How & Why: Principles For Microservices Monitoring

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By RevDeBug

Can you imagine a world without the convenience of Amazon? The entertainment value of Netflix? Or the opportunity to drink without driving, compliments of Uber?

Each of these applications is an example of an innovative microservice that has changed the way that society operates. 

Microservices are an architectural approach to building applications. The loosely coupled framework allows development teams to build new components without negatively impacting the overall functionality.

Using microservices as an architectural framework adds value by offering speed and efficiency.

Monitoring the complex software systems of microservices is a crucial step in maintaining their efficiency. Yet the process is not cut-and-dry. There are various essential principles for microservice monitoring.

The Value of Microservices

Microservices are the unsung heroes of functional applications. The software architecture affects both the technology as well as the success of the business. It plays a critical role in the efficient workings of an online business product.

The benefits of microservice architecture include, but are not limited to, the following.

●  Continuous delivery by keeping each application in a separate environment (with everything that it needs to run)

●  Maximized deployment velocity by allowing applications to moved without altering their environment

●  Fast innovation allowing the business to adapt quickly to changing market conditions

●  Empower developers by allowing them to build applications from many components, as well as program them in their own language

●  Reduce costs compared to a monolith architecture

As with most business functionality, microservices operate most effectively when optimized and maintained. With each application maintained in its own container, it’s possible to streamline and focus the monitoring of the architecture.

Using certain tools, such as RevDeBug, are useful in maintaining performance monitoring for errors. 

Benefits of Microservices Monitoring

Although developers design systems to succeed, most will fail at some point. However, it’s possible to avoid failure by monitoring applications developed using microservice architecture.

There are several benefits to consistent microservices monitoring.

Optimize Complex Systems

Systems don’t always shut down at the first sign of degradation. Most systems will slow down and produce a hindered performance before a final shut down. Consistent monitoring will flag any issues that could be affecting the performance. In most cases, this can prevent complete failure.

Honoring a Commitment

When the application provides a service to external clients, they usually have to uphold a Service Level Agreement. Regular monitoring of the microservices architecture ensures that the application runs as smoothly as possible. In the same breath, it helps to uphold the agreement.

Identification of Patterned Problems

Another benefit to frequent monitoring is the production of data and analytics. Assessing gathered data over a long period will highlight performance dips and potential causes. For example, issues of a third-party service or API request could be flagged and dealt with effectively.

Maintain the System

Monitoring microservices helps with consistent product delivery. Customers expect consistent and resilient systems. Data gathered through monitoring can help an application meet these expectations.  

Principles of Microservices Monitoring

Microservice architecture is different from monolith applications. There are certain principles to focus on when monitoring microservice applications specifically.

For example, deploying monolithic applications involves a single executable or binary library. On the other hand, microservices are deployed as a family of independent services.

With this in mind, there are certain principles to consider as a priority.

Containers

Systems built with microservice probably use containers as the building blocks, as they help prioritize the speed, efficiency, and insolation for each of them. 

Monitoring of microservices and the containers they run is essential. While each container has limited dependencies, monitoring each of the small, isolated containers can prove a challenge.

One solution for monitoring that works before reaching scale is to ask developers to instrument their code directly. Another solution involves using automated instrumentation like the one that RevDeBug offers. The latter allows easy monitoring of all applications and containers as you scale without changing code to gather logs, metrics, and traces.

Take Advantage of Orchestration Systems

The containerized environment introduces another unique challenge. That is of deciphering operational data as a whole. From application-level information to specific queries, orchestration systems can help by sending alerts on service performance.

Orchestration systems help to interpret a logical application blueprint directly to physical containers. Examples of orchestration systems include the following;

●  Kubernetes

●  OpenShift

●  Docker Swarm

Each of these systems helps to define your microservices and understand the current state of each service in deployment. If you adopt an orchestration tool, take the time to learn the nuanced way that the system works. Doing so will help to make the most of the system.

Consider Elasticity and Multiple Locations

Change occurs rapidly in container-native environments. If a monitoring system is not up to scratch, then the changing environment becomes vulnerable.

As elastic services grow and shrink, a microservice monitoring system should do the same. In the best-case scenario, this would require no human intervention.

As new containers are being created and ever-changing, the metrics of the monitoring system need to keep up.

The monitoring system should have the ability to prioritize elasticity. It should also be able to automatically adjust to current needs. Ultimately, the monitoring system needs to be dynamic and effective in container-native environments.

