Roaming in the world of cloud technology not only helps you take a glance at the realm of cutting-edge technology but also helps you get familiar with concepts such as monitoring and observability. This article will cover an introduction to monitoring and the need for monitoring applications. From here, we will look at how you can utilize the data received when monitoring an application. This will allow us to understand how the concept of observability fits in with monitoring.

For more information on cloud-native monitoring and observability watch our video by Kai Hoffman, Developer Advocate at Civo. This talk provides an introduction to application monitoring and observability helping to dive deeper into the topic and explore the various tools available in the cloud-native landscape.

What is cloud monitoring?

Cloud monitoring can be defined as the method that allows you to access the data and behaviors of applications and infrastructures. This allows you to check:

  • The availability of the network

  • Allocation of resources for applications

  • Compliance

  • Performance

  • Security threats

Cloud monitoring includes the strategies, practices, and processes that help analyze, track, and manage cloud services and applications. With monitoring, we can get actionable insights that can help us improve the application's availability and user experience.

What are you monitoring?

As Civo is a cloud-native Kubernetes provider, we will use Kubernetes as an example.

In Kubernetes, apps are deployed to a cluster in containers and then grouped into pods and run on nodes. Whilst all of this is happening, the different components such as clusters, nodes, pods, and containers, produce records which shows data of:

  • Work happening across the components

  • Any errors that are happening

  • What the components are hearing

  • Access controls of the different components

  • Anything that you can measure!

Each component has its own separate log created. You can feed them into several logging tools if you want to keep the data for a long period of time.

Why do you need to monitor data?

Monitoring is essential because applications and infrastructures provide us with a massive amount of data relating to their performances. For example, with the help of monitoring, we will be able to analyze:

  • Error rates

  • Time taken for an API to process a request

  • Trends in demand that help with business planning and cost control

This is because you will see a certain amount of infrastructure deployed at a given time that you might not need because of the low demand. Furthermore, monitoring will assist you in having a knowledge of performance bottlenecks for your application and will also minimize the risk of downtime.

How do you go from data to information?

After you have received a large amount of data from your application, you will need to find a way to gain control over this data and process it to be useful. To be able to do this you will need to consider two elements: how you can get information from your log data and how to take that information and drive action.

How do you get information from log data?

You will get a stream of data from your applications in the form of logs with information about their state, happenings, and changes. Despite this, you will not get any information just by looking at the raw data.

Raw data is not information.

You can transform data into information by putting context behind it as contextualizing will give the data meaning. Then, when you truly know about the processed data, you will have information about what's happening.

Combining data streams can give you information beyond individual components, but you have to keep in mind that you can't monitor everything. Throughout the process, you will end up having a large quantity of data; from this, some of it can be useful whilst the rest will not. Monitoring design will be used so that you can use the appropriate data and process it correctly. This will help you gain insights into where your application can perform better with better efficiency and fewer errors.

How do you get insights from information that drives action?

Processed data/information will not be beneficial if you cannot gain any insights from them. To gain insights, you have to monitor with intent. Monitoring with intent means actively monitoring data to achieve your targets. This translates into the amount of information you need to outline where you want to be.

For example, if we take uptime, you need to know the amount of uptime required to make up for the hours your system is down in a year. Therefore, you need to know which data point can help you achieve that goal. It would be best to have a monitoring setup for systems going down and determine whether that setup can get the insight of finding the cause of the problem that brought the system down.

What is observability?

According to Helen Beal, the chief ambassador of DevOps Institute, ÔÇťobservability is not the same as monitoring. We monitor when we observe our observable systems through tools". Therefore, we can define observability as the ability to form a state of opinion towards the current and possible states of a simple or a complex software system derived from the monitoring insights. Observability is often called o11y because of the fact that it is a thirteen-letter word with eleven letters between o and y.

Let's take a human example to understand observability. If a person gets scared because he has a spike in his heart rate, he will monitor the spike through a tool. Despite this, the cause of the spike can be from many things such as running, diseases, etc. Here, the cause of the spike is observability. Through observability, we can understand the cause of the internal state based on external insights. Hence, observability is a quality of a well-designed software system. Tools are there to help you build the monitoring and achieve observability.

Conclusion

From this blog we can begin to understand that monitoring and observability are interrelated with separate meanings. As we have seen, you will not be able to monitor with raw data in the form of logs. Hence, processing data and giving context can help you generate information. Information can be turned into actionable insights through monitoring with an intent to help you meet your business targets. A good monitoring system can help you find the root cause of the problem that brought your system down and enhance its observability.

At Civo we can help you launch a cluster within seconds through our k3s powered Kubernetes service. If you are new to Kubernetes, you can learn everything you need to know to get started with Kubernetes with Civo Academy!