Maximizing System Reliability: The Case for Dedicated Troubleshooting Tools

Andreas PrinsCEO
5 min read

As a leader in IT, the question of whether or not it makes sense to adopt a dedicated software troubleshooting solution probably comes up from time to time. If it's happened in your organization — no worries — you're not alone.

Many teams wonder if their current tools, such as an Application Performance Monitoring (APM) solution or a suite of open-source solutions are sufficient. Additionally, concerns about budget constraints, decreased productivity and potential workflow disruptions —especially when the organization's IT team is just a handful of people — can make the decision to adopt a new tool challenging.

At first glance, these concerns seem reasonable, but after reading this article, I'm confident you'll agree that a focused troubleshooting solution could be the thing that transforms your company's approach to system reliability.

Setting the Stage for a Single Solution

Let's explore a few examples of how these tools can significantly impact your operations, particularly when unexpected events occur.

The Calm Before the Storm

Imagine a streamlined IT environment with just five Kubernetes clusters-an open-source system used to automate the deployment and scaling of applications. Each Kubernetes cluster consists of 25 nodes running critical business processes.

With five engineers managing the platform and another 20 deploying applications, the primary goal is to ensure continuous application uptime. Most teams rely on Service Level Objectives (SLOs) and error budgets to track service performance and reliability, which are common practices in the industry.

The Unexpected Outage

Outages are like black swan events – unforeseen and unpredictable. During such incidents, many IT professionals resort to using existing tools like Grafana (a visualization tool), KubeCTL (a command-line tool for controlling Kubernetes clusters) and K9s (a terminal-based interface to manage Kubernetes clusters) for diagnostics. While these tools can be helpful, a more efficient approach is available.

In a recent consultation, we encountered an outage that severely impacted the organization's customers and, subsequently, the business. Eight employees spent an entire day troubleshooting the issue using various tools. This single event alone incurred labor costs exceeding four thousand euros, not including the financial impact on the business and the opportunity cost of not working on new feature development. Ultimately, the actual cost amounted to 3 to 10 times more than just the man-hours spent on the issue.

Enter StackState

Once StackState was introduced, the problem was located in less than an hour. A single engineer, armed with metrics, events, logs and detailed dependency map (a visual display of the interdependencies between pods, services and other resources), and correlated metrics, events and logs, could pinpoint when and where the problem originated.

The power of StackState? It reduced the resolution time from a full day to an hour and decreased the required human resources from multiple engineers to just one.

Plus, StackState facilitated the creation of additional monitors to detect similar issues earlier, preventing potential future outages. Although several monitoring solutions were already in place, what was missing was a connected overview of the systems and guidance to rectify the problem.

When To Consider a Dedicated Troubleshooting Tool

Outages often serve as wake-up calls, signaling the need for a new and empowering tool. However, such realizations usually occur pretty late in the game, with significant impacts already experienced.

Drawing from our client experiences, we've identified the following situations where adopting a dedicated Kubernetes troubleshooting tool would be a lifesaver.

  1. You've introduced a new tech stack: When your business begins to use Kubernetes at scale, having a robust solution that supports your troubleshooters is invaluable.

  2. You have a strained platform engineering team: If a tidal wave of troubleshooting tasks is preventing your platform engineering team from focusing on enhancing developer experience and platform reliability, a dedicated solution can help lighten the load.

  3. Your team has challenges sharing "reliability knowledge" and SRE practices: A tool that consolidates this knowledge and provides actionable insights can really enhance team collaboration and site reliability engineering.

  4. Too many tools can confuse new hires (and frustrate current ones): Simplifying the understanding of your tech stack and problem-solving abilities by introducing a comprehensive tool will be appreciated by all.

  5. Co-development never goes perfectly: For systems co-developed by multiple teams, a holistic view of all system components (services, pods and containers) connection is needed — without instrumenting your code.

Transform the Way You Operate Kubernetes Applications

By unlocking the power of StackState, your organization can experience enhanced efficiency, see significant resource savings and benefit from a comprehensive system view that enables quick and precise issue identification.

We understand that embracing our dedicated troubleshooting solution might seem daunting initially, especially if you are accustomed to and relying on legacy systems and processes.

However, you'll soon find that implementing this solution can take your IT management practices to the next level, allowing for smoother and more reliable operations going forward — even when challenges pop up unexpectedly.