Monthly Archives: June 2017

Best Practices Guide for Application Monitoring

Don’t Fear the App

Digital service providers are being driven by customers into the world of applications. Gone are the days that simple internet access is all you have to provide. The more complex the service, the more value it is to the customer. As SMB customers are embracing managed services, service providers are managing applications. While traditional network services are well defined, most applications are disparate and obtuse. Many of the customers I talk to see a real challenge in application monitoring.
Applications requires the same, if not more, care and feeding that any other tech.  Defining services is easier, but components are vast and complex.  Application discovery is still a new concept and is not yet 100%.  Knowing the availability, performance, and capacity of an application is vital information. Having the heuristics, audit, and log information to troubleshoot allows for quicker resolutions.  Performing end-to-end distributed active testing allows for basic verification. Passive activity scanning can ensure you know problems as soon as end-customers do.  Mission critical apps need comprehensive monitoring and management. To the tune of the same cost and value of that application deployed.
Applications can be very difficult to manage due to their inherent uniqueness. These custom digital services come in all forms and fashions. From printing queue services to real-time stock trading platforms. This series of blog articles to provide insight on how to plan for monitoring custom applications. Interested providers will be able to leverage these concepts for their own environment.

Discover the Application

First part of any new application monitoring is to determine what consists of the application.   Application discovery has two common flaws. First is over-discovery, or creating so much detail association is complex and useless. Or the problem is under-discovery, in which you are missing key associations and thus useless.   Discovery is like all other technology, it requires human guidance and oversight — do not blindly depend upon it.

Website Monitoring

For our working example, I will use a custom application using a traditional 3-tier architecture stack. We first start with the presentation layer. Its best to start by listing out what can go wrong. Network access might be down. Server failure is a possibility. The web server process (httpd) might no longer be running. Are the network storage directories mounted? Once you have your list, create your dashboard. Once you have your dashboard, link the necessary data to it (syslogs, traps, ping alarms). With a finished dashboard, you can automate it with policy. Create an alert that indicates an application error exists and points to the cause. If your assurance tool cannot perform these features, find one that does the job.

Database Monitoring

Now repeat the same for data layer. Which database do you have? MySQL provides rich monitoring plugins. What are the standard database KPIs? Google provides plenty of opportunity to leverage 3rd party lessons learned. What else is important with a database? Backup and redundancy are key. Are those working? Repeat the dashboard driven monitoring techniques from above. The result is 2/3rds of your custom application monitored.

The hard part…

The most difficult layer to deal with is the application layer. Here there are no rules. The best case is talking to the developers. Get them to explain and define the known KPIs and failure points. Worse case, you can break down the logs, processes, and ports in use to check for basic things. Do not discount basic monitoring such as this, the more your know the easier to troubleshoot. Run the dashboards you have as reports, get them into the inbox of the application team daily. This will assure the feedback you need to refine your monitoring policies.

Last advice…

– Be bold – Don’t be afraid of monitoring
– Communicate – Let the team see the results, if the data is wrong fix it
– If nobody cares about the data, you don’t have to keep it and don’t alert on it
– Alerts and notifications are only useful if they are rare and desired
My last point would be if you are a SMB, your managed service provider should be able to perform custom application monitoring. If the can’t, have them call me…

Intelligent Approach to Smart Cities

Smarter Smart Cities

At the Smart City Dublin forum, the subject was how municipalities can save money and better enable citizens.   These opportunities are not driven by cities, but by service providers offering new services.    Cities have assets, like right-of-ways.    They have advancing needs, like tourism empowering free wifi.  Governments have challenges, like reducing budgets and stodgy policies.  While other providers may shy away, many see these challenges as possible revenue.

Simple Concept

There are plenty of opportunities for engagement. Right aways (lamp posts) are available. Engaging vendors to install a wifi network which generate advertising revenue.   Smart cities can share in the ad-based profits. The service also provides new tourist engaging services to grow the local community.   This enables a portal to show off the local digital economy.   Multi-tenant access enables other services. Shared utilities like garbage and power can alert citizens in real-time. Digital services can enrich the peoples knowledge and grow the cities automation potential.   The bottomline is reduction of cost and growth of engagement.

Where does service assurance come in?

