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The Importance of Continuous Monitoring in DevOps

As more and more organizations embrace the speed and flexibility of DevOps, continuous monitoring now plays a more important role in cybersecurity than ever before. Despite this, many organizations routinely neglect continuous monitoring, instead focusing more effort on other areas of the DevOps lifecycle.

That, as we’ll see, is a mistake. Continuous monitoring plays a pivotal role in ensuring the health––and performance––of the organization’s entire IT infrastructure. The overarching goal of continuous monitoring is to enable organizations to discover potential issues early, giving DevOps teams the ability to remedy any issues before a security breach occurs. 

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of continuous monitoring that your DevOps team should consider. We’ll also discuss the benefits of continuous monitoring in various elements of the DevOps lifecycle, and finish by outlining some best practices you should follow. 

What is Continuous Monitoring in DevOps?

In general, the practice of continuous monitoring serves to identify potential issues and security risks in real-time by monitoring business and IT processes on an ongoing basis. 

In DevOps, the definition is a little more specific. Continuous monitoring is the final stage in the DevOps lifecycle, and helps organizations to achieve efficiency at scale by identifying security risks and compliance issues throughout the DevOps pipeline. This affords teams the ability to remedy security issues before they are exploited, strengthening the overall cybersecurity posture of the organization. 

Types of Continuous Monitoring in DevOps

As the technology stacks used by organizations grow ever larger, so too do the applications of continuous monitoring. Many organizations start using continuous monitoring software to track basic indicators, such as CPU usage or customer activity. This is a valid first step, but there are many other types of continuous monitoring organizations should embrace.

There are three particularly important types of continuous monitoring in DevOps, along with a host of other more specialist categories of monitoring. 

  1. Infrastructure Monitoring

Every organization relies on a comprehensive IT infrastructure to deliver products and services to their customers. An IT infrastructure consists of systems, servers, hardware, software, and a variety of other elements that power everything related to IT across the organization. 

Responsibility for managing this often falls to the DevOps team, who use continuous infrastructure monitoring to assess overall performance and identify opportunities for improvement. Armed with data from infrastructure monitoring, DevOps teams can quickly iterate product improvements that improve the overall security of the IT infrastructure.

  1. Application Monitoring

Application monitoring evaluates the performance of the organization’s software and applications, tracking a variety of metrics that give DevOps teams an indication of performance. Common metrics evaluated include:

  • Transaction time and volume
  • API responses
  • Queue time
  • Average response time
  • Error rates

These metrics are typically presented in graphical format and are tracked over time to monitor improvements or dips in performance. By tracking the application performance continually, DevOps teams can get a quick read on the overall health of their organizations and identify areas to improve.

  1. Network Monitoring

Network monitoring is crucially important in DevOps, tracking the performance of an organization’s network in real time. This is important from a cybersecurity perspective. Monitoring key indicators across the organization’s networks enables DevOps teams to quickly identify security incidents. Key components that will be monitored include:

  • Firewalls
  • Routers
  • Switches
  • Servers
  • Virtual Machines

The goal  of network monitoring is to prevent downtime or crashes that could affect an organization’s employees, customers, or partners. By ensuring key personnel are alerted the moment a network issue is detected, organizations can quickly respond to potential issues before they become a major problem.

  1. Other Types of Continuous Monitoring

While infrastructure monitoring, application monitoring, and network monitoring are the three primary types of continuous monitoring, organizations should also consider incorporating additional branches of continuous monitoring. 

Many of these are more specific forms of infrastructure, application, and network monitoring, and the choice of which to use should be driven by the unique needs of each organization’s business and IT infrastructure. Additional types of continuous monitoring include:

  1. Configuration Monitoring – configuration monitoring ensures there are no errors as new software updates are pushed out.
  1. Database Monitoring – monitors the performance and status of databases used across the IT infrastructure.
  1. Middleware Monitoring – helps DevOps teams understand the performance of middleware servers and messaging components.
  1. Third Party Monitoring – tracks the performance and availability of services provided by third-party vendors.
  1. Batch Monitoring – monitors the status of batched jobs, including the start time for scheduled jobs, job duration, and completion rates.
  1. Data Monitoring – evaluates the quality and accuracy of data used across the organization.
  1. Security Monitoring – tracks the security status of the organization’s systems, helping organizations to discover vulnerabilities in their systems, understand data access and authorization, and be alerted of security events.

