LeanSentry How-To: IIS & ASP.NET recommendations from our team

In the last 2 years, we’ve helped thousands of big and small companies to improve their IIS servers & ASP.NET applications.

Today, we are announcing LeanSentry How-To: a series of best-practice guides to help you solve common performance problems & improve your site health.

We’ll cover topics like:

1. Azure best practices
2. IIS & ASP.NET performance
3. Improving application & server stability
4. Advanced tools & techniques for troubleshooting production problems

To get these, sign up for our How-To series at LeanSentry How-To.

If you have specific areas or questions you would like to see covered, email us or post them here anytime.

Fix IIS & ASP.NET hangs faster with Hang diagnostics

Automatic hang diagnostics for IIS & ASP.NET apps has been one of LeanSentry’s most popular features.

Now, Hang diagnostics are getting even better, with more expert insight into hangs, better root cause detection, and more code-level data for your developers.

Automatically diagnose ASP.NET hangs

LeanSentry’s Hang diagnostics feature helps you resolve your website’s slowdowns, better than you can with generic monitoring tools. It does this by detecting and by automatically diagnosing dozens of common IIS, ASP.NET, and Classic ASP performance problems whenever your site experiences them.

No intrusive profilers, DebugDiag, or other tools needed. Like most of LeanSentry, hang diagnostics have virtually zero overhead during normal operation, and only a small overhead (5-10 seconds of analysis) when a problem is confirmed. This means you can add LeanSentry’s deep diagnostic insight to your existing monitoring without any conflicts or performance drops.

What’s new?

A lot! We’ve improved the diagnostic algorithms to detect more problems. Then there is the brand new diagnostic report interface that gives you better guidance, and more information on what caused the hangs.

See the actual IIS & ASP.NET operation

See the real request flow during ASP.NET hangs
See the actual request flow, and the key IIS & ASP.NET performance issues during the hang.

Expert guidance

Full ASP.NET hang analysis
LeanSentry analyzes the specific causes of the hang in your app, and gives you best practice guidance on how to address it.

Identify the function, slow SQL, REST call causing blocking

Diagnose ASP.NET hangs down to code, SQL query, and more
LeanSentry automatically determines the application code causing request blocking or thread pool exhaustion, and shows your the line of code, SQL query, REST url, or file being accessed.

Try it out

If you are still troubleshooting hangs the hard way, or trying to use the generic transaction monitoring tools, you are missing out. To learn more, check out LeanSentry’s hang diagnostics, and do a trial to see it for yourself.

LeanSentry is back, and better than ever!

You may have noticed that we’ve been very quiet in the last year.  The reason: as a small team, we found the initial demand for LeanSentry a bit overwhelming. This made it difficult to focus on building the kind of product we envisioned.

So, we decided to take a year to innovate our product, and deliver the kind of experience that our customers wanted.

Today, we are back with a brand new www.leansentry.com and whole new generation of our service.

What does LeanSentry do?

LeanSentry uses expert analysis techniques, many developed at Microsoft, to give you deeper insight into your web apps.

We automatically analyze IIS and ASP.NET performance, troubleshoot website hangs, tune .NET CPU and memory usage, troubleshoot errors, and much more.

The best part? It’s lightweight, cannot affect your applications, and can run alongside any existing APM or monitoring tool.

What’s different about LeanSentry?

In short, everything!

We have a brand new, real-time interface that makes it easy to access information with just a few clicks.

Our diagnostics have been upgraded to be way easier, and give you lot a lot more insight into your stack’s performance.

LeanSentry Dashboard
We have a simpler, faster deployment that lets you add LeanSentry to your production servers, Windows Azure or Amazon EC2 in less than 5 minutes, with no restarts or iisreset.

Here are some highlights for a quick glance:

Give me!

If you’ve tried LeanSentry a while back, you simply must see it again.

If you have not, this is a good time to check it out! Head over to www.leansentry.com and sign up for the free trial to see for yourself.

To all our customers and everyone that supported us so far, thank you! We hope the new service makes your life that much better. Stay tuned for a lot more about the new product, our story, and much more in the coming weeks!

