Opinion: Open source synthetic user monitors accelerate DevOps best practices

DevOps engineers would love to measure the performance and availability of every page of a website or application; they could make sure the page is up and running and even look to see if response time and performance continues to remain strong and consistent.  It’s easy enough to do technically, just attach a Synthetic User Monitor to each page and then see the results in an easy to use data presentation tool.

The snag is that it can be expensive! Synthetic User Monitoring tools usually come as part of a large Application Performance Monitoring package. Sometimes engineers can get a few pages for free but nothing substantial. That’s where if you can find an open source tool the costs will be low, and you can get the basics done without a high recurring cost.

The Synthetic User Monitoring (SUM) market is one of the largest and fastest growing subsegments of the IT Operations Management (ITOM) market. Preliminary forecast revenue of approximately $2.1 billion by 2021 and a growth rate exceeding 17% CAGR.

Synthetic monitoring is valuable because it allows a DevOps engineer to identify problems and determine if a website or application is slow or experiencing downtime before that problem affects actual end-users or customers. This type of monitoring does not require actual traffic, so it enables companies to test applications 24x7 or before a live customer-facing launch.

Before easy to use open source tools became available, SUM was only used to monitor commonly trafficked paths and critical business processes. It was not thought to be feasible to measure performance for every page.

Reports from leading Gartner analysts suggest that operations and infrastructure leaders struggle with monitoring cost and complexity, and remain at a loss when asked to provide a business justification for monitoring efforts. Open source SUM is easy to justify -- if the application is down or slow -- it loses value.

Analysts also suggest that price continues to be a nontrivial roadblock to broader adoption of monitoring across all critical applications in an enterprise.  SUM is often priced as part of an APM bundle and becomes more costly than it should be.

What to look for in an Open Source Synthetic User Monitoring tool:

  • Provide real-time monitoring of website availability and performance from a simulated end-user perspective

  • Provides the ability to know when there are major problems with a website or web application

  • Ability to dig into site performance with waterfall charts and test results with detailed downtime and error reports

  • Ensures that important transactions are taking place error-free with customized testing

  • Allows choice of frequency and location of tests based on business function and need

  • Provide alerting whenever site or features are unavailable, or performance is degraded so that site owners can react quickly.

Who should consider Open Source Synthetic User Monitoring:

  • Website and web application owners.

  • Performance engineers.

  • Operation centres - network operations centres, operations command centres

  • Operations engineers

  • Quality and development engineers

All companies want to maintain high availability for their extensive set of cloud applications. SUM can help with that when it is used by engineers on the front lines. An additional benefit is that easily supplied SUM data can also be used to break down information silos. DevOps can provide much-needed performance data to dev teams that can help improve the performance of the next set of application deployments

Your website influences your user's overall perception of your brand and your product. So non-responsive apps, 404 errors, expired or invalid SSL certificates, or worse yet, the "Site Not Found" error all negatively affect your user's opinion of your brand.

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