The joy of being part of a smaller team is that you get exposed to things that you otherwise would never be. Today, this hit me in the form of the redesign of the SyslogAppliance web site. We set up a very basic site when we announced the initial beta a few days ago and now we thought to upgrade it at least a bit. I ended up writing the new web site copy. I personally like the new site. It still is a very small one, with not yet that many information available about the syslog appliance project. But I think it has evolved rather quickly. Anyhow, I’d appreciate feedback from my readers. If you have a few minutes, I’d appreciate if you could have a glance at www.syslogappliance.de and let me know what you think.
Why do people turn to (virtual) software appliances? I think the number one reason is ease of installation. If an appliance has one benefit, then it is that the system was put together by someone who really knows what he does. So the end-user can simply “plug it in” into the local network, do a few configuration steps and enjoy the software.
While we worked on the virtual syslog appliance, we have checked out various other appliances. They live up to this promise in very different ways. Some are really plug and play, while others are more a demo-type of a complicated system, where the user does not know what to do with the appliance unless he reads through a big manual. This is definitely not what people are after if they look for appliances.
With SyslogAppliance, I try hard to do things as simple as possible. I learned that I probably need to add some nice HTML start page, not only the plain phplogcon log analysis display. So I have now begun to do this appliance home page, just to see that displaying information is probably not sufficient.
I will need to do some basic configuration of the appliance, too. I was (and am) tempted to use something like webmin. But on the other hand, there are so many settings. I think most appliance user will never want to touch them. So a full config front-end is probably good for those in the know. But for the rest, a software appliance should come with the bare minimum of config options that are absolutely essential to do the job. For me, the “make everything configurable expert”, this is a hard lesson to learn. Usability is top priority with appliances and usability means to present only those options that are useful to most folks (the rest will probably not use an appliance, at least not for anything but demo).
I thought I share this interesting thought on my way to creating great virtual software appliances. Besides logging, I have some other ideas (and all benefit from a great logging interface), but it is too early to talk about these, now.
I have now set up a first basic web site for SyslogAppliance. It is not great yet, but it provides a stable reference point for any work that comes up. So people can hopefully begin to use this site as a pointer for useful resources.
As a side-note, you may notice I am using a .de (German) domain. Thanks to the spammers, com, org and net domains are already used by spamming sites. And I thought it does not matter if we use a de domain. After all, we live in a time where domains from the Cocos Islands (cc) or Tuvalu (tv) are being abused for generic purposes, so why not use .de for a generic site, too?
Oh, and one interesting find: at least one person actually downloaded and tried the version of SyslogAppliance I uploaded yesterday. How do I know? I had forgotten to include the phpLogCon user in the README ;) [of course, this is fixed now ;)]
For starters, I have created a very simple system. While I have a number of options for the operating platform, I started to Ubuntu JeOS mainly because it had good guides for getting started with an appliance quickly. Being based based on Debian also was a plus. Some may argue that the downside is that the log appliance currently requires VMWare. While I agree this may be an issue, it is not an extremely big one especially as VMWare server runs quite well under Linux and is free to use.
I will investigate Red Hat’s AOS, but I think I need to get some results from the app point of view first and JeOS looks quite promising in this regard.
For now, I have even started with the stock rsyslog package, which is quite outdated on that platform. However, I’ll do a couple of iterations in the next days and so will come up to the current release soon. But for what the appliance currently needs, the older version is not really a problem.
I am now very interested in feedback on this new offering. The appliance can be downloaded from
One of my next actions is to set up a dedicated site, which will make finding (and providing!) information on the appliance much easier. But one thing after the other…
Oh, and one thing on the licensing: the appliance is free for non-commercial use. However, we intend to request a moderate fee for commercial use, which I think is a fair policy. Of course, all appliance components are freely available.
If you try out the appliance, please provide feedback!. I have set up a dedicated forum at
As I said, the initial version will probably not as “plug and play” as I hope, but I am very positive we are on a good path. Besides, it is an exciting project.