What is DevOps Monitoring?

September 22, 2022

What is DevOps Monitoring?

In software development, DevOps monitoring is the practice of tracking and measuring the performance and health of systems and applications in order to identify and correct issues early. This includes collecting data on everything from CPU utilization to disk space to application response times. By identifying problems early, DevOps monitoring can help teams avoid outages or degradation of service.

In many ways, this may sound similar to the kind of monitoring used within any well-designed IT operation. However, DevOps monitoring goes deeper. The DevOps methodology guides teams through short cycles of planning, development, deployment, and review/evaluation. DevOps monitoring, if it is to be fully integrated, will therefore need to be continuous monitoring.

So, what is continuous monitoring? Continuous monitoring is the process of regularly and vigilantly checking systems, networks, and data for signs of performance degradation. Performed either manually or automatically, continuous monitoring typically involves using software to scan for vulnerabilities and track changes in security settings. Continuous monitoring aims to identify potential threats early, addressing them before they become an issue.

In this article, we’ll look at the motivation and use cases for DevOps monitoring. Then, we’ll consider what makes for a strong DevOps monitoring platform.

Let’s begin with the motivation. Why do our systems need DevOps monitoring?

Why DevOps Monitoring?

As a company adopts a DevOps culture and approach—increasing communication and collaboration by breaking down the wall between development and operations—monitoring is a key practice for detecting issues with a system before they cause problems. Effective monitoring helps address your concerns regarding development efficiency and system complexity:

  • We need to ship code more quickly, but how do we make sure we don’t introduce hidden vulnerabilities into our code?
  • Our system is built with so many moving parts. How can I keep an eye on everything?
  • The entire project feels like at times like an impenetrable black box. How do I get the visibility I need?

If you were to build improvements to areas like load balancing and security, or if you want to build process tools for things like rollback protocols and self-healing infrastructure, then you’ll need monitoring to help you see inside your applications and your infrastructure. DevOps monitoring can give you a clear, easy-to-consume, single-pane-of-glass solution, improving both your software delivery process and your final software deliverable.

In terms of your software delivery process, monitoring can help you determine baselines (and subsequent improvement) for key performance indicators (KPIs), such as:

  • Deployment frequency
  • Deployment failures
  • Number of code errors
  • Pull request cycle time
  • Change failure rate
  • Mean-time-between-failures (MTBF)
  • Mean-time-to-detect (MTTD) of errors

With visibility through monitoring, you’ll have improved insight and control over your operations, and this will position you to deliver functional and reliable applications on time.

DevOps Monitoring Use Cases

Every stage of your DevOps production must be visible. This includes a big-picture view of the health and activities on your infrastructure platform. However, even the smallest units of value—down to the single line of code—need your attention. Let’s cover the main functions involved.

Code linting

Code linting tools analyze your code for style, syntax, and potential errors. In many cases, they also check for best practices and conformity to a coding standard. Linting can help you find and fix problems in your code before they cause runtime errors or other issues. Linting also helps ensure your code is clean and consistent.

Git workflow operations

Codebase conflicts can happen when two or more developers attempt to work on the same part of a project at the same time. Git has multiple features that can help you manage and resolve conflicts, including commits and rollbacks. By monitoring git workflow operations for conflicts, you can ensure that your project remains cohesive and consistent.

Continuous Integration (CI) logs

CI logs can help determine if your code builds are running successfully or if errors or warnings have occurred. If there are errors, they’ll require resources to investigate, troubleshoot, and fix. Additionally, monitoring your logs can help you identify any potential issues with your build pipeline or codebase that need to be addressed.

Continuous Deployment (CD) pipeline logs

Monitoring your CD logs can provide valuable insights into the health and status of the pipeline. By monitoring the logs, you can troubleshoot failed deployments and identify any potential problems.

Configuration management changelogs

Your configuration management changelogs can provide valuable insight into your system state and critical changes. By monitoring these logs, you can track manual and automated changes made to your systems, identify unauthorized changes, and troubleshoot issues.

Infrastructure deployment logs

Your deployment logs track when new stacks deploy and whether they have failed. These logs can help troubleshoot issues with stack deployments and also identify unauthorized changes in the infrastructure that may have caused a failure.

Code instrumentation

Code instrumentation is the process of adding code to your application in order to collect data about its performance and path of operation. With instrumentation in place, you can trace stack calls and see contextual values. Monitoring code instrumentation output allows you to measure the effectiveness of your DevOps practices and identify any areas that need improvement. It can also help identify bugs and aid with testing.

Distributed tracing

Distributed tracing is critical to monitoring and debugging microservices applications. By understanding how your applications interact with one another (often through APIs), it is easier to identify and correct issues. Distributed tracing can also help you optimize your application performance by identifying bottlenecks.

Application Performance Monitoring (APM)

APM tracks the performance and availability of applications. This can include tracking response times, monitoring for errors, Real User Monitoring (RUM) for end-user experience tracking, and more. By using APM platforms, you can identify and fix issues before they cause problems for the rest of your system.

API access monitoring

By tracking and recording API access and traffic, you can identify and prevent unauthorized access or possible DDoS attacks.

Infrastructure monitoring

Infrastructure monitoring tracks the performance and availability of computer systems and networks. Infrastructure monitoring tools can provide real-time information on metrics, such as CPU utilization, disk space, memory, and network traffic. These tools can help identify resource issues before they cause an outage or other problem.

Network monitoring

Network monitoring tracks the performance and availability of a computer network and its individual components. Network administrators use network monitoring tools to identify issues with the network and to take corrective action. Network monitoring also uses network flow logs to identify any suspicious activities.

Synthetic monitoring

Synthetic monitoring is a type of software testing, using virtual representations of real-world systems and components. Synthetic monitoring can test the performance, functionality, and reliability of individual system components or an entire system.

What should you look for in a DevOps Monitoring Platform?

When considering a solution for DevOps monitoring, the ideal system is one that integrates easily into your workflow. This means the platform of your choice should integrate with the tools your teams use in their development workflow, including:

  • Application development tools
  • Version control
  • CI/CD pipelines
  • Cloud services and infrastructure
  • Infrastructure-as-code systems
  • Ticketing and issue tracking systems
  • Meet or adhere to appropriate regulatory framework
  • Team collaboration and communications tools

The ideal DevOps monitoring platform will offer native integrations with your tools, or there should be trusted third-party solutions.

Every member of your team should be able to access real-time data from such a monitoring platform so they can proactively identify and remove bottlenecks. Your monitoring system should enhance your existing automation (and certainly not get in the way) while improving communication and providing security and safety controls.

You should also look for reports or dashboards that are viewer-friendly and readable on every level. These visualizations should present data within a larger systemic context and include dependency maps. Log streams—both cloud and local—should integrate with all layers of your stack and be easy to navigate. The platform should also provide historical trends and anomalies, as well as be able to correlate between events.

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