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Improve your application software quality while monitoring end-to-end 

Quality assurance (QA) is a critical aspect of software development, as it helps ensure that the final product meets the specified requirements and is fit for its intended purpose. Today we notice QA is becoming the next big thing after “Agile”, “DevOps” or “Security”. So, it’s a good time to have a more detailed dive-in. One effective way to ensure quality in software development is through the use of monitoring your systems and application (software). 

It is also an essential part of the DevOps lifecycle, as it helps organizations to ensure the continuous delivery and operation of their software applications. By continuously monitoring the performance and availability of these applications, organizations can identify and resolve issues before they affect the user experience. Although so important, it is also quickly forgotten or neglected during software development. 

In the DevOps approach, monitoring is closely linked to the other key phases of the lifecycle, such as development, testing, and deployment. By monitoring applications throughout the development process, teams can identify and fix issues early on, reducing the risk of downtime or other problems in production.  

There are many different tools and techniques that can be used for monitoring in a DevOps environment, including real-time performance monitoring, log analysis, and alerting systems. By leveraging these tools and integrating them into their workflow, teams can ensure that their applications are always running smoothly and meeting the needs of their users. 

Monitoring – how we’ll define it –  refers to the continuous evaluation and observation of a system or process to identify potential issues and ensure that it is functioning as expected.  
In the context of software development, monitoring can involve tracking code changes, monitoring the performance of the software, and collecting or analyzing data on how the software is being used. 

There are several benefits to using monitoring in software development: 

  1. Improved quality: By continuously monitoring the performance and functionality of the software, developers can identify and fix issues before they become major problems. This helps ensure that the final product is of high quality and meets the required specifications. 
  1. Increased efficiency: Monitoring can help developers identify bottlenecks and areas of inefficiency in the development process, allowing them to optimize their workflow and improve productivity. 
  1. Enhanced transparency: Monitoring systems provide real-time visibility into the development process, allowing stakeholders to see how the software is progressing and providing a clear view of any issues that may arise. 

To achieve these benefits, several different approaches can be performed to monitor software development, including: 

  1. Continuous integration (CI) systems: These systems automatically build and test code changes as they are made, allowing developers to catch and fix issues early in the development process. 
  1. Performance monitoring tools: These tools track the performance of the software, including resource utilization and response times, to identify potential issues and optimize performance. 
  1. User analytics tools: These tools collect and analyze data on how the software is being used, providing valuable insights into user behavior and helping developers identify areas for improvement. 

In conclusion, monitoring is and will always be an essential aspect of quality assurance in software development. By continuously tracking and evaluating the performance and functionality of the software, developers can identify and fix issues, optimize their workflow, and ensure that the final product is of high quality. Problems will be solved before they become a major issue, in a reactive way, not turning blind on the actual production usage. 

So what is the actual purpose of monitoring software? 

Software monitoring refers to the practice of using specialized tools and processes to monitor the performance and operation of software systems. This can include  

  • monitoring the availability and responsiveness of the software,  
  • tracking key performance metrics such as response time and error rates, and identifying and diagnosing problems that may arisen 
  • software monitoring can help ensure that software systems are running smoothly and meeting the needs of users,  
  • it can also provide valuable information for troubleshooting and improving the performance of the software.  

Some common tools and techniques used in software monitoring include log analysis, application performance management, and synthetic transaction monitoring. 

Monitoring software ensures high performance for your enterprise software. Constant monitoring of your system allows you to manage the performance and availability of software applications. This leads to quick response times, improved computing processes and satisfied customers.  

Especially digital end user experience (while often neglected in software development) is one of the main goals when dealing with real user interactions and business transactions. Monitoring software saves the effort of interpreting such dependent events on your own and directs you to the component that might cause performance issues or problems for your customers. Fixing, accelerating, and optimizing your servers and software applications has become a lot easier, but it makes it hard to see the wood for the trees. 