The digital world is a unifying force.    Providing a single pane of glass is common sense, but unfortunately not common place.   Once deployed, the quality of city’s services define their brand.   The analog and digital services will need assurance.  Proactive engagement is no longer a nice-to-have, its expected.   A proactive portal, empowered by service assurance, enables the smart city revolution.
Service providers, government, and equipment manufactures align with new services (ie Dublin).   The question is how will service providers assure the quality and engage the populace in real-time?

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Predicting the IoT World

What are we going to do in the IoT world?

My typical response to service providers is, “well, that was last week…”    All kidding aside, we live in the connected generation.   Network access is the new oxygen.   The price to be paid is complexity and scale.   A good reference for what IoT use cases exist is this bemyapp article about Ten B2B use cases for IoT.

Common Threads

Its best to categorize them into three buckets.    Environmental monitoring of smart meters to reduce human interaction requirements.   Tracking logistics through RFID is another common trend with IoT communities.   The most common is client monitoring.    With mobility, handset tracking and trending is common in CEM.   When considering an access network its monitoring the cable modems for millions of customers.  Which ever category your use case may be, the challenges will be similar.    How do you deal with the fact that your network becomes tens of millions of small devices instead of thousands of regular sized devices?   How do you handle that fact that billions of pieces of data need to be processed, but only a fraction would be immediately useful?   How can you break down the network to human understandable segmentations?

The solution is simple

With a single source of truth, you can see the forest through the trees.   While the “things” in IoT are important, how they relay information and perform their work are equally important.    Monitoring holistic allows better understanding of the IoT environment – single point solutions will not address IoT.  Normalizing data enables for higher scale, while maintaining the high reliability.

How to accelerate

Now that the network has been unified into a single source of truth, operations can start simplification of their workload.    First step, become service oriented.   Performance, fault, and topology is too much data – its the services you must rely upon.   How are the doing, what are the problems, how to fix them, and where you need to augment your network.    Next up, correlate everything – you need to look at the 1% of the 1% of the 1% to be successful.  KQIs are necessary, because the trees in the forest are antidotal information – the AFFECT.   Seeing the forest (as the KQI) allows you to become proactive and move quicker, be more decisive because you understand the trends and what is normal.  Its time to stop let the network manage you, and start managing your network.

End Goal is Automation

After unifying your view and simplifying your approach, its time to automate.    The whole point of IoT is massive scale and automation, but if your SA solution cannot integrate openly with the orchestration solution, how will you ever automate resolution & maintenance?   We all must realize, human-based lifecycle management is not possible at IoT scale.   Its time to match the value of your network with the value of managing it.

Assuring quality real-time services

Traveling from trade shows

Coming back from a trade show I took my Uber back to the airport, oddly enough I experience the value of real-time services.   As most, I leverage the Uber ride-share service.   My reasons are as others: connivence, price, quality, etc.   In the past, I have typically taken taxis — which are twice the cost.

As we are driving, the drivers phone beeped.   It told him that there was an accident up ahead and we needed to divert.  Interestingly, my phone beeped as he said this and I got the same message showing a red line up ahead.   The driver stated this was one of the reasons he switched to Uber, being a long time tax cab driver.   Because other Uber drivers are constantly, autonomously reporting traffic (way more than cab drivers do) he spends more time driving and less time in traffic.   He drives more customers and makes considerably more money.   The customers are happier, online bill pay provide less hassle – he drives, that is all he worries about.    The cost of Uber?   For him nothing, the passengers do that.   He drives and gets paid.   And is nice – offered me a paper (quaint) and free bottle of water before boarding.

The moral of the story…

Uber based in California, 6,000 miles and 9 hours time difference away.   Using AWS hosting, it allows real-time automatic cross matching of traffic to make lives a little easier a world away.   The mini to the macro at work here.   This 60+ year old driver, driving all his life, reaps the benefit.   I pay an extra 2e, 40% reduction in rates, smoother ride in a new car, and nicer driver — that is value for the customer.    What makes this miracle possible?   Realtime digital services.    Uber and others like them are winning the battle by pushing realtime digital services using LTE; competing against taxi cabs with CB radios.    As the newspaper industry realized already, the taxi cab industry will soon become… quaint…

My question to you?  What is your realtime service?   What does it mean to your business?  How do you assure it to continue to be realtime?

Drop me a message @Shawn_Ennis, I would love to talk about your real-time services.

PS.   Thanks T-Mobile for included international roaming.   Uber would not have been possible without you…