Why Smart Error Logging is Crucial for Software Maintenance Teams

If you are a software company, your product needs to work…like it’s supposed to. Your software maintenance and support team makes sure that happens.

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In fact, the team’s most important goal should be to keep things working and fix them quickly when they don’t.

Want more? Check out our post on 3 strategic goals for every maintenance and support team.

An important part of this process is effective error logging. Error logs are the way systems tell teams whether the application is performing correctly.

Heading into peak season and looking for tips to keep your platform up and running? We have you covered! Check out our post on preparing your platform for peak season.

Benefits of Error Logging for Software Maintenance

Needless to say, logs are kind of an important piece of the software maintenance and support puzzle.

That said, ineffective error logs can do more harm than good.

Ideal logs enable support teams to identify errors and troubleshoot on the fly. Based on the problem, engineers can change configurations or correct data to quickly resolve the issue.

Streamlined troubleshooting saves time and helps teams filter which errors escalate to development.

Quick and effective resolutions make for happy clients AND achieve that unspoken goal: keep the application working as it should.

Effect Error Logging for Software Maintenance Teams

So we’ve talked up the importance of effective error logging. But, how does your team ensure you are creating and using error logs strategically?

Good logging practices takes a commitment from both the support and development teams. At the end of the day, it is up to the development team to define good logs for the support team to use.

So, what should your development team consider when building error logging frameworks?

Think About What to Include: There are many systems that help support teams query the data in the logs. These tools help teams detect errors quickly and accurately. However, logs with ineffective information leave troubleshooters frustrated and confused. This confusion leads to unnecessary and often ineffective error investigations. To prevent this, developers should mindfully identify the content included in the logs. Logs with accurate and timely content make the support team’s jobs much easier.

Unique Identifier – It is important that error messages contain a unique identifier. But keep in mind this identifier should not include personal user information. Take the healthcare and finance industries as an example. The identifier should not include sensitive information such as credit card or social security numbers. Instead, use a randomly generated unit ID.

Consistent Messaging – Error messaging needs to be consistent and centralized. Consistency helps the support team to know where to locate errors. By knowing where to find issues, engineers can quickly navigate and investigate further.

Defined Logging Flows – Define log flows in the software architecture. By preparing a skeleton of how logs should be written, messages will be very straightforward. Alternatively, without this defined flow in place, everyone will write log messages differently. Inconsistent messaging makes the support process much more confusing.

So, be strategic in how your team sets up logging and error messages. A well-defined strategy simplifies troubleshooting and software maintenance. All keeping your platform performing how it should.

Want to enable your maintenance and support teams to be even more effective? We have a post on 5 metrics you should be tracking to maximize performance.

Need a partner to help with your application’s maintenance and support?

 

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Going From Monolithic to Microservices: How to get started

Are you exploring the benefits of modernizing your legacy application? Do you want to increase revenue, reduce maintenance costs, and expand product capabilities?

Microservices is necessary for the modern demands of faster and frequent deployment cycles. It allows DevOps to deploy only changes to the services impacted and not the entire platform like in the monolithic world.

It also helps promote higher productivity and accountability by smaller teams owning smaller services; thus, developers can quickly make changes without worrying about how it may impact other parts of the system. This is a key benefit of microservices architecture. The best part? These benefits can give you the extra step you need to get ahead of key competitors.

Caught your attention with that, didn’t we?

Once a decision has been made to modernize, what is the next step to make it a reality? What is the right approach? How long will it take? Is my organization prepared to make this journey?

Most consultants will advise that microservices is the better way to go if you are looking to modernize a legacy, monolithic application. The concept has gained a huge rise in popularity in the past few years, as seen through the many articles, blogs, and videos that have been published.

According to the Global Microservices Trend, a survey conducted by Dimensional Research, 91% of respondents say they “are using, or have plans to use microservices.” What’s more, 86% expect “microservices to be the default within five years.”

We cannot debate the direction microservices will be going … however, the devil is in the details around the approach. As you begin this journey, careful consideration should be paid to the following areas to position your organization for success in the new world of microservices.

