The brutal reality is that ineffective monitoring invites trouble. Monitoring is your infrastructure’s eyes and ears. Ineffective monitoring is like driving with a wrong glasses prescription: you can’t see clearly, so it’s hard avoid current and future hazards.
Digital transformation has accelerated IT’s role in organizational success. End users and clients demand uninterrupted and high-performance service. Downtime, slow application performance, falling short of SLA requirements, and slow deployment create a lack of confidence in IT. In addition, problems generate meeting after meeting. IT needs to provide clear answers with supporting documentation. Consequently, an optimal monitoring strategy and platform are essential to avoiding service interruptions and performance issues.
Complex Applications Require Complicated Monitoring Systems
The digital transformation gold rush has made technology a lot more complex than it used to be. For example, many applications are now modular. They can consist of services with potentially different code bases that reside across multiple infrastructures. These services can vary from small pieces of containerized code to business logic operating directly under a native OS. Further, applications use networked APIs to integrate services.
Infrastructure can live on-premises, in a cloud, across multiple clouds, or in a hybrid mixture of cloud and on-prem infrastructure. Layer 2 and 3 network facilities can be anything from SD/WAN across the open Internet, legacy MPLS and dedicated fiber, or virtual data center networking. And infrastructure options are rapidly growing and evolving.
The remote work trend adds complexity. Home workers must access resources over consumer-grade internet connections. Further, engineers have to connect to their company’s systems using various VPN technologies and carriers.
As if that weren’t enough, device proliferation and virtualization add even further complications. The adoption of IoT is a major driver of device proliferation. Routing and switching technology can be dedicated pieces of hardware, virtual appliances, or cloud networking. This increased complexity means it’s harder than ever to keep track of errors.
Challenges to Your Monitoring System
Monitoring helps you meet your service level agreement (SLA) requirements and internal performance standards. An SLA can be internal or customer-facing. The SLA is an agreed-upon set of requirements for uptime, trouble resolution, communications, and escalation and contains potential penalties for nonperformance. In addition to the SLAs your company creates, you will receive SLAs from vendors. These detail their obligations to you. It is critical to meet SLA requirements and have supporting documentation. Monitoring challenges need to be overcome to meet SLA requirements and standards.
The first challenges are to answer these questions:
- What are you monitoring?
- How are you monitoring it?
- Is there anything important that you’re not currently monitoring?
Undocumented devices and configuration changes are anathemas to troubleshooting. It is horrible to have upper management and clients demanding answers while dealing with an undocumented configuration. Parsing through multiple logs and alert systems is time-consuming and difficult. Consequently, your system needs to have a single source of truth for the configuration management database. Teams do not need to waste time searching through multiple databases.
Let’s discuss a few other monitoring challenges.
An essential aspect of knowing what you’re monitoring is establishing baseline infrastructure behavior. You need to know when anomalies occur—but first, you have to know what constitutes an anomaly. In truth, anomaly thresholds set early warning indicators for potential problems. However, information needs to be collected and analyzed across networks and platforms for optimal results.
Another challenge is how to deal with the volumes of alerts and messages. Applications operate across platforms and networks, and each of these is another opportunity for errors to arise. Problems in any platform or network can affect performance and uptime. Further, you can have multiple sources of alerts: APM, NPM, Servers, Cloud Providers and a variety of other systems. A problem in one system can set off a cascade of errors. It is becoming impossible for technicians to filter and correlate so manly alerts from so many different systems. Think about how your monitoring system will handle a flood of alerts and how to prioritize so many notifications.
Monitoring systems can also get bogged down by distracting routines and procedures. You probably have some standard first-level troubleshooting procedures that everyone knows how to handle. These standardized processes distract IT resources that could be used for higher-level actions.
Your ability to meet SLA requirements depends on vendor performance, which has to be monitored and documented—especially during outages. Vendor TAC centers need specific information to help. Accurate documentation is essential for rapid incident resolution. TAC centers tend to finger-point and punt off issues that are not clearly defined. Unfortunately, some incidents can’t be resolved without vendor support. Vendors pay a lot more attention if your documentation is clear and clean.
