|By AppDynamics Blog||
|November 20, 2012 01:52 PM EST||
Welcome back to my series on Deploying APM in the Enterprise. In Part 4: Path of the Rockstar, we discussed how to deploy your new monitoring tool and get maximum value from your time and monetary commitment. This post will cover one of the most important aspects of monitoring: alerting. This is the topic that can make or break your entire implementation. Get it wrong and you've wasted a bunch of time and money on mediocre results. Get it right and your time and money investment will be multiplied by the value you derive every day.
App Man wrote a great blog post earlier this year about behavioral learning and analytics as they apply to alerts. If you haven't already done so, I suggest you go read it after you finish this post. Instead of repeating what was covered in that post, we will explore the issues that I saw out in real enterprise operations centers.
Traditional Alerting Methods Don't Work Well
Do any of these sound familiar?
- "I got paged at 3 AM with a high CPU alert. It was backups running and consuming the CPU. This happens almost every week! Maybe we should turn change the threshold setting and timing."
- "We just got a notification of high disk and network I/O rates. Is that normal? Does anyone know if our app is still working right?"
- "We just got an alert on high JVM memory usage. Can someone use the app to see if anything is wrong?"
- "We just got a call from a user complaining that the website is slow but there were no alerts."
Comments like these are a way of life when you set static thresholds (ex. CPU utilization > 90% for 5 minutes) on metrics that aren't direct indicators of application performance. It's the equivalent of taking a person's heart rate while they are exercising to see if the person is performing as expected. A really high heart rate might indicate that a person is performing well or that they are about to die of a heart attack. Heart rate would be a supporting metric to something more meaningful like how long it took to run the past 1/4 mile. The same holds true for application performance. We will explore this concept further a little later.
Storm of the Century ... Again!
One of the most important lessons I learned while working in large enterprise environments is that you will almost always set static thresholds wrong. Set them too high and you run the risk of missing a real problem. Set them too low and you will get so many alerts that they become irrelevant as you spend all of your time chasing "problems" that don't really exist. Getting massive amounts of alerts in a short period of time is referred to as an "Alert Storm" and is really despised in the IT Operations world. Alert storms send masses of people scrambling trying to determine if and what kind of impact there really is to the business.
Alert Storms are so detrimental to operations that companies spend a lot of money on systems designed to prevent alert storms. These systems become a central aggregation point for alerts and rules are written that try to intelligently address alert storm conditions. This method just adds to the overhead costs and complexity of your overall monitoring environment and should ideally never have to be considered.
Alerts Done Right - Business Impact
The right question to ask now is; "How can alerting be done the right way without spending more time and money than it costs to develop and run my applications?"
Your most critical, intelligent, trusted (or whatever other buzz words makes sense here) alerts should be based off metrics that directly represent business impact. Following are a few examples:
- End user response time (good indicator of regional issues)
- Business transaction response time (good indicator of systemic issues)
- Business transaction throughput rate (do we see the same amount of traffic as usual?)
- Number of widgets sold (is there a problem preventing users from buying?)
Now that you know what type of metrics should be the triggers for your alerts, you need to know what the proper alerting method is for these metrics. By now you should know that I am going to discourage the use of static thresholds. Your monitoring tool needs to support behavioral baselining and alerts based upon deviation from baselines. Simply put, your monitoring tool needs to automatically learn normal behavior for each metric and only alert if there is a large enough deviation from that normal behavior.
Now let me point out that I do not hate static thresholds. On the contrary, I find them useful in certain situations. For example, if I've promised a 300 ms response time from the service that I manage, I really want an alert if ANY transactions take longer than 300 ms so I can identify the root cause and make sure it never happens again. That is a perfect time to set up a static threshold but it is more of an outlier case when it comes to alerting.
Here is a real world example of how powerful behavioral based alerts are compared to static based. When I was working for the Investment Banking division of a global Financial Services firm, the operations center received an alert that was based upon deviation from normal behavior. The alert was routed to the application support team who quickly identified the issue and were able to avoid an outage of their trading platform. A post event analysis reveled that the behavioral based alert triggered 45 minutes before an old static based alert would have been sent out. This 45 minute head start enabled the support team to completely avoid business impact, which equated to saving millions of dollars per hour in lost revenue for that particular application.
I love it when you recoup the cost of your monitoring tools by avoiding a single outage!!!