A few enterprise examples of software monitoring: 

  • Monitoring the availability of a website or web-based application to ensure that it is always accessible to users 
  • Tracking the response time of a database or other backend system to ensure that it is performing efficiently and not causing delays for users 
  • Analyzing logs of software activity to identify patterns or trends that may indicate potential problems, such as high error rates or unusual behavior 
  • Using synthetic transaction monitoring to simulate real user interactions with the software and track key performance metrics, such as response time and throughput 
  • Implementing application performance management (APM) tools to monitor the performance of specific components or services within a software system, such as a particular API or database. 

These are just a few examples of the ways in which software monitoring can be used to improve the performance and reliability of software systems depending on their specific contexts and needs. 


Software monitoring techniques 

Several different software monitoring techniques can be used to monitor the performance of websites and applications. Some of the common techniques include: 

  • Synthetic monitoring: This involves using specialized software to simulate the actions of a real user and measure the performance of the website or application under test. 
  • Transaction monitoring: This involves tracking the performance of specific transactions or business processes, such as the checkout process on an e-commerce website. 
  • Application performance monitoring (APM): This involves using specialized software to monitor the performance of individual components of a web-based application, such as the database, web server, or application server. 
  • Server monitoring: This involves using specialized software to monitor the performance of the servers that host a website or application, including metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, and network traffic. 
  • Network monitoring: This involves using specialized software to monitor the performance of the network infrastructure that supports a website or application, including metrics such as network latency, packet loss, and network availability. 
  • Event monitoring: This involves tracking specific events, such as user login attempts or database queries, and providing alerts and insights when these events occur. 
  • Log monitoring: This involves collecting and analyzing log data from a website or application, and using this data to identify performance issues and troubleshoot problems. 
  • Infrastructure monitoring: This involves monitoring the performance of the underlying infrastructure that supports a website or application, such as the network, servers, and storage systems. 
  • Cloud monitoring: This involves monitoring the performance of a website or application that is hosted on a cloud platform, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. 
  • Security monitoring: This involves monitoring for security threats and vulnerabilities, such as malware infections or unauthorized access attempts, and taking action to prevent or mitigate these threats. 

Depending on your needs, it can be hard to choose the one you eventually need. So let’s tackle some of them separately and offer a view on ways to achieve them. 

Synthetic Monitoring 

Synthetic monitoring is a technique used to monitor the performance of a website or web-based application. It involves using specialized software to simulate the actions of a real user and measure the performance of the website or application under test. 

This type of monitoring is typically performed by creating a script that mimics the actions of a user, such as navigating to a specific page or filling out a form. The script is then executed by the synthetic monitoring tool, which measures the performance of the website or application and records the results. 

One advantage of synthetic monitoring is that it can be performed on a regular basis, even when there are no real users accessing the website or application. This allows businesses to identify performance issues proactively and take action before they impact end users. 

However, synthetic monitoring does have some limitations. Because it is performed by a script, it cannot capture the full range of user experiences and may not accurately reflect the performance of the website or application for real users. As such, it is often used in conjunction with other monitoring techniques, such as real user monitoring

Synthetic monitoring is often compared with this particular application performance technique known as real user monitoring (RUM). As the name suggests, RUM tracks actions taken by actual users instead of emulating them. Organizations often implement RUM by injecting JavaScript code into a webpage and then collecting performance data in the background as actual users interact with that page. 

So, what is synthetic monitoring typically used for, and when might a business decide to use RUM instead?  

Synthetic monitoring is often helpful to identify short-term performance issues that may impact the user experience while an application is still under development. Early detection helps businesses nip potential performance issues in the bud. This approach is handy for regression testing and production site monitoring, for example. Real user monitoring, by contrast, can help a business understand long-term trends in an application’s performance after it has been deployed. 