The Human Factor
Problems create pressure. Accordingly, the bigger the problem, the more pressure it puts on engineers to fix it. And further, the longer it takes to resolve a problem, the more pressure it creates. Pressure causes stress and stress affects performance. It’s not hard to see why IT outages and performance issues can shut a company down. Sorting through volumes of data from multiple sources while being deluged with trouble tickets will stress even the most level-headed software developers. On top of that, clients, end users, and management are constantly demanding status updates. And if a developer gives an unclear or uncertain response, they might panic stakeholders, consequently creating even more demand for information.
All of this stress creates a situation where IT is looking at multiple bright red screens full of errors while figuring out where everything is and how it’s configured. Stressed technicians scramble to run troubleshooting routines, open tickets with vendors, and identify internal resources. And if these technicians happen to make a mistake, their coworkers—who are also anxious for the situation to end—might get upset at them. Interpersonal tension can lead to conflict and other unproductive behavior. In addition, mistrust between coworkers can last long after engineers have fixed the original problem.
Stress, the rapid pace of change, and increasing complexity breed human error. A recent study suggested that human error is responsible for over 70% of outages. But a robust monitoring system can reduce your organization’s chances of stress-related error dramatically.
What’s the Solution?
The solution is not throwing more Human Resources and management overhead at the problems. In the first place, complexity and the need for rapid reactions are too much for the human mind. The solution is a platform that can accept data from all infrastructure sources and analyze the data with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Netreo has developed a platform that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to address monitoring challenges. The following diagram details Netreo’s approach:
The Netreo platform creates order out of chaos. It begins by collecting data from across platform and network sources. As you can see on the left side of the chart, Netreo supports input from a variety of sources. It also supports a variety of protocols and API services. It consolidates disparate data sources into a centralized data base. In other words, Netreo gives you that single source of truth we mentioned earlier.
The next step is analysis. Netreo uses machine learning and artificial intelligence in conjunction with its management engines to analyze data. Their vast experience in combination with preexisting libraries and models simplifies the machine learning training process. As shown in the diagram’s center, Netreo uses a constant feedback process to establish infrastructure baselines. Accordingly, Netreo removes the onerous task of filtering data. The result of data analysis provides a comprehensive view of infrastructure conditions.
Collecting and analyzing data leads to action. If you examine the right side of the chart, you can see some possible actions. Consequently, automation, capacity planning, and service level reports are some of the results. Equally important is that Netreo provides actions and resources for the entire management level.
A Streamlined Solution for a Complex Problem
Netreo helps meet monitoring challenges by creating an enterprise’s single source of truth. From this single source of truth, Netreo enables IT to observe, analyze, and act. Netreo can do a lot of things for your business:
- Filter and correlate events and alarms into actionable dashboards
- Automatically update a CMDB
- Establish baselines and thresholds for infrastructure behavior
- Create alerts and events
- Automate routine tasks and troubleshooting processes
- Predict future problems and requirements
- Provide SLA-based service reports
- Provide accurate and reliable dependency and service maps
But this is just the start. You can find a full list of Netreo’s features here.
With Netreo, IT can quickly understand alerts, fully trust configurations and resource locations, automatically fix issues, and quickly determine application dependencies. Root cause analysis and knowledge base articles reduce MTTR. Further, automations relieve staff of routine tasks and reduces human error. The Netreo AIOps engine, in addition to other service models, automatically updates a single database while providing insights and actions for developers to use in their work.
It is so much easier to respond to or avoid troubles when all your tools are orderly and accurate. You can give clear and authoritative answers to upper management, clients, and vendors. This reduces stress, frustration, and human error all at once. It’s easy to compare your results against SLA requirements and make necessary improvements. The bottom line is, Netreo simplifies complexity and thereby enables IT to focus on high-value organizational functions.
Still not convinced? Reques a demo and learn just how easy monitoring can be.
This post was written by Marcus McEwen. Marcus is a serial entrepreneur. In 1996 he used a $60,000 investment to build a managed service provider that generated a 25% net profit. His company, Equivoice, was certified as a Cisco Master Service Provider. Equivoice was sold in 2016. After the sale he used his entrepreneurial skills to build an organic farming operation and an Atlanta based Airbnb business. Marcus’s peers highly respect him for his technical and management skills.