What is Infrastructure Monitoring? Best Practices & Use Cases
Infrastructure monitoring is the real time data compilation of the systems, processes, and equipment involved in the computing network of your enterprise.
IT infrastructure monitoring tools automate the collection and review of information relating to infrastructure components, which allows IT teams to address the root cause of performance issues more efficiently and effectively.
Proactive analysis of application infrastructure allows you to predict or identify performance problems before they become urgent, and ensures that network resources are operating as intended. In 2014, a study by The Anthesis Group and Stanford University discovered that up to 30 percent of servers in large data centers were running and using electricity without generating traffic or using any cycles. Adequate infrastructure monitoring would have prevented the loss of time, money, and space associated with maintaining unproductive servers.
Key elements of IT infrastructure monitoring
Due to the complexity of modern IT infrastructure, performance monitoring solutions that assist with infrastructure management are critical to reducing outages and increasing response time. Some key elements of effective infrastructure monitoring software include:
Intelligent alerting to prioritize notifications
With the density of infrastructure components, a constant flow of alerts can quickly become an irrelevant flood of data. The ability to assign importance to certain issues through user-defined parameters and/or artificial intelligence frees up the time and attention of DevOps so they can troubleshoot critical problems that may result in outages or downtime. Single system monitoring Technology stacks are no longer static and self-contained. A comprehensive infrastructure monitoring platform can manage the entire IT environment and collect data on issues across networks by monitoring servers on-premise, in the cloud, or monitoring a hybrid environment like AWS or Azure in one central system. Real-time component information Infrastructure includes multiple moving pieces that work together as a whole. Much like a mechanical object, if one cog fails, the entire process may come grinding to a halt. However, it can be difficult to identify exactly which piece is at fault. Infrastructure monitoring systems furnish information about individual components and how they work together as a whole across applications, operating systems, servers, virtualization, storage and more for a complete picture of performance. Equipment versatility Some IT infrastructure monitoring tools are tied to a specific product of a vendor, and if you want the option of seamlessly changing platforms in the future, a lack of versatility could result in potential issues. Whether you choose locally-installed network monitoring software or Saas-based monitoring tools depends entirely on your business's IT operations needs and ability.
Types of infrastructure monitoring
The debate between agent or agentless IT monitoring is common among admins and engineers. There are pros and cons to both approaches, and the most comprehensive strategy would involve a combination of the two.
Agentless monitoring is a popular choice that relies on a variety of protocols such as SNMP, WMI, SSH, NetFlow or others to relay system data and statistics to the monitoring software. These built-in features monitor and manage infrastructure information without additional agents.
Networking devices, servers, flow devices, storage devices, and virtual machines like VMware and Hyper-V are all common components that have agentless monitoring capabilities. A good infrastructure monitoring system can centrally manage agentless component pieces.
Agent-based monitoring is usually designed specifically for a particular platform. As a result, it's capable of collecting and analyzing more data for the system it was programmed to interface with.
While vendor-specific programming results in more in-depth data, it's also proprietary in nature which makes it difficult to migrate to a different platform without data loss. If the components of your infrastructure use agents, you also need to evaluate if your monitoring system is compatible with those systems.
Infrastructure monitoring best practices
As with anything important, a system is only as effective as its implementation and management. Use the following best practices to set-up an infrastructure monitoring tools that meet the needs of your business:
Prioritize alerts: Decide which notifications require the most urgency and set up detailed alerts for each so that you don't miss an issue that could result in downtime or a negative experience for end users.
Schedule a trial run: Even the most well-thought out system may require fine-tuning. Don't wait for an actual emergency to find out how well your alert system functions.
Embrace redundancy: Account for every possibility by using a combination of on-premise and cloud-based solutions. Also, if you have multiple data centers, monitor each location for extra security.
Use support services: Vendors have support staff, consultants, and help centers to assist you. Put them to work for you when you encounter a question or problem instead of wasting resources trying to independently troubleshoot.
Check your metrics: Review your performance metrics regularly. Don't trust that your initial thresholds and settings will remain consistent or relevant over time. Set up periodic reviews to ensure optimal performance.
Infrastructure Monitoring vs Infrastructure Management
Although the phrases sound the same, there are differences in infrastructure monitoring and infrastructure management:
Infrastructure monitoring involves collecting and reviewing data associated with the various components of an enterprise's computing system. Infrastructure monitoring identities a problem and communicates it.
Infrastructure management then receives that communication and assesses the impact of the issue and evaluates how to mitigate or improve upon the problem.
Effective infrastructure monitoring is a key component to optimal infrastructure management, and both are essential to the productivity and profit of a functional business.