How Datadog works: Cloud monitoring solutions to increase observability

How Datadog works: Cloud monitoring solutions to increase observability

datadog dashboard

No matter what business you’re in, maintaining a reliable, fast, and secure enterprise is critical to your organization’s success.

E-commerce sites that load in one second see 1.5x more conversions than those that load in five seconds. More than eight in 10 patients (84%) seek a healthcare provider that utilizes a robust IT network that supports doctor-patient communications and immediate access to their health data. In any given industry, there is ample evidence of how devastating inefficiencies, let alone major network failures, can be for those in that space – from an operational and financial perspective.

There’s no shortage of technologies capable of monitoring and testing vital systems and services for issues. But with this vast quantity of solutions, interoperability increasingly becomes a problem. For example, do your different platforms work well together? How many separate dashboards does your IT team need to review to identify a problem? Just like your staff, having the best and brightest tools is only one piece of the equation. They also need to collaborate and quickly offer insights to guide and inform your enterprise.

More than a few cloud monitoring solutions help observe and manage various disparate platforms and APIs. Identifying the right one and customizing it to address your organization’s unique monitoring needs is a critical first step. One platform we commonly help set up and customize for clients is Datadog, which we’ve seen boost observability and support operational objectives time and again

What is Datadog?

Datadog is a cloud monitoring and security solution that integrates with many client systems, logs, applications, and APIs. It covers every major cloud provider, such as Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). It can monitor the cloud and host VMs, read logs from your APIs and collect events from other integrations that it offers. 

Arguably the biggest differentiator for Datadog is its end-to-end monitoring ability – accounting for everything from a system’s hardware to the end-user experience.  If CPU usage is high, you can extrapolate that to see if your containers are running properly. Are your APIs responding the way they should? Are your end-users experiencing latency on your website? When programmed accordingly, Datadog can do all of this. To put it succinctly, Datadog is an all-in-one platform for enterprise observability and monitoring.

Let’s dig into some of the highlights and benefits of Datadog.

A SaaS-based data analytics platform

Data is only as good as your ability to analyze it all and draw subsequent insights for your organization. SaaS-based data analytics platforms utilize different services and integrations to provide scalable, comprehensive analytics functionality that users can access from virtually anywhere. For organizations looking to assess their enterprise’s overall performance and measure optimization, this is immensely helpful. For example, Datadog can identify any errors associated with a particular service, and then upon implementing a remedy, it allows clients to run the same data and measure improvement. The way in which Datadog allows you to extrapolate this data over months can be quite profound in assessing impact and improvement.

Cloud-based applications, server and database integration, and monitoring

As mentioned before, one of Datadog’s biggest strengths is that it has a lot of integrations with cloud-based applications. With a little bit of configuration, it can easily collect logs, metrics, and other data from sources like AWS, Azure, and GCP.

With databases, everything from SQL to Postgres, MariaDB, and CosmosDB is covered. Datadog integrates with these to monitor for slow-running queries and other common database issues, providing valuable metrics in a single place to improve performance. 

What does Datadog do?

Provides visibility for any app, stack, system, etc. 

Datadog’s inclusiveness truly is one of its biggest strengths, as it boasts over 500 native integrations. Every aspect of your enterprise is accounted for with Datadog, giving you unparalleled visibility into different applications, stacks, and systems – from the system level to the end user.

Monitors end users’ experience with your system to gather information 

As mentioned earlier, the importance of providing a frictionless experience for your users cannot be overstated. Datadog monitors for a series of metrics related to user experience, such as site latency.

Beyond simply providing these metrics, Datadog’s Real User Monitoring (RUM) functionality, which captures 100% of your users’ site sessions, gives you a full view of how people are interacting with your network and any issues that could be adversely impacting their experience. How long were they on a specific page? How long did a search query take? Were any errors experienced? Datadog’s machine-learning capabilities assess these different factors and offer data-backed recommendations and forecasts to optimize your network. 

Datadog also allows you to simulate different user actions on your site to ensure everything functions as it should. For example, you can simulate a login process for an e-commerce site within Datadog and run it every 10 minutes. If at any point there’s an issue, Datadog gives you the functionality to thoroughly investigate the problem and quickly implement the appropriate corrective measures. More simply put, Datadog finds errors within your system before your users do.

