Monitoring Your Monitoring: When Less is More
More monitoring doesn't necessarily translate to better monitoring. With today's complex systems, often a simplified monitoring solution is best.
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There’s no question as to the importance of monitoring. It’s a pretty well-known and accepted fact that application performance monitoring is a must. However, recent studies have shown that despite advancements in APM technology and the plethora of APM tools available, this overabundance can actually be a problem. Many companies are suffering from a case of too much monitoring, which can lead to less useful information.
While it might seem counterintuitive, application performance monitoring is a space where less is more. It’s sometimes the case that less monitoring is advantageous simply to avoid extraneous data, but here we’re talking about having fewer APM tools. A survey by Enterprise Management Associates found that 65% of enterprise companies are using 10 or more APMs, and 43% are employing over 25, a startling statistic. Moreover, EMA’s research concluded that when several APMs are in place, the overload is actually making monitoring more difficult.
The majority of these solutions lack proper integrations. Thus while each tool offers comprehensive monitoring, these all-in-one packages can make for rigidity. Individual APMs offer a decent portrait of one aspect of a company’s operation, but using 10 or more which don’t integrate with one another is similar to staring at fractured pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The entire portrait isn’t complete.
In a chat with Kalyan Ramanathan at AppDynamics, I learned more tangibly how this affects businesses. Essentially, those many monitoring platforms aren’t doing their job. Ok, well, they technically are, but only individually -- siloed. For any company to function properly, each department must work together, rather than operating independently. Similarly, their software must interact across conceptual and architectural boundaries. Right now, that’s not happening. The point of monitoring is to locate, identify, and prevent problems. Currently, a rather large chunk of really useful monitoring data comes directly from users. According to EMA’s analysis, 33% of problems are reported by users. That’s awfully high, especially when considering how many users simply fail to report an issue, and simply become frustrated.
Bronto Software’s Andrew Feller shared a similar sentiment at an April 14, 2015 Triangle DevOps talk called “Monitoring: Which Way the Wind Blows.” Feller explained that just because we have access to more monitoring solutions doesn’t mean monitoring is improved. Rather, this amalgamation of monitoring tools can even degrade the state of monitoring. Increased complexity of systems means that simpler monitoring solutions are needed. This means cutting down on the number of APMs used, and ensuring that there’s increased integration. The more communication between these various tools translates to a comprehensive overview of what’s happening within an application.
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