There are many different tools that businesses can use for synthetic monitoring. Some popular tools include: 

  1. Pingdom: Pingdom is a cloud-based website monitoring tool that includes support for synthetic monitoring. It allows businesses to create custom scripts that mimic user actions and measure the performance of a website. 
  1. Datadog: Datadog is a cloud-based monitoring platform that includes synthetic monitoring capabilities, as well as support for monitoring other aspects of a business’s technology stack. 
  1. New Relic Synthetics: New Relic Synthetics is a synthetic monitoring tool that is part of the New Relic platform. It allows businesses to create custom scripts and monitor the performance of their websites and applications. 
  1. AppDynamics: AppDynamics is an APM tool that includes synthetic monitoring capabilities, allowing businesses to create custom scripts and monitor the performance of their applications. 
  1. SolarWinds: SolarWinds is a provider of IT management software that offers a range of synthetic monitoring tools, including server and network monitoring. 

Transaction Monitoring 

Transaction monitoring is used to monitor the performance of specific transactions or business processes on a website or web-based application. It involves tracking the performance of these transactions and providing detailed metrics and insights into how they are performing. 

Often it is used to track the performance of critical business processes, such as the checkout process on an e-commerce website or the submission of a form on a banking website. By tracking the performance of these processes, businesses can identify performance bottlenecks and troubleshoot issues before they impact end users.Service & Transaction Monitoring | Operations | Neunen IT Consulting 

Transaction monitoring tools typically provide detailed metrics on the performance of individual transactions, including metrics such as response time, error rate, and throughput. Some tools also include diagnostic capabilities, such as the ability to capture detailed traces of transaction requests and responses, which can help developers identify the root cause of performance problems. 

Some popular transaction monitoring tools include New Relic, AppDynamics, and Dynatrace. These tools often include naturally other monitoring capabilities, such as APM and synthetic monitoring, as part of a comprehensive monitoring platform. 

Application performance monitoring 

Application performance monitoring, also known as APM, is a technique used to monitor the performance of web-based applications. It involves using specialized software to track the performance of individual components of the application, such as the database, web server, and application server. 

The software typically provides a detailed view of the performance of an application, including metrics such as response time, error rate, and throughput. This information can be used by businesses to identify performance bottlenecks and troubleshoot issues with the application. 

These tools often include features such as real-time monitoring, alerting, and reporting, which can help businesses proactively identify and address performance issues before they impact end users. Some APM tools also include diagnostic capabilities, such as the ability to capture detailed traces of application requests and responses, which can help developers identify the root cause of performance problems. 

There are many different tools that businesses can use for application performance monitoring (APM). Some popular tools for APM include: 

  • New Relic: New Relic is a popular APM tool that provides a comprehensive view of application performance, including detailed metrics and real-time alerts. 
  • AppDynamics: AppDynamics is an APM tool that provides a detailed view of application performance and includes features such as diagnostics and custom dashboards. 
  • Dynatrace: Dynatrace is an APM tool that provides real-time monitoring and alerting, as well as advanced diagnostic capabilities. 
  • Datadog: Datadog is a cloud-based monitoring platform that includes APM capabilities, as well as support for monitoring other aspects of a business’s technology stack. 
  • SolarWinds: SolarWinds is a provider of IT management software that offers a range of APM tools, including server and network monitoring. 

Ultimately, the best APM tool for a business will depend on its specific needs and requirements. 

Server Monitoring 

We’ll use Server monitoring to monitor the performance of the servers that host a website or web-based application. It involves using specialized software to track metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, and network traffic on these servers, and provide alerts and insights when performance issues are detected. 

This type of monitoring is important because the performance of a website or application is directly tied to the performance of the servers that host it. By monitoring the performance of these servers, businesses can identify and address performance bottlenecks and other issues before they impact end users. 

These monitoring tools typically provide a detailed view of the performance of individual servers, including metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, and network traffic. Some tools also include features such as alerting and reporting, which can help businesses proactively identify and address performance issues. 

Popular server monitoring tools include Datadog, New Relic, and SolarWinds. These as mentioned before, are often part of a complete monitoring platform. 

Network monitoring 

Network monitoring on the other hand will be used to monitor the performance of the network infrastructure that supports a website or web-based application. It involves using specialized software to track metrics such as network latency, packet loss, and network availability, and provide alerts and insights when performance issues are detected. 

This monitoring type is important because the performance of a website or application is directly tied to the performance of the network that supports it. By monitoring the performance of the network, businesses can identify and address issues such as congestion, packet loss, and network outages before they impact end users. 

