Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Mehdi Daoudi, Elizabeth White, John Walsh, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

IT Monitoring Clickbait | @CloudExpo #APM #Cloud

Here are a few common alerting problems, along with the reasons they often crop up and how to solve them

It is a sad but very real truth that many, dare I say most, IT professionals consider alerts to be the bane of their existence. After all, they're annoying, noisy, mostly useless and frequently false. Thus, we IT professionals who specialize in IT monitoring are likely well acquainted with that familiar sinking feeling brought on by the discovery that the alert you so painstakingly crafted is being ignored by the team who receives it.

In that moment of professional heartbreak, you may have considered changing those alerts to make them more eye-catching, more interesting and more urgent. To achieve this, you might have even considered choosing from a menu of possible alert messages. For example:

  • Snarky: Hey server team! Do you even read these alerts anymore?!?
  • Hyperbolic: DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! Router will EXPLODE in 5 minutes!
  • Sympathetic (or just pathetic): Hey, I'm the IIS server and it just got really dark and cold in here. Can someone come turn the lights back on? I'm afraid of the dark.

Or you may have considered going the clickbait route. For example:

  • This server's response time dropped below 75 percent. You won't believe what happened next!
  • We showed these sysadmins the cluster failure at 2:15 a.m. Their reactions were priceless.
  • You swore you would never restart this service. What happened at 2:15am will change your mind forever.
  • Three naughty long-running queries you never hear about.
  • Hot, Hotter, Hottest! This wireless heat map reveals the Wi-Fi dead zones your access points are trying to hide!
  • Watch what happens when this VM ends up next to a noisy neighbor. The results will shock you!

While all of the above approaches are interesting to say the least, they, of course, miss the larger point: it is deceptively difficult to craft an alert that is meaningful, informative and actionable. To combat this issue and ensure teams are poring over your alerts in the future without needing tantrums, gimmicks or bribery, here are a few common alerting problems, along with the reasons they often crop up and how to solve them.

Problem: Multiple alerts (and tickets) for the same issue, every few minutes

Reason
This issue is called "sawtoothing" and describes a situation when a particular incident or condition happens, then resolves, then happens again, and so on and so forth, and your monitoring system creates a new alert each time.

Solution:
To solve this, first understand that some sawtoothing is an indication of a real problem that needs to be fixed. For example, a device that is repeatedly rebooting. But usually this happens because a device is "riding the edge" of a trigger threshold; for example, if a CPU alert is set to trigger at 90 percent, and a device is hovering between 88 and 92.

There are a few common approaches to solving the issue:

  • Set a time-based delay in the alert trigger so that the device has to be over a certain percentage CPU for more than a pre-set number of minutes. Now, the alert will only find devices that are consistently and continuously over the limit.
  • Use the reset option built into any good monitoring solution and set it lower than the trigger value. For example, set the trigger when CPU is over 90 percent for 10 minutes, but only reset the alert when it's under 80 percent for 20 minutes. This reset option establishes a certain standard of stability within the environment.
  • Use the ticket system API to create two-way communication between the monitoring solution and the ticket system that ensures a new ticket cannot be opened if there is already an existing ticket for a specific problem on that device.

Problem: A key device goes down - for example, the edge router at a remote site - and the team gets clobbered with alerts for every other device at the site

Reason
If the visibility of a particular device is impaired, monitoring systems sometimes call that "down." However, that doesn't necessarily mean it is down; a device upstream could be down and nothing further can be monitored until it comes back up.

Solution
Any worthwhile monitoring solution will have an option to suppress alerts based on "upstream" or "parent-child" connections. Make sure this option is enabled and that the monitoring solution understands the device dependencies in your environment.

Problem: You have to set up multitudes of alerts because each machine is slightly different

Reason
You may find yourself having to set up the same general alert (CPU utilization, disk full, application down, etc.) for an ungodly number of devices because each machine requires a slightly different threshold, timing, recipient or other element.

Solution
We monitoring engineers find ourselves in this situation when we (or the tool we're using) don't leverage custom fields. In other words, any sophisticated monitoring solution should allow for custom properties for things like "CPU_Critical_Value." This is set on a per-device basis, so that an alert goes from looking like this, "Alert when CPU % Utilization is >= 90%," to this, "Alert when CPU % Utilization is >= CPU_Critical_Value."

This solution allows each system to have its own customized threshold, but a single alert can handle it all. This same technique can be used for alert recipients. Instead of having a separate, but identical alert for CPU for the server, network and storage teams, each device can have a custom field called "Owner_Group_Email" that has an email group name. Then you create a single alert where the alert is sent to whatever is in that field.

Problem: Certain devices trigger at certain times because the work they're doing causes them to "run hot"

Reason
During the normal course of business, some systems have periods of high utilization that are completely normal, but also completely above the regular run rate. This could be due to month-end report processing; code compile sequences overnight or on the weekend; or any other cyclical, predictable operation.

The problem here is that the normal threshold for the condition in question is fine, but the "high usage" value is above that, so an alert triggers. But if you set the threshold for that system to the "high usage" level, you will miss issues that are important but often lower than the higher threshold.

Solution
Rather than triggering a threshold on a set value - even if it is set per device as described earlier - you can use the monitoring data to your advantage. Remember, monitoring is not an alert or page, nor is it a blinky dot on a screen. Monitoring is nothing more (or less) than the regular, steady, ongoing collection of a consistent set of metrics from a set of devices. All the rest - alerts, emails, blinky dots and more - is the happy byproduct you enjoy when you do monitoring correctly.

If you've been collecting all that data, why not analyze it to see what "normal" looks like for each device? This is called a "baseline" and it reflects not just an overall average, but also the normal run rate per day and even per hour. If you can derive this "baseline" value, then your alert trigger can go from, "Alert when CPU % utilization is >= <some fixed value>," to, "Alert when CPU % utilization is >= 10% over the baseline for this time period."

IT pros tried these weird monitoring tricks and the results will shock you!
When monitoring engineers implement and use the capabilities of their monitoring solutions to the fullest, the results are liberating for all parties. Alerts become both more specific and less frequent, which gives teams more time to actually get work done. This in turn causes those same teams to trust the alerts more and react to them in a timely fashion, which benefits the entire business. Best of all, everyone experiences the true value that good monitoring brings and starts engaging us monitoring engineers to create alerts and build insight that helps stabilize and improve the environment even more.

"Monitoring Team Saved This Company $$$" isn't some fake headline designed to get clicks. With a little work, it can be the truth for every organization.

For even more alerting insights, check out the latest episode of SolarWinds Lab here - what happens at 22:17 will blow you away!

More Stories By Leon Adato

Leon Adato is a Head Geek and technical evangelist at SolarWinds and is a Cisco® Certified Network Associate (CCNA), MCSE and SolarWinds Certified Professional (he was once a customer, after all). His 25 years of network management experience spans financial, healthcare, food and beverage, and other industries.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things’). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing? IoT is not about the devices, it’s about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. In his session at Internet of Things at Cloud Expo | DXWor...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader Sergey Grebnov provided an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...