Technology becomes more complicated seemingly every day, and no one knows this better than the IT teams whose job it is to keep the backend of the world’s systems running smoothly. But as each individual silo is continually getting more complex, we also run into the added complication of sorting through the new competitors that are constantly emerging in each market.
What tools and applications are best for your enterprise? With so many to keep track of — and new ones popping up all the time — it’s not uncommon to desire a solution that checks multiple boxes and saves you time and resources.
Enter “full-stack” monitoring: the all-in-one combination of services that reduces the number of separate tools you have to keep track of. Through the integration of application and/or transaction monitoring with infrastructure monitoring, a full-stack solution provides a single source for your team to effectively monitor all aspects of the systems you operate (and the environment in which you run them).
Let’s get some perspective on what a full-stack solution really entails. The list below, courtesy of Dynatrace, includes capabilities that are mandatory for a full-stack monitoring solution. (We also cited this list in part 2 of our Modern Monitoring series — Infrastructure Monitoring Decoded — but it’s worth repeating.)
End user experience
- Real user — browser
- Real user — mobile
- Synthetic transactions
Application performance monitoring
- Transaction tracing
- Code-level visibility
- Business transactions
- SQL performance
Log file monitoring
Before choosing any full-stack monitoring solution, it’s also worth considering whether it has additional capabilities such as the following:
- User sessions and click-actions
- Container monitoring
- Microservices monitoring
- Log analytics
- Cloud & platform monitoring
- Mainframe monitoring
- 3rd party performance
While not mandatory, Dynatrace argues that any enterprise-caliber full-stack monitoring solution should still include these attributes. Finally, it should be a single all-in-one product. If multiple products are required for the coverage to be considered “full-stack,” then it really is not full-stack at all.
Other Features of Full-Stack Solutions
As the name indicates, “full-stack” monitoring solutions are so much more than just items on a list like the one above. It’s all about the interconnectedness — the way they integrate all their separate pieces and combine them into one effective, cohesive tool.
One of the latest buzzwords in this space, observability, is actually not new at all: the term comes from the world of engineering and control theory. It’s been dubbed as “the new Chuck Norris of DevOps” and “basically monitoring, but on steroids.” Those are big statements to be making, but they makes sense — and fit well into the “full-stack” discussion.
Observability — which is often (understandably) confused with monitoring — is a measure of how well we can understand a system based on its outputs, and also helps to explain why a system is behaving a certain way. Whereas monitoring is a way to identify known issues, “observability lets you know why an issue was there in the first place.” Peter Waterhouse of CA Technologies explains its relevance this way:
“Observability is important today when we consider both the characteristics of modern applications and the pace at which they’re being delivered. As organizations move towards containerized workloads and dynamic microservice architectures, old practices of bolting on monitoring after the fact no longer scale. It’s critical therefore that modern instrumentation should be employed to better understand the properties of an application and its performance as complex distributed systems take shape across the delivery pipeline and into production.”
With so many different ways that things can go wrong in modern systems, observability gives context across the full stack and helps IT teams find a quicker way out when an incident occurs.
The Full Picture
Speaking of incidents, what is one of the biggest perks of implementing a full-stack solution rather than multiple tools for different types of monitoring? Being able to see the full picture of what was really going on during an issue.
Full-stack monitoring tools are able to correlate infrastructure metrics, application metrics, and transaction metrics to show IT teams the “complete” picture of what was going on during an incident. Rather than taking the time to analyze data from every area across your enterprise, full-stack solutions combine all the relevant metrics into one solid, actionable answer.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
We are reaching a point in the monitoring industry when integrating machine learning and AI is less of a “bonus” for your systems and more of a necessity. Coupling your full-stack monitoring tool with machine learning and AI is just one more way to effectively tap into all that these technologies are capable of.
When implemented in conjunction with your monitoring system, machine learning and AI can be used to “learn” the “normal” behaviour of your system and automatically alert your team if something unusual happens. These machine learning techniques, such as predictive machine learning (in which algorithms figure out what “normal” constitutes for your system), can provide “a resulting model of normal behavior and predict a range of observation points that lie outside the range that are marked as anomaly in the data, which can be used for capacity planning use cases.”
Examples of Full-Stack Solutions
There will continue to be new full-stack solutions emerging all the time, especially as demand grows in the coming years. That being said, we’d like to highlight two full-stack solutions that are doing well in the industry already:
Datadog — Founded in NYC in 2010, Datadog is a monitoring platform for cloud applications.
“We bring together data from servers, containers, databases, and third-party services to make your stack entirely observable. These capabilities help DevOps teams avoid downtime, resolve performance issues, and ensure customers are getting the best user experience.”
Wavefront By VMware — This Palo Alto, CA metrics monitoring service was founded in 2013.
“Wavefront is a metrics monitoring and analytics service which lets you visualize, query and alert over data from across your stack (infrastructure, network, cloud, containers, custom app metrics, business KPI, etc.). On top, we provide out-of-the-box solutions for key monitoring use cases, including pre-built integrations and dashboards to make it quick and easy to pull in metrics and start seeing insights.”
Sematext — Founded in Brooklyn, NY in 2007, Sematext combines monitoring, log management, transaction tracing, and real user monitoring.
“Sematext is a globally distributed organization that builds innovative Cloud and On Premise solutions for infrastructure and application performance monitoring and log management. We also offer expert professional services — consulting, production support, and training — for Solr and Elasticsearch / Elastic Stack to clients worldwide.”
Honeycomb — This San Francisco-based company was founded in 2016 and provides full-stack observability:
“Honeycomb is a tool for introspecting and interrogating your production systems. We can gather data from any source — from your clients (mobile, IoT, browsers), vendored software, or your own code. Single-node debugging tools miss crucial details in a world where infrastructure is dynamic and ephemeral. Honeycomb is a new type of tool, designed and evolved to meet the real needs of platforms, microservices, serverless apps, and complex systems.
Stackify — Founded in Kansas in 2012, Stackify helps developers manage and troubleshoot application problems with integrated monitoring, metrics, errors & logs.
“Stackify offers the only developers-friendly cloud based solution that fully integrates application performance management (APM) with error tracking and log management in one platform. Stackify allows software developers, operations and support managers to easily monitor, detect and resolve application issues, before they affect the business to ensure a better end user experience, higher satisfaction and lower churn.”
How OpsMatters Can Help
Here at OpsMatters, we are in the unique position of having the ability to cut across vendors and report on the newest trends in technology that you need to be aware of. Rather than residing in any specific silo, we cover tools and applications across the board, in areas like monitoring, alerting, analytics, reporting, helpdesk, collaboration, DevOps, and security.
Rest assured that if you need to find information and news on the latest and greatest operational tools and apps, you can find it on OpsMatters.
If you’re on the lookout for a full-stack monitoring solution (or any other ops tool), feel free to explore our site to find the best fit for your specific needs.
Questions, feedback, or just want to get in touch? Leave a comment below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.