What is DevOps Monitoring? - Part 1
February 23, 2023

Gilbert Martin

Software companies today often face two significant challenges — delivering at speed and innovating at scale. And, DevOps helps address these challenges by imbibing automation throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC) to develop and deliver high-quality software.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) is the critical component of automation in a DevOps practice. It automates code builds, testing, and deployment so businesses can ship code changes faster and more reliably. However, one must continuously monitor their CI/CD pipeline to realize the DevOps promise.

So, what is monitoring in DevOps, and how can businesses leverage it to tap optimal DevOps potential? Let's dig deep …

What is DevOps Monitoring?

At its core, DevOps methodology is a data-driven approach. The ability to continuously improve the software quality completely relies on understanding how the code performs, what issues it introduces, and where to find improvement opportunities. This is where DevOps monitoring comes into the picture.

DevOps monitoring is the practice of tracking and measuring the performance and health of code across every phase of the DevOps lifecycle, from planning, development, integration, and testing to deployment and operations. It facilitates a real-time, easy-to-consume, single-pane-of-glass view of your application and infrastructure performance, so you can find significant threats early and fix them before they become a headache. DevOps monitoring gleans valuable data about everything from CPU utilization to storage space to application response times. Real-time streaming, visualizations, and historical replay are some of the key aspects of DevOps monitoring.

What is the Importance of DevOps Monitoring for Business Organizations?

DevOps monitoring empowers business organizations to track, identify, and understand key metrics such as deployment frequency and failures, code error count, cycle time of pull requests, rate of change failure, mean time to detect (MTTD), mean time to mitigate (MTTM), and mean time to remediate (MTTR). These valuable insights enable you to proactively identify the application or infrastructure issues and resolve them in real time. Monitoring also optimizes the DevOps toolchain by identifying opportunities for automation.

Here are some of the key benefits that highlight the importance of DevOps monitoring for business organizations:

1. High Visibility

The Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) facilitated by DevOps enables frequent code changes. However, the increased pace of code changes makes the production environments increasingly complex. Moreover, the introduction of microservices and micro front-ends into modern cloud-native ecosystem leads to multifarious workloads operating in production, each with varying operational requirements of scale, redundancy, latency, and security. As a result, greater visibility into the DevOps ecosystem is crucial for teams to detect and respond to issues in real time. This is where continuous monitoring plays a key role.

DevOps monitoring gives a real-time view of your application performance as you deploy new versions of code in various environments. So, you can identify and remediate issues earlier in the process and continue to test and monitor the subsequent code changes. Monitoring helps you validate new versions in real-time to ensure that they are performing as planned, so you can confidently release new deployments.

2. Greater Collaboration

The core principle of DevOps is to enable seamless collaboration between the development and operations teams. However, a lack of proper integration between the tools can impede coordination between different teams. This is where DevOps monitoring comes in. You can leverage continuous monitoring to get a complete, unified view of the entire DevOps pipeline. You can even track commits and pull requests to update the status of related Jira issues and notify the team.

3. High Experimentation

The ever-evolving customer needs demand businesses to constantly experiment in order to optimize their product line through personalization and optimized conversion funnels. Teams often run hundreds of experiments and feature flags in the production environments, making it difficult to identify the reason for any degraded experience. Moreover, the increasing customer demand for uninterrupted services and applications can add vulnerabilities to applications. Continuous monitoring can help you easily monitor the experiments and ensure that they work as expected.

4. Manage Changes

Typically, most of the production outages are triggered by frequent code changes. Therefore, it is imperative to implement change management, especially for mission-critical applications, such as banking and healthcare applications. One needs to determine the risks associated with changes and automate the approval flows based on the risk of the change. And a comprehensive monitoring strategy can help you deal with these complexities. All you need is a set of rich, flexible, and advanced monitoring tools.

5. Monitoring Distributed Systems

Businesses often deal with distributed systems, composed of many smaller, cross-company services. So, teams need to monitor and manage the performance of the systems they build as well as that of dependent systems. DevOps monitoring empowers you to deal with this dependent system monitoring with ease.

6. Shift-left Testing

Testing, when shifted left. i.e., when performed at the beginning of the software development lifecycle, can significantly improve the code quality and reduce the test cycles. However, shift-left testing can be implemented only when you can streamline monitoring of the health of your pre-production environments and implement it early and frequently. Continuous monitoring also enables you to track user interactions and maintain application performance and availability before it is deployed to production environments.

Benefits of Unified Monitoring and Analytics

Unified monitoring and analytics help your DevOps teams to gain complete, unparalleled, end-to-end visibility across the entire software lifecycle. However, unifying monitoring data, analytics, and logs across your DevOps CI/CD ecosystem can be challenging and complex.

Types of DevOps Monitoring

1. Infrastructure monitoring

Every IT business must set up and maintain an IT infrastructure in order to deliver products and services in a seamless and efficient manner. Typically, IT infrastructure includes everything that relates to IT, such as servers, data centers, networks, storage systems, and computer hardware and software. And DevOps monitoring helps in managing and monitoring this IT infrastructure, which is termed as Infrastructure Monitoring.

Infrastructure Monitoring collects the data from the IT infrastructure and analyzes it to derive deep insights that help in tracking the performance and availability of the computer systems, networks, and other IT systems. It also helps in gleaning real-time information on metrics such as CPU utilization, server availability, system memory, disk space, and network traffic. Infrastructure Monitoring covers hardware monitoring, OS monitoring, network monitoring, and application monitoring.

2. Application Monitoring

Application monitoring helps DevOps teams in tracking runtime metrics of application performance, like application uptime, security, and log monitoring details. Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tools are used to monitor a wide range of metrics, including transaction time & volume, API & system responses, and overall application health. These metrics are derived in the form of graphical figures and statistics, so that DevOps teams can easily evaluate the application performance.

3. Network Monitoring

Network monitoring tracks and monitors the performance and availability of the computer network and its components such as firewalls, servers, routers, switches, and virtual machines (VMs). Typically, the network monitoring systems share five important data points, namely, discover, map, monitor, alert, and report. Networking monitoring helps identify network faults, measure its performance, and optimize its availability. This enables your DevOps teams to prevent network downtimes and failures.

The Difference Between DevOps Monitoring and Observability

DevOps teams often use monitoring and observability interchangeably. While both concepts play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and security of your systems, data, and applications, monitoring and observability are complementary capabilities and are not the same. Let's understand how both concepts are different.

The differences between monitoring and observability depend on whether the data collected is predefined or not. While monitoring collects and analyses predefined data gleaned from individual systems, observability collects all data produced by all IT systems.

Monitoring tools often use dashboards to display performance metrics and other KPIs, so DevOps teams can easily identify and remediate any IT issues. However, metrics can only highlight the issues your team can anticipate, as they are the ones that create the dashboards. This makes it challenging for DevOps teams to monitor the security and performance posture of the cloud-native environments and applications as the issues are often multi-faceted and unpredictable.

On the other hand, observability tools leverage logs, traces, and metrics collected from the entire IT infrastructure to identify issues and proactively notify the teams to mitigate them. While monitoring tools provide useful data, DevOps teams need to leverage observability tools to get actionable insights into the health of the entire IT infrastructure and detect bugs or vulnerable attack vectors at the first sign of abnormal performance. However, observability doesn't replace monitoring, rather it facilitates better monitoring.

Go to: What is DevOps Monitoring? - Part 2

Wondering how to get started with DevOps Monitoring? Opsera can help!

Gilbert Martin is VP of Customer Success and Solutions Engineering at Opsera
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