Top Observability Strategies for Distributed Systems

Profielfoto O.Schouws
Olaf Schouws
6 min read

In a distributed IT environment, there are a lot of moving parts, and all of them need to be monitored to ensure everything is working as it should. The rise of more complex infrastructures interweaving the cloud, on-premises, and hybrid architectures makes this a challenge. To make sure you have adequate visibility, you need an IT observability strategy.

Think back to your first car—the one with the dashboard that constantly lit up like a Christmas tree: check engine light, service now light, power steering light, traction control, and oil pressure gauge.

Each light was a warning that provided observability into the health of your favorite little beater. Because you ignored the oil pressure gauge, the engine overheated and misfired, producing a check engine warning. Soon, the head cracked, resulting in oil leaking then burning on the exhaust manifold, dissipating into a pungent blue-gray fog that seeped through your heater vents. In reality, this could have been prevented. All you had to do was use your car’s observability system.

The following observability strategies can help you keep the engine—and various moving parts—of your distributed system running in tiptop shape.

Aggregating Logs

Part of the reason your first car went up in a puff of smoke was that you didn’t keep track of what all the various lights meant and how important each one was. The traction control light wasn’t all that crucial. Oil pressure—a lot more important.

Aggregating logs can help you keep track of the issues your system is experiencing, helping you troubleshoot on the fly or develop a strategy for preventing bigger issues down the road.

Tracking Application Metrics

Your application metrics tell you a lot about how workloads are being apportioned and how applications are performing in a variety of distributed software systems. By tracking metrics, you enhance observability, meaning you can pinpoint application-based issues early on, find ways to better allocate computing resources, and stop a malfunctioning app from impacting the rest of your network.

Logging Audit Data

Audit data can provide a rearview look into your system that can be pivotal as you address problems or inefficiencies. A logging system ensures this valuable data is organized and available.

Performing Distributed Tracking

With distributed tracking, you can keep track of where requests initiated, where they went, and where things broke down. In a distributed computing system, tracing these communication paths can make it easy to figure out that system X made system Y break down.

Keeping Track of Changes and Deployment Initiatives

In a high-paced DevOps system, changes and deployments can come rapid-fire. Keeping track of what was done where, how, and when can make it easy to backtrack to the source of an issue, making it a key component of your observability strategy.

Understanding Anomalies

Don’t let the odd, inexplicable stuff get swept under the rug. You could be ignoring the oil pressure light. Your real-time observability system should include a methodology for assessing and addressing anomalies, however infrequent.

Keeping Your Distributed Systems Observable with StackState

With StackState, you get monitoring tools that empower you to see how changes impact your landscape, the connections between apps and their dependencies, and how your various environments, stacks, and applications work together to power your business engine. In this way, StackState removes blind spots and eliminates inefficient silos. 

To know more, book a free guided demo or get in touch with an expert today.