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More RSS in Systems Management: Hyperic HQ and Workflow Streams

Several months ago I wrote up some uses of RSS in systems management. I’ve gotten into several discussions on the topic recently, so I thought I’d start adding to my notes on the topic.

Here I’ll go over Hyperic HQ’s use of RSS and using RSS for “workflow streams.”

Hyperic HQ’s RSS

A little while ago, I talked with Hyperic and found that they had two RSS feeds in their platform: one for trouble items and one for “favorite.” I’ve been subscribed to those two feeds on their demo site for a few weeks now, and it’s easy to see the utility of them: getting quick updates about the state of your monitored environment.



You tell Hyperic HQ what monitored entities are you want to keep an eye on (your favorites), and you get a stream of “mini-reports,” complete with nifty charts.


Problem Resources

Here, you get the obvious (but useful!) application of RSS in systems management: using syndication for event notification instead of email.

Saving Time

The equation here is simple: logging in to a web application and drilling down to the monitored entity you’re interested will probably take 2-3 minutes. Alt-tab’ing to your RSS reading and selecting the feed will probably take 45 seconds. If you do that 10, 20, or 30 times a day, that’s 30 t 90 minutes you could be saving. Not to mention the context switching time.

Sure, numbers like that are hog-wash, but even the real numbers are worth it.

Workflow Streams

What’s missing from Hyperic’s RSS feeds are actions on each item. People who subscribe to the comments feed for their blogs know the value of this concept. I have a feed that shows me all of the activity (referrals, comments, trackbacks, searches, etc.) for this blog, and it lists several clickable actions I can take over comments. Most notable: delete this comment because it’s spam, or, “Junk.”

For example, this crap-comment:

Workflow in RSS, MT Activity Feed

When I was young and dumb, I hated the idea of having HTML in my messages (email, feed items, IM, IRC, etc.), but using HTML to introduce workflow and actions is a huge time-saver.

Workflow Syndication

What we really have here is a syndicated UI: instead of the user having to log into the application to take action over the events (comments or threshold violations), the UI is sent to them.

Again, this is a time saver. But, also, if you can scope and narrow down the RSS feeds enough, you can dole out workflow streams to people. In this context, a workflow is any process a person (or non-human “agent” for that matter) goes through to fix an issue in your infrastructure.

For example, all your DBAs could have feeds about all the database related events. Instead of having to wade through unrelated events, they can get a stream of just the events that are relevant to them.

This saves the DBA’s time and benefits the general administrator as well by cutting out the need for the general admins to, well, administer the process of delegating “fix it! fix it! fix it!” to the DBAs.

Also, I should point out that I’m not advocating doing away with the stripped down, “normal” RSS feeds like the ones Hyperic is using. Instead, I’m suggesting adding additional feeds that have actions in the forms of links in them. Not everyone is going to want all that extra text and UI, and if feed syndication is about anything, it’s trying your best to give everyone what they want.

Up for Grabs

For all you systems management vendors, the good news is that all of this works now with very simple code. You don’t need to wait for Vista Widgets, build another web application UI, or whatever. You just slap (with care of course) some HTML into an RS feed, and you have a whole new tick-list of features: syndication, customized workflow streams, etc. More importantly, they’re real and useful, not just bullet items ;>

Of course, yes, there is lots of back-end coding for this. You got me! But providing RSS (or the syndication parts of ATOM) well understood and stripped down. There’s little room for “fancy work” that can consume cycles. This is another example of the consumer tech space doing a massive amount of legwork and innovation for the enterprise tech world.

Put another way, there’s “free” innovation on the table for the enterprise world in RSS: no pesky innovation required!

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Categories: Enterprise Software, RSS, Systems Management.

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