Battle Plan 2018: Illuminate Blind Spots and Unknown Unknowns
December 27, 2017

Josh Gray
Cedexis

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.

Bonus points if you know who came up with that tongue twister. He was talking about terrorists, but we're here to discuss a different sort of war — the Battle for Bandwidth. These days, application and content delivery requires special tactics, an integrated strategy, and well-sourced intelligence. And the unknown unknowns are the true enemy because they inevitably lead to outages, slowdowns, and mutinous customers.

In early November, a major outage caused by a minor configuration error (a route leak, to be exact) at global backbone provider Level 3 created widespread connection issues on both U.S. coasts. Comcast, Verizon, Cox, and Vonage customers were particularly affected.

One small error can have mighty ripple effects, and the cause isn't always apparent to network admins and enterprise customers. The time it took to return the Down Detector maps from angry red to mellow yellow could have been shortened by looking at Real User Measurements (crowdsourced telemetry), realizing it wasn't a single site or ISP, and following a logic tree to find the culprit.

With Global Server Load Balancing, your delivery network is smart enough to see the barricade around the corner and switch routes on the fly — saving the day (and making the other guys look a bit dazed and confused).

Blind spots can be hiding more than outages. Your crack team of DevOps commandos can't run successful release missions if they can't check what's really going on in the field. You don't want them dashing around in the dark without a robust tactical plan based on all the parameters you can assess — when you turn unknown unknowns into known knowns from your various data streams, you can put them to work.

Continuous deployment isn't for the faint of heart — you better have your Kevlar and your night vision goggles. Companies like Salesforce are releasing updates dozens of times a day; but even a handful a week requires a careful strategy. You can use RUM to test an update by initially limiting roll-out to one data center. Check for 40x/50x errors. If you're seeing problems, you can check both user experience with your app (non-updated versions) in other places, and user experience at the same data center where you are testing the updated version, to deduce the source of trouble.

One of the biggest unknown unknowns in traffic management is what's going on in places you haven't served recently. If a story about Boise causes traffic to spike there, and that's not normally an audience hotspot for your service, chances are you won't have any measurements of your own to go on. Community intelligence turns these dark corners of your empire into known knowns through automated crowdsourcing of quality of experience metrics. When combined with real-time server health checks and third-party data streams, you have a powerful ability to make efficient, economical routing decisions, even for destinations you don't have any history with.

The more insight and intelligence can be used to accelerate the acquisition of known knowns, the better it is for your business and your bottom line. In the New Year, we should be less accepting of blind spots. They're expensive — they cost us time, money, and customers. Nobody has enough human problem solvers around to keep putting out fires and rigging up one-off workarounds. Our best talent should be working on the next release, the next big idea, or the next major dilemma (Net Neutrality game changers, anyone?) — not floundering around trying to guess what's holding up traffic. You can't control what you can't see, and on the hybrid IT battlefield, control keeps you on top of the hill. We're pretty sure Donald Rumsfeld would agree.

Josh Gray is Chief Architect at Cedexis

The Latest

July 16, 2018

The key to mainframe DevOps success is in quickly identifying and removing major bottlenecks in the application delivery lifecycle. Major challenges include collaboration between mainframe and distributed teams, lack of visibility into the impact of software changes, and limited resource flexibility with scaling out necessary testing initiatives. Now let's take a closer look at some of these key challenges and how IT departments can address them ...

July 11, 2018

How much are organizations investing in the shift to cloud native, how much is it getting them? ...

July 10, 2018

In the shift to cloud native, many organizations have adopted a configuration-as-code approach. This helps drive up application deployment velocity by letting developers and DevOps teams reconfigure their deployments as their needs arise. Other organizations, particularly the more regulated ones, still have security people owning these tools, but that creates increased pressure on the security organization to keep up. How much are organizations investing in this process, and how much is it getting them? ...

June 28, 2018

More than a third of companies that use serverless functions are not employing any application security best practices and are not using any tools or standard security methodologies to secure them, according to the State of Serverless Security survey, conducted by PureSec ...

June 27, 2018

The popularity of social media platforms and applications is spurring enterprises to adopt "social business" models to better engage with employees and customers and improve collaboration, according to a new study published by ISG ...

June 25, 2018

The previous chapter in this WhiteHat Security series discussed Codebase as the first step of the Twelve-Factor App and defined a security best practice approach for ensuring a secure source control system. Considering the importance of applying security in a modern DevOps world, this next chapter examines the security component of step two of the Twelve-Factor methodology. Here follows some actionable advice from the WhiteHat Security Addendum Checklist, which developers and ops engineers can follow during the SaaS build and operations stages ...

June 21, 2018

DevSecOps is quickly gaining support and traction, within and beyond information security teams. In fact, 70% of respondents believe their culture can embrace the change needed to fuse Security and DevOps, according to a new survey of 80 security professionals by Aqua Security ...

June 20, 2018

The larger the company size, the higher the proportion of low IT performers, according to the State of DevOps: Market Segmentation Report from Puppet, based on the 2017 State of DevOps Survey data ...

June 18, 2018

An overwhelming 83 percent of respondents have concerns about deploying traditional firewalls in the cloud, according to Firewalls and the Cloud, a survey conducted by Barracuda Networks...

June 14, 2018

Despite the vast majority of cloud management decision-makers believing that DevOps and microservice enablement are important, very few believe that their organizations are capable of delivering them today — a gap that is costing the average enterprise $34 million per year, according to new report from the Ponemon Institute ...

Share this