When looking at network monitoring tools,  they’ll logically will provide a detailed view of the performance of the network, while including metrics such as network latency, packet loss, and network availability. Some of these tools also include features such as alerting and reporting, which can help businesses proactively identify and address network performance issues. 

Popular network monitoring tools include Datadog, New Relic, and SolarWinds.  
 

Event Monitoring 

Event monitoring is a technique used to monitor specific events that occur on a website or web-based application. It involves tracking these events and providing alerts and insights when they occur. 

Event monitoring is often used to track events that are important to the business, such as user login attempts, database queries, or the submission of a form. By tracking these events, businesses can gain a better understanding of how their website or application is being used, and identify any performance issues or problems that may be occurring.  

Event monitoring tools will provide detailed metrics on the frequency and performance of specific events, and may include features such as alerting and reporting to help your businesses proactively identify and address performance issues. Some tools also include diagnostic capabilities, such as the ability to capture detailed traces of event requests and responses, which can help developers identify the root cause of performance problems. 

Popular event monitoring tools are New Relic, AppDynamics, and Dynatrace.  

Real User Monitoring 

Real user monitoring, also known as RUM, is a technology that allows businesses to monitor the performance of their website or web-based application from the perspective of actual users. This is in contrast to traditional monitoring techniques, which often involve monitoring the performance of the website or application from the perspective of the server or network. 

To set up real user monitoring (RUM), a business will need to follow these steps: 

  1. Which one? There are many different RUM tools available, so the first step is to choose a tool that meets the business’s specific needs and requirements. Some popular RUM tools include New Relic, AppDynamics, and Dynatrace. You must ensure having a correct understanding of business’ SLA & requirements? Are all our applications running on a private or public cloud? When running on private cloud, often there will be a restricted external access, limiting the tools to choose from (as most of them are cloud based). 
  1. Setup of the RUM tool of choice: the next step is to install it on the website or web-based application that you want’s to monitor. This typically involves adding a piece of JavaScript code to the website or application, which will allow the RUM tool to collect performance data from end users. When having an on prem solution, you’ll probably need additional custom setup & installations (or even custom development). 
  1. Configuration of the tool:  After installation, the next step is to configure it to collect the performance data that the business is interested in. This may involve setting up custom metrics, defining alert thresholds, and configuring reports and dashboards. Keep in mind, having a good idea of SLA’s upfront will decrease the time configuring these (which is often overlooked). 
  1. Monitor performance: Once set up and configured, the team can start monitoring the performance of the website or application from the perspective of end users. This will typically involve monitoring metrics such as response time, error rate, and throughput, and taking action when performance issues are detected. 

There are many different tools that businesses can use for real user monitoring (RUM). Some popular tools as for the previous monitoring solutions can be: New Relic, AppDynamics, Dynatrace, Datadog & SolarWinds. Keep in mind, these are mostly cloud based tools, having a private cloud setup will increase complexity and cost setting up these kind of monitorings. 

Log monitoring 

Log monitoring is the process of collecting, analyzing, and storing log data generated by applications, servers, and other systems in order to gain insights and troubleshoot issues. Log data can provide valuable information about the performance and behavior of systems, and can help teams to identify problems and resolve them quickly. 

There are a number of tools and techniques that can be used for log monitoring, including log management platforms, log analysis tools, and real-time alerting systems. These tools allow teams to search and analyze log data, identify patterns and trends, and set up alerts to notify them of potential issues. 

This monitoring technique can be an important part of an organization’s overall monitoring strategy, as it allows teams to quickly identify and resolve issues that may not be immediately visible through other means. By proactively monitoring log data, teams can prevent problems from escalating and reduce the risk of downtime or other disruptions. 

