Monitoring as Code (MaC) is a modern concept getting wider adoption in software development.
Software development is in great demand these days, thanks to modernization and extensive use of software solutions to make work and life easier.
This requires the software developers to be more agile in coming up with advanced solutions as well as frequent updates.
Therefore, the use of methodologies like agile project management, Continuous Integration, and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), etc., and technologies like containers are growing more than ever.
In these processes, software building teams must also integrate monitoring throughout the software development process.
That’s where MaC becomes useful. It will help provide enhanced observability with comprehensive metrics and valuable insights across the software development life cycle (SDLC).
Incorporating MaC solutions like Checkly in the software development process can bring many benefits to software developers and DevOps teams.
In this article, I’ll discuss what MaC is in detail and how it can help you.
What Is Monitoring as Code?
Monitoring as Code (MaC) is an everything-as-code (EaC) mindset that involves continuous monitoring at each stage of ITOps and DevOps lifecycles and end-to-end visibility on infrastructure and applications. Adopting MaC allows developers to code, test, and deploy their entire testing and synthetic monitoring setup in one developer-focused MaC workflow.
MaC is an EaC concept, infrastructure as code (IaC) to be precise. And EaC is actually a DevOps and IT Operations (ITOps) approach that utilizes code to manage and define different types of resources.
It treats infrastructure, operations, configuration management, security, and compliance as code or software in order to automate processes and improve scalability, reusability, and security.
Furthermore, MaC ensures your applications and infrastructure are in good health, performing well, and staying secure and reliable. It does so by deploying monitors and services in the IT environment. MaC also provides you with a way to figure out a problem’s root cause, so you can find the remedy faster.
A comprehensive MaC must involve:
- Detecting anomalies and evaluating observability data
- Collecting additional information related to operations during failures and performing diagnosis
- Orchestrating monitoring jobs like metrics collection
- Managing alerts and incidents
- Storing and analyzing historical data
To help you achieve effective and efficient monitoring as code, there are many solutions built around it, such as Checkly. These solutions will make monitoring effortless, faster, and more reliable.
MaC vs. Traditional Monitoring
Traditional monitoring is different from monitoring as code. MaC provides a comprehensive monitoring solution and not just configuring plugins and agents or performing automated installations as with monitoring automation.
MaC involves the complete observability lifecycle from automated alerting and incident management to automated diagnosis.
The SDLC involves stages – planning, coding, building, testing, releasing, deploying, operations, and monitoring. On the other hand, MaC takes a left-shift approach by moving to monitor closer to the initiation of the software development process.
In MaC, teams need to gain deeper metrics and insights throughout the software development lifecycle. For this, the process becomes:
Plan → Code → Build → Test → Monitor → Feedback → Operate → Monitor
How Does MaC Work?
The way Infrastructure as Code (IaC) manages servers, applications, and cloud-based infrastructure components is similar to how MaC works and handles monitoring.
MaC incorporates data collection for business-critical key performance indicators (KPIs). This enables product managers, software developers, and other important stakeholders to track these KPIs and make informed business decisions.
With MaC, the monitoring process gets codified, enabling developers to set up a powerful framework with stricter version controls that are easy to repeat, inherit, and maintain as the software evolves.
MaC allows even a small code change to be instantly observable via metrics, helping the software’s lifecycle to manage better.
It covers the entire observability cycle, including alerts, troubleshooting, and diagnosis. This can be done by creating automation scripts in order to monitor code functions.
In practice, a software team builds a web app and releases it to the public. They require instant monitoring. MaC enables application developers and ITOps to instantly observe the functioning of applications in real-time like it’s a built-in feature.
How to Implement MaC
Typically, monitoring as code involves the following steps:
In MaC, the existing systems are integrated with “as code” services and tools. These tools and services could be CI/CD pipelines, certificate management tools, etc.
After the integration, you can quickly start iterating on the monitoring code that’s versioned. This will help unify the development, security, and IT teams on a given workflow. It also automates deployments and provides better scalability and visibility.
This process involves the identification of existing interfaces used in different observability and monitoring tools, which you can consolidate into your unified pipeline. This can include monitoring scripts, API endpoints, exporters, metric-fetching tools, and more.
In this step, you will package common observability, and monitoring business needs as declarative templates. This enables increased adoption of MaC across different business units.
You will need to close the EaC loop in the software lifecycle. As a result, the IT, development, and security teams can easily collaborate with each other. This way, they can leverage a unified workflow and work on improving the core business.
How MaC Solves Traditional Monitoring Challenges
Traditional monitoring involves many challenges, and MaC provides a way to solve them. So, let’s first take a look at various challenges associated with traditional monitoring.
#1. Communication and Coordination
A company can have a global team where the members might be working from different countries and time zones. So, if there is no proper, unified workflow in place, communication between team members and coordination becomes a huge challenge.
Suppose, the operations team detects a security threat, they will notify teams to take immediate action. However, if the team or person responsible for incident management is not available or fails to take quick action, it could lead to a security disaster. The system may get infiltrated, and information can get leaked.