AppliedInnovations customers use LeanSentry to prepare apps for the holiday season

AppliedInnovations, a leading Windows hosting provider, announced a partnership with LeanSentry to help customers get their Windows web apps ready for the holiday rush.



It did so after getting requests from its customers who have already been finding LeanSentry incredibly helpful.

Says Mayer Kahan, owner of Osgood Textiles at www.onlinefabricstore.net:

“We are a .NET shop, troubleshooting bugs has always been a time consuming process of code review and digging through server logs.

LeanSentry finally allowed us to see in real time how our site is performing, providing a single platform for viewing our whole environment.

As a result, we improved site performance, and were able to be better informed about what is really going on with our physical environment.”

If you are an AppliedInnovations customer, it has never been a better time to try LeanSentry.

If not, you can get your trial account now at https://www.leansentry.com/.  If you are running an ecommerce site on the Windows platform, this just might be a smart move for the Black Friday/Chrismas season.

Read about how retailers are using LeanSentry to get ready for the peak shopping season.

 

 

New Performance page helps you track website CPU/Memory & slow requests

This week, we have another big improvement for you.

We completely remade our Performance page, and made it a lot easier to view your website performance data.

What’s there?

  • Slow requests tab shows you what operations caused slow requests to your site.
  • Resource use tab shows you the CPU, Memory, and Network usage by the website … compare it across all servers … and give you the diagnostic data to explain what caused the usage.

As a bonus, you can enable CPU profiling, Memory diagnostics, and slow operation tracking directly from the page.

Above all, the new interface is clean and wonderfully simple.

This is available immediately in your LeanSentry account! Just log in and go to the Performance page for any of your websites.

Don’t have an account? Get a trial account to see it for yourself.

We have more great stuff coming next week, so stay tuned!

New pricing announced!

More big news today … we just announced our new pricing!

The new pricing is a result of a user survey we conducted, and the lessons we learned from it.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the survey and shared their feedback with us.

New plans!

The new plans make LeanSentry’s automatic diagnostics more accessible, by making them available in our new Standard plan.

We also introduced our new Professional plan, which provides users with power features for tuning and troubleshooting their apps. This plan offers features like advanced diagnostics (e.g. our memory diagnostic), and the ability to search all of LeanSentry’s data and create a custom investigation with it.

The new Professional plan will enhance anyone’s ability to provide professional level application support, without spending hours analyzing server data or even having to log into the server!

We also kept an affordable Lite plan, which allows you to get many of LeanSentry’s most popular features a lower price. We include all of our basic monitoring, popular error tracking, and basic alerts at this level.

  • Have you wanted to use LeanSentry diagnostics in your apps but couldn’t afford it before? Check out the new Standard plan.
  • Are you an existing user? Not to worry, we upgraded your account to the new Standard or Professional plan automatically at no charge. Thanks for being with us!

Best,

The LeanSentry Team

Let’s fix production troubleshooting!

Running production web applications is a constant struggle. Slow page loads, hangs, crashes, memory leaks.

Even when you think you are clear, they come back anytime there is a code change, new feature, new server environment, or even a change in traffic.

You can have the best monitoring system in place, but when the red light goes off … YOU still have to diagnose and fix the problem.

Conveniently, that’s where your monitoring tool politely bows out and lets you do the hard work.

And where many IT and devops teams end up spending most of their time.

At LeanSentry, we set out to fix the production troubleshooting process.

To do it, we had to solve the problem of both tools AND expertise.

Tools. The tools we use fall into two categories: production monitoring tools (perfmon, logparser, SCOM, third parties), and developer analysis tools (debuggers, profilers). The monitoring tools detect but cant diagnose problems. When you finally bring in the heavy developer tools to solve the problem, its already long gone. You can’t profile a process that doesn’t have high CPU anymore … or debug a hang that’s no longer there. The alternative: to run your process under 24/7 profiling and debugger in anticipation of possible problems is just not acceptable.

Expertise. Even if you somehow got all the data, making sense of it can be very difficult. If you’ve ever done a production hang or memory leak investigation, you know exactly how much work and time it takes to get to the bottom of things.

