Alert management

Optimizing your alert management using BizTalk360

Introduction

In the modern era of software development, the number of applications that are going live is increasing at a rapid pace which makes the infrastructure become more diverse and complex than ever. To manage complex infrastructures, organizations are deploying effective monitoring software like BizTalk 360 to monitor their BizTalk environments. Under different circumstances, such products trigger various alerts, because alerts are one of the key modes of communication where machines communicate with humans.

Need for alert optimization

In general, optimization plays an important role in any business where costs are involved. This is because optimization processes help the organization to cut down their costs, increase their profits, and especially help to survive in this competitive world. Likewise, we can think of optimizing alert management.

Globally, many organizations have highly sophisticated systems and infrastructures which generate multiple failures, and admin people and their teams receive pouring alerts. What if they failed to notice one business-critical alert in the pool of alerts or took time to resolve as they must traverse through many alerts? You cannot imagine the fatal damage that it can cause to businesses, hence optimizing our alerting mechanism is evident and it helps to address the below mentioned natural challenges in any organization:

  • Alert fatigue – Alert fatigue occurs when one is exposed to many frequent alarms and consequently becomes desensitized to them
  • Maintenance cost – Need for more maintenance resources to manage more alerts
  • Effective handling of sensitive systems – Sensitive systems often send many false positive alerts

Alert optimization via BizTalk360

Optimizing alerts in most cases starts from the monitoring platform we use. BizTalk360 is the leading player in BizTalk Server environment monitoring stands above par when it comes to optimization. The product comes with a range of alert options, any organization that holds BizTalk cluster/environment can leverage those options with suitable strategies that not only help to reduce the alert noise but also to optimize alerts to a greater extent. Let’s see the different optimization approaches that you can utilize using BizTalk360:

  • Pick the correct set of alerts
  • Pick the correct threshold values
  • Pick the right set of audience for your alerts
  • Pick the right notification channels
  • Plan the alert schedule as per your business needs
  • Effective use of quick alarm

Pick the correct set of alarms/alerts

One of BizTalk360’s core functionalities, being monitoring and alerting offers three key types of alarms:

  • Threshold violation alarms– Used when a condition is violated, for example, disabled receive location
  • Health Check Notification alarms– Used for Health/Status check, for example: receive a daily check report on business days, at 9:00 AM
  • Data Monitoring alarms– Used to set up Data monitoring alerts, for example, are there suspended service instances for a specific BizTalk application

Optimization can be achieved by selecting the right alarm and the right set of alerts as per our business needs.

  1. Although BizTalk360 enables you to select all three alert types in a single alarm, it is not necessary to select all of them. Instead, we can pick the correct set of alerts as per our business priority. This will reduce the number of alerts that require less focus.
    For example, to monitor a folder in a receive location, you can pick only a Threshold alert, just to monitor the threshold violations whereas the health of the folder may be of the low priority that you can ignore.
  2. Create new alarm
  3. BizTalk360 can also send list of alerts like Up alert, Down alert and Autocorrect alert during monitoring. All set of alerts might not be required at times, so we can configure the alerts that we need as per our priorities.
    For example, we can ignore up alerts by simply uncheck the box while configuring the threshold alarm. This avoids the number of up alerts for a system (uncheck the Notify when things become normal after violation) and helps to reduce alert noise.
  4. Alarm configuration

You can read more about the different alarm types you can set up, in this article.

Pick the correct threshold range

BizTalk360 offers alert optimization in threshold alarms in the following ways:

  • Allow users to set the right threshold value
  • Allow users to set the right number of alerts per violation

Right threshold value

BizTalk360 offers a threshold violation range from 1 minute to 60 minutes by selecting the right set of violation value. Try to set up the optimized range that can eliminate the alerts for low threshold violations.

Right number of alerts per violation

Administrators can limit the number of alerts per violation from 1 to 10. So, for low business priority situations, we can limit to a minimum of 1 per violation.

Right number of alerts per violation

Pick the right set of audience

Not all the alerts need everyone’s focus and to save the peer groups email box from the junk of alerts, one easy way of optimization is to pick the right audience for the alerts based on the business criticality. This can be easily achieved in BizTalk360 during alarm configuration where you can configure single or multiple emails as per criticality.

For example, if I am going to map any alert for a rarely used receive location, then instead of sending that alert to a big group, we can configure it to an individual/small group of two or three members as it holds less critical.

Pick the right notification channels

Notification channels are the heartbeat of alerts. If alerts are unnoticed, then huge volumes of alerts will make your life become hard., BizTalk360 helps to reduce this fatigue by providing options to select various notification channel options to the users. By picking the right set of notification channels in BizTalk360, the critical alerts are addressed quickly which avoids alert fatigue to a greater extent.

