What is Full-Stack Monitoring?

Learning objectives

• Understand what Full-Stack Monitoring is

• Learn the benefits of Full-Stack Monitoring

• Understand how to practice Full-Stack Monitoring

Want to simplify your monitoring strategy without overhauling your monitoring tools or methodologies? Here's an easy way to do it: embrace full-stack monitoring.
Full-stack monitoring is a way to de-silo monitoring workflows to deliver comprehensive, end-to-end monitoring of all of your resources.
This article explains what full-stack monitoring means, why it's essential, and how to implement it as part of a broader observability strategy.

What Is Full-Stack Monitoring?

Full-stack monitoring is an approach to monitoring that addresses all types of resources (such as applications, infrastructure, and cloud services) and integrates all monitoring techniques (like synthetic and real-user monitoring) via a single process.

In other words, when you perform full-stack monitoring, you monitor everything in your IT estate via a unified, multi-pronged approach. It's the opposite of investing all of your resources in just one monitoring technique or in monitoring one specific type of resource.

If it's not apparent, there's an analogy between full-stack monitoring and full-stack software development. The latter term has become popular over the past decade to refer to software engineering strategies that cover all aspects of development – server programming, application programming, database programming, and so on. Full-stack monitoring is similar in that it treats monitoring as a comprehensive endeavor.

The Benefits of Full-Stack Monitoring

When you monitor all parts of your IT estate in a comprehensive, integrated way via full-stack monitoring, you unlock a variety of benefits:

  • De-silo monitoring processes: Instead of performing each type of monitoring – real-user monitoring, synthetic monitoring, and so on – separately, you can manage them via a single operation. 
  • Gain efficiency: Turning monitoring into a singular, comprehensive process leads to efficiency because it lets you consolidate monitoring around a single tool and a single team.
  • Gain context: Monitoring all of your resources in tandem maximizes your ability to gain context on performance issues. It ensures, in other words, that you know how a problem with an application may be related to a problem with the infrastructure that hosts it, for example. If you only monitor one thing simultaneously, it's harder to gain this context.
  • Shift monitoring left: Full-stack monitoring helps facilitate shift-left monitoring. It gives equal weight to monitoring techniques (like synthetic monitoring) that help assess application performance earlier in the CI/CD pipeline.

Full-stack monitoring leads to more efficient and more effective observability in all of these ways. Although you don't need to perform full-stack monitoring to observe your environments, full-stack monitoring helps you collect data more comprehensively. It also enhances your ability to contextualize and interpret data and use that interpretation to detect performance risks as early as possible.

Putting Full-Stack Monitoring into Practice

Many IT organizations already monitor multiple types of resources using various monitoring techniques. Indeed, it would be rare today to find a team that only does application monitoring or uses real-user monitoring, for example.

However, simply monitoring all of your resources using different methodologies doesn't mean you're doing full-stack monitoring. To achieve full-stack monitoring, you need to consolidate and centralize your monitoring operations.

It would be best if you simplified your toolset to the extent possible. Instead of deploying a different monitoring tool for each type of resource you monitor and each monitoring technique you use, look for platforms that can cover a broad range of monitoring needs. It's even better to address other observability requirements, like log analysis.

Ideally, you'll also consolidate monitoring operations around a single team or at least a designated set of stakeholders. Rather than having one group of engineers handle infrastructure monitoring and a different group perform application monitoring, for instance, aim to assign monitoring responsibilities to a single joint group. The same goes for other monitoring techniques: A single set of engineers will ideally perform synthetic monitoring, real-user monitoring, frontend monitoring, and so on.

Finally, you'll want to be able to analyze the insights you glean from full-stack monitoring comprehensively. All of the trends and anomalies that full-stack monitoring reveals across different types of resources and using different monitoring techniques should see analysis concerning each other.

After all, this is the ultimate goal of full-stack monitoring: to maximize your ability to detect complex relationships between sets of data that would not be visible using conventional, siloed monitoring strategies.

Conclusion

Full-stack monitoring improves efficiency and leads to more actionable insights. In both respects, full-stack monitoring forms a healthier foundation for an observability strategy than do siloed monitoring processes and techniques.

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