Of course, you could go out and hire an troubleshooting expert. Get security access for them.  Spend hours explaining your application to them.  Pay them a lot of money. Then, they’ll set up the same debugging tools on your server, wait for the issue to reproduce, and maybe get you the answer several weeks later.

We’ve been doing this kind of troubleshooting for years.

But to make it accessible to everyone who runs Microsoft web apps, we needed to do it automatically, with low overhead, and without requiring the user to be an IIS expert.

Here was our blueprint:

  1. Lightweight 24/7 monitoring to always catch problems the first time. We use performance counters, IIS logs, and ETW events to watch for problems. These protocols have near-zero overhead on the server, and cannot affect the application because they completely external.
  2. Automatically detect problems like hangs or memory leaks. These are the tricks of the trade: rules based on Microsoft guidelines and our own troubleshooting techniques. Our hang diagnostic uses over 12 different rules to reliably detect a hang given various pieces of lightweight monitoring data.
  3. Automatically analyze the problem so you don’t have to. When the problem is detected, we’ll analyze it immediately and attempt to determine the root cause. This also works to eliminate the knowledge gap: software can do the complex analysis and present the facts simply so that operations teams can easily act or transition the resolution to the developer.To do the analysis, we can leverage multiple data sources at our disposal: including IIS logs, ETW events, profiling data, and sometimes the debugger. We’ve been doing this kind of troubleshooting for years, so this was just a matter of automating it.Best of all, this analysis has low impact because a) it only takes place when there is already a problem and b) usually lasts just a few seconds and always keeps the application running.
  4. Alert you about the problem, and show you the solution. This is the best part. Instead of having to spend days hunting and analyzing the problem, you get a shrink-wrapped report with a pretty bow on it (bow not included). This is the difference between taking weeks to diagnose a problem every time, or literally minutes.

LeanSentry can now diagnose: website hangs, ASP.NET memory leaks, IIS application pool crashes, and more

Getting these kind of diagnostics to work right for everyone takes time. We are now 7 months after our launch in February, and here are the kinds of things we can diagnose:

  1. Hangs and slow page loads. We’ll detect IIS website hangs or very slow page loads, and tell you when you have concurrency misconfiguration problems or thread pool exhaustion. Down to the line of code thats causing the hang. LeanSentry automatically diagnoses website hangs and slow page loads ... down to queueing, threadpool exhaustion, misconfiguration, and even the line of application code.Learn more about the hang diagnostic →
  2. ASP.NET memory leaks. We’ll detect memory leaks and out of memory problems, and give you a complete memory analysis to tell you what caused it. LeanSentry automatically detects ASP.NET memory leaks in production,  and diagnoses their root causes so you can start working on the fix. Learn more about the ASP.NET memory leak diagnostic →
  3. IIS and ASP.NET errors, IIS application pool crashes and recycles, and more.
    There is too many to list here, but you can see many of them in action in our demo application.

Our ultimate goal was to change the way people deal with application problems in production.

To break the monitor -> struggle -> reproduce -> investigate cycle.

It looks like we are finally doing it. To check out our new diagnostics and how they work, go to www.leansentry.com. While there, set up a free trial account and never look back.

LeanSentry: TechEd 2013 is done!

Last week, we attended TechEd 2013 in New Orleans, and showed off LeanSentry to a crowd of Microsoft IT folks and developers. The reception was awesome! It took us a week to recover after the conference, but here is the wrapup.

Biggest take-away: everyone who runs Microsoft web apps wanted a tool like LeanSentry.

IT operation engineers, administrators, and developers all felt the pain of production troubleshooting, and wanted something that can help them diagnose production problems faster.

We spoke to hundreds of people, and asked almost everyone whether they’ve ever had to troubleshot a website hang or crash in production. Most of the time, the answer was “yes”.

We then asked, did you enjoy it? 100% of the time, the answer was “Hell no”! People told us dozens of stories of trying to catch a hang in production, and how long it took to figure out the root cause, even when Microsoft support was involved.

