Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Derek Weeks, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez

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 Jyoti Bansal

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
When building DevOps or continuous delivery practices you can learn a great deal from others. What choices did they make, what practices did they put in place, and how did they connect the dots? At Sonatype, we pulled together a set of 21 reference architectures for folks building continuous delivery and DevOps practices using Docker. Why? After 3,000 DevOps professionals attended our webinar on "Continuous Integration using Docker" discussing just one reference architecture example, we recogn...
"We're bringing out a new application monitoring system to the DevOps space. It manages large enterprise applications that are distributed throughout a node in many enterprises and we manage them as one collective," explained Kevin Barnes, President of eCube Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
In his General Session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, Co-Founder & VP of Product at Logz.io, will explore the value of Kibana 4 for log analysis and will give a real live, hands-on tutorial on how to set up Kibana 4 and get the most out of Apache log files. He will examine three use cases: IT operations, business intelligence, and security and compliance. This is a hands-on session that will require participants to bring their own laptops, and we will provide the rest.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International 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 developm...
An overall theme of Cloud computing and the specific practices within it is fundamentally one of automation. The core value of technology is to continually automate low level procedures to free up people to work on more value add activities, ultimately leading to the utopian goal of full Autonomic Computing. For example a great way to define your plan for DevOps tool chain adoption is through this lens. In this TechTarget article they outline a simple maturity model for planning this.
As the race for the presidency heats up, IT leaders would do well to recall the famous catchphrase from Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign against George H. W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid.” That catchphrase is important, because IT economics are important. Especially when it comes to cloud. Application performance management (APM) for the cloud may turn out to be as much about those economics as it is about customer experience.
When you focus on a journey from up-close, you look at your own technical and cultural history and how you changed it for the benefit of the customer. This was our starting point: too many integration issues, 13 SWP days and very long cycles. It was evident that in this fast-paced industry we could no longer afford this reality. We needed something that would take us beyond reducing the development lifecycles, CI and Agile methodologies. We made a fundamental difference, even changed our culture...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, 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 opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and E...
Thanks to Docker, it becomes very easy to leverage containers to build, ship, and run any Linux application on any kind of infrastructure. Docker is particularly helpful for microservice architectures because their successful implementation relies on a fast, efficient deployment mechanism – which is precisely one of the features of Docker. Microservice architectures are therefore becoming more popular, and are increasingly seen as an interesting option even for smaller projects, instead of being...
Hardware virtualization and cloud computing allowed us to increase resource utilization and increase our flexibility to respond to business demand. Docker Containers are the next quantum leap - Are they?! Databases always represented an additional set of challenges unique to running workloads requiring a maximum of I/O, network, CPU resources combined with data locality.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
2016 has been an amazing year for Docker and the container industry. We had 3 major releases of Docker engine this year , and tremendous increase in usage. The community has been following along and contributing amazing Docker resources to help you learn and get hands-on experience. Here’s some of the top read and viewed content for the year. Of course releases are always really popular, particularly when they fit requests we had from the community.
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
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 ...
Here’s a novel, but controversial statement, “it’s time for the CEO, COO, CIO to start to take joint responsibility for application platform decisions.” For too many years now technical meritocracy has led the decision-making for the business with regard to platform selection. This includes, but is not limited to, servers, operating systems, virtualization, cloud and application platforms. In many of these cases the decision has not worked in favor of the business with regard to agility and cost...
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud enviro...