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@DevOpsSummit: Blog Post

DevOps and Actionable DataPoints | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #BigData #Microservices

No one in IT or DevOps has the time to manually determine the actionable data points

Information overload has infiltrated our lives. From the amount of news available and at our fingertips 24/7, to the endless choices we have when making a simple purchase, to the quantity of emails we receive on a given day, it's increasingly difficult to sift out the details that really matter.

When you envision your cloud monitoring system, the same thinking applies. We receive a lot of useless data that gets fed into the system, and the reality is no one in IT or DevOps has the time to manually determine the actionable data points (that's a whole job itself), meaning monitoring what really matters is a tall order.

Even a basic cloud application can produce hundreds or thousands of data points per second. From resource metrics to activity logs, a handful of servers produces more "monitor-able" data than any human can reasonably consume. Factor in the rest of the cloud architecture - web performance, network performance, and so on - and it's clear we need a filter to monitor for data that requires action. Not only that, but we need to correlate data performance points across all systems and compare over time to find averages. The information we receive in cloud monitoring systems becomes an endless cycle of "the boy who cried wolf" - how can we really know when it's time to react to something if we're constantly receiving alerts and data? Many of the high-profile breaches in recent years have occurred for this very reason, and for companies experiencing rapid growth this issue becomes even greater over time.

This system is broken. When something goes wrong, it's like we're sitting in front of a nuclear reactor dashboard that's going haywire with alarms sounding and hundreds of buttons flashing red and we have no idea where to start in order to fix the problem. In scenarios like this in the movies, a pro always comes in and knows which one button to press to solve the issue - we need to be that person.

The Key to Smart Monitoring
The good news for all of us is smart monitoring exists and is achievable for any organization.

Take Instacart, for example, the Internet-based grocery delivery service currently operating in 17 U.S. cities and recently named Forbes' Most Promising Company of 2015. Instacart has experienced tremendous growth since its inception in 2012, and as a web and mobile-based app, the critical infrastructure that runs the business' applications faces constant demands for speedy service, expansion into new markets and increasing numbers of customers and shoppers. It's imperative for the technical team to ensure their full stack is running at optimal performance, because having the right infrastructure monitoring solutions saves the team time and allows them to focus on continuing to grow the business and support users.

Uptime and reliability of services are key metrics for Instacart, whose very name suggests an always-on nature. In response to the influx of data, Instacart employed a cloud monitoring system for its entire stack, providing top-to-bottom monitoring that enables the company to worry less about its cloud infrastructure and more about continuing to grow the business - and having a nimble monitoring system that will scale with them. For Instacart, relying on commercial real-time monitoring services to handle scaling parts of the infrastructure, including log aggregation and analysis and data correlation and reporting, is the answer.

For organizations of any size, there are golden rules when it comes to monitoring what matters, and Instacart is an example of a company who has applied this logic and continues to see success. Here are the guidelines to follow for smart cloud monitoring:

  • Start with business goals to optimize your system: Too often companies start with cloud monitoring tools and factor in the business goals later, which can leave you with tools incapable of meeting your specific needs. For smart cloud monitoring, this logic needs to be reversed. Understand what your business needs in terms of monitoring - are you anticipating rapid growth? What does your stack look like? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to monitoring, but overall it should allow you to respond to and resolve problems before they grow. You need to have enough information about how a system is performing overall and map that with business growth on an ongoing basis.
  • Focus on all systems: For optimal cloud monitoring, you should have a tool or set of tools that can consume all data from all systems. From there the system will aggregate, combine and correlate the data to create custom dashboards based on your unique monitoring needs and troubleshoot problems faster. This is essential to have full visibility and to perform accurate root cause analysis.
  • Turn data into insights: To be successful, it's all about having meaningful alerts and knowing if and when you should react. Cloud monitoring systems capable of turning streams of massive data into insights for DevOps teams are the true key to success when monitoring what matters.

For today's cloud-driven businesses, the inability to monitor effectively for data that requires action could mean a loss of competitive edge. DevOps teams dealing with a constant influx of data from monitoring systems should understand how to monitor what really matters in order to remain successful and help take their businesses into the future.

More Stories By Gerardo A Dada

Gerardo A Dada is Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy for SolarWinds’ database and applications business globally. He is a technologist who has been at the center of the Web, mobile, social and cloud revolutions at companies like Rackspace, Microsoft, Motorola, Vignette and Bazaarvoice. He has been involved with database technologies from dBase to BTrieve to SQL Server and NoSQL and DBaaS in the cloud.

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