Monitoring systems is all about answering questions. The information collected by the various monitoring and analytics systems in IT is designed to answer questions when they arise. Want to know why the production DB server shut down at 3am? Monitoring can tell you the disk filled up. Want to know why the internet is running so slowly today? An NMS can tell you that the outbound router has high CPU utilization and is restricting traffic flows. The answers are there to any questions that you might have.
But there are fundamental questions about monitoring that must be answered all the time. That’s the subject of a new book from my good friend Leon Adato. Leon is one of the Head Geeks for SolarWinds, a company that specializes in monitoring of all kinds of systems. But, more importantly for this book, Leon is a man of intense faith. In this case, his faith is Judaism. That might sound strange in the context of a blog post about an IT book, but that’s part of the charm and perspective of The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer Is Asked.
The Four Questions
Leon’s faith has many rituals, which he outlines in the text. This book is a great primer on the perspective that Leon brings to his work through his beliefs. Most importantly to this subject, he talks about Passover and how the pre-dinner ritual of the seder is designed to make people ask questions. Of those questions, the important ones are the Four Questions. This ritual of the Four Questions is designed to encourage young and old alike to ask questions during the dinner and to understand the answers and contemplate them.
As Leon adapted this idea to the book, the questions he noticed that all monitoring engineers are asked are:
- Why did I get this alert?
- Why didn’t I get that alert?
- What is being monitored on my system?
- What will alert on my system?
- What are you monitoring “standard”?
Yes, note that is actually five questions. Technically 1 and 2 are two sides of the same coin. According to Leon, these are the 4 questions that every networking monitoring engineer will be asked at some point in their career. Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time will save a lot of effort when the people start looking for information.
But, more importantly than that, Leon takes the time to detail why the answers to these questions are so important. Just like the stories in the Pesach Seder that Leon uses as a framing device, the answers to the Four Questions can be as shallow or as deep as you want them to be. But truly understanding the answers is the key to understanding why certain things are monitored in the way they are.
And Leon encourages us to find those answers as we examine our strategy. Finding the information unsatisfactory or incomplete is a chance to make our monitoring solution better and more complete. The Four Questions lead to greater understanding of everything.
Bringing It All Together
I loved reading Leon’s The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer Is Asked. It was a quick read that taught me a lot more about systems monitoring but also about the world around me. Some might be a bit worried about the non-IT content in the book, but Leon does a great job of minimizing it into it’s own separate areas in each chapter. Instead, the text taken as a whole is a great way for people to understand a bit more about how the things that shape who we are can also be applied to what we do.
If you’d like to pick up your own copy of Leon Adato’s Book The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer Is Asked, head over to https://www.adatosystems.com/product/the-four-questions-printed-version/