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Microservices is more than a technical change

Establishing microservices is not solely a tech-led adventure. If you want to take full advantage of the speed and agility microservices can offer, you are on the right path. But you need to make sure your organization is set up to run that fast. Be sure your team is able to handle the increased complexity and the different infrastructure, architecture, speed of delivery, and ways of doing things.

We recommend organizing small teams around each microservice, with full ownership and accountability for the build, testing, and support tasks. The independence and autonomy given to each team will provide them with the necessary environment to operate with improved efficiency and focus.

 

Study the paths others have taken

Many people dream of reaching the summit of the world’s highest mountains, but survival depends on an experienced guide to lead the way. This is very similar to the microservices journey. Seek the wisdom of those who have successfully completed this journey.

Consider one (or all) of the following as your guide:

  • All the major cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) have very detailed microservices design patterns available to leverage
  • Netflix developed and shared an open source library with tools, services, and libraries they built and leveraged on their journey
  • Google shared some very compelling lessons learned from their microservices efforts and are worth paying close attention

 

Build a roadmap for your journey

Typically, modernization efforts require careful planning to ensure the availability and stability of the legacy system as the new microservices are implemented. We recommend a multi-phased approach to achieve the best results…

Phase 1
Assess your current system to determine the types of services to be developed and the sequence in which they will be built and deployed. Factors that could influence the starting point include:

  • Business and technical areas of concern within the legacy system that would benefit the most from the new design.
    • Example: Areas that are most susceptible to problems from a scaling or performance standpoint
  • Experience level of your teams working on the existing product
  • Targeted technology stack for the new services
  • Current data model and the effort or complexity involved to isolate and align a new data structure with the new service
  • Security/privacy requirements of NPI or SPI data within the legacy system and organizational readiness to manage that data in a cloud environment

Phase 2
Have your team build out the development and testing infrastructure, including an API gateway, and begin building out Proof of Concept code to gain experience and confidence in the new architecture.  

The API gateway is a key factor for success during the migration from monolithic to microservices, as it becomes the interface between your existing application and the new services. Everything behind the API gateway can be changed independently and not impact your monolithic application over time. This strategy will enable you to move incrementally to the new architecture but minimize the impact and changes on the existing system.

Phase 3 and beyond…
Build, test, and deploy the first microservice. Begin by introducing the service in Beta mode to your existing client base to gather feedback and lessons learned in the use, support, and performance of the new service. In true “inspect and adapt” form, incorporate lessons into subsequent service builds and incrementally grow your service catalog over time. Keep growing services until you have reached the point where you have completely migrated the legacy system to the new architecture or the desired business outcome for the modernization effort has been achieved.

 

Prepare your organization

To be successful in microservices, a solid DevOps understanding is required. You must have a strong team to support builds and automated tests, while also monitoring your environment in a different way than a traditional monolithic type of application infrastructure.

Collaboration tools can help with the endeavor to create a strong team. Keep track of tasks and chats with tools such as Trello, Slack, Asana, Google Docs, and many more. Don’t let lack of preparation or organization keep you from effectively working together! Your microservices migration can be an adventure–not a nightmare–but only if you take the necessary steps to ensure success.

 

Find a trusted partner

To help you make an informed and objective decision, hiring a consultant might be a good option. The consultant can take over the enormous task of evaluating your application. After discussing the pros and cons of the microservices, that consultant can also take on the challenges of migration.  

KMS Technology, for example, is a professional consultant company with 1000+ offshore resources in Vietnam. With agile teams in place ready to tackle even the most difficult projects, we can bring you to market faster with outstanding quality. Migrating to microservices is a long-term investment. We’re here to make that a smooth transition!

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(Check out our services for more information.)

Advertising our services aside, we truly do believe that microservices architecture is the way of the future. But is it right for you? Remember to consider both the pros and cons of this development technique. If you think about all the information we have collected after (many!) years of experience and have now passed on to you, then you may be able to position yourself for a successful microservices modernization effort.

After all, trends indicate microservices will become the standard very soon. Make sure you have developed a product that can stand against the fierce marketplace competition. As technology gets better, customer expectations rise. It’s necessary to keep up with those expectations or fall by the wayside.