How to Monitor Microservices

What is Microservice Architecture?

Microservice architecture is a method of developing software applications in which a set of independently deployable, modular services work synchronously to provide a seamless experience. Each service provides a unique business capability and communicates with other services through a well-defined, lightweight mechanism. The services' means of communication can vary depending on the application's requirements, however, communication protocols in most situations leverage HTTP/REST (Representational State Transfer) with JSON, as it is comparatively less complex than other protocols. Essentially, each microservice works with another microservice to carry out a bigger picture function, such as payment processing, offering organizations flexibility in their system design. By segmenting the processes into smaller, more managable pieces, adding new functionalities, product lines, and capabilites becomes more accessible and scalable. 

In the past, most organizations adopted a monolithic architectural style, which was always built as a single, autonomous unit. In a client-server model, the server-side application is a monolith that handles the HTTP requests, executes logic, and retrieves/updates the data in the underlying database. Which meant that modfications, even the tiniest of changes, could require immense amounts of rework, like building and deploying a new version. For most modern-day enterprises, these hinderances simply aren't feasible when trying to keep pace with the technology being deployed every second, and as a result have adopted microservices as a means to increase agility and retain scalability.

Fore example, consider a site like With a vast array of functionalities and capabilities, users are continuously delighted with their online experience because they can find what they need, purchase it, and have it arrive at their doorstep quickly and efficiently. From an end-user perspective, Amazon's website acts as one cohesive unit, driving the search, selection, and purchase process. 

In reality, a variety of different moving parts work in sync to deliver an exemplary end user experience. Amazon relies on microservice architecture to deliver it's online offerings, segmenting each process into managable services that communicate with one another. Their architecture looks something like this: 

Image: Amazon

Implementing a microservice architecture offers teams the ability to move towards a more agile, cross-functional team structure - in stark contract with a more outdated siloed structure that can propagate slow-moving, fragmented workflows. With microservices, teams have the flexibility and autonomy to select best of breed tools and programming languages to design and release each component in the way they deem most suitable. This way, as technology evolves, modules and services can be replaced or reworked to reflect the most current, efficient way to better their applications. However, as each component becomes more complex and differentiated, ensuring that the lines of communication are maintained is essential. Monitoring microservices and their communication can benefit organizations everywhere. 

Why Monitor Microservices?

A recent study indicated that 69% of enterprises are using microservices for both new applications and for re-architecting existing ones, meaning that almost every project will potentially rely on microservices in the future.  As the new way of constructing applications and ultimately, delivering end-user experiences, Microservices' availability, performance, and functionality is something everyone cares about. Stakeholders want to make sure each end-user has an incredible experience, operations teams want to ensure that the applications powered by these microservices are available and performing well, and development teams want the applications and microservices to function as designed. 

Without visibility into the health of the microservice architecture, organizations perpetuate a digital blindspot.  Ensuring that these services are able to interact with one another to deliver the expected results can be achieved by monitoring the API calls that facilitate communication. 

Much like the human body, an application can fail if a component is deteriorating or fails. Understanding how each component is performing is essential to gauge the real health and status of the application as a whole. Think of each service as an organ - it has a signular function it carries out that works in conjunction with other organs to make the body run properly. Organs communicate using the endocrine system, where hormones relay messages by travelling to the target organs for a widespread and sustained response. In this example, APIs often act as the hormones in the endocrine system - relaying messages between systems so they can function in harmony. If a message is not relayed or relayed incorrectly, organ function can deteriorate, and if that organ begins to slow down or deviate, other organs are affected, as is the body's ability to carry out normal functions.  The same goes for services relying on API calls to interact with other services that make up an application. 

Monitoring API transactions can provide an early warning system for application deterioration or failure, a 'big picture' analysis of the health of each component, as well as an indicator as to where and when, so teams are able to identify and resolve the issue quickly. Monitoring Microservices can help organizations:

  1. Understand the overall health of the application
  2. Glean insight into the performance of each individual service that makes up an application
  3. Ensure the API transactions are available and performing well
  4. Isolate problematic transactions and endpoints
  5. Optimize end-user experience
Monitor Microservices Today With AlertSite

How Can Organizations Begin to Monitor Microservices?

Selecting the right monitoring tool for microservices can seem daunting. Services can vary vastly in design and can be hosted within virtualized machines or containers located across a private cloud, public cloud, or even both. Legacy APM tools on the market today can make it challenging to get comprehensive understanding of the performance, availability, and functionality of the API calls, API transactions, and each individual service, so evaluating the full picture view of the application performance becomes close to impossible. However, with a best of breed API Monitoring tool like Alertsite, monitoring both external APIs and private APIs, whether they're hosted using a VM, private or public clouds, or both, is seamless and intuitive. Its unmatched API Monitoring capabilities empowers users to gain insight into each and every API transaction. 

By monitoring the API transactions used to connect services to one another, development teams and operations teams alike can make actionable decisions with the monitoring data to support them. API Monitoring ensures that each API and the sequenced calls that make up a transaction are available, fast, and returning the right payload, so that in the event that something is broken, teams can isolate the problem quickly and avoid application failures. 

Another way that organizations can stay ahead of performance is by montioring earlier on in the lifecycle. Since each service is intended to be modular and can be designed and deployed independently of the other services that it interacts with, monitoring in pre-production environments can help reduce the risk of failure in production. While monitoring does not replace testing, it can complement testing environments by offering:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 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. 

​By monitoring in your pre-production environments, you set yourself up for success in your releases. Taken together, testing and monitoring in conjunction allows organizations to gain a complete view of the application as it moves through the development cycle and provides feedback so teams can iteratively improve.

Monitoring With AlertSite

Collaboratively monitoring the health of your API transactions with AlertSite makes it quick and easy to get issues resolved and get your systems back up and running in no time. Instant, actionable alerts paired with comprehensive monitoring insights arms Ops and Dev teams to resolve issues faster than ever. AlertSite API Transaction monitoring enables teams to

  • Save time triaging alerts – with no false alarms, teams can focus on what matters, when it matters.
  • Route Alerts – only send alerts to teams when the problem is relevant to their responsibilities
  • Isolate problematic locations – with the flexibility to monitor from over 350 nodes across the world as well as both external/public APIs and private APIs, isolating the issue is immediate. There’s no hunting for the needle in the haystack if you monitor with AlertSite.
  • Make data driven decisions, fast –  Retry logic, test on demand, and performance data ensures teams can accurately identify the problem and remediate the issue

To ensure that every end-user experience is phenomenal, and to ensure your business-critical transactions are behaving as expected, monitoring these API interactions is essential.  AlertSite’s global network of monitoring nodes, hybrid deployment false alarm prevention, and robust monitoring capabilities, such as advanced retry logic, competitive benchmarks, and actionable performance insights, make it the most powerful API Monitoring tool on the market today.

Monitoring your APIs doesn’t have to be laborious and difficult. Getting started in AlertSite is simpler than ever, and our unmatched monitoring capabilities make it easy to catch and fix problems before your users are impacted.

Additional Resources