Integration, Not Segregation
Now that we know about behavioral learning and alerting, and that we need to focus on metrics that directly correlate to business impact, what else is important when it comes to alerts?
Integration and analysis of alerts and data can help reduce your MTTR (mean time to repair) from hours/days/weeks to minutes. When your operations center receives an alert, they usually just forward it on to the appropriate support team and wait to hear back on the resolution. If done right, your operations center can pass along a full set of meaningful information to the proper support team so that they can act almost immediately. Imagine sending an email to support that contained a link to a slow "checkout" business transaction plus charts of all of the supporting metrics (CPU, garbage collection, network i/o, etc...) that deviated from normal behavior before, during, and after the time of the slow transaction. That's way more powerful than sending an alert from ops to app support that complains of high CPU utilization on a given host.
You Can't Afford to Live in the Past
The IT world is constantly changing. What once was "cutting edge" has transitioned through "good enough" and is full blown "you still use that?" Alerts from static thresholds based upon metrics that have no relationship to business impact are costing your organization time and money. Monitoring Rockstars are constantly adapting to the changing IT landscape and making sure their organization takes advantage of the strategies and technologies that enable competitive advantage.
When you use the right monitoring tools with the proper alerting strategy, you help your organization improve customer service, focus on creating new and better product, and increase profits all by reducing the number and length of application outages. So implement the strategies discussed here, document your success, and then go ask for a raise!
Thanks for taking the time to read this week's installment in my continuing series. Next week I'll share my thoughts and experience on increasing adoption of your monitoring tools across organizational silos to really crank up the value proposition.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet condit...
Oct. 9, 2015 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 618
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively.
Oct. 9, 2015 10:15 PM EDT Reads: 213
The web app is agile. The REST API is agile. The testing and planning are agile. But alas, data infrastructures certainly are not. Once an application matures, changing the shape or indexing scheme of data often forces at best a top down planning exercise and at worst includes schema changes that force downtime. The time has come for a new approach that fundamentally advances the agility of distributed data infrastructures. Come learn about a new solution to the problems faced by software organ...
Oct. 9, 2015 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 938
Achim Weiss is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of ProfitBricks. In 1995, he broke off his studies to co-found the web hosting company "Schlund+Partner." The company "Schlund+Partner" later became the 1&1 web hosting product line. From 1995 to 2008, he was the technical director for several important projects: the largest web hosting platform in the world, the second largest DSL platform, a video on-demand delivery network, the largest eMail backend in Europe, and a universal billing syste...
Oct. 9, 2015 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 233
Saviynt Inc. has announced the availability of the next release of Saviynt for AWS. The comprehensive security and compliance solution provides a Command-and-Control center to gain visibility into risks in AWS, enforce real-time protection of critical workloads as well as data and automate access life-cycle governance. The solution enables AWS customers to meet their compliance mandates such as ITAR, SOX, PCI, etc. by including an extensive risk and controls library to detect known threats and b...
Oct. 9, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 244
Docker is hot. However, as Docker container use spreads into more mature production pipelines, there can be issues about control of Docker images to ensure they are production-ready. Is a promotion-based model appropriate to control and track the flow of Docker images from development to production? In his session at DevOps Summit, Fred Simon, Co-founder and Chief Architect of JFrog, will demonstrate how to implement a promotion model for Docker images using a binary repository, and then show h...
Oct. 9, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 187
DevOps has often been described in terms of CAMS: Culture, Automation, Measuring, Sharing. While we’ve seen a lot of focus on the “A” and even on the “M”, there are very few examples of why the “C" is equally important in the DevOps equation. In her session at @DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, of F5 Networks, will explore HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 along with Microservices to illustrate why a collaborative culture between Dev, Ops, and the Network is critical to ensuring success.
Oct. 9, 2015 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 170
Overgrown applications have given way to modular applications, driven by the need to break larger problems into smaller problems. Similarly large monolithic development processes have been forced to be broken into smaller agile development cycles. Looking at trends in software development, microservices architectures meet the same demands. Additional benefits of microservices architectures are compartmentalization and a limited impact of service failure versus a complete software malfunction....
Oct. 9, 2015 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 262
Despite all the talk about public cloud services and DevOps, you would think the move to cloud for enterprises is clear and simple. But in a survey of almost 1,600 IT decision makers across the USA and Europe, the state of the cloud in enterprise today is still fraught with considerable frustration. The business case for apps in the real world cloud is hybrid, bimodal, multi-platform, and difficult. Download this report commissioned by NTT Communications to see the insightful findings – registra...
