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FiveRuns 1.0

FiveRuns Logo

I met with FiveRuns‘ Steven Smith and Dave Wilby last Friday for a demo and a briefing. My first impression is that they have a solid 1.0 product that could become a serious and more wide-reaching contender in systems management as new releases come out. I’ve been quite gleeful and generally excited about FiveRuns since I met with Dave for a long lunch several months back; I’m happy to report that the excitement was justified.

My Over-exuberance

The problem, for me, at looking at FiveRuns objectively is that it’s so cool that it’s easy to go FanBoy and not look at it with critical eye. FiveRuns, like their AustinVenture funded sibling Spiceworks, has an extremely sexy and unencumbered-by-the-past (or “fresh” as they call it) approach to what a systems management platform should look at act like. They’re using Rails, AJAX, and they’re offering their software as a hosted service, or SaaS. Also, they’re taking an approach I’m beginning to think of as “lean systems management.” All of those are things that get my over-exuberance engines reving too high.

As I told Steven and David towards the end, looking at FiveRuns from the over-all perspective — current functionality, workflow, UI & usability, pricing, deployment, and my gut feel for their future functionality — they’re the most impressive offering in their category I’ve seen yet. Others may offer more breadth, better pricing, and so forth, but if you equal out the weight of all the considerations, FiveRuns looks the most impressive over-all.

So, with that high-praise out of the way, how ’bout we move into what’s missing and needs to be done.

To Do: Breadth and Management

As my notes on the meeting outline, they monitor 8 OSes and 4 pieces of middle-ware. Like all of The New Systems Management folks, they’ll need to add more applications (e.g., Exchange), stacks, middle-ware, and even things like web pages (uptime and beyond) in the near future. Unless I missed something, FiveRuns also lacks management functionality: restarting services and boxes, cleaning up file systems, and other “write”/action operations.

Breadth and management are the key next steps for making FiveRuns not only a highly useful and competitive SMB systems management platform but an enterprise one as well. I hesitate a little to mention the enterprise part but, as I’ll hopefully point out in an upcoming post, that hesitation is due to the way “enterprise systems management” is currently defined. Changing that definition is part of what The New Systems Management guys will need to do if they want to get into The Big 4’s category…if they want to avoid taking on the scale of development, integration, support, and marketing that The Big 4 do to fuel the current idea of what enterprise systems management is.

Back to the Good

Nonetheless, coming from the stodgy world of enterprise systems management, the UI (OS X inspired and AJAX-enabled), workflow, and general approach to systems management is fantastic. As it is now, if you want to monitor RedHat, SUSE, OS X, Windows, Solaris, Apache, MySQL, JBoss, and/or Tomcat, FiveRuns is worth taking a look at. They’re using a hosted, SaaS model and charge $60/month per server (regardless of CPU or number of applications).

As usual, consider that I have an IOU to you, dear readers, to write-up a more detailed briefing-note. In the meantime, you might enjoy my mindmap notes on the topic, PDF below:


Disclaimer: FiveRuns is a client.

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Categories: Systems Management.

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4 Responses

  1. Fiveruns looks pretty cool indeed and I wish them the best. I am wondering whether they didn't spend more time on the UI than on the "actual works" of system monitoring, however. Also, it seems that small companies either are not aware of the concept of monitoring or are not willing to spend money for that (or both). Specially when you can rent a dedicated server for a little over $100/mo, are you really going to be willing to spend $60/mo just to monitor it?

    ThorstenSeptember 3, 2006 @ 9:52 am
  2. You're right on the examples there. FiveRuns is more interested in the Small to Medium companies, so I think that example would be excluded. That said, while you might only pay $100/month for the physical server, if the software you were running handled several $100's of your business a month (or thousands), the price seems smaller.
    Still, your point is taken: there's a certain price barrier that your servers have to be "worth" (calculated by fixed monthly fees and the fuzzier figure of how much money the server generates a month) before you'd want to pay $60/month.
    In comparison to more traditional offerings, though, $60 isn't too shabby.
    Also, the first few cuts at pricing rarely stick. I'm sure FiveRuns will go through several pricing schemes over the next few years before they get it right. It'd be nice to see a $10 and $20 offering for the $100/month servers. Of course, the other angle for FiveRuns is to sell to the service providers who are hosting those $100/month services, and have the hosting companies list FiveRuns as a feature for that $100.
    But, you've gotta start somewhere with pricing, and thankfully they've started simple: just one price ;>

  3. Finally someone that has hit the nail on the head, systems management that is stupid simple to deploy and maintain and doesn't require a full time staff to manage it. In the end all the sys admin, IT director, and CTO want is to know when a system or service is down and unavailable via a page and some basic historical reporting to bash people over the head with at staff meetings. We've somehow fallen into this paradox that if a product is not super expensive or uber complex that it is an inferior product. Case in point, Quickbooks really does meet about 98% of what a small business needs but MS makes bushels of money on Great Plains which is much more expensive and harder to setup. Jobs however makes a fair wage making expensive computers that are super easy to use. (head scratch) heh.

    Is $60 a month too much? For $2 day I could use that money to feed a family in Haiti, but if I'm hosting systems that are generating 100's or 1000's of dollars each day, $2 seems cheap for a "set it and forget it" type of system. I can tell you this much, the Big 4 or even open source can't even come close to that.

    rickyrodeoOctober 24, 2006 @ 4:39 am

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