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Event Management: Reactive, Proactive or Predictive?

Three questions to ask during a post-mortem review

Can event management help foster a curiosity for innovative possibilities to make application performance better? Blue-sky thinkers may not want to deal with the myriad of details on how to manage the events being generated operationally, but could learn something from this exercise.

Consider the major system failures in your organization over the last 12 to 18 months. What if you had a system or process in place to capture those failures and mitigate them from a proactive standpoint preventing them from reoccurring? How much better off would you be if you could avoid the proverbial “Groundhog Day” with system outages?

The argument that system monitoring is just a nice to have, and not really a core requirement for operational readiness, dissipates quickly when a critical application goes down with no warning.

Starting with the Event management and Incident management processes may seem like a reactive approach when implementing an Application Performance Management (APM) solution, but is it really? If “Rome is burning”, wouldn’t the most prudent action be to extinguish the fire, then come up with a proactive approach for prevention? Managing the operational noise can calm the environment allowing you to focus on APM strategy more effectively.

Asking the right questions during a post-mortem review will help generate dialog, outlining options for alerting and prevention. This will direct your thinking towards a new horizon of continual improvement that will help galvanize proactive monitoring as an operational requirement.

Event Management

Here are three questions that build on each other as you work to mature your solution:

  1. Did we alert on it when it went down, or did the user community call us?

  2. Can we get a proactive alert on it before it goes down, (e.g. dual power supply failure in server)?

  3. Can we trend on the event creating a predictive alert before it is escalated, (e.g. disk space utilization triggers a minor@90%, major@95%, critical@98%)?

The preceding questions are directly related to the following categories respectively: Reactive, Proactive, and Predictive.

Reactive – Alerts that Occur at Failure
Multiple events can occur before a system failure; eventually an alert will come in notifying you that an application is down. This will come from either the users calling the Service Desk to report an issue or it will be system generated corresponding with an application failure.

Proactive – Alerts that Occur Before Failure
These alerts will most likely come from proactive monitoring to tell you there are component failures that need attention but have not yet affected overall application availability, (e.g. dual power supply failure in server).

Predictive – Alerts that Trend on a Possible Failure
These alerts are usually set up in parallel with trending reports that will help predict subtle changes in the environment, (e.g. trending on memory usage or disk utilization before running out of resources).

Conclusion
Once you build awareness in the organization that you have a bird’s eye view of the technical landscape and have the ability to monitor the ecosystem of each application (as an ecologist), people become more meticulous when introducing new elements into the environment. They know that you are watching, taking samples, and trending on the overall health and stability leaving you free to focus on the strategic side of APM without distraction.

More Stories By Larry Dragich

Larry Dragich is actively involved with industry leaders, sharing knowledge of Application Performance Management (APM) technologies, from best practices and technical workflows, to resource allocation and approaches for implementation. He has been working in the APM space since 2006 where he built the Enterprise Systems Management team which is now the focal point for IT performance monitoring and capacity planning activities.