Oct. 9, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 303
Manufacturing has widely adopted standardized and automated processes to create designs, build them, and maintain them through their life cycle. However, many modern manufacturing systems go beyond mechanized workflows to introduce empowered workers, flexible collaboration, and rapid iteration. Such behaviors also characterize open source software development and are at the heart of DevOps culture, processes, and tooling.
Oct. 9, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,107
Containers are revolutionizing the way we deploy and maintain our infrastructures, but monitoring and troubleshooting in a containerized environment can still be painful and impractical. Understanding even basic resource usage is difficult - let alone tracking network connections or malicious activity. In his session at DevOps Summit, Gianluca Borello, Sr. Software Engineer at Sysdig, will cover the current state of the art for container monitoring and visibility, including pros / cons and li...
Oct. 9, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 247
DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo 2014 Silicon Valley was a terrific event for us. The Qubell booth was crowded on all three days. We ran demos every 30 minutes with folks lining up to get a seat and usually standing around. It was great to meet and talk to over 500 people! My keynote was well received and so was Stan's joint presentation with RingCentral on Devops for BigData. I also participated in two Power Panels – ‘Women in Technology’ and ‘Why DevOps Is Even More Important than You Think,’ both ...
Oct. 9, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 8,679
In a report titled “Forecast Analysis: Enterprise Application Software, Worldwide, 2Q15 Update,” Gartner analysts highlighted the increasing trend of application modernization among enterprises. According to a recent survey, 45% of respondents stated that modernization of installed on-premises core enterprise applications is one of the top five priorities. Gartner also predicted that by 2020, 75% of
Oct. 9, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 343
As the world moves towards more DevOps and microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Raghavan "Rags" Srinivas, an Architect/Developer Evangeli...
Oct. 9, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 188
Our guest on the podcast this week is Jason Bloomberg, President at Intellyx. When we build services we want them to be lightweight, stateless and scalable while doing one thing really well. In today's cloud world, we're revisiting what to takes to make a good service in the first place. Listen in to learn why following "the book" doesn't necessarily mean that you're solving key business problems.
Oct. 9, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,237
For it to be SOA – let alone SOA done right – we need to pin down just what "SOA done wrong" might be. First-generation SOA with Web Services and ESBs, perhaps? But then there's second-generation, REST-based SOA. More lightweight and cloud-friendly, but many REST-based SOA practices predate the microservices wave. Today, microservices and containers go hand in hand – only the details of "container-oriented architecture" are largely on the drawing board – and are not likely to look much like S...
Oct. 9, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 508
In their session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, co-founder and the VP of Product at Logz.io, and Tomer Levy, co-founder and CEO of Logz.io, will explore the entire process that they have undergone – through research, benchmarking, implementation, optimization, and customer success – in developing a processing engine that can handle petabytes of data. They will also discuss the requirements of such an engine in terms of scalability, resilience, security, and availability along with how the archi...
Oct. 9, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 408
Any Ops team trying to support a company in today’s cloud-connected world knows that a new way of thinking is required – one just as dramatic than the shift from Ops to DevOps. The diversity of modern operations requires teams to focus their impact on breadth vs. depth. In his session at DevOps Summit, Adam Serediuk, Director of Operations at xMatters, Inc., will discuss the strategic requirements of evolving from Ops to DevOps, and why modern Operations has begun leveraging the “NoOps” approa...
Oct. 9, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 164
The last decade was about virtual machines, but the next one is about containers. Containers enable a service to run on any host at any time. Traditional tools are starting to show cracks because they were not designed for this level of application portability. Now is the time to look at new ways to deploy and manage applications at scale. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, Brian “Redbeard” Harrington, a principal architect at CoreOS, will examine how CoreOS helps teams run in production. Attende...
Oct. 9, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,259
With containerization using Docker, the orchestration of containers using Kubernetes, the self-service model for provisioning your projects and applications and the workflows we built in OpenShift is the best in class Platform as a Service that enables introducing DevOps into your organization with ease. In his session at DevOps Summit, Veer Muchandi, PaaS evangelist with RedHat, will provide a deep dive overview of OpenShift v3 and demonstrate how it helps with DevOps.
Oct. 9, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 671