Jun 12, 2020

How to see through the cloud with unbroken visibility

Michael Allen
4 min
Maintaining visibility into the dynamic, hybrid, cloud-native environments that result from digital transformation can be a real challenge
Maintaining visibility into the dynamic, hybrid, cloud-native environments that result from digital transformation can be a real challenge...

Digital transformation is a huge business, with worldwide spending on the technology that enables it set to reach $2.3 trillion in the next three years. However, maintaining visibility into the dynamic, hybrid, cloud-native environments that result from this transformation can be a real challenge for organisations. These environments are inherently hard to observe, and the task has moved beyond the capabilities of traditional monitoring tools and human operators. As the scale and complexity of today’s enterprise cloud environments continues to rise, organisations need to find new ways of monitoring and managing digital service performance. If they don’t, they face the growing risk that they’ll be blindsided by unforeseen problems and the consequences that follow.

From visibility to observability

To ensure they can respond to issues before user experience is affected, IT teams need complete and seamless visibility into every single corner of their digital environment; including multi-cloud infrastructures, container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes, service meshes, functions-as-a-service and container workloads. Organisations traditionally maintained visibility by instrumenting for a predefined set of problems that would be detected when the performance and availability of components within their IT ecosystem began to degrade. While this worked fine with the relatively static architectures of yesteryear, it’s wholly unsuited to the dynamically scaling and unpredictable environments organisations rely on today.

The challenge for IT teams is to be able to identify the unknown unknowns; anticipating unique glitches that may only ever occur once. Observability offers a new and better approach to achieving this, by collecting data from all system components to maintain complete, seamless visibility across dynamic cloud-native environments. It accomplishes this by focussing on the collection of three principal data types—metrics, logs, and traces—the so called three pillars of observability.

While it’s yet to reach mainstream adoption, there are already industry-led efforts to ensure cloud-native software and infrastructure becomes inherently more observable. One notable example is the OpenTelemetry project spearheaded by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). However, while observability is much more effective than traditional methods of monitoring, data is still often collected and stored in silos, making it difficult to understand the context behind anomalies. It’s not enough to just “observe” data in silos – organisations need to use it to unlock contextualised insights and drive better business outcomes.

Automating a more clear-sighted approach

Unfortunately, most approaches to observability simply serve up more data in dashboards, requiring developers to then manually manipulate that data to uncover actionable insights that can be used to drive more informed business decisions. For observability to become a truly effective approach for dealing with the scale and dynamic nature of cloud native environments, it’s essential to automate the discovery and instrumentation of all IT components across the full stack, as well as the collection and analysis of data from anywhere in the business. That data has to be analysed in a common data model, to remove silos and unlock the full context behind business-impacting anomalies.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also a crucial ingredient, enabling IT teams to automatically set baselines as their environment changes, so they can constantly understand what ‘normal’ behaviour looks like and instantly identify problems as they arise. AI further enables observability to deliver precise answers that allow IT teams to instantly respond and resolve problems before user-experience is impacted.

Observing a more promising future

The scale and speed of digital transformation shows little sign of abating and has left organisations scrambling to maintain visibility across their entire IT ecosystem. While this has been achievable in the past, organisations are increasingly struggling to maintain unbroken observability across their dynamically changing environments. It’s also increasingly insurmountable to turn an abundance of monitoring data into actionable answers that enable IT teams to manage digital service performance effectively and resolve issues in real-time, before the business feels the impact.

Moving beyond visibility to observability is the next crucial step for organisations as they work to overcome these challenges. When combined with AI and automation, observability approaches provide the groundwork that enables organisations to effectively monitor and manage the highly dynamic and complex IT environments that they are increasingly reliant on. As a result, IT teams can stop worrying about what they can’t see and invest their time more wisely in continuing to drive innovation for the business and its customers.

By Michael Allen VP & CTO EMEA, Dynatrace

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Jun 8, 2021

Fastly's CDN Reportedly to Blame for Global Internet Outage

Tilly Kenyon & Oliver James Fr...
3 min
Multiple outages have hit social media, government, and news websites across the globe

A huge outage has brought down a number of major websites around the world. Among those affected are gov.uk, Hulu, PayPal, Vimeo, and news outlets such as CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times.

It is thought a glitch at Fastly ─ a popular CDN provider ─ is causing the worldwide issue. Fastly has confirmed it’s facing an outage on its status website but fails to specify a reason for the fault ─ only that the problem isn’t limited to a single data centre and, instead, is a “global CDN disruption” that is potentially affecting the company’s global network.

“We’re currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services,” the firm said.

What is Fastly?

Fastly is a content delivery network (CDN) company that helps users view digital content more quickly. The company also provides security, video delivery, and so-called edge computing services. They use strategically distributed, highly performant POPs to help move data and applications closer to users and deliver up-to-date content quickly.

The firm has been proving increasingly popular among leading media websites. After going public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2019, shares rose exponentially in price, but after today’s outages, Fastly’s value has taken a sharp 5.21% fall and are currently trading at US$48.06. 

What are CDNs?

Content delivery networks (CDNs) are a web of small computers, or servers, that link together to collaborate as a single computer. CDNs improve the performance of internet-connected devices by placing these servers as close as possible to the people using those devices in different locations, creating hundreds of points of presence, otherwise known as POPs.

They help minimise delays in loading web page content by reducing the physical distance between the server and the user. This helps users around the world view the same high-quality content without slow loading times. 

Without a CDN, content origin servers must respond to every single end-user request. This results in significant traffic to the origin and subsequent load, thereby increasing the chances for origin failure if the traffic spikes are exceedingly high or if the load is persistent.

The Risk of CDNs

Over time, developers have attempted to protect users from the dangers of overreliance through the implementation of load balancing, DDoS (Denial of Service) protection, web application firewalls, and a myriad of other security features. 

Clearly, by the state of today’s major website outage, these measures aren’t enough. Evidently, CDNs present a risk factor that is widely underestimated ─ which needs to be rectified with haste. Content delivery networks have become a key part of the global infrastructure, and so it’s imperative that organisations start to figure out risk mitigation strategies to protect companies reliant on the interconnected service from further disruption and disarray. 

Over the coming days, both Technology Magazine and Data Centre Magazine will continue to provide updates on the current situation as developments are made.

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