In this episode we interview Lee Johnson, product manager at RTI, to learn about RTI Labs, a program that provides developers with early access to advanced, IIoT technology. And the best part is, it’s free! We’ll also talk about the newest addition to RTI Labs - Log Parser.
In Episode 18 of The Connext Podcast:
- [3:01] What is RTI Labs
- [4:46] Easily debugging applications with Log Parser
- [9:09] How do I access Log Parser
- [9:52] Other available projects in RTI Labs
- [11:38] Future RTI Lab projects
- [Blog] Introducing RTI Labs and Connector for Connext DDS with Python
- [Webpage] Log Parser
- [Press Release] RTI Announces New Technology Incubator for the Industrial Internet
- [Blog] How to Debug DDS Applications with RTI Log Parser
Steven Onzo: Hi. Welcome to episode 18 of the Connext Podcast. I'm Steven Onzo, producer of the Connext Podcast. Today I'm pleased to present an interview with RTI product manager Lee Johnson, hosted by RTI's Niheer Patel.
Steven Onzo: In this episode we'll talk about RTI Labs, a free program that gives developers early access to emerging IIoT technology. We'll go into further detail about how the product management team leverages customer feedback for RTI technology, as well as the newest RTI Labs project, Log Parser and how it processes, Connext DDS log messages making it easier to debug applications. We hope you enjoy this episode.
Niheer Patel: Hey everyone this is Niheer Patel, product manager at RTI. Today we're gonna talk about RTI Labs, which we launched back in the fall. It's a project that we have put out to enable customers to take a look at some of our developing products. It's a great way for our customers to provide input to the product management team here at RTI. To help me discuss this, I'm introducing the newest member to the product management team, Lee Johnson.
Niheer Patel: Lee's gonna help us talk about RTI Labs, he's gonna talk about how customers can interact with RTI at the beginning of development processes here at RTI and even on the backend where we're talking about support cases with a project called Log Parser. And then, we'll jump into future projects and how you can get your hands on them.
Niheer Patel: Lee, thanks for joining me today.
Lee Johnson: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Niheer Patel: Why don't you tell the audience a little bit about yourself?
Lee Johnson: Yeah. Well, briefly again my name, Lee Johnson. I joined the product management team at RTI last year in 2017 and spend my time, these days working specifically with our sweet Connext tools. The set of utilities and development tools for debugging systems. You may be familiar with the likes of admin console monitor and so forth.
Lee Johnson: In addition to that I also work with one of our integration partners quite closely, National Instruments and our DDS toolkit for LabView.
Niheer Patel: Cool. Thanks, Lee. With regards to your experience on the product management team, what do you feel is the real importance of having such a team at RTI?
Lee Johnson: Product management fundamentally exists to ensure that our products are successful and that comes on a lot of different levels, but tying it into RTI Labs ... We'll get there shortly. We rely really heavily on being connected in different ways to our customers, and meeting the use cases that they face in their day to day jobs, and being connected, generally to the industries that we serve.
Lee Johnson: We're always looking for the ways to effectively keep that pulse on what those industries and what those customers really need out of RTI and out of the Connext product line.
[3:01] What is RTI Labs
Niheer Patel: Cool. That's the right answer, so I appreciate that. Let's jump into RTI Labs and talk about how that helps us get the feedback we need from customers. You actually joined right when we launched RTI Labs, so you were there from the beginning. What's your take?
Lee Johnson: Well, maybe not from the beginning, beginning. But, RTI Labs was a program launched last fall as a way for RTI to share new and emerging technology, which could be at various stages of development and productization with our users. Doing so well in advance of that technology potentially appearing in our product releases.
Lee Johnson: Again, part of our job as a product management team and generally as a product development organization is making sure that we're getting the right thing in the hands of our users at the right time. RTI Labs gives us a bit more agility to expose really great things to our users earlier than appearing in product.
Niheer Patel: We use RTI Labs, we work with customers, and they help us and we help them shepard these products through these different phases until they can get into kind of a production phase where customers can consume them and build them into their systems with a high level of confidence. A lot of this happens on the front end of our development cycles, our planning. But, we interact with customers through their entire development life cycle and that includes that backend support.
[4:46] Easily debugging applications with Log Parser
Niheer Patel: We got our front end planning, development, and then we support our customers through their development. One of the challenges that customers face with not just RTI, but any of their vendors is, "How do I exchange information when I do have a support case?" Right? As a customer, as a developer of a mission critical system I have a lot of sensitive information that I just don't want to share with my vendors, but there is some critical information I do need to share so they can help me debug a problem.
Niheer Patel: This is where we see maybe Log Parser coming in, can you talk a little bit more about that.
Lee Johnson: Yeah. Absolutely. You really captured the fundamental motivation for Log Parser. Log Parser, in a nutshell is a set of command line utilities that helps users more easily understand and unthread all of the detail within a set of logs that come out of our core Connext libraries.
Lee Johnson: Tying this back to support, Log Parser was really born out of the situation where we were working with customers who because of security reasons weren't able to share the detailed logs with our team. As a result they were essentially dead in the water and our support team was blind and at really at an impasse, unable to help.
Lee Johnson: Through a utility like Log Parser we were able to provide a way to not only compact, but obfuscate the sensitive detail in these logs and really get the support process rolling for these types of customers.
Niheer Patel: Right. Our support teams there, because we don't want to let our customers fail. They're gonna do everything they can to help customers and often times that means they need to get some insight into what's going wrong. This is a great way to help our customers help our support team help our customers. Right?
Niheer Patel: It's really getting them a tool to take out the nonessential information or the sensitive information and provide the details that support actually does need to have in order to solve their problems.
