As a modern enterprise your digital infrastructure – in all likelihood – is a multi-tiered, evolving, and expanding combination of services built on next-gen technologies. This dynamic configuration of servers, networks, applications, routers, etc. provides you with the agility to respond to rapidly changing customer demands. But it also tests the resilience of your digital infrastructure.
Each microservice, each integration, each little update can snowball into a major outage. Every addition adds another level of complexity to the topology. And consequently, decreases visibility for DigitalOps and their ability to meet their goals.
Rapidly evolving operations require evolved strategies
Modern Digital Ops barely resemble ITOps of yore. The control room is there alright. And so are the multiple screens with matrix-like alerts scrolling past interminably. For agents not in the control room, there’s email. But hold on. Those ‘alerts’ aren’t really alerts. That’s data. Operational data about the various components of the organization’s IT infrastructure. What the data means, or indicates, is another game altogether.
Up until the recent past, it might have been alright to expect the Digital Ops team to outstare the screens, spot anomalies, and act upon them fast. Or study email notifications from multiple monitoring tools, search for critical alerts, and look for correlations manually. But now that the topology has evolved drastically (and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future), Digital Ops need tools to interpret what the data actually indicate. And they need to interpret the signals super fast. Because the cost of not doing so is terribly high.
If large organizations struggle with outages, for smaller organizations, a single major outage could be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. They simply do not possess the financial bandwidth to tide them over major losses.
Alert management – A necessity for modern IT operations
An effective Alert Management solution can be a game changer in this regard. It plays the role of a handy assistant that acts as a repository, translator, analyst, and operator for alerts – all to provide win-win solutions to both business and DevOps. In addition it enables Digital Ops teams to meet their SLAs while focusing on higher order tasks such as root cause analysis. Here are 7 ways in which an efficient Alert Management solution could transform your operations for the better.
First: Not just subject lines – get the complete alert content
Notifications on email indicating a status change are useful. But only for becoming aware that, “Something’s off” or, “It’s all ok”. To be able to quickly grasp the issue in its entirety, you need the complete alert content that includes details other than just the resource name, metric, and severity. The complete information should also include node, message, description, tags, occurrence time, and all additional information that might be available. Who really has the time to log into the associated monitoring tool and fish for information?
Second: No screen hopping – all alerts on a single pane of glass
Switching from one tool to another to keep an eye on your network and infrastructure can be time-consuming and overwhelming. An efficient Alert Management solution would pipe in notifications from all your monitoring tools and make them available on a single pane of glass. You get a bird’s eye view of the status of your digital operations at all times.
Third: No room for ambiguity – get all alerts normalized
Notifications from different monitoring tools, in a way, speak different languages. For example, severity in one monitoring tool might be graded as ‘Low’, ‘High’, ‘Very High’. In another tool, the same metric i.e. severity, could be rated as ‘Minimum’, ‘Average’, and ‘Maximum’, or 1, 2, 3, and 4. Interpreting the same value across different monitoring tools but using different metrics unnecessarily complicates comprehension. An efficient Alert Management tool simplifies by ‘translating’ all field values to a common standard. Agents spend less time interpreting, and more time analyzing.
Fourth: No scope for alert fatigue – separate signals from the noise
With a common standard in place, it becomes easy to spot repetitive alerts, or alerts that are vanilla status updates. When the same or similar information is repetitively shared by a monitoring tool, an efficient Alert Management tool groups those notifications together to create actionable alerts. In other words, the tool takes care of the first level analysis, providing agents with alerts that actually mean something.
Fifth: Don’t just analyse – act on alerts using an integrated service desk
An efficient Alert Management system would bridge the gap between insight and action by being seamlessly connected with a service desk. It would have workflows that mimic the human decision-making process. For example, it would have the provision for automatically upgrading alerts to incidents if, say, the severity is ‘maximum’, or if the alert is from a specific high value resource, or if it comes in at a certain time, and so on and so forth. This eliminates another cause of high Mean Time To Resolution (MTTR).
Another way an efficient Alert Management tool reduces the time for issue resolution is to automatically route incidents to relevant agent groups. All one needs to do is to configure the plan of action for each kind of incident.
Sixth: Not just data – curate context, more context, and even more context
Noise reduction is actually just one part of a binary process. Or one side of a coin. The other side is all about building context.
When an Alert Management tool reduces noise, it also creates rich alerts (by grouping similar alerts together) and rich incidents (by associating all related alerts to it). Some tools even complement agents’ higher level analysis by employing Machine Learning for spotting patterns in seemingly unrelated incidents. Yes, such tools reduce noise at the incident level by adding relevant incoming alerts to already open incidents. But what’s more noteworthy, is that they make incidents even more contextually rich and current by associating all relevant and updated information with them.
Seventh: Not just alert management – optimize your network and infrastructure
Your monitoring tools share notifications unrelentingly. What do you do with all that data? An efficient Alert Management tool would weave that data into stories. Stories that convey the behaviour of your network, resources, nodes, applications… your entire digital operations. These stories convey the health of your infrastructure, what’s off, what’s amiss, what’s going great, and what’s clearly absurd. These insights provide opportunities for optimization for performance and cost i.e. precious dollars saved and made.
Accelerate growth by setting your team free to chase higher order tasks
An Alert Management solution is a must for organizations that care about their reputation and are bullish on growth and innovation. Yes, it’s biggest impact is minimizing and preventing outages. But it also influences the organizational culture by enabling agents to focus on higher order tasks such as doing root cause analysis well, and developing longer term fixes. A resilient, agile, and intelligent Alert Management solution could very well be the competitive differentiator for modern organizations that want to scale.