This is why teams must be coordinated well and have smooth communication between the members. MaC helps here by unifying teams and members with a shared workflow. Everyone will be kept in a loop so that nothing can be missed.
MaC provides an easy way where a team member can leverage the power of automation in monitoring and performing their duties.
#2. Manual Monitoring
Traditional monitoring involves manual monitoring. You need to create monitors manually using a tool. And each member of a team would have to manage their monitors separately. Accuracy remains a question in this practice.
Since each member has a monitor in isolation, it becomes difficult to maintain cohesiveness and uniformity in the monitors. All would work without any guidelines, best practices, change history, and peer review.
Besides, it’s tough to manage a large number of monitors manually. In addition, with the growth of teams, this practice is not scalable.
However, MaC has the capability to solve these issues. It offers the power of automation, where you can automatically perform monitoring capabilities from issue detection to alerting and diagnosis. It makes the process cohesive, uniform, and scalable, not to mention easy, irrespective of how many monitors you are dealing with.
The speed at which target applications are now evolving doesn’t match the speed at which provisioning is done, or updates are being released. And if you are a software development company, you would never want this mismatch to happen.
With the help of MaC, the source code of your core monitoring will be written as code. This means the check definition comes closer to the source code. As a result of this, visibility gets enhanced throughout the team.
In addition, since code is nothing but a set of texts, it’s useful for the application’s version control and for creating audit trails of every change. This enables an easier way to roll back any change if needed.
Furthermore, by automating the provisioning of different monitoring checks, you can create a large number of checks within seconds.
#4. Lack of Transparency
Traditional monitoring involves manual provision where users create tickets for availing of new monitoring resources assigned to them. Alternatively, they may request permissions so that they can become capable of applying changes. This means IT teams must work through various flows and UIs.
As a result, maintaining consistency and simultaneously avoiding effort duplication becomes difficult across the infrastructure. It may even complicate auditing changes and make it challenging to review monitoring checks that are configured incorrectly. This also increases the length of the feedback loop and makes collaboration between teams harder.
By automating the monitoring process and provisioning of resources, teams can get centralized without having to work through multiple UIs.
This boosts consistency and increases transparency between each team member. This, in turn, enhances collaboration among team members.
MaC solutions like Checkly are excellent ways to implement MaC in your software development workflow and achieve better results.
Benefits of MaC
#1. Version Control
In traditional monitoring, it’s difficult to track changes. Everyone in the team has a separate monitor to perform the activities. Hence, version control was a difficult task.
However, MaC provides better version control by unifying members, teams, and departments. It aligns version control with building the software as well as it’s testing and deployment. This also brings better visibility, repeatability, and reliability.
Apart from tracking changes, you can easily revert to your previous application versions. In addition, you can even see what change has been made by whom and when.
MaC helps unify fragmented processes of CI/CD workflows and stay synchronized.
With the help of synthetic monitoring, you can monitor your application’s current state and get alerts if something goes wrong. However, if you want to make some changes to your services, you might need to do some modifications to your monitors.
For instance, you might want to mute your monitors before performing rollouts, or else they might break immediately. Once you roll out the change, you can adjust the monitor and unmute it to bring it to the normal state.
In MaC, you are essentially configuring your monitors closer to the application code. This enables you to do the needed updates while changing the code and keep it synchronized.
Monitoring tools are manually configured through their user interface. It can also be done by operations teams. This is actually a slow process.
But configuring MaC lets you spin up more monitors automatically with speed. This implies that every time you introduce a new endpoint, a corresponding endpoint will be created. Thus, you will achieve better efficiency with the help of automation in your monitoring processes.
#4. Increased Transparency
By providing greater source control, MaC enables increased transparency among team members. They can also perform faster and easier rollbacks if they need it.
In addition, with MaC, all the checks stay alongside the application code within the same repository. This way, you can control and manage what to monitor, why, and by which check. This helps team members spin up more monitors if needed, and engineering teams collaborate more.
#5. Better Scalability
MaC offers better scalability by making provisioning more effective and faster. So, when your team size or user base grows, you don’t face trouble scaling up your resources. And if you need to scale down, this is also easy. This way, MaC is proving to be a necessity for businesses, enabling you to take full control of automation.
#6. Robust Alerting
With MaC, you can create robust alerting where you can set up notifications and actionable alerts in case a failure occurs. You will be notified as soon as it does so that you can take immediate steps to combat it and keep your application in its best shape.
You can create workbooks and dashboards based on the different roles of employees in a team or department. This will be helpful during audits.
Traditional monitoring involves many challenges in terms of scalability, version tracking, coordination and communication, and more. By introducing Monitoring as Code (MaC) in your software development pipeline, you can enhance collaboration across teams while automating monitoring processes.
Hence, you can produce better products and release frequent updates to meet end-user expectations and scale with the demand. You can also use MaC solutions like Checkly to develop and run software faster with reliability.
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