DevOps is an approach to software development and operation, where teams are able to collaborate more effectively and accelerate software releases from development to production. As a result, organizations can release new features faster and with higher quality.
The need for speed and collaboration across departments is what's driving many organizations toward DevOps. But it's not just about faster software releases; it's about releasing higher quality software faster by enabling the people who build and support applications (known as operators) to react to changing conditions quickly, proactively, and directly.
In this blog post, we will discuss why monitoring and feedback are critical in accelerating your path toward DevOps while maintaining your company's high standards for quality.
Why is Monitoring so Important in a DevOps Environment?
All organizations should be monitoring their software and the underlying infrastructure on which their applications run. But when you're implementing a DevOps approach, monitoring becomes even more important because it provides visibility into the application environment and alerts when things are not running as expected.
With a traditional software development lifecycle, engineers would build the application, test it, and then push it out to a staging server environment where operations professionals would monitor it to make sure it's up and running. When the app was determined to be good to go, the operations team would then push it out to production.
In a DevOps environment, the handoff between development and operations happens much more frequently. In some cases, developers may be responsible for deploying to production or at the very least, testing their code on staging servers before operations engineers deploy it to production.
With the rapid releases that happen to production in a DevOps environment, small changes can have large impacts on the reliability and stability of applications. By building monitoring and observability directly into a delivery pipeline, the parties responsible for shipping code are the same parties responsible for making sure that the code is operating as expected.
DevOps advocates for smaller more frequent releases meaning drift can happen over time. Features that performed well several months ago may have gotten incrementally worse over time. Observability helps identify these issues and ensures that future work is scheduled to adequately remediate issues from organic growth before they turn into production outages.
The Importance of Monitoring in a DevOps Environment
As we've discussed, there are many benefits to implementing a DevOps model versus a traditional software development lifecycle. But what exactly does monitoring have to do with DevOps? It's no coincidence that monitoring is one of the core components of DevOps.
The mere act of monitoring software, infrastructure, and network performance is the important first step in taking advantage of the benefits of DevOps. And when you're monitoring, you're also able to analyze and gain insight into your current state based on real-time data.
While companies are in the process of implementing a DevOps approach, monitoring becomes even more important as it can help you identify potential bottlenecks in your software delivery pipeline.
Benefits of Monitoring in a DevOps Environment
- Increased insight into the current state: Monitoring gives you the ability to see and understand the current state of your applications, network, and infrastructure. Without monitoring, you would have no visibility into the current state, which makes it more difficult to identify issues and resolve them.
- Sensitivity to application issues: When you're monitoring, you're able to quickly detect issues, both big and small, that disrupt the flow of your business. This includes issues such as a website or app outage, poor performance, increased latency, security issues, and more.
- Ability to resolve issues quickly: When monitoring is part of your software delivery pipeline and you're able to recognize and resolve issues quickly, you're able to decrease the amount of time it takes to restore normal operations.
- Predictability: Monitoring also gives you the ability to predict what will happen next, which can be helpful when planning for upcoming events such as conferences or holidays. By understanding the current state, you can predict what might happen next and prepare for it.
Monitor Constantly to Understand the Current State Continuously
Data points that are generated and collected by application and infrastructure monitoring tools are known as machine data. Machine data is a fantastic source of data to understand the current state of your applications. Machine data is generated and collected at the application level, which gives you an accurate representation of what is happening in your environment.
As you're monitoring, you also capture human-generated data, which is data that is entered into the system manually. For example, if you receive a ticket about a performance issue, this would be recorded as human-generated data. Although human-generated data is not as accurate as machine data, it gives insight into what is happening in the application environment.
Monitor Constantly to Understand Why Something Happened
Monitoring gives you the ability to understand why something happened, which can be beneficial when it comes to debugging issues and resolving them quickly.
Application logs are a fantastic source of why something happened because they show a timeline of events. This can help you identify bottlenecks in your application, when various events occur, when errors are thrown, and much more.
Tracing is another source of why something happened. Tracing is a way to visualize the path that packets take as they move through the network. This can be helpful if you notice something in the application logs, but you're not sure where the problem is.
Monitor Constantly to Predict What Will Happen Next
Monitoring gives you the ability to predict what will happen next by giving you insight into the current state as well as why certain things happened. This can be helpful when planning for upcoming events such as conferences or holidays.
By understanding the current state, you can predict what will happen next with application performance. This can help you proactively prepare for upcoming events that require a heavier lift, such as sales or Black Friday events.
There are several cardinal sins when it comes to system monitoring.
- Running out of disk space
- Memory swapping to disk
- Connectivity issues
- CPU being pegged at 100% constantly
Any of these issues (along with dozens of other cardinal sins) are the types of issues that don't get forgiven often when they show up in an RCA. By doing trend analysis on systems, capacity can more readily be predicted and proper measures can be taken before the only corrective action is to buy more hardware.
Systems like databases, email servers, or any system which is trying to serve up real-time data in milliseconds are going to be sensitive to storage anomalies. Disk fails, redundant paths are taken offline for maintenance, patching happens, and each of these events has the possibility of drastically changing the operating state of an application. Consistently monitoring to ensure you are staying well away from your upper bounds will keep the focus off one of the most integral and sensitive parts of any ecosystem.
Monitoring also allows you to understand the current state of network performance. This can help you predict what will happen next by allowing you to proactively prepare for higher levels of network traffic.
Monitoring is one of the core components of DevOps and is the important first step in taking advantage of the benefits of DevOps. By implementing a DevOps approach, monitoring becomes even more important because it provides visibility into the application environment and alerts when things are not running as expected.
Machine data is a fantastic source of data to understand the current state of your applications. Monitoring also gives you the ability to understand why something happened, which can help you debug issues and predict what will happen next.