Lee Johnson: Yeah. Very true. There is a lot of detail that goes into the logs that come out of our core DDS libraries and a lot of that detail is really critical detail about the operation of a system and what might be going right, in terms of communication flows and also what's not going right. But, it really ...
Lee Johnson: There's additional detail in there that really relates to the internals of our middleware that may not be relevant to users and Log Parser's a mechanism to help them carve away that detail so they can get to what matters.
Niheer Patel: We've seen what our customers systems look like, they are massive. Again, mission critical, safety critical systems that have lots of data flows. I could imagine these logs are pretty hefty. Sensitive information aside, just trying to sift through logs can be a challenge. Any comments there on what Log Parser can do for that?
Lee Johnson: In speaking with our support team, they told me of an instance where ... This is perhaps an extreme case, but an instance where a customer had on the order of six gigabytes of log information that they wanted to share with us in asking us for help to debug a particular problem. Even though we have the ability to transfer that amount of information, practically speaking we can't ... It's difficult for us to do anything with that information.
Lee Johnson: Log Parser was a great way of compacting that information down to a manageable size and extracting the important pieces of insight that eventually led to resolution of the problem.
Niheer Patel: Yeah. It's a great tool for just interacting with support for getting what's needed in a minimal amount maybe to our support team. But, just for customers who want to sift through six gigabytes of log data they could auto parse it, and then sift through it in a little bit more meaningful way?
Lee Johnson: Yep. Absolutely.
[9:10] How do I access Log Parser
Niheer Patel: Thanks. That was a great conversation about Log Parser. Where can folks get it?
Lee Johnson: Well, we started this conversation talking about RTI Labs and I really encourage anybody interested, to visit RTI Labs at "RTI.com/Labs." We have a number of projects that we've made available and be happy to discuss more detail about those, but specifically for Log Parser, that is available on RTI Labs. You'll see an introduction to Log Parser, as well as a portal with instructions on how to get it. Along with an example of how to start using it.
[9:52] Other available projects in RTI Labs
Niheer Patel: Great. Thanks. Let's talk about what's coming in the future for RTI Labs, what are some of the things that our customers can look forward to trying out in the next months or a year?
Lee Johnson: Well, we should recognize that there are a number of projects already available on RTI Labs. When it was launched last fall it included a handful of really, really interesting projects. I can go through those quickly.
Niheer Patel: Let's do it.
Lee Johnson: One's called RTI Connector, which includes a set of bindings between the core Connext DDS libraries and a number of common scripting languages like Python, Java Script, and Lua.
Lee Johnson: Another project is called System Designer, which you can think of as a graphical front end for designing and configuring DDS systems if you're at all familiar with XML application creation. It's really intended to be a front end to that process of designing systems through XML.
Niheer Patel: If you're not familiar with XML app creation, then please reach out to us and we'll be happy to talk to you about that too.
Lee Johnson: And then, finally Cloud Discovery Service, which it provides a mechanism for discovery in Cloud based environments where multicast may not be available. You can think of RTI Labs in a sense as sort of an incubator for these new, emerging technologies in various stages of productization. In fact, one of the projects I just mentioned, Connector is graduating to "full product" status here-
Niheer Patel: Alright we’ll have to have a celebration for that one.
Lee Johnson: Yeah. You can expect to see that in an upcoming release.
[11:38] Future RTI Lab projects
Niheer Patel: Cool. Thanks. Now can we talk about the new stuff?
Lee Johnson: Absolutely. Looking forward, we're really excited that RTI Labs becomes more and more of a hub for useful technology that relates to building DDS systems and really, in that light there are no holds barred in terms of what could end up as an RTI Labs project. Internally we're focused more heavily, I'd say on integrations and adapters with other technologies.
Lee Johnson: We've been doing a fair bit of work exploring connections with other middleware protocols, as well as adapters to ... For example, Time Series databases. We're working with the likes of Influx data. Just as an example. Understanding what it means to provide different ways of connecting DDS systems to backend systems.
Niheer Patel: Yeah. I think it's important to acknowledge there's so many different technologies being used. DDS isn't the answer to everything, but certainly as a database is an infrastructure that needs to interact with several existing technologies.
Niheer Patel: To our audience, the adapters that you would like to see either to other protocols or databases, be sure to reach out to us through RTI Labs.
Lee Johnson: Yeah. Not only RTI Labs, really through any interaction that you have with the RTI team. Whether it's through support or sales or through-
Niheer Patel: Absolutely.
Lee Johnson: ... through product management, we're ... Again, there's a lot of energy behind RTI Labs and we're looking to key in on the important areas that matter to our customers in terms of new technologies.
Niheer Patel: Absolutely. Well, Lee. Thank you for joining me. Do you have any parting words for our audience?
Lee Johnson: No. I don't, Niheer.
Niheer Patel: Well, thanks. To the audience, anything you need from us, be sure to reach out. Again, as Lee mentioned any interaction with RTI just bring it up. We love hearing feedback from our users. Thank you very much.
Lee Johnson: Yeah. I'll echo that, joking aside. As a product management team, as a product development organization we definitely love being, again closely connected with our customers. We'd love to hear from you.
Lee Johnson: Love to hear what you're doing, love to hear what your needs are in terms of new technologies and ways that we can help you build better systems and utilize our technology to a greater extent. Thanks again, Niheer.
Niheer Patel: Yep. Thank you, Lee.
Steven Onzo: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Connext Podcast. If you have any questions or suggestions for future interviews, please be sure to reach out to us either on social media or at "Podcast@RTI.com." Thanks. Have a great day.