Monitoring as code: An emerging idea in a cloud-native world
Monitoring as code (MaC) is a shift in thinking that is now being increasingly adopted in software development. Knowing the significance of MaC and incorporating monitoring in the development process early on brings a great number of benefits for DevOps teams.
What is MaC?
MaC is an extension of the everything-as-code mindset adopted by DevOps and site reliability teams worldwide. MaC is similar to the approach of infrastructure as code (IaC).
Today's software updates are faster and more frequent thanks to agile project management methods and extensive usage of public, cloud-native infrastructures like containers.
The agile world also demands a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) approach, in which monitoring needs to be integrated throughout the development process and not merely as an afterthought. As the demand for complete observability requires comprehensive metrics from the software development cycle, MaC has become essential. Insightful and comprehensive metrics are possible when monitoring is integrated at the development level, which is where MaC comes into play.
To gain insights and comprehensive metrics throughout the application development cycle, the traditional development cycle of "plan, code, build, test, release, deploy, operate, monitor" gets replaced with a "plan, code, build, test, monitor, feedback, deploy, operate, monitor" cycle. Since monitoring has moved closer to the beginning of the process, it is called a left shift.
How MaC works
MaC manages monitoring just like how IaC manages applications, servers, or other cloud infrastructure components. At its core, MaC involves data collection for important business-critical KPIs that software architects, product managers, and CXOs can constantly track to aid decision-making.
By codifying the monitoring processes, developers establish a robust framework with strict version controls that can be repeated, maintained, and inherited when the application evolves. With MaC, any minor or major change in code is instantly observable through metrics that help manage the application life cycle better.
Data from MaC can also be used as a basis to set up reactive logic automation to ensure remediation. MaC goes beyond automation in installing and configuring plugins and agents and needs to cover the complete observability cycle, including diagnosis, alerts, and troubleshooting. This is done by building automation scripts for monitoring functions in the code.
An illustration of MaC
A team develops a web application, deploys it to the public, and wants instant monitoring. With MaC, ITOps can instantly observe the application's functioning in real time as a built-in feature. When a web application in which MaC is implemented gets passed from the developers to the ITOps team, the ITOps team gains instant insights into the application and can continue to monitor it to ensure a great end-user experience.
With MaC, insights are made visible through the monitoring of KPIs. For example, the number of running tasks is an important KPI that a monitoring tool can track, and any drastic change in it indicates a potential system issue that can impact businesses.
In an e-commerce site, the volume of payments, additions to carts, and smooth checkouts are important KPIs to track. Meanwhile, for database admins and development engineers, the number of database connections is a crucial KPI. And for social media sites, a top KPI is the number of signups. If there is a sharp drop in signup rates, it means there's something management needs to fix.
Benefits of MaC
DevOps teams can easily integrate monitoring tools in their code to ensure robust integration journeys. Integrating monitoring in the same development pipeline gives early failure warnings that save time running faulty scripts during pre-deployment phases. MaC also ensures faster and effortless shipping of high-quality software while reducing issues thanks to in-depth observability. This in-depth observability is possible because MaC helps analyze all tiers of the application stack down to the code and database level.
MaC ensures compliance with product SLAs. MaC can open up monitoring insights through APIs, empowering developers to ensure the proper functioning of all the critical components as they build without waiting for the operations team to unearth them. With comprehensive documentation, testing, and use case definitions, MaC also enables developers to perform early course corrections to ensure perfect handovers to the operations team.
Monitoring-as-code also ensures the collection of metrics, traces, and logs to diagnose, alert, process, and, more importantly, automate remediation. With MaC, it also becomes easy to seamlessly roll back applications to any past state thanks to version control. MaC provides complete visibility into the software delivery pipeline, making monitoring data useful for everyone involved from the building stage to deployment and then to further observability stages. MaC integration tools have app parameters that provide code-based metric capturing tools for management to track.
For smooth implementation of MaC, there are configuration management tools like Terraform and several APIs available to help DevOps teams. MaC is expected to gain widespread adoption in the world of DevOps to aid faster and better deployments.
While monitoring was earlier performed as a mere afterthought to development, today's agile development practices can benefit from in-depth visibility by integrating monitoring early on into the development cycle. When monitoring is embedded at the code level, ITOps, DevOps, and business owners can gain unprecedented and comprehensive insights into the entire software development life cycle, ensuring a high-quality user experience for all.