Pay Attention to APIs

The API is the element of a microservice environment exposed to other teams. Monitoring of APIs is important for many reasons, including maintaining an internal service-level agreement.

There are key aspects to note when monitoring APIs. These include; 

  • Frequently used endpoints 
  • The slowest endpoints of service
  • The ability to trace service calls through the system

Each of these aspects offers value. For example; 

  • Recognizing any noticeable change in the usage of service
  • Pinpoint significant problems
  • Identify the overall user experience

Organizational Structure

The design of the system is largely impacted by the organizational structure of the teams doing the build. While most of the principles for monitoring microservices focus on the technological component, the human aspect is equally important.

The rules that govern a development organization will have a noticeable impact on producing an agile piece of software. Just as the microservice architecture is loosely coupled and adaptable, so should the team mimic this behavior.

Microservice teams should be able to isolate alerts and metrics while maintaining an in-depth understanding of the whole system. 

Metrics to Monitor in Microservices

How do you know what to measure? A robust microservice needs to have specified metrics to best optimize speed, efficiency, and trigger alerts.

Regardless of the exact metrics, the same principle can be applied across all microservice frameworks.

Monitoring involves reporting, gathering, storing, and analyzing data. Identify which data is useful and monitor these metrics.

Application Metrics

Each application is unique. Application metrics will consider these distinctive features and monitor them closely. Understanding these metrics will help to understand the behavior of the application and troubleshoot problems.

Begin by focusing on top-level data. Use these priorities as a guide on what services to prioritize. Identifying anomalies in behavior can highlight a potential problem specific to the application.

Platform Metrics

Monitoring platform metrics is essential to keep the application’s infrastructure running smoothly. There are a few key platform metrics to keep in mind as low-level data.

These include;

●  The number of requests, per second and minute, the services are serving

●  The average response time for each service endpoint

●  The number of failed requests per second

●  Distributions of the amount of time needed for each request

●  The average execution time for the fastest and slowest 10 percent of queries

●  The ratio of success to failure for each service

Keeping a close eye on these metrics should highlight a drop in performance and prevent a system-wide failure.

System Events

It’s not only the internal structure that needs monitoring. An effort should be made to focus on external forces and how they impact the system. For example, the deployment of new code can have a serious effect on the internal system.

Make sure that each deployment is carefully logged and compared with system behavior afterward. Other important system events to monitor include scaling events, configuration updates, and operational changes.

Tips to Monitor Microservices

The manner in how microservices are monitored vary but doesn’t deviate far from other existing distributed systems. Even so, there are a few best practices for microservice monitoring specifically.

Treat Logs, Metrics, and Traces as one event Stream


Logs, Metrics, and Traces are three pillars of observability. To monitor microservices you need to make them observable and collect all of those types of information. Without them, it would be hard to connect application behavior with all kinds of issues that you could spot in monitoring. It will also help prevent future issues by identifying trends and patterns that cause problems.

Take Advantage of Tools

You need your visibility into your microservices before they will go live. Microservice monitoring tools like RevDeBug helps you gather all of those important logs, metrics, and traces and give you a deep understanding of the current state of your system. Look for solutions that will provide you with automatic instrumentation so you don’t waste time on changing your code and requires manual work to trace new dependencies between microservices you deploy. 

Using open-source solutions is also a way but don’t forget that it’s also another element of your system you need to support. 

Select a Few Services to Start

Begin by connecting two or three services to your monitoring tool to avoid complicating the monitoring process. Once the process is streamlined, you can connect more. Begin by choosing the services that are the safest to change and the most robust.

Select Important Metrics to Measure

At first, it’s best to focus on the top three most important metrics to measure and avoid being overwhelmed by too much data. These metrics will be determined by the business needs and help to improve service.

While each system may have unique metrics, the Four Golden Signals are applicable across the board. These are latency, traffic, errors, and saturation. 

Final Thoughts on Microservices Monitoring

In the same way, that prevention is better than cure, so can a strategized monitoring plan prevent a global system failure. Microservices monitoring should be incorporated from the beginning of the application’s existence. Monitoring should continue to play a critical role in the product’s success.

A microservice application is a distributed system. The granular elements of specific containers, and how they interact, will have an overall effect on the whole system.

The data and analysis of monitored results will optimize the speed and efficiency of the application.

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