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Monday, 25 July 2022 11:04

New solutions bridge the gap between software and real-world impacts

By Hope Powers, ANZ vice president, Dynatrace

GUEST OPINION: Kelsey Hightower, a software engineer with Google well known as a Kubernetes advocate, has explained the role of Kubernetes in the management and execution of software by drawing parallels with the postal service.

If you want to ship something from A to B, you simply put it in a box, put an address on it, take it to the post office and pay a fee. The post office takes care of all the different forms of transport and the connections between them needed to get your package to its destination, quite transparent to you, the sender.

If there is any disruption to the sequence of events needed to complete this process, again the Post Office takes care of these, quite transparent to you the sender, except that your package might take longer than expected to arrive.

The role of Kubernetes

The job of Kubernetes is to manage an application execution across multiple systems, in a way that is transparent to the user. In effect it puts the application in a box, and abstracts away the complexity of the infrastructure needed to execute it.

But this is not the complete picture. In the post office analogy, you can pay extra for priority delivery and you can track the progress of your package, but you cannot see at a granular level what the problem is and you cannot intervene to expedite delivery if there is a delay. Nor can the post office understand the real priority of your delivery and respond accordingly.

This analogy extends to Kubernetes. With a standard Kubernetes platform, it is not always possible to identify where there has been a glitch, or a delay. Even when information is available, it does not reflect the real-world impact of the problem: to the IT person, a stalled application might just be visible as a red dot on a screen. In the real world, it might materialise as long queues of customers stuck at a checkout with no cash and unable to pay electronically for their groceries.

To avoid such issues, there needs to be service level objectives (SLOs) for software that are reflected in performance objectives for individual applications with observability solutions that can read log data, monitor application performance, translate any degradation into the impact on the related SLOs, and inform IT teams of the real-world impacts of these problems.

Translating software glitches into real-world impacts

More advanced, modern observability platforms take things one step, or in some cases two steps further. They provide the intelligence to analyse the issue in the context of the SLOs and make recommendations as to the most appropriate action that IT teams can take to restore the service level in line with its SLO. These platforms can also enable developers to build in an automated response that is triggered under specified conditions.

And in today's world, with the heavy reliance on cloud computing, it's quite likely that an end user experience relies on applications running on multiple cloud services. So observability solutions need to be able to see across these multiple systems and translate any kind of problem into its impact on the service of which it might be only one of many components.

One example of such a solution is the open-source control plane Keptn, which was contributed to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation by Dynatrace. Keptn provides automated configuration of observability solutions, creation of dashboards, and alerting based on SLOs.

This makes the lives of developers easier because they can now build code, define the resources they want, and what actions should be executed to bring a system back to a healthy state when things go wrong. And being open source, it is now the centre of a growing ecosystem of contributors enhancing its functionality.

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