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Finding the Right Data Among the Noise

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Finding the Right Data Among the Noise

Written By Chris Paap, Technical Product Manager, SolarWinds

In today's world, nearly everyone is inundated with constant data streams that have to be deciphered on the fly. As a result of all of this data, some decisions are made subconsciously, while other data streams actively vie for our attention and require a deliberate thought process to make a decision. Indeed, in our quest for more data to help with the decision-making process, we have acquired an abundance-some may say over-abundance-of data, out of which we must now determine what is important to us and what is not, and then isolate that important data from among the noise. 

While this is true across the board, it's especially apparent in the realm of infrastructure monitoring, where quickly isolating critical data from the noise is crucial for ensuring infrastructure uptime, IT performance, and ultimately, business success. Remember: a simple abundance of metrics does not equate to good infrastructure monitoring. More often than not, it simply results in alerts being ignored and a lack of clear insight on the actions required for remediation.

There are several keys to making your monitoring more effective in this data-rich era:

  • Simplicity
  • Context
  • Severity
  • Correlation

Some enterprises are able to dedicate multiple engineers just to the full-time care and attention needed for the most effective monitoring. For others, however, there's a constant battle between fighting fires and make progress on larger projects, all while ensuring uptime. Having time to devote to complex monitoring solutions is simply a luxury many do not have. This is why it's so important for monitoring and alerting to be easy to maintain, helpful in quickly identifying issues that require urgent attention, and proactive in assisting to avoid unplanned downtime. In short: simplicity.

Context is also critical for effective monitoring. This includes truly understanding what it is you're monitoring. For example, having a piece of infrastructure always being alerted as down, but the application-where the rubber really meets the road-is functioning normally with optimal performance is not helpful, because the story likely doesn't end there. You must understand whether or not that piece of infrastructure is critical to your application. If it is, you shouldn't ignore the alerts even if the application is currently performing fine, because it could indicate an issue is building over time that will eventually affect your application performance. Without this context and understanding, monitoring and alerts aren't nearly as helpful as they should be. 

Also, keep in mind that not all applications and infrastructure components are created equal. Some have higher priority based on role and what would be affected if they were to go down. This needs to be reflected in your monitoring and alerting by taking severity into account. It's all about priorities.

Lastly, any monitoring and alerting should be able to help you and your infrastructure teams correlate events and occurrences to identify root cause. After all, root cause identification should always be your goal; anything else is just a Band-Aid®. For example, being able to identify a performance issue as the result of a faulty upstream switch and not because of the back-end storage can mean greatly improved mean time to resolution. 

At the end of the day, what's most important is aligning your monitoring and alerting with your business's priorities. This can be overwhelming, so simplicity, context, severity, and correlation should be your monitoring and alerting objectives.


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About the Author

With 14 years of IT systems engineering experience across multiple corporate environments, Chris Paap currently serves as a technical product manager for hybrid IT performance management software provider SolarWinds, where he focuses specifically on the award-winning SolarWinds® Virtualization Manager. In this role, he is responsible for defining the product roadmap and identifying new key features to solve IT problems.

Published Wednesday, May 31, 2017 7:02 AM by David Marshall
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