24. May. 2013 by Magda
It’s hard to say exactly when Retrospective Log Analyzer was created. It all started many years ago when some of our staff on a customer site had to deal with a highly complex integration project with hundreds of servers and even more log files created daily by the servers’ software.
Of course we tested many open source tools and tried to find an already existing product that would enable a quick configuration of data sources on local and remote servers. Our expectations were high, though; which we admit. The tool we were looking for had to be able to search logs quickly and present results from different sources in a unified, time-ordered fashion, and narrowing down the criteria and outlining individual elements visually had to be possible. Also we didn’t want a complex SIEM solution but a compact and cost-effective tool!
They say that necessity is the mother of invention and it was just like this with Retrospective: when our search for a good log analyzer failed we started developing our own tool that would include all the features we needed. As the number of Retrospective users grew, the more feature requests were added to our roadmap – so that in the end we decided to go for it in a big way. We set up a team of enthusiastic full-time Retrospective developers.
The first commercial version was released after many months of hard work by our dedicated Retrospective team on April 4, 2012. We were as proud as peacocks but we also realized how much still had to be done to make us a true market leader in log analysis. They say that if you are not ashamed of your first release, most probably you spent too much time on it. We were ashamed…
The first maintenance release 2.0.1 came just one month later and included many bug fixes and improvements. Following releases were carefully planned; users’ comments and suggestions were always taken into consideration and enriched the product.
The details below will help you understand how Retrospective has changed during the past 12 months:
Auto find option for each step of manual configuration of line recognition, date recognition and column splitting
Copy/paste of configuration. Especially useful for servers running in load balance or failover mode where files are duplicated.
Create duplicate Config entry but on another server: useful for configuration of servers running in failover or fault tolerant mode where the identical file exists on both servers
Improved automatic configuration of files when being added
A profile is now immediately selected after creating one using the Welcome Screen’s “start new tail/search"
Possibility of dragging columns around to “customise” your view of results.
We have implemented a “pretty print” for xml elements in the detailed data display.
In the results Data Display, entries can now be alternatively sorted (other than the default of ascending time order) for search only by clicking on either Date/Time(for reverse time order sort), Host or Path
The Host load management has been improved especially for slower servers which will result in less SSH timeouts.
The shortcut for explode has been changed to CTRL-E (to avoid conflict with existing Mac functionality)
It is now possible to apply a filter/wildcard in the “manual file selection” in the file selector during configuration.
Clear Results: you can now see existing results clearly.
Pause scrolling during tailing: this will help tremendously with the need to pause/resume fast moving tails to briefly see what results you are getting.
The management of tail entries and how tail is done has been significantly improved with the result that more files can be tailed simultaneously per tab with less resulting load.
It is now possible to specify a search parameter which matches all given strings (logical AND) or alternatively which matches any of the searched for strings (logical OR).
This release was mostly about GUI improvements: the filter panel has been restructured (spacing, components' alignment adjusted), the search/tail button has been moved, the redundant ‘show/hide filters’ button on the left side of the statistics has been removed, a result toolbar was added, buttons for pause scroll, clear results (in tail) were moved to the result toolbar and replaced by icons and many more changes that made using Retrospective a much more pleasant experience.
Support for SSH key authentication
Improved compatibility for the newest Mac OSX 10.8
Simple progress indicators added for search and tail
Autofind configuration option has been added while adding files to a profile
Progress indicator added for autofind configuration. A progress bar over the sources table has been added to indicate the status of autofind process. The user can cancel the autofind and the selected profile will remain in the state as before autofind was invoked.
Major improvements in 2.1.3: host management panel, proxy settings, change the status bar to a custom component and a possibility to change path of a source from the context menu. We also managed to add the following features:
Terminate program upon user confirmation only
Large Data Limit notification on the yellow message bar
New menu structure
Tab renaming/close through pop-up (context) menu
Profile rename/delete through pop-up (context) menu
Source duplicate function
Possibility to pin a tab
Column split: Possibility to select proposals from information pop-up
Grouping regex occurrences in configuration window
Restrospective 2.1.4 introduced a few usability enhancements and new features which influence user experience such as importing hosts definitions from SSH and Putty configuration files stored in user/.ssh folder, opening the Profiles tab from the Search tab to configure selected profile or automatically resizing the Data column when changing the application window size. The version 2.1.4 also improved SSH connections’ performance and addressed file permissions’ issues and time frame optimization.
Release 2.2.0 was a real break-through and a big step towards excellence. As of this release Retrospective supports over 300 encoding formats. Encoding is detected automatically when adding a source file, and it can be changed manually in configuration wizard. Additional features are:
Profiles cloning: Retrospective can clone your user profiles to save time when configuring data sources. When you open a new search tab, the very recent user profile is selected automatically, so it can be searched right away.
A rubber which clears contents of editable fields with a single click has been added
You can sort data in all tables by whichever column is convenient for you.
The test connection option in remote host details has been added. This way you can do basic connection troubleshooting directly in Retrospective.
When adding source files, you will find a home icon, helping to navigate to your home directory - works for local computers as well as remote hosts.
Version 3.0.0 has been scheduled for mid-June. Retrospective will change so radically that you won’t recognize it. Some of the features on the roadmap are:
UI face lifting
Support of all unix and linux based operating systems: Solaris, FreeBSD, CentOS, Suse, Fedora, MacOS, AIX, HP-UX (until now it's only been linux)
Significant performance improvements - mainly in the SSH layer (but not only).
Possibility of starting a search with a custom profile that can contain multiple profiles or subset of one profile -> easy tree-based viewer for defining a custom profile
New quicker result table backed by a database - amount of data fetched will not be limited to x MB - better log analysis.
Automatic column recognition (for level and thread columns) - manual column split will be simplified and automated (no hassle with patterns anymore)
More fair and lower resource utilization on the local machine when retrospective is running (important if running retro on a laptop running on batteries).
Getting a position as a market leader in IT has its price, as we well know. However, there is nothing more rewarding than a constantly growing group of happy users and a feeling that we are doing what we do best, as well as we can. Retrospective 3.0.0 proves undeniably that this is true.