What is DevOps Monitoring?

In an ever-evolving environment, agility is essential to keeping pace.  Software teams all over the world are expected to move faster, test earlier, and release more frequently, all while improving quality and reducing costs.  

Typically, when we discuss shifting left, the practice of focusing on quality earlier by testing sooner, shortening test cycles, and moving toward prevention rather than detection, it refers to the testing phases of the software development lifecycle. However, for teams taking an agile approach or hoping to adopt a DevOps culture in their organization, it’s vital to recognize that proactively monitoring “left” of production is an essential element in achieving these goals.

What is Proactive Monitoring?

Synthetic monitoring, also referred to as proactive monitoring, takes an active approach to monitoring digital assets by simulating a user interacting with your application, website, API, and more. Synthetic monitoring tools emulate real users by carrying out key actions or transactions that your application, website, API, web service, etc. would execute. Rather than monitoring real user interactions, synthetic monitoring offers organizations a way to monitor what a user would encounter in reality, so that any issues or performance deviations can be caught and fixed before a real user experiences the problem.

Why Do Organizations Monitor in Their Production Environments?

Organizations find value in identifying performance deviations, availability issues, and functional correctness problems before they effect end users. While each aspect of a release is carefully crafted and tested, bugs and performance problems still slip between the cracks. Proactive monitoring is a way to identify the issues that were missed by running monitors in the background while teams continue to propel forward with new releases.

Implementing a tool that acts as an early warning system is key in understanding the overall health and performance digital assets. Historically, monitoring tools have been implemented in the later stages of the software development lifecycle- in production and deployment. However, as consumer expectations evolve and release cycles shorten, the need to monitor the performance of key digital assets earlier on in the development process becomes increasingly evident.

How Can Organizations Begin to Shift Their Monitoring Practices Left?

Reuse Assets

Leverage design specifications or test scripts to create monitors for your applications and APIs. AlertSite supports reusing OpenAPI specification (formerly known as Swagger Specification) files, SoapUI test cases, Selenium scripts and more to create new monitors instantly. Not only does this save time, effort, and money, but reusing assets also ensures consistency and standardization across multiple departments in an organization.

Monitor Earlier

Monitoring in pre-production provides a plethora of benefits. Get started monitoring in pre-production environments by running a monitor in your test environment. This monitor can run in conjunction with the test cases that are being tested in those environments, or monitor different user journeys that are an essential part of the application or APIs Success.

Leverage REST APIs

Create monitors automatically using REST APIs. For example, AlertSite’s REST API empowers teams to create monitors automatically in the build process in conjunction with their code deployments. By shifting the monitor creation responsibilities left of production, it ensures that the monitors are running to capture the information that is most important for that application.

Why Should Organizations Monitor in Pre-Production Environments?

By consistently monitoring applications in pre-production environments you gain a view of performance from an on-going perspective. Monitoring provides a heartbeat of how your apps are performing as you’re deploying new versions of your code in various environments. Catching issues earlier in the process empowers teams to quickly remedy the issue, and continue to test and monitor the subsequent changes. With real-time validation that your new versions are performing as expected, you can release new deployments confidently.

Monitoring in pre-production also offers the ability to ensure that any new updates or changes will not break the monitors in production. Monitoring continuity is essential for agile teams and DevOps initiatives because without it, the ebb and flow of iterative improvements is halted by a bottleneck monitor. Teams will have to back track to rectify the false alerts and blind spots caused by the broken monitor, wasting time and resources fixing an issue that could have been avoided earlier in the development lifecycle. Ensuring that test teams and operations teams are in alignment about what and how they are monitoring is vital to sustaining visibility into application health.

Additionally, by monitoring pre-production environments continuously, you glean insight into the state of your test environments themselves, so you can maintain the environment stability and continue to test applications unaffected by environmental problems.  Finally, monitoring will drive continuous traffic through your testing environments. Oftentimes pre-production environments have low traffic or sporadic traffic, and by constantly monitoring in your pre-production environments, you keep the environments primed for executing tests.

Why Test and Monitor in Pre-Production Environments?

Testing and Monitoring go hand in hand. Testing helps verify that applications work the way you expect them to work. Ultimately testing helps identify the limits of the application, including stress tests, load tests, but these tests reflect the state of an application at a single point in time. In that moment, catching defects is critical and it encourages iterative improvements to the application design and functionality.

Monitoring layers on top of these efforts by offering a continuous view of performance over time, so you know the key user journeys are working even if they aren’t encompassed in the test cases executed for a given deployment. You can gain visibility into the bigger picture performance of vital elements of your application, even if the user journeys are not necessarily the focus of the specific tests.

Taken together, organizations gain a complete view of the application as it moves through the development cycle. Running these tests and monitors in parallel can help foster a true DevOps culture by cultivating an environment of collaboration, in which the results of both practices benefit the development lifecycle as a whole.

How Does Monitoring Support DevOps?

DevOps refers to a culture and practice in which Development and Operations teams maintain an agile, collaborative relationship in order to benefit the software development lifecycle. The goal is to break down departmental barriers to shorten development cycles, increase deployment frequency, and enhance the success and reliability of each release.

For teams to successfully embrace a DevOps culture organizations need to make it easy to

Collaborate

Monitoring earlier in the lifecycle provides teams with the ability to collaboratively work to optimize performance and availability. By reusing artifacts from design and test phases to create monitors that can run in pre-production and production environments, teams can streamline standardization and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Automate

By nature, proactive monitoring is an automated process. In fact, the more you do not interact with your monitoring tool the better – this means that your applications are up and running as expected, and that the monitoring tool itself is functioning properly. From a team perspective, monitoring earlier and more often helps reduce the amount of manual work dedicated to ensure that the application is running properly.

Configure

Proactive monitoring tools should adapt to you. A good proactive monitoring tool will provide configurability measures for monitor creation and alert set up, so that you receive data that matters to you when you most need it. Whether that’s setting up a blackout period, changing a recipient group, or monitoring from a specific location, a monitoring tool helps make your processes tailored and your MTTR more efficient.  

Share

A keystone factor of collaboration is the ability to share information. Monitoring can help provide teams with a common data set that can be shared across different departments to improve your application. Alignment is a foundational element of DevOps culture, and sharing data is the lifeblood of this element.

How Can You Get Started With Proactive Montioring?

Select a tool that can enable agility and fortify your DevOps initiatives. AlertSite can help you reinvigorate your monitoring strategy.

To learn more about Proactive Monitoring check out AlertSite here.

Additional Resources