Then we got to hear the classic story of finger-pointing between the IT administrator that runs the production environment, and the developers that build the application. Often, the operations team didn’t have enough evidence to convince the developer that the issue was in their code … And the developer didn’t have enough information from production to reproduce the issue in the test environment.

We then showed LeanSentry’s automatic IIS/ASPNET hang diagnostics, which automatically detects hangs and instantly identifies their root cause, including blocking IIS modules, CLR threadpool exhaustion, or application code. People loved it!

The highlights

The feedback we got was pretty consistent. Everyone’s favorite things were:

1. Automatically diagnosing IIS and ASP.NET problems in production. Many people couldn’t believe that we do this at first. Many times we had to explain our Windows Server background and that Microsoft web platform development is all we do. Of course, seeing the hang diagnostic demo also helped.

2. Lightweight monitoring without profilers. IT administrators really appreciated the fact that LeanSentry uses lightweight Windows protocols like Performance counters and IIS logs to monitor the server, instead of loading application profilers. Many said “we dont want the performance monitoring tool to become the performance problem”, as we often hear from users of profiler based tools.

Many also loved how LeanSentry can be sandboxed to a separate VM, and monitor the production servers without installing anything on them. No reboots, iisresets, etc.

3. Making everything simpler. IT managers that handled web operations loved how simple the LeanSentry dashboard was, and how it was very easy to see all the requests, errors, and performance data in one place. Developers also loved aggregating the errors across Windows Server, IIS, and ASP.NET and getting all the details needed to troubleshoot the error. We heard a lot of complaints about how complicated SCOM was, and how LeanSentry dashboard was the “anti-SCOM”. The consensus was that LeanSentry complements environments that use SCOM, by providing a much simpler view to track problems and get the details to resolve them.

4. Working directly with the developer team. People loved talking directly with the founders and the developer team. Many were used to dealing with company sales people at the other booths. We loved showing everyone the Olark chat box on our site, where you can talk directly to the dev team anytime.

Top questions

The top questions people asked were:

1. How do you diagnose hangs in a lightweight way? We explained our multi-stage process for diagnosing hangs that insures lightweight monitoring, and still provides debug-level resolution for hangs. We use similar approaches for diagnosing other problems, where we first detect many potential symptoms of a problem using lightweight monitoring like performance counters, and only perform the intensive diagnostic once we know the problem already exists.

2. How is LeanSentry different from SCOM/AviCode/New Relic? In many ways! We put together a page to explain what makes LeanSentry different.

3. Can I host LeanSentry in my environment? You can’t just yet, but you will be able to later this year! We now have a beta program for people who want to help us do this. Email us for more info!

The goodies: TechEd discount, LeanSentry Robot t-shirts

For everyone who came to talk to with at TechEd, we are offering a special TechEd discount for our “Full service” plan. This is a limited time discount, so email us for details if you are looking to activate your account this month.

Also, we had a huge level of interest in the LeanSentry t-shirts. Because of this, we ran out early on the first day. If you didnt get a shirt, be sure to email us and we’ll put you on the list to get one!

Thanks and more

Thanks to everyone who came out to support us, and who talked to us at TechEd! We had a great time thanks to you, and really appreciate your support.

If you talked to us at TechEd, be sure to reach out over the next couple weeks to get the discount. You can also schedule a deep-dive demo with us to see how LeanSentry can improve your production operations.

If not, get in touch with us anyway! You can also give LeanSentry a try yourself. We are always just an IM away!

Best,
The LeanSentry Team

LeanSentry at TechEd 2013: Day 1

TechEd is awesome! Its our first major conference, and so far the reception has been great. You can really tell that LeanSentry is addressing a major pain point for pretty much everyone running the IIS/ASP.NET application stack.

TechEd is definitely more of an enterprise crowd, with attendees ranging from midsize companies to the likes of Deloitte and Verizon. However, they face many of the same problems that we see in small businesses and startups. Turns out production troubleshooting is a great equalizer 🙂

The LeanSentry TechEd booth

Things you loved!

