Monitoring methodologies evaluate application reachability, availability, performance, and reliability to measure digital experience accurately. Only measuring one or the other will offer a skewed view of the end-user experience. For example, higher availability is not the sole indicator of a good end-user experience.
At the same time, reliability is a critical performance indicator for service providers. Gartner defines reliability as, “A probability that a product, system or service will perform its intended function adequately for a specified period of time or will operate in a defined environment without failure.”
Reliability is one of the pillars of digital experience monitoring (DEM) and measures how consistent a “service” is – are you delivering the same experience, every time, all the time to all users? Site reliability engineers (SREs) are tasked with measuring and tracking service reliability across different networks to maintain the optimal end-user experience.
With the increasingly complex and distributed architecture of applications, how do SREs ensure reliability? Let’s take a deeper look into the most important metrics to measure in order to support application reliability and how to measure those metrics.
Measuring Service Reliability For Improved Digital Experience
Achieving an optimal level of service reliability is key to overcoming service disruptions and cutting down outages significantly. At the recent Failover Conf., the emphasis was on a “culture of reliability” that focused on better incident management. To build resilient and reliable service it is necessary to invest in “proactive” and “pragmatic” incident response and management.
This is where observability and monitoring play an important role. How SREs and DevOps teams handle end user impacting incidents depends entirely on the visibility they have into the different components and layers of the service delivery chain.
Measuring reliability requires an understanding of how the metrics correlate with the user journey and business outcomes. DevOps and SRE teams use monitoring tools that track specific system reliability metrics to gauge end-user experience. Three important factors that determine service reliability:
- Consistent reachability
- Consistent availability
- Consistent performance
When all the metrics for each of these factors are in green, it is an indicator of a reliable service. This means monitoring to:
- Detect any intermittent or regional network issues that impact reachability.
- Detect any intermittent service or host failures.
- Detect volatility at each layer or component that impacts performance intermittently.
- Optimize components – code, network, third-party vendors, etc.
How Do You Monitor Reliability?
There are several third-party services, integrations, dependencies, and other variables that are integral to any application. Maintaining the performance and availability of all the disparate components is the only way to ensure complete service reliability. This requires a monitoring strategy that offers far more than just uptime/downtime monitoring.
Here are some of the key aspects to consider when monitoring reliability:
- Global monitoring infrastructure. Monitor service reliability from where the users are. This means employing a monitoring tool with varied vantage points across the globe. You will then have access to data from different locations and over different networks. Such a monitoring strategy will provide full visibility, even in a highly distributed system.
- Historical data retention. It is not enough to capture performance metrics data without a long-term data retention plan in place. The ability to pull historical data to identify trends and patterns is vital when trying to improve service reliability. With historical data, you can understand the impact on service reliability in different time periods and at different load levels.
- Multi-dimensional analysis. Data analysis can reveal a lot about service reliability and health. A powerful data analysis tool can visualize data to reveal interesting correlations and trends. The ability to analyze diverse data sets from different sources helps measure exactly how well the system is functioning and how reliable it is.
- User-focused metrics. Another important aspect is the metrics used to measure reliability. The metrics should be user-focused to understand the end user perspective. This helps identify areas that need to be optimized for better reliability and performance.
- Multiple monitoring methodologies. Detailed performance analysis is possible only when you have data sets from multiple viewpoints. Combining proactive synthetic monitoring with real user monitoring will provide insight into the actual end-user experience. These two types of monitoring are complementary and the data it provides can have a great impact on service reliability.
Reliability Monitoring Essentials
A monitoring strategy that provides you with insights across your entire service delivery chain is essential to achieving and maintaining service reliability. It allows you to quickly detect, identify, and resolve issues quickly. SRE and DevOps teams will be better equipped to handle high-severity incidents and resolve issues faster.
Service reliability has a direct impact on end-user experience. Improving reliability is possible only when it is measured and monitored. Establishing a reliability practice in your organization begins with building the right monitoring strategy.
To achieve monitoring success, focus on the following:
- Distributed vantage points.
- Monitoring from backbone, cloud, last mile, etc.
- Focusing on end user specific metrics – Response time, availability, DNS.
- Proactive monitoring – For CDN, third-part services, SLAs, network, application performance, etc.
Looking for some extra guidance? We’ve put together a detailed checklist to help you get started with reliability monitoring. Download it here!