Retrospective: a new product for viewing/searching log files

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Retrospective: a new product for viewing/searching log files

Postby centeractive » 01 Jun 2012, 11:53

Retrospective: a new product for viewing/searching log files

Hi everybody, just wanted to introduce myself to the group and to give you some information about my professional interests and my company’s latest Log Viewer/Analyser product called Retrospective.

There is some semi-marketing/new feature blurb below, I won’t do it again, but I think it’s useful to present the features of our product and hopefully we can get some occasional discussion on what features are really needed in tools that help us with our daily work.

I am a product manager for Centeractive, a small software company in Berne Switzerland, and previously worked as team leader in the Tibco Operations Support team at the largest telecoms company in Switzerland (one of our customers).

During that time we were working with 2-3 Tb of log data distributed over 10 servers, and with up to 20K individual log files on each server. Sometimes log files would roll over in seconds due to volumes of data being written. We archived data constantly (zip, re-name) and deleted stuff over 3 months old.

Don’t get me wrong, I love data, especially as a Support analyst, in fact we encouraged developers to log more data but of course it’s difficult searching all of this data for that ONE entry that solves the problem! :D

So, we looked for a commercial log file viewer and either they didn’t work, couldn’t handle the volume of data we were looking for (I don’t mind going for a coffee whilst searching, but some needed lunch and dinner too..) or were simply way too expensive (e.g. Free version: 500Mb daily limit, ha! That’s one file :o , commercial version $$$$ which our management wouldn’t ever pay for )

So, we had a developer free for a month or so and we came up with the first version of Retrospective in 2008, and we’ve never looked back since.

We have recently commercially launched the 2nd version of Retrospective and with this new launch we are hoping to start a new product line which will ultimately result in Retrospective becoming one of the standard software packages for any log related search/analysis activities.

We are initially targeting 4 different classes of user (tester, developer, operations support and Sysadmins) as we believe Retrospective will be the most useful for these roles.

We have been extensively testing log files with different file formats (log4j & Tibco mainly, but also Agorum, JMS, MQ series, Catalina, Apache etc.) as the most painful part (if you look at our competitors..) is the configuration process for the log files, i.e. how quickly you can be using a log file and how complex its structure is and how quickly can Retrospective auto configure it for you!

Adding a local file to Retrospective from your local PC is easy; you just drag 'n drop it from windows explorer. A remote file via SSH has one more step, the connection credentials. (ip address(or name), port, user and password)

We have designed the configuration of Retrospective to be mostly automatic (i.e. when you add the log file the hardest steps should be done for you) but there is a manual configuration possibility (which will be improved with an Autofind button in version 2.0.2 which will be out in about 10 days) where you can manually define the three steps yourself if you want to change how Retrospective does this for you, specifically:

    1) how is each log line separated (newline? date? beginning with x? ending with x? IP address etc.).

    2) where is the date in that log line (often there are more than 1 date in each log entry, payload etc.,

    3) is there a standardised format which allows a column split (like an excel table)

You can add single files, whole directories or define a wildcard expression (e.g. to select all the log files from a particular engine).

You can not only Search through log files, you can also Tail log files, on any machine (windows, Linux and mac)

We have a lot of features to try and emulate a web browser (multiple tabs(and hence multiple searches and Tails), dragging and dropping of tabs between windows, history, bookmarks etc.).

Also, we introduced a save/load desktop feature so you save all the searches and tails, (specifically the number of tabs, windows and their geographical location) and re-use as you wish.

Last, but not least, Retrospective is still under development, we are still implementing new features (Db soon) and fixing a few bugs, so if there's a bug you have noticed please let us know, and if there's a feature you really need or think would be useful, please also let us know.

Please take a look at the promotional animated film on the front page of the Retrospective web site. We had great fun making it and a bar of Swiss Retrospective chocolate will be sent to the first 5 people (non-employees! :-) to name the TV series and the film we caricatured in our cartoon :lol:

(or see directtly

BTW, we also have a linked in group called “Retrospective Log Analyser” if you are interested in getting the occasional release update or info email.

Thank you for your time

Kevin Holden

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