By embracing a range of different types of continuous monitoring, DevOps teams can build a comprehensive overview of the status and performance of all aspects of their pipeline. 

The Benefits of Continuous Monitoring

As we’ve seen, continuous monitoring plays an important role across all stages of the DevOps pipeline. And while there are clear benefits for DevOps professionals in embracing continuous monitoring strategies and tools, there are also a range of wider benefits for the organization as a whole. These include:

Performance Visibility and Transparency

By embracing continuous monitoring, DevOps teams can achieve a high degree of clarity when it comes to the performance of their networks and broader IT infrastructure. This helps create a culture of transparency in the measurement of key performance indicators (KPIs), helping DevOps teams to better understand and react to important trends throughout their pipeline.

Enables Quick Responses to Incidents

A key reason many IT teams have embraced DevOps in recent years is the organizational speed and agility that a DevOps culture encourages. By incorporating continuous monitoring into the DevOps process, OT teams are able to react very quickly to security incidents, minimizing any potential negative impacts to the organization. 

Drives High Quality Experiences

When a DevOps team is able to implement continuous monitoring tools to maintain their systems more effectively, they’re able to minimize system downtime and business disruptions. 

In turn, this creates a higher standard of IT experience for internal and external stakeholders, including employees, business partners, and customers. In the long run, this maximizes business performance across all areas of the organization. 

Best Practices for Continuous Monitoring in DevOps

When it comes to continuous monitoring, the behaviors that are considered best practices will look slightly different for every organization. However, there are several principles that can be applied universally. These include:

Use Software to Automate Continuous Monitoring Processes

With such a large surface area to cover, it’s impossible for DevOps teams to conduct comprehensive continuous monitoring without making use of automated software tools. There are many tools available: some monitor the entire technical stack of the organization, while others specialize in certain areas, such as cybersecurity or Microsoft 365 security.

Make sure you choose the right tools for your organization. Not sure what you need? Talk to our team! With partnerships with more than 25 leading vendors, our experts can help select the right software tools for your organization.

Track Performance Over Time

One of the guiding principles of DevOps is a commitment to long-term continuous improvement. To understand performance improvements over time, it’s necessary to track the output of continuous monitoring on a consistent basis. Many continuous monitoring tools create easy to read graphs that chart key metrics over defined time periods, making comparison and analysis a straightforward process. 

By understanding how the organization’s IT systems are performing over time, it’s easy to add context to any performance dips, identify areas for development, and outline clearly defined goals to work towards. Organizations can also use these metrics to benchmark the performance of their systems relative to industry standards.

Prioritize Key Metrics

For many DevOps teams, the most challenging aspect of continuous monitoring is the amount of data produced by automated tools that work 24/7. It’s important for organizations to identify the key metrics that are the most important to them, and to then proactively seek out data that sheds light on performance in these areas. 

Over time, organizations should refine the output they receive from their continuous monitoring tools to ensure that they receive the right type (and amount) of data. Collecting too much data places an unnecessary burden on both systems and the humans who must analyze it, whereas collecting too little can lead to a lack of insight. Striking the right balance is key to success.

Implementing Continuous Monitoring in Your Organization

Continuous monitoring plays a crucial role in DevOps, helping organizations to quickly diagnose and respond to performance and security issues across the DevOps lifecycle.

If you need assistance implementing continuous monitoring, TechHeads is here to help. With a 25 year track record of helping organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest up their IT game, our team has everything you need to take your IT infrastructure to the next level.

To learn more, schedule a call today.