Problems with your infrastructure are unavoidable. In fact, it would be impossible to avoid all problems. What is possible is having the ability to detect them before they harm your users or business. To do this, you need to implement observability. This is the key to early detection. It allows you to understand what is happening in your system at any given time. Once implemented, observability can bring immeasurable value to your organization.
You may believe that monitoring alone can do the job of Observability. Monitoring is essential for your system. It allows you to run tests on the availability and performance of your infrastructure. Monitoring is not the same as Observability which is a property of your system. Observability is based on exploring properties and patterns not defined in advance. It allows you to know not only what is happening in your system but why it is happening.
To understand your system, you want to be able to detect problems early and often. Outages, service degradations, bugs, (un-)authorized activity are all issues you may experience. Detecting them early means you can alert customers to potential issues and let them know you are actively troubleshooting.
Metrics can be used to detect these problems and issues. For example, latency and responsiveness can be determined by metrics along with other challenges your system may face. With metrics and observability, you will also know the uptime of your SaaS and understand the quality of service. Furthermore, when both are applied across your system, you will be able to address all of the challenges of your infrastructure, including availability, productivity, costs, security, compliance, and scalability. It is critical to use visualizations via dashboards to capture your system’s metrics.
To better understand your system, you must choose the right tools to implement observability. Luckily, there are a plethora of open-source observability tools.
One of the ‘fastest growing’ projects, Prometheus, is often used with Grafana. It’s a monitoring system and a time-series database. It uses metrics-driven monitoring because everything in Prometheus are data points and triggers alerts based on metrics behaviors. It can be very useful for collecting metrics around Kubernetes clusters.
This tool is one of the best tools to use with Prometheus, but it’s not only limited to it. Grafana is a visualization tool. Its web interface connects to different data sources to create visualizations or dashboards to understand what’s going on in your application and infrastructure. By allowing you to query, explore, visualize, and alert on your metrics, Grafana provides the tools to create beautiful visualizations and graphs.
Vector.dev is a tool we added recently to our toolkit at Flugel.it. It collects, transforms, and routes all your logs, metrics, and traces to the vendors you choose. In doing so, it de-couples your data from any specific vendor and puts you in control of where your data goes. It’s beneficial, for example, if you can count some strings in your logs to store a metric in Prometheus and trigger alerts based on that. Another benefit of Vector.dev is its speed. It is up to 10xs faster than other tools.
It’s a tool created by the Grafana team and inspired by Prometheus. It’s a log aggregation service. It allows you to collect all the events on your platform and visualize them directly in Grafana.
If you need high availability and scalability to your Prometheus setup, Thanos is an option to consider. It’s a high storage backend that provides this capability to Prometheus. It also allows for global queries of metrics from as many Prometheus instances as required, and unlimited storage.
Observability will allow you to ask questions about your system in real-time. The answers are in the data that your system produces. To be able to see the answers to your questions, you need to see the data. To see the data, you need the right tools. Different tools used together will give you a complete understanding of what is happening across your system. While you can use proprietary tools, open-source observability tools will help you understand and troubleshoot your infrastructure in a cost-effective manner.
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