Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

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
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to 'DevOps at Cloud Expo 2016' as Conference Chair The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited t...
In the world of DevOps there are ‘known good practices’ – aka ‘patterns’ – and ‘known bad practices’ – aka ‘anti-patterns.' Many of these patterns and anti-patterns have been developed from real world experience, especially by the early adopters of DevOps theory; but many are more feasible in theory than in practice, especially for more recent entrants to the DevOps scene. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Chair Andi Mann, panelists discusse...
When people aren’t talking about VMs and containers, they’re talking about serverless architecture. Serverless is about no maintenance. It means you are not worried about low-level infrastructural and operational details. An event-driven serverless platform is a great use case for IoT. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Animesh Singh, an STSM and Lead for IBM Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, will detail how to build a distributed serverless, polyglot, microservices framework using open source tec...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
Gartner is now treating algorithms like they are some kind of innovative addition to the modern digital discussion. Presumably the brilliant minds there have some novel insight into algorithms and, yes, the Algorithm Economy that CIOs should sit up and take notice of. Not only are algorithms nothing new, but much of what Gartner is saying about them is obvious. The bigger picture here is that software continues to improve, and enterprises are becoming increasingly software-driven, in part bec...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Val...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City, and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to 'DevOps at Cloud Expo 2016' as Conference Chair The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. "DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited to help the g...
Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) will feature the upcoming 18th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in a New York news documentary about the "New IT for the Future." The documentary will cover how big companies are transmitting or adopting the new IT for the future and will be filmed on the expo floor between June 7-June 9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. KBS has long been a leader in the development of the broadcasting culture of Korea. As the key public service broadcaster of Korea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Addteq will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Addteq is one of the top 10 Platinum Atlassian Experts who specialize in DevOps, custom and continuous integration, automation, plugin development, and consulting for midsize and global firms. Addteq firmly believes that automation is essential for successful software releases. Addteq centers its products a...
In the rush to compete in the digital age, a successful digital transformation is essential, but many organizations are setting themselves up for failure. There’s a common misconception that the process is just about technology, but it’s not. It’s about your business. It shouldn’t be treated as an isolated IT project; it should be driven by business needs with the committed involvement of a range of stakeholders.
SYS-CON Events announced today that FalconStor Software® Inc., a 15-year innovator of software-defined storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. FalconStor Software®, Inc. (NASDAQ: FALC) is a leading software-defined storage company offering a converged, hardware-agnostic, software-defined storage and data services platform. Its flagship solution FreeStor®, utilizes a horizonta...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Column Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Established in 1998, Column Technologies is a global technology solutions provider with over 400 employees, headquartered in the United States with offices in Canada, India, and the United Kingdom. Column Technologies provides “Best of Breed” technology solutions that automate the key DevOps principal...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.