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Ensuring successful DevOps with APM
09 Mar 2020

Ensuring successful DevOps with APM

Speed has been an essential component of any evolution. The need for speed brought forth wheels, and the same need for speed in application development brought cultural shifts like DevOps. With this increased speed, it became vitally important to increase the overall observability in your development process. Why? The answer is fairly simple - without a system that monitors and manages the trade-offs, DevOps is like a kid lost in a fair. All architectures have tradeoffs. To speed up one particular aspect of any application, you are most likely to ignore other involved components causing bottlenecks in the process. Without a monitoring system, these bottlenecks will not be identified. You will face problems with forecasting and production workloads. In addition to these, here are some common obstructions that most of us have faced -

  • A bug’s life: Faster production and improper monitoring is a recipe for disaster. It is most likely to lead you to design wrong patterns and possible slowdown during production.

  • Production problems and Murphy’s law: Murphy’s law states that “if something can go wrong, it will.” How is this relevant to production problems? No matter how exceptional your software development process is, you are bound to face production-related problems. Complex IT infrastructure, numerous instances, and difficulties in maintaining separate environments for development and production just add up to your problems.

These problems existed even in the pre-DevOps era, and so did the solution. The solution is combining DevOps with proper Application Performance Management (APM). Some call it monitoring; some call it management. However, the result always is to achieve high performance by rectifying the underlying problems. Now APM, which has evolved from a basic code profiler to a full-grown system analyzing the SDLC, was broadly categorized into 3 divisions viz. Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM), Application Discovery Tracing & Diagnostics (ADTD), and Application Analytics (AA). APM supports a lot of DevOps implementation goals. It helps the DevOps teams to identify the existing issues and for predictive analytics to identify & notify any deviation. For a DevOps team, a quick resolution of any issue depends entirely on the agility of the APM solution. Let’s see how APM supports the entire DevOps objective of faster development, deployment, and updates.

  • Early bugs identification: Identify bugs at an early stage than waiting for them to later turn into production issues. With APM, you can identify the exact line of code responsible for a spike in the development stage.

  • Alert management, analytics, and performance metrics: Dev-Test-Ops teams can work in a better way with APM's alert management and performance metrics feature. The teams can easily receive notifications when a situation arises. Additionally, the event logs can help in an in-depth analysis of the problems and extract call-to-action information. You can even use it to get a sense of how well your app is behaving by looking at uptime and error rates. This will help in improving overall architectural efficiency.

  • Error tracking and centralized logging: With APM, you can monitor the different error responses that the system is regularly producing, investigate the errors, and fetch diagnostic data. With central log storage, one can easily look at the various log files and comprehend the events together, even for complex systems.

  • To achieve SLA in production: Use an APM tool during automated load testing in your DevOps for a better code behavior prediction during the production procedure. APM eliminates the need to guess the relationship between testing and production performance with a better simulation of real-world conditions. This further improves the confidence of the teams and reduces the time as well to deploy code.

This was about reasons to associate APM with DevOps. The next logical step would be the actual association. So, what are the prerequisites to monitor any live system or application? Use application monitoring tools, follow the set processes for analyzing the logs, and configure notifications and alarms to send alerts in the logs. Apart from these, there are some best APM for DevOps practices that you should follow for successful results, such as:

  • One APM to rule them all: It is highly recommended that your developers and operations teams are settling on one APM tool; it is easy to view the same data from the same source.

  • Shift left: The APM tool in the development process should be implemented at an early stage. Issues can be avoided before they reach the production stage.

  • Amalgamate CI/CD tools: The APM tool should be integrated with your DevOps CI/CD tools that already exist. Once the code is committed, it can easily trigger data collection on demand.

  • Right resources play a very important role: All of the above-mentioned benefits are achieved when you have the right team of people. The Developers and Operations teams should not work in silos; the teams should come together to achieve the best results.

What next?

APM rectifies most of the problems we face in DevOps, such as identification, mitigation, and performance-related improvement, adding agility and mobility. With APM, developers can focus on writing codes instead of struggling with deployment-related disasters. So, what could be the next ideal step for APM in DevOps? Here are two of the possible avenues -

  • Distributed Tracing: Modern architectures involve several processes interconnected with each other to form a closed knit. It becomes difficult to trace applications, dependent processes, request paths, latency discoveries, and bottlenecks. The solution to this problem could be Distributed tracing. It is a way to track the connection between requests to an application.

  • User Experience Management (UXM): In UXM, the focus is on the experience of your customers. The actual APM will always remain central but locating the exact user experience lags and then rectifying them from the root level before anyone complains about the lag is essential. Perceived performance and software/app’s functionality is something that defines UXM.

This was just an overview of APM in DevOps and the associated possibilities. We will be writing more around APM. Especially about logging, monitoring, and traceability with tools like New Relic and open source platforms like Elastic APM. Stay tuned!

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