5 DevOps Monitoring Strategies for Your Application

DevOps poses several challenges including vulnerabilities and loopholes in the system.

5 DevOps Monitoring Strategies for Your Application
Photo by Tim van der Kuip on Unsplash

Today, companies are increasingly adopting DevOps for its continuous integration and continuous delivery approach. In the realm of DevOps, the spotlight is often taken by automation.

That is not surprising. Why?

According to the 2019 State of DevOps report by Puppet, DevOps automation has a positive impact on the overall effectiveness of an organization

However, perhaps more than automation, DevOps monitoring is yet another crucial element that helps increase awareness during each stage of the delivery pipeline.

There are numerous aspects of monitoring that you might want to consider. Like what?

What you should monitor, which tools to use, or how to get started with your DevOps monitoring strategy.

While monitoring preceded DevOps, DevOps has further transformed the software development process to such an extent that monitoring has to evolve as well. The overall pace of software development has increased with DevOps and teams are now automating integration and testing, and deploying software in the cloud with quick timelines and continuous delivery.

With DevOps, there’s more to monitor now, from integration, provisioning, to deployment, teams need to use DevOps monitoring strategies to effectively monitor different aspects of the project.

What are the Best 5 DevOps Monitoring Strategies for Your Applications?

To help you with your DevOps monitoring strategies in a rapidly changing environment, we have created a generic framework to help you understand how to get started, what to monitor, which tools to use for monitoring needs, and where you can consolidate.

Determine What You Should Monitor

The first step of effective DevOps monitoring strategies?

Determining what you should monitor in your applications. Monitoring targets can be divided into several primary categories, and you will likely want to cover at least one aspect of each category.

These categories include:

  • Server health
  • Application log output
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Development milestones
  • User activity

Development Milestones

Monitoring development milestones is an indicator of how well your DevOps strategy is working. It is an effective way to gain insights into your workflow and determine how effectively your team is operating. Track the duration of each sprint; the rate at which bugs are identified, documented, and fixed; and the ratio of expected-to-delivered features.

Ask questions such as:

  • Are we meeting our deadlines? If not, what’s hindering the process?
  • Is the team following the DevOps approach effectively?

Consolidate monitoring tools whenever possible to streamline and speed up troubleshooting. Use open-source and open-license agents to extend technology and remain vendor-independent.

What else?

You can use machine learning technology to automate configuration tasks and save time.

Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities can be broadly categorized into two parts: known weaknesses or vulnerabilities in an application that are widely known or identifiable via lists maintained by National Vulnerability Database (NVD), and vulnerabilities that occur due to insecure coding practices, insecure design, or insecure architecture in the application.

It is imperative for businesses to monitor these vulnerabilities and mitigate them in a timely manner. These vulnerabilities can be addressed in several ways such as modifying third-party dependencies, conducting regular secure code reviews, educating your software development team, and hiring experienced professionals.

User Activity Monitoring

User activity monitoring may be one of the most obvious types of monitoring strategies for DevOps. Unusual requests or unexpected inputs such as multiple failed login attempts, unusual login times, and unknown login device should be constantly monitored to ensure that only authorized users can access the system.

What’s more?

Monitoring the behavior of users can also help detect unusual activities such as access privilege escalation. For instance, a developer attempting to access an admin account.

Such unusual behavior and requests may trigger suspicion and make you more aware of potential insider threats or other cyberattacks that may occur due to poor user activity monitoring.

Application Log Output

Monitoring application log output is often underestimated, but if your services are distributed and you don’t have centralized logging in place, then this task is much more difficult.

Further, if errors and vulnerabilities are not detected in real-time, they don’t hold that much value. It is important to ensure that faulty codes or error-prone codes generate notifications in real-time, and those notifications are easily searchable. The ability to trace a bug or error in a production environment is a huge bonus.

Server Health

Monitor your server’s health by analyzing the performance and uptime with respect to the available resources. Make sure that it is properly configured and scanning features are working as intended such as for identifying vulnerabilities in the application. Also, ensure servers are hardened to approved configurations.

Identify Monitoring Functionalities

Monitoring tools for DevOps should be able to collect the performance time-series data from open source agents, track the application of machine learning for alerting and reporting, and collect data in scalable time-series databases.

