Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, PagerDuty Blog, Elizabeth White, Roger Strukhoff, David Green

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Blog Feed Post

Deploying APM in the Enterprise | Part 5

Alerts – Storm of the Century – Every Week!

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.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By AppDynamics Blog

In high-production environments where release cycles are measured in hours or minutes — not days or weeks — there's little room for mistakes and no room for confusion. Everyone has to understand what's happening, in real time, and have the means to do whatever is necessary to keep applications up and running optimally.

DevOps is a high-stakes world, but done well, it delivers the agility and performance to significantly impact business competitiveness.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Am...

Modern organizations face great challenges as they embrace innovation and integrate new tools and services. They begin to mature and move away from the complacency of maintaining traditional technologies and systems that only solve individual, siloed problems and work “well enough.” In order to build...

The post Gearing up for Digital Transformation appeared first on Aug. 26, 2016 01:30 PM EDT  Reads: 1,423

Using new techniques of information modeling, indexing, and processing, new cloud-based systems can support cloud-based workloads previously not possible for high-throughput insurance, banking, and case-based applications. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, John Newton, CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco, described how to scale cloud-based content management repositories to store, manage, and retrieve billions of documents and related information with fast and linear scalability. He addres...
Cloud Expo 2016 New York at the Javits Center New York was characterized by increased attendance and a new focus on operations. These were both encouraging signs for all involved in Cloud Computing and all that it touches. As Conference Chair, I work with the Cloud Expo team to structure three keynotes, numerous general sessions, and more than 150 breakout sessions along 10 tracks. Our job is to balance the state of enterprise IT today with the trends that will be commonplace tomorrow. Mobile...
The following fictional case study is a composite of actual horror stories I’ve heard over the years. Unfortunately, this scenario often occurs when in-house integration teams take on the complexities of DevOps and ALM integration with an enterprise service bus (ESB) or custom integration. It is written from the perspective of an enterprise architect tasked with leading an organization’s effort to adopt Agile to become more competitive. The company has turned to Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) as ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that eCube Systems, a leading provider of middleware modernization, integration, and management solutions, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. eCube Systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. ...
To leverage Continuous Delivery, enterprises must consider impacts that span functional silos, as well as applications that touch older, slower moving components. Managing the many dependencies can cause slowdowns. See how to achieve continuous delivery in the enterprise.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
This is a no-hype, pragmatic post about why I think you should consider architecting your next project the way SOA and/or microservices suggest. No matter if it’s a greenfield approach or if you’re in dire need of refactoring. Please note: considering still keeps open the option of not taking that approach. After reading this, you will have a better idea about whether building multiple small components instead of a single, large component makes sense for your project. This post assumes that you...
A company’s collection of online systems is like a delicate ecosystem – all components must integrate with and complement each other, and one single malfunction in any of them can bring the entire system to a screeching halt. That’s why, when monitoring and analyzing the health of your online systems, you need a broad arsenal of different tools for your different needs. In addition to a wide-angle lens that provides a snapshot of the overall health of your system, you must also have precise, ...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
Sharding has become a popular means of achieving scalability in application architectures in which read/write data separation is not only possible, but desirable to achieve new heights of concurrency. The premise is that by splitting up read and write duties, it is possible to get better overall performance at the cost of a slight delay in consistency. That is, it takes a bit of time to replicate changes initiated by a "write" to the read-only master database. It's eventually consistent, and it'...
The burgeoning trends around DevOps are translating into new types of IT infrastructure that both developers and operators can take advantage of. The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer thought leadership discussion focuses on the burgeoning trends around DevOps and how that’s translating into new types of IT infrastructure that both developers and operators can take advantage of.
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Thomas Bitman of Gartner wrote a blog post last year about why OpenStack projects fail. In that article, he outlined three particular metrics which together cause 60% of OpenStack projects to fall short of expectations: Wrong people (31% of failures): a successful cloud needs commitment both from the operations team as well as from "anchor" tenants. Wrong processes (19% of failures): a successful cloud automates across silos in the software development lifecycle, not just within silos.
Monitoring of Docker environments is challenging. Why? Because each container typically runs a single process, has its own environment, utilizes virtual networks, or has various methods of managing storage. Traditional monitoring solutions take metrics from each server and applications they run. These servers and applications running on them are typically very static, with very long uptimes. Docker deployments are different: a set of containers may run many applications, all sharing the resource...