The Two Key Ways to Monitor DevOps Projects

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One of the chief challenges in monitoring DevOps projects is the fact that the resulting application or service is usually pushed out to the cloud or a mobile platform. In many cases, this involves third-party infrastructure and/or monitoring solutions, which can leave the enterprise blind to key performance data.

To accommodate this, DevOps teams will need to incorporate two practices that aim to gauge performance across distributed architectures: synthetic monitoring and real user monitoring (RUM). The difference lies in the approach used to gather data. In synthetic monitoring, organizations create simulated environments to anticipate how a given product will behave in production environments, while RUM is aimed at collecting actual user data, without impacting performance, of course.

While it may seem that RUM would be preferred over synthetic, running a simulated environment does have its advantages, says Freyja Spaven, content marketer at RUM developer Raygun. For one thing, synthetic is an active monitoring solution, which means it can alert admins when problems arise even when it is encountering little or no activity. As well, it is useful in creating baseline measurements, detecting problems caused by third-party scripts, and monitoring critical database queries for availability. What it can’t do, however, is predict complex behavior patterns or actual real-time performance, which is why most enterprises will likely opt for both approaches going forward.

Indeed, MarketsandMarkets predicts that the synthetic monitoring market will top $2.1 billion by 2021, a compound annual growth rate of more than 18 percent. Key drivers include the steadily increasing number of complicated applications and the need to update and harden them on a continual basis, not to mention the demands that increasingly cloud-savvy customers are placing on providers to live up to their SLAs. Within the synthetic monitoring category, the most robust sector is the API, which is crucial in establishing a reliable data feedback loop from third-party applications and infrastructure.

Ecommerce applications can benefit particularly well from both RUM and synthetic monitoring as organizations strive to roll out new services without taking apps offline, and thus interrupting revenue streams. Ayman Sayed, president and chief product officer at CA Technologies, notes that the holiday season has become extremely challenging both for drawing users and protecting critical systems and data. Using advanced analytics to monitor apps, infrastructure, service delivery and user experiences will allow admins to see and resolve potential problems before they become noticeable. At the same time, synthetic tools relieve IT staff from round-the-clock oversight and can mimic key points in the transaction chain, such as the jump from shopping cart to checkout, to mitigate bottlenecks and outages.

Another way that the two approaches can work together is to eliminate what xOps co-founder Larry Gordon calls “alert fatigue.” Early in every DevOps transition, teams set up such a vast array of monitors that before long, everyone’s inbox is flooded with so many alerts that it is impossible to distinguish between what’s real, what is duplicate and what is inconsequential. RUM can be useful in determining exactly what problems are affecting user-side performance, while synthetic testing can be used to gather data related to speed, revenue generation, time spent on the site and other metrics.

Synthetic monitoring and RUM, therefore, are best viewed as complementary systems, working in tandem to provide an accurate view of what is happening on distributed architectures, and why. Ideally, of course, the problems they detect will lend themselves to increasingly intelligent automation stacks, leaving the actual team to worry about updates and recoding for a more optimal user experience.

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