Here’s a set of functionalities that one or more of your monitoring tools might provide:

  • Dashboards: Preset easy to customize dashboards and share it with peers.
  • Diagnostics: Troubleshoot across your full application stack to identify potential vulnerabilities and ensure all features are working as intended.
  • Data Collector: Open-source and open-license agents for every programming language and middleware.
  • Data Retention: For time-series performance data and log data.
  • Notifications: Alerts in real-time that can be integrated with escalation services and instant messaging.
  • Reports: In-depth insights and reports to help identify performance hotspots and planning.
  • REST API: Include custom data, update configuration via documented API, and access any data.
  • Machine Learning: Analysis of capacity lost in non-real time and anomaly detection in real-time.

Monitor Your Full Application Stack

A DevOps monitoring tool you choose should be capable of monitoring your full stack end-to-end and providing faster troubleshooting and quick remediation. This list is not essentially comprehensive but rather intended to cover the largest feature sets in an application:

Infrastructure Monitoring

Infrastructure monitoring is a key component of full-stack application monitoring strategies.

What should tools measure?

  • Availability
  • CPU usage
  • Disk usage
  • Uptime
  • Response time
  • Databases
  • Storage
  • Components
  • Virtual systems
  • Performance
  • User permissions
  • Security
  • Network switches
  • Process level usage
  • Throughput on the application
  • Load of the servers

Further, they should also be able to provide a history of trends, time-series data of the measurements, and aggregation of data with process-level drill down.

Network Monitoring

Network monitoring tools should have the capability to measure performance metrics like latency, different port level metrics, bandwidth, the CPU usage of hosts, network packets flow, and offer custom metrics as well. Generally, network monitoring tools need a platform that works across various network topologies such as cloud-based networks and heterogeneous networks.

Application Performance Monitoring

Application performance monitoring is where logs are searched, collected, and centralized with tracing and profiling available on the application.

It also helps provide measurements on performance such as availability, error rate, throughput, user response time, slow pages, page loads, third-party JavaScript slowness, track SLAs, browser speed, and checks for end-user transactions.

While this list is not exhaustive by any means, it should give you an idea of what your existing monitoring tools offer and what are the loopholes in your DevOps monitoring strategy.

Evaluate Monitoring Tools for DevOps Workflows

Create an outline framework that can be used as a starting point for the evaluation process by DevOps teams.

By outlining goals that apply to your overall DevOps monitoring strategy, you can narrow down your focus during evaluation to specific questions such as:

“Does this monitoring tool meet my goals and needs?”

Understanding DevOps monitoring tools and the functionalities they offer will allow you to dive deep into feature functionality during the evaluation process.

What’s more?

Knowing the monitoring functionality related to each monitoring aspect such as application monitoring or infrastructure will help inform the best choice for a more specific and comprehensive DevOps monitoring strategy.

Leverage Tools for Effective DevOps Monitoring

Here are some of the best DevOps monitoring tools on the market today:

  • Collectl - Collectl brings various performance monitoring tools into a single platform. It can monitor a wide range of subsystems such as nodes, storage, processors, TCP, and file systems. Collectl runs on all LInux distributions and is available in Debian and Red Hat repositories.
  • Consul - Consul provides key-value storage, discovery, failure detection, and other functions across numerous data-center environments. It is integrated with a built-in DNS server for querying services and supports existing infrastructure without modifying code.
  • God - God uses a Ruby framework to offer a simplified approach to monitoring. It is available on BSD, Darwin systems, and Linux. God provides a simplified way to write event conditions and poll events. It also provides an integrated, custom notification system.
  • Ganglia - Ganglia leverages a hierarchical design optimized for the federation of clusters. It uses common technologies such as XDR and XML for data representation as well as transport, along with a unique data structure and algorithmic approach to implement a high level of concurrency and reduce overhead on the node.
  • Nagios - Nagios provides application, network, and server monitoring using a combination of agentless and agent-based software tools for Unix, Linux, Windows and web environments. The system offers uptime, response, and availability using a variety of reporting formats and visualization.

Takeaways

It is crucial for businesses to create and implement effective DevOps monitoring strategies. Quicker development processes in DevOps pose several challenges, specifically regarding vulnerabilities and loopholes in the system that might be left due to rapid processes or lack of testing.

Having efficient and scalable DevOps monitoring strategies will help you gain insights into your application, identify loopholes early in the process, and mitigate them. Remember that while one area of monitoring may be more important for your business than another, it is essential to evaluate various aspects of your application or project.

If you have any questions about or need any help with your DevOps monitoring strategies, get in touch with us.

Originally published at https://www.cypressdatadefense.com/

cybersecurity
Steve Kosten
Steve Kosten
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Steve Kosten

Steve Kosten is a Principal Security Consultant at Cypress Data Defense and an instructor for the SANS DEV541 Secure Coding in Java/JEE: Developing Defensible Applications course.

See all posts by Steve Kosten