Your system, application, and/or your infrastructure are going to have problems. Once you have your infrastructure under control, you will want to understand what’s happening in the system through Observability. The goal is to prevent as many issues as possible, but the reality is that problems are unavoidable. What’s most important is detecting problems before they impact your business or users. This is when monitoring and, more importantly, Observability come into play.
Monitoring is something you and your team actively do. You will monitor your system to detect problems, which might mean running tests to check the availability and performance of your system. Observability is, on the other hand, a property of your system that uses outputs to understand what is going on inside. If your system doesn’t externalize its internal state, no amount of monitoring will help you detect specific problems in time. It is about knowing not only what is happening in your system but why it is happening.
Using Observability has advantages beyond simply understanding what’s going on in your system, application, and infrastructure. Some problems can be detected early before they are noticeable. Internal latency, too many locks in the database, or any problem you see on the backend may become noticeable if you do take any action.
Detection and communication are key here. You want to detect the problems before your users, and you will also want to let them know if the issue will affect them. Letting the world know that you are actively monitoring and troubleshooting any given problem will help put your customers at ease. You will be able to debug and troubleshoot outages, service degradations, tackle bugs, (un-)authorized activity, etc. It also helps to understand the uptime of your SaaS and the quality of service your users have.
Metrics are a crucial component of Observability, and businesses. They help us improve the application and infrastructure. We are constantly looking for more ways to add metrics in order to help us understand how systems work. For example, latency or responsiveness can be determined with metrics. When observability and metrics are applied across the board, they must show that you are addressing all the challenges of managing your infrastructure properly: availability, productivity, costs, security, compliance, and scalability. Dashboards and correct visualizations are key. Once appropriately implemented and visualized, metrics impact the performance and quality of your business.
As discussed above, when you start implementing Observability, you will look at metrics and a combination of monitoring, log centralization, and tracing.
Monitoring: Run active checks to verify the availability of critical components.
Metrics: Collect data points to count errors, load, and other variables from all the components required to run your application and the application itself. You will obtain your metrics from your application and required services, infrastructure, pipelines, costs, and security incidents.
Log Centralization: Record information about events in your system in a central location.
Tracing: Refers to tracking and identifying problems in requests crossing through your system.
At Flugel, we’ve put together an Observability and metrics checklist to help you detect problems before your clients notice them.
By putting this checklist in place, you will begin to understand how well observability and monitoring are working in your organization. Over time you will gain insight into the health and performance of your products, process, and people.
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