What is IT Infrastructure Monitoring?
IT infrastructure monitoring describes the process of collecting and analyzing data to identify and address performance issues. The information gathered via infrastructure monitoring helps organizations optimize their systems. This provides business value by reducing outages and increasing server response time.
This makes infrastructure monitoring a valuable tool in managing service level agreements (SLAs). Organizations can also use this information to inform service level agreements, as it offers a realistic perspective of the service an organization can aim to provide.
What’s Included in IT Infrastructure?
IT infrastructure encompasses the resources required to support an organization’s IT services. It covers physical infrastructure – computer hardware, data centers, servers, etc – as well as virtual infrastructure – software, the cloud, and all other related resources.
Types of Infrastructure Monitoring: Agent vs. Agentless
The merits of agent vs. agentless infrastructure monitoring have long been debated. Both monitoring types have their benefits and drawbacks.
Agent-based monitoring is a vendor/platform-specific based type of infrastructure monitoring infrastructure. Its specificity means it’s optimized to gather more data and provide more functionality that can enable you to quickly address problems. This makes it well-suited for critical applications and servers.
However, it requires agents to be installed and maintained on each monitored server. They also may impact server performance if they consume excess resources.
Agentless monitoring is typically actioned via the Simple Network Management Protocol. It relays information to the central monitoring software with data concerning the system. Other options for agentless monitoring include WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation), and SSH (Secure Shell).
Agentless monitoring benefits organizations by eliminating the need to install and maintain software components on the monitored platforms. However, it provides less granular data and cannot be tailored to the same extent as agent-based solutions. This means agentless monitoring may be unsuitable for mission-critical servers that cannot afford any downtime.
Infrastructure Monitoring Best Practices: Traditional vs. Pragmatic
Infrastructure monitoring often follows one of two approaches – traditional, and pragmatic. While some organizations may still opt for the traditional approach, it is becoming increasingly unsuitable in the face of IT infrastructure’s growing complexity. Therefore, pragmatic infrastructure monitoring should be considered best practice.
Understanding why pragmatic monitoring is more suitable for modern environments first requires an understanding of traditional monitoring and its limitations.
Traditional Infrastructure Monitoring
A traditional infrastructure monitoring methodology tries to throw a big net over everything it can. Modern computing environments consist of thousands of interconnected servers, storage devices, networks, and applications. Monitoring software can be configured to inform relevant support teams whenever there is a problem anywhere in the environment. In a dynamic data center, there is always something that will trigger alerts.
While this approach does provide a large volume of raw data regarding infrastructure components, the amount of information generated by enterprise monitoring tools can be overwhelming. Alerts that are constantly being sent about minor problems can quickly lead to overload and a tendency to ignore the warnings. It’s common for technical support personnel to configure email rules to minimize the number of irrelevant alerts they need to wade through daily.
Two obvious problems are caused by this type of non-targeted monitoring. The first is that the support teams responsible for addressing alerts get a lot of extra work trying to decide which warnings are important. The second problem is that there is a high probability that critical alerts will be lost in the noise, putting elements of the business at risk.
Pragmatic Infrastructure Monitoring
Pragmatic monitoring takes a more measured and sensible approach to the collection of information regarding an organization’s information technology (IT) environment. The goal is to identify and monitor the items that provide tangible business value. Focusing on these aspects of the infrastructure reduces unnecessary monitoring noise and allows teams to more effectively address issues that directly impact the business.
A pragmatic monitoring mindset requires an organization to answer multiple questions posed from a technical and business perspective. The answers will influence how the monitoring solution is deployed and on which infrastructure elements it will be focused.
The technical questions revolve around three aspects of the monitored components or applications:
- Availability – Are the business-critical elements of the infrastructure available and accessible by the user community?
- Performance – Are the mission-critical systems the business relies on performing up to expectations?
- Capacity – Is there enough capacity to address future demand for storage, network, and compute resources?
Business-related concerns essentially concentrate on the same issues from a different angle to answer the following questions.
- Are resources being used efficiently to address business objectives? This includes over and under-provisioning systems as well as resolving recurring problems that may indicate outdated equipment that needs to be sunset.
- Are we providing reliable services and meeting our customer commitments? Are SLAs in place for internal and external customers and are they being met?
- Are current operations sustainable and do trends indicate we are properly budgeting for the future?
Aligning business and technical goals is an underlying ingredient of adopting a pragmatic monitoring approach. The technical aspects of an organization’s monitoring focus should align with the objectives of seeing the business operating at peak efficiency.
Understanding the connection and dependencies between infrastructure components and how they affect business-critical applications and operations is necessary to effectively implement pragmatic monitoring.
While on some level all infrastructure components are important, there is always a subset that is more critical to meet specific business objectives. These need to be the focus of monitoring efforts. Selecting targets for pragmatic monitoring needs to take this into account and prioritize the infrastructure elements with the greatest impact on the business.
A Tool to Implement Pragmatic Monitoring
Uptime Infrastructure Monitor is a comprehensive tool that enables teams to take a pragmatic monitoring approach with their infrastructure and its components. It supports both agent and agentless monitoring so organizations can take a hybrid approach.
The application addresses all parts of the computing infrastructure and allows for tailored alerts to be sent to the appropriate stakeholders. Following are some of the ways Uptime fits in with a pragmatic monitoring initiative.
- The tool’s Discovery Wizard identifies infrastructure components that can be evaluated to determine if and how they need to be monitored to meet business objectives.
- Service Level Agreements can be created and tracked with a few clicks to provide the necessary insight into business processes and applications.
- Customized dashboards can be built to furnish select audiences with the specific monitoring details they need to maintain the business.
- Integration with ticketing systems enables an accountability trail to be constructed that can lead to the elimination of stubborn, recurring problems.
You can view an IDERA webcast that illustrates the concepts of pragmatic monitoring using Uptime Infrastructure Monitor. If you check out the video, be warned that there is no sound for about the first 90 seconds. Don’t bail out early, as it’s worth watching.