It’s been great to get some face-to-face feedback about LeanSentry. Here are a few of the highlights that everyone absolutely loved:

1. IIS hang and crash diagnostics. This was literally jaw-dropping for some. We asked if debugging hangs in production was a problem, and you could just see the pain in people’s eyes. The best response we got was “Its the difference between a good day and a bad day”.

People just could not believe that LeanSentry could diagnose a hang automatically, and get them right to the source of the hang in a few clicks.

2. Lightweight monitoring, with no profilers / nothing to install on the production servers. This was a huge hit. It was clear that you appreciated non-intrusive monitoring that doesnt slow down your applications with a profiler.

And of course, everyone loved the LeanSentry Robot! We’ve had attendees say that it was the best t-shirt at the conference. If you didn’t get the shirt at the booth, email us and we may be able to mail you one.

Things you wanted

We’ve also gotten a good sense for what people want to see from LeanSentry. The big one was a self-hosted version of LeanSentry that can be deployed in environments compliant with PCI, HIPAA, and defense contractor requirements. We heard you loud and clear on that, and we can say that a version of self-hosted LeanSentry is in the works.

If you want to use the self-hosted version of LeanSentry, email us and we can discuss the timeframe further.

TechEd continues, so if you are there be sure to come by booth 2417 today and check us out.

You can also see all of our new features live in our demo app. See it here and sign up for the free trial!

Best,
The LeanSentry Team

Search your entire IIS/ASP.NET web application stack

Browse all the data in LeanSentry! Filter down to dozens of IIS and ASP.NET metrics, insights, and alerts.

LeanSentry tracks all the important things that make up your Windows web application environment … including processes, Windows services, ASP.NET websites, IIS application pools, URLs, errors, etc.

Now, you can instantly find and get data for all of them!

Say what?

Under the covers, LeanSentry builds a graph containing all the objects its seeing in your application.  For example, your environment contains servers, the servers contain processes, websites, and so on.  Each website contains URLs we are extracting from your logs.  URLs are associated with errors we are seeing in your application. With the new search, you can quickly browse and find any of these.

But, it gets better. LeanSentry collects a lot of metrics from your environment (e.g. performance counters), and calculates other metrics (e.g. request latency, error rates, and so on).  It also generates insights (e.g. analyzing an error for abnormal behavior) and alerts (e.g. application pool crashed).  You can now find and show all this data when you search your environment.

For example, you can:

1. Break down the processes by their memory usage across all your servers. Then, drill into a specific process on a specific server, and break it down by its memory usage vs. others on the server. Then see  when the process was launched, by who, and what the path/command line was.

2. Search for a specific error across all your websites.  Select a specific instance, show its history over time, and view its occurrences.

3. Search for a specific website, see all URLs in it broken by latency, and see what its throughput was over time.

You can answer a dozen questions like this in minutes and see all the data you found side by side.

This is how it works:

1. You can open the “search” interface by clicking the Search icon at the bottom of any page.  This will open the search page, and focus it on the website, server, URL, or error that you were looking at. This way, you are always first looking at the very thing you wanted to learn more about.

Search any website, server, process, URL, or error!


2. LeanSentry will show you all the data available in the current context.
 Simply type to instantly filter down to the thing you want … or press enter to do a “deep search” which will search the entire data graph.

Browse all the data in LeanSentry! Filter down to dozens of metrics, insights, and alerts.


3. Click any of the data items to show it!
You can quickly switch back and forth between all the objects you’ve looked at, and grab data from all of them as needed to tell the story.

Grab metrics, insights, breakdowns, and more from any object and view them side by side!

With this feature, you can explore your environment, and quickly get rich information to support your investigations or performance tuning.  We’ll save your search, so you can use it to create custom reports about a problem and then share it with your team.

The best part? As we add more alerts, more diagnostics, and more insights, they will immediately become available to you even if they are not yet part of the dashboard. We are making this feature a part of our Core plan so everyone using LeanSentry has access to it effective immediately 🙂

We’ve been kicking ass, and its showing. Be sure to come by our booth at TechEd 2013 next week, and see all these new features live!

If you haven’t yet, sign up for the trial and start using LeanSentry to support your IIS/ASP.NET apps like a boss.

Best,

The LeanSentry Team