help us.
One other thing that is a problem for us is the Certificate of Networthiness requirement that they have in the military, in the Department of Defense networks. It means that your product has to meet certain tests and requirements to be credible, and to make sure it's not spyware or anything like that. It was difficult for me to get Statseeker on this network, because it didn't have such a certificate.
I worked a little bit with the Statseeker team and I was able to write a statement. Basically, I vouched for it on my own volition, as an engineer. The network administrator said that he had something in the book for it, and nobody ever came back and looked at it.
I think Statseeker itself could do a better job in closing deals and they would have a bigger customer base if they could meet such a requirement. This requirement is very easy to meet. They're not doing anything wrong, but you have to illustrate and explain how you're collecting the data off the network.
They want to see how you're collecting traffic and how often. They want to know what kind of stuff you're sending back out; if it's HTTP, then it's their website. That could be very easily achieved by documenting that and applying for such a certificate. That could be available for all customers in the DOD. I think it would open a new market for Statseeker. It would potentially give them many more customers around the country, the United States, and foreign countries, as well, where that is required.
On the core part of the product, I really don't know how you could improve it. It's a very solid solution.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
There have not been any stability issues. We follow the installation instructions exactly. We're not using it in a virtualized way. We're using it the way it's supposed to be used. We have not had any trouble, especially not on the small network that we have.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
On our small network, there haven’t been any scalability issues. We're using 1,000 interfaces, and we're probably only monitoring 800 of them. On the other network that I was on before, it was much, much larger, and I also didn't observe any stability issues. Statseeker is a very robust solution. I can't say anything negative about it.
How are customer service and technical support?
I have used technical support. There was a time when all of the calls had to go to Australia. That meant that we had to contact them at 2 p.m. our time. I often used my evening hours at home. I wasn't going to stay at work at 8 or 9 o'clock, depending on when these guys were available for a call. That was a little bit bothersome. But it got done.
If you need technical support on the spot, it would have been difficult. Because the product was so robust, I never really needed support too much. My technical questions were always toward a longer-term solution, not for something that I need to talk to Statseeker right now because I'm in a bind and I need to solve this problem. It's never been like that.
That's because of the product they have. In other words, if you live in the United States, there's a lot of Chevy, Ford and Chrysler dealerships, but there are only a few Honda dealerships and repair shops. There are fewer of those because you don't need them. Those cars don't go bad that much.
In this case, you didn't need a tech support person to be on the phone, ready to go, because the product doesn't show these kinds of issues. I would much rather have something that's robust and I don't have to call anyone, than something that's flaky and hokey and you can't figure it out and you end up having to talk to support to make it work. The approach is fundamentally different than most American-based companies, and I like it for that reason.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
I worked on a different program with Lockheed Martin at Fort Knox back in 2011. This was a very large network, one of the largest in the world. It's called Recruiting Services Network (RSN). It has 29,000 users and I was asked to find out which links needed to have an upgrade. People were complaining across the board. I was the architect, and I was tasked to find out why we had so many complaints, who is overriding their bank, and so forth. I looked at a whole bunch of tools that they had there, and one of them was Statseeker.
They had already purchased it. I did a quick comparison between that solution and some other tools that were there. It was clear to me that this was the best tool for us. I got to use Statseeker extensively after that for the following two years.
How was the initial setup?
I was involved in the installation and it was straightforward. It was very easy to do compared with other installations I have performed.
Unfortunately, everybody wants to virtualize these days. At this point, we're not running virtualized, because it shouldn't be done. I'm opposed to virtualization for network stuff. Because of the nature of the network, you're sharing processing power and all of that stuff.
I can see that the trend is going to eventually push Statseeker into a virtualized solution. That's a bad development, but I can just see it's going to be more and more of an issue that will come up. I'm wondering how they are going to deal with it. I hope it stays the way it is.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
I think we currently have a small license compared to the one at my last job. This license is only for 1,000 devices/interfaces.
I heard that we're still using 4.0 with some patches applied. Because of the script we have, we didn't want to upgrade because the script might not work on the new version.
I heard licensing went up for the new product. I don't actually know if the licensing fee went up. For our 1,000 interfaces, it was around $1,800 when we bought it. That was more than adequate.
It's a great pricing strategy. If it's twice as much, however, then it's already getting a little expensive. It is a little bit expensive for how we use it.
What other advice do I have?
My advice is to give it a chance. Look past the bells and whistles of competing products. What you're getting with Statseeker is a far superior tool, in terms of precision in having the true data available indefinitely and the ease of use.
Look past what you've seen before and give Statseeker a chance. Once you have done that, you are good to go and you won't want to use any other tool.
They have never put out a product, an update, or anything that didn't work. It always worked right away with these expectations.