[Podcast] The check is in the (e)mail(s)

By on 13 Jun 2024

Category: Tech matters

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General Post Office mail sorting room, Wellington c.1900s.
Adapted from the original at Wikimedia Commons.

This time on PING, Philip Paeps from the FreeBSD Cluster Administrators and Security teams discusses FreeBSD’s systems monitoring and measurement approach.

It’s email.

‘Short podcast’, you say, but no, this episode is about the war stories and ‘whys’.

Philip has a wealth of experience in systems management and security, and a long history of participation in the free software movement. His ongoing support of email as a fundamental system health measure isn’t a random decision, it’s based on experience.

Email may not seem like the obvious go-to for a measurement podcast, but Philip argues that despite its unconventional nature, email is an excellent tool for measuring system performance with high trust. By analyzing the first and second-order derivatives of email flows, we can gain insights into velocity and rate of change, which in turn reveal underlying system issues and their persistence or alteration.

Philip has good examples of how email from the FreeBSD cluster systems indicates different aspects of system health such as network delays and disk issues. He’s realistic that there are other tools in the armoury, especially the Nagios and Zabbix systems which are deployed in parallel. But from time to time, the first and best indication of trouble emerges from a review of the behaviour of email.

It proves that by using the basic tools inherent in your core distribution, a straightforward and resilient approach to system monitoring can be developed.

Read more about Philip, FreeBSD, Zabbix, and Nagios at their websites:

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