Aggregates, analyzes, and visualizes data 

Not everyone has the IT or engineering expertise needed to intuitively make sense of raw data and metrics. Others must be able to independently utilize this information to make informed decisions. Datadog’s aggregation and visualization capabilities are incredibly helpful to this end.

If your organization likes to review and incorporate historical data into its assessments, Datadog also will aggregate and archive data to repurpose later. Pulling up this data over time can help identify longer-term trends that may not be immediately evident when looking at day-to-day information but is still important to factor in when making improvements to your enterprise’s operations.

Improved observability

Datadog’s ability to put all your key data points into a “single pane of glass” is one of the benefits users most commonly note about the platform. It’s a feature everyone with a vested interest in a network’s operations can appreciate. It saves engineers time when they need to assess an issue. It gives executive and non-IT professionals an easy-to-visualize tool that calls out concerning or insightful data, even going so far as to offer recommendations thanks to its machine-learning capabilities.

Infrastructure and integration: The function behind Datadog’s capabilities 

What Datadog can offer for an organization is certainly enticing, but exactly how does it achieve it all?

Datadog APM (Application Performance Monitoring)

When we talk about Datadog’s ability to assess everything from your hardware to the end user, we’re largely talking about Datadog APM, which logs and analyzes traces. What are traces? Great question. In the simplest terms, a trace is a log of all the steps associated with a particular request to your system. If a user experiences an issue looking up something on your website, Datadog APM assesses all the individual steps of that process.

Datadog API 

At the heart of Datadog’s ability to integrate with so many third-party data sources is its API. This is what allows the platform to send log metrics and events, develop visualizations and manage your access levels and account.

Security and network monitoring

Datadog is not inherently a security software, but its monitoring features are an effective supplement to your existing network security measures. It can identify all logins to your system, which your cybersecurity team can then review and ensure all had the appropriate permissions.

Datadog also allows you to mask certain information like names and user IDs, which is a great feature for organizations subject to privacy laws and regulations like HIPAA, where certain user information must be secure and hidden from anyone without proper authorization.

Serverless 

Serverless architecture has become an effective network strategy for many organizations that want to avoid managing much of the underlying infrastructure typically associated with server-based enterprises. In fact, over half of Datadog’s customers have gone serverless.  Datadog integrates with serverless platforms like AWS Lambda and Microsoft Azure. As serverless technology expands and matures, Datadog will continue to be an important monitoring platform for organizations opting for this approach.

Datadog RUM

Datadog RUM, as explained above, drives much of Datadog’s UX benefits. With Datadog, you can replay specific user sessions to see what worked and what didn’t in a real-world environment. Being able to literally see your site as your customers did is invaluable when assessing and correcting site and system performance stemming from reported issues.

Ensuring Your Success with Datadog 

In reading everything so far, it’s easy to get excited about the cloud-monitoring opportunities Datadog could offer your organization. But like so many customizable SaaS platforms, reaching its full potential is only possible if you have the expertise to build it out correctly, accounting for all the appropriate integrations, APIs, and specific features relevant to your objectives. 

Part of our work to help organizations set up and customize platforms like Datadog includes a discovery process to better understand their specific business goals and existing challenges – all to ensure the solution is tailored to their exact needs. These are a few of the questions we recommend organizations account for to better ensure their success with Datadog:

  • What are some measurable objectives or KPIs you hope to achieve with Datadog?
  • What are some pitfalls, problems, or pain points you are trying to address with an observability platform?
  • What are the main data points you wish to observe or manage with Datadog?
  • How do we correlate all the data coming in from our system?
  • From an implementation standpoint, do you have in-house site reliability engineers (SREs) or a DevOps team?

Any organization that values efficiency, visibility, observability, or aggregate insights should at least consider Datadog. It is a premium tool that allows you to monitor, test, and analyze virtually every element of your organization’s enterprise.

As is the case with any great tool, it is important to have a professional well-versed in its setup and use. it’s important to have someone skilled and fluent in the program to maximize its full potential for your organization. Terazo’s team of seasoned delivery professionals stands ready to assist you in your efforts to get greater visibility into your data and make better decisions from these insights. Reach out today to see what we can achieve together.

Team Terazo

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