There are many different tools and technologies that can be used as part of a log monitoring stack, and the specific tools used will depend on the needs and requirements of an organization. Here are a few examples of tools that are commonly used in log monitoring stacks: 

  • Log management platforms: Platforms used to collect, store, and analyze log data from multiple sources. Examples include Splunk, Elastic Stack, and Logz.io. 
  • Log analysis tools: These tools allow teams to search and analyze log data in order to identify patterns and trends. Examples include Logstash, Graylog, and Papertrail
  • Real-time alerting systems: Systems that will monitor log data in real-time and send notifications when certain conditions are met. Examples include PagerDuty, VictorOps, and Opsgenie
  • Log visualization tools: These will provide graphical representations of log data, making it easier to understand and analyze. Examples include Kibana, Grafana, and Loggly.  
  • Log shippers: These are used to collect log data from multiple sources and send it to a central location for storage and analysis. Examples include Fluentd, Logstash, and Beats

By combining these tools and integrating them into their workflow, teams can build a robust log monitoring stack that helps them to identify and resolve issues quickly. Often they also come with specific additional requirements in terms of storage, additional times series database, … 

Cloud monitoring 

As the name states, cloud monitoring is the process of monitoring the performance and availability of cloud-based applications, infrastructure, and services. It is a critical aspect of managing and optimizing the use of cloud resources, as it helps organizations to ensure that their applications are performing as expected and to identify and resolve issues before they impact users. 

There are multiple of tools and techniques that can be used for cloud monitoring, as we described them previously: 

  • Infrastructure monitoring: This involves monitoring the performance and availability of the underlying infrastructure, such as servers, storage, and networking, in order to ensure that applications have the resources they need to run smoothly. 
  • Application monitoring: This involves monitoring the performance and availability of applications running in the cloud, including web applications, mobile apps, and microservices. 
  • Cloud service monitoring: This involves monitoring the performance and availability of cloud services, such as databases, message queues, and caching systems, to ensure that they are functioning properly. 
  • Resource monitoring: This involves monitoring the use of cloud resources, such as CPU, memory, and storage, to ensure that they are being used efficiently and to identify potential performance bottlenecks. 

By continuously monitoring their cloud-based systems and applications, organizations can ensure that they are performing at their best and meeting the needs of their users. 

Security Monitoring 

This monitoring type involves the continuously monitoring of the security posture of an application to identify and mitigate potential security risks. This can include monitoring for vulnerabilities, identifying and responding to security incidents, and implementing measures to prevent future security breaches. 

As tools and techniques that can be used for security monitoring of software applications, we can define several types: 

  • Vulnerability scanning: This involves using automated tools to identify vulnerabilities in an application’s code or infrastructure. Examples can be SonarQube or Fortify. 
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems: These systems monitor for suspicious activity and can alert security teams to potential security breaches. 
  • Application security testing: This involves using tools to test the security of an application, including testing for vulnerabilities and identifying potential weaknesses. Examples include Burp Suite, OWASP ZAP, Fortify and SonarQube. 
  • Network security monitoring: This involves monitoring network traffic and identifying potential threats or malicious activity. Examples include Wireshark, SolarWinds, and Splunk. 
  • Security information and event management (SIEM) systems: These systems collect and analyze security-related data from multiple sources, including logs and network traffic, and provide alerts when potential threats are detected. Examples include Splunk, Fortify, IBM QRadar, and LogRhythm. 

By continuously monitoring the security posture of their software applications, organizations can identify and mitigate potential security risks, protecting their systems and data from cyber threats. 

Monitoring, a never-ending story 

 Software application monitoring is a never-ending story because there are always new issues that can arise with software applications, and there is always room for improvement in terms of performance and user experience. Additionally, as software applications and the systems they run on evolve and change over time, monitoring needs to adapt to ensure that they continue to function properly. 

Effective application monitoring helps organizations to identify and resolve issues before they affect users, ensuring the continuous delivery and operation of their software. It also provides valuable insights into how applications are being used, allowing teams to optimize performance and identify opportunities for improvement. 

Given the importance of monitoring in ensuring the success of software applications, it is essential that it be treated as a continuous process rather than a one-time effort. By continuously monitoring and adapting to changing needs and requirements, organizations can ensure that their applications are always running smoothly and meeting the needs of their users and contributes to the overall quality assurance we want to obtain in software development.