For example, if the alarm is going to be a critical one, then we can plan, pick and configure the key notification channels as per the collaboration platform being used. We see that with the introduction of collaboration platforms like Teams and Slack, especially for internal communication, people are moving away from email. By choosing the right notification channel, BizTalk360 sends its alerts to the platform people are using the most.

The following screenshot shows the Notification channels that come out of the box with BizTalk360.

Notification channels

Use PowerShell script instead of auto correct

Auto correct: BizTalk360 offers the Auto correct option which helps administrators by trying to bring artifacts back to their expected state automatically when there is a mismatch between the “Expected State” and the “Current State”.

Example: Administrators can set up monitoring and the auto correct option for receive location(s) by setting the expected state is Enabled. If the receive location goes to the Disabled state, then BizTalk360 will try to rectify the violation, by trying to bring the artifact to expected state(enabled). This auto correct feature can be used to automatically recover the following components:

  • BizTalk ports and orchestrations
  • BizTalk Host Instances
  • Windows NT Services
  • SQL Server Agent jobs
  • Azure Logic Apps

To cut down the auto correct alerts from BizTalk360, one effective way of optimization that we can try is to utilise the PowerShell Notification channel in BizTalk360. Usually, if you enable the auto correct option in BizTalk360, once a violation of a threshold happened, the feature will attempt to restore the monitored component to the expected condition for several times. For each time it sends an alert to the user. Instead of using auto correct, if we add a PowerShell script to correct the faulty situation , it still tries the same number of times to correct it, but no alerts will be generated and if the threshold violation continues to occur, still you will get the down alert for the same.

Plan the alert schedule as per your business needs

Think of a situation, if you monitor all your infrastructure 24×7 irrespective of business needs, the volume of alerts generated is something unmanageable and will lead to headache for whomever is monitoring it. Just to avoid this overwhelming number of alerts, BizTalk360 has a very good option to optimize; it is called Scheduling.

Using the schedule option, you can monitor the infrastructure at a given period and alerts will be sent only for that period. Coming to optimization, to effectively use this option the user can often plan their alert schedules as per their business needs like monitoring on an hourly basis, monitoring on a weekly basis, monitoring only during business hours, monitoring only during non-business hours etc.

For example:

In Data Monitoring for non-critical applications, you can set the schedule hours as “Business hours “& “End of Day” to monitor throughout the business hours and send one alert at the close of business, which will greatly reduce alerts counts. This can be achieved using the schedule option that is available in Data monitoring alarms during configuration.

Monitoring schedule in Data monitoring alarm

Data monitoring alarm

Data Monitoring can be a life saver. Read more about some sample scenarios where it can be beneficial in this blog post.

Effective use of Quick Alarm

The Quick Alarm that is available in BizTalk360 is a unique feature that makes the alarm configuration easy. It allows the user to quickly configure all three alarm types so that it monitors almost all the applications in the environment in short span of time. Admin people use this option widely to monitor most of the application in a single go. Although it is a useful option, if you configure the Quick Alarm with all the default options the chances are high that over a period alerts will pileup in your inbox very often because of its broad coverage. So, we can get rid this issue and optimize the alerts by effectively utilizing the Quick Alarm in the following ways.

Quick Alarm for short span of time

The Quick Alarm can be configured for a short span of time as per urgent business needs and allow to monitor until we get a dedicated alarm to monitor individually as per the needs. This can reduce the number of alerts over a period.

Configure the application to monitor in Quick Alarm

The Quick Alarm also comes with an option to configure the list of applications that need monitoring and rest will be ignored. So, we can configure the Quick Alarm by including the mandatory applications and ignore the non-critical ones to avoid multiple alerts.

Users can configure the list of applications using the gear icon as shown below.

alert optimiztion class=

Final thoughts

Monitoring today’s complex infrastructure without an optimized alert mechanism is a kind of a nightmare for admin people. In general, organizations will aim to implement an optimization approach keeping in mind that alerts should be triggered by the product only when it was not able to handle the issue itself or in case it requires human intervention. BizTalk360, being a monitoring partner for your BizTalk environment, helps you to achieve this optimization in many ways, and the above-discussed approaches are just a few of them. Applications like BizTalk360 with a huge list of features can be used for various optimizations other than just alert optimization. This helps the organization to cutdown its costs to greater extent.

Do you want to discover the rich monitoring capabilities of the product and experience how the product helps you in being more effective and pro-active as a BizTalk Operations team? Why don’t you give the product a try?! We have a free trial that enables you to try all the features of the product for 30 days.