USENIX Tenth System Administration Conference (LISA
Using Visualization in System and Network Administration
Unix systems have numerous tools that generate copious amounts
of data about performance, security, process status, networking and
sundry other things; this usually results in the output of raw
numbers or text. Visualization of this data can lead to useful
insights. Examples include: graphing performance data, customizing
tools to make a complex operation easier to understand, and
correlating log events according to user-defined rules or patterns.
Using visualization in daily activity can help the brain recognize
normal and aberrant behavior, make complex tasks easier, and
improve workplace efficiency.
The goal of this paper is to detail how simple rapid-
prototyping, GUI tools can be used to quickly develop applications
to visualize data. This paper also describes the application of
visualization to areas of system and network administration. I will
attempt to illustrate my own results and experiences developing
visualization tools in Tcl/Tk  (with various extensions). The
design and implementation of four such tools will be discussed and
used as examples of visualization applied toward system and network
administration. Some have surpassed their original design criteria
and provided unanticipated side-effects that enhance their utility.
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