By Mike Mackrory
When it comes to ensuring application availability, the importance of efficient incident response cannot be overstated. With the increasing complexity of modern systems and ever-increasing customer expectations, the need for strategies that simplify the processes for acknowledging and resolving incidents has grown.
For years now, DevOps teams have used monitoring tools, alert functionality, and collaboration applications to help in this effort. Still, organizations must continue to think about the ways in which incident response can be improved. One solution is to leverage incident management platforms that feature integrations with popular monitoring and collaboration tools to help accelerate incident identification and facilitate better communication amongst personnel.
Below, we’ll discuss monitoring, real-time alerting, and collaboration in the context of incident response. We’ll also take a detailed look at how integrating these types of tools with Splunk On-Call can help DevOps teams maximize the effectiveness of their incident response strategy.
Setting the Table: Monitoring and Alerting
Gathering information is a crucial part of identifying and understanding application problems. To do so, development organizations monitor applications and their underlying infrastructure with monitoring software.
Monitoring tools provide visibility into how applications and their infrastructure are functioning. This is accomplished in part by tracking metrics that detail system performance. Some metrics that are typically tracked include request count, error rate, and request duration. Monitoring for such metrics and producing the corresponding visualizations empowers DevOps teams to review this data efficiently and identify problematic trends that may be indicative of performance issues.
Once teams have attained a solid understanding of the system, they can use monitoring tools to set benchmarks for app performance and configure detailed alerts to be triggered when performance strays from the norm. For instance, alerts can be set up to notify incident response personnel in real-time when the average response time for an application has increased to a level that is no longer acceptable.
Monitoring tools that are equipped with alert functionality form a critical part of an effective approach to early incident recognition, and they assist organizations in reducing one of the key performance indicators for incident management – the average time that it takes for issues to be acknowledged (MTTA).
Collaborating When Problems Occur
When dealing with site issues, collaboration is almost always a necessity. Today’s applications are too complicated for one person to have an in-depth understanding of every component, and issues can occur in many places other than application code. This requires the ability to communicate and share information with other teams and team members in a productive manner.
Years ago, this was primarily accomplished through phone calls and email. Today, collaboration apps are more common. These applications allow for instant messaging, documentation sharing, and more, thereby enabling responders to reach out to individuals and different teams so that they can put their heads together and reach resolutions as quickly as possible.
Bringing It All Together: Optimizing Alerts with Splunk On-Call Integrations
Development organizations often leverage a variety of independent tools for monitoring applications and collaborating with team members when problems arise. And while these tools are effective on their own, you can maximize their value by folding them into your incident response workflow. Splunk On-Call contains functionality for exactly that, since it provides out-of-the-box integrations with many popular tools.
Splunk On-Call contains integrations with a litany of commonly used monitoring tools including AWS CloudWatch, Grafana, and Dynatrace, and also with collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Connecting these tools to Splunk On-Call adds more functionality that provides several distinct benefits in the realm of incident response.
Let’s examine the benefits of leveraging these integrations and explore exactly how they help streamline incident response.
Enable Intelligent Alert Routing
Splunk On-Call provides organizations with the capability to set up on-call scheduling for the various teams within their organization. This means that Splunk On-Call knows exactly who should be alerted in the event of an incident. The richness of available integrations enables Splunk On-Call to ingest alerts from various monitoring tools, then leverage on-call rotations and escalation policies to route them to the personnel who are prepared to respond immediately. Because it has a robust web interface and a mobile application, Splunk On-Call ensures that alerts can be handled by on-call personnel regardless of their location (and with all relevant incident details at the ready). Further, alerts can be fired into Slack or Teams, helping make sure that the alerts are noticed quickly. This ensures that MTTA will be reduced to the lowest possible levels.
Facilitate Crucial Analysis of Alert Frequency by Routing All Alerts to the Splunk On-Call Platform
A big part of optimizing the impact of alerting lies in ensuring that notifications aren’t unnecessarily overwhelming incident response personnel. By ingesting alerts from third-party monitoring solutions, Splunk On-Call enables organizations to gain visibility into the types of alerts that are being fired most often. This provides teams with the data they need to begin evaluating whether or not their alerting thresholds are properly set. If further examination indicates that a threshold is too sensitive, it can simply be altered to alert at a more appropriate level.
Furthermore, alerts that occur frequently could be indicative of an application problem that isn’t being thoroughly addressed. Identifying these shortfalls is the first step in resolving these problems more permanently.
Contextualized Alerts Provide Critical Detail That Accelerates Response
As mentioned above, Splunk On-Call makes it easy to ingest alerts from popular tools. There are 200+ integrations which includes AWS CloudWatch and Puppet Enterprise. In doing so, teams are empowered to collaborate around problematic occurrences in the most time-efficient and effective manner possible.
Furthermore, when it comes to incident response, context is crucial. With Splunk On-Call integrations, DevOps teams can attach additional context to their alerts, thereby enabling a deeper understanding of the issue at hand. In the case of Grafana, for instance, visualizations can be tied to incoming alerts to allow incident responders to view all of the relevant information in a single pane of glass.
Communicate with Ease Through Integration with Collaboration Platforms
If your responders usually collaborate by using a popular platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams (coming soon), Splunk On-Call has you covered. By integrating with these tools, incidents can be routed to your organization’s preferred communication system so that your teams can take action from there. With this, you’ll be able to snooze, re-route, acknowledge, resolve, and even more – all from within the collaboration software. This will make the process for acknowledging incidents and engaging other teams and individuals in the response process much easier.
When incidents occur and applications go down, development organizations strive to restore service as quickly as possible. While using monitoring tools to simply alert on application and infrastructure problems is a great start, taking steps to optimize the impact of these alerts is critical for maximizing the effectiveness of an organization’s incident response process.
This can be accomplished in part by folding alerts directly into the incident response workflow. Splunk On-Call provides this level of functionality by integrating with popular monitoring and collaboration tooling, thereby enabling the timely notification of the correct personnel and facilitating collaboration in a manner that accelerates the journey to a resolution. Part of the Splunk Observability Cloud today, watch this demo to learn how to resolve outages faster with intelligent and automated incident response. Next, sign-up for your free 14 day Splunk On-call trial today.