June 19, 2022 By IBM Instana Team 4 min read

Generating performance and error alerts for websites has historically never been an intuitive process. What do we alert on? How do we define the KPIs that we care about? Are we setting thresholds too high or too low? What are the best practice alerts?

These questions are often mired in ever-growing amounts of confusion and ambiguity. At IBM, we decided to create a revolutionary new approach and make alert configuration intuitive and intelligent with something we call Smart Alerts.

This new IBM Instana™ Smart Alerts feature provides the ability to automatically generate alerting configurations using relevant KPIs and automatic threshold detection for use cases like website slowness or website errors. Combined with the power of Unbonded analytics, Smart Alerts is the first alerting mechanism that automatically generates alerts based on use cases designed for the environment at hand.

End the guessing game

The experience of creating and managing alerts has historically been an abysmal experience relegated to a grizzled team of operations engineers who most people have been afraid to speak with. If you’ve ever felt like setting up alerts for your applications, which have been a slightly less exciting version of whack-a-mole, then hold on because we have redefined the process by which engineers decide why they’re startled out of bed at 2 AM. With our new blueprints, configuring meaningful alerts has been distilled into three distinct, easy-to-use steps.

Step 1: Choose a blueprint

Blueprints are the curated and contextualized alerting plans that have been generated based on not only our experience with alerting but our clients, as well. These plans are designed with specific use cases in mind and will automatically choose the proper KPIs and create baseline performance thresholds from the historical and seasonal patterns present in your environment. The historical and threshold determination is displayed in real-time while defining your new alert. Amazingly, you can see exactly when your alert would trigger based on historical data so that you can tune your thresholds just right—not too many alerts, not too few. Further customization can be defined in Step 2, where the scope is confirmed.

Step 2: Confirm the scope

Smart Alerts gives your team the ability to quickly and easily refine your alert configuration with our Unbounded analytics filtering. This ability effectively allows you to narrow the alerts down to scenarios that you’re ultimately responsible for. For example, it’s trivial to define the scenario where only the performance is analyzed for the users accessing your application while on mobile Safari and your production or test environment. Defining these constraints becomes an interactive and transparent process as each change is graphed and visualized in real-time.

Step 3: Choose the alert channel

The delivery of alerts is simplified by our wide selection of integration partners. After all, what good is an alert if it isn’t delivered reliably to your engineering team? The IBM Instana platform integrates directly with the industries’ leading alert management vendor tools (including PagerDuty and Opsgenie) along with open-source monitoring tools (such as Prometheus). Alternatively, you can even send an email or post directly to a webhook.

What are blueprints?

You may think of blueprints as a prefabricated design for a house. While not entirely finalized, these plans allow for individualized customization to suit your taste. Don’t like those bathroom fixtures? Update them. Prefer to measure on the 99th percentile instead of the 90th? No problem. While the goal of Smart Alerts is to eliminate the difficulty in deriving reliable thresholds for performance metrics, we understand that our users may want to customize their alerting expectations.

In addition to being able to modify the aggregation percentile, IBM Instana software will calculate baselines from algorithms based on either daily or weekly seasonality. We’ve also included the ability to specify time-based thresholds, which enable trigger conditions that require certain requirements to be met, including but not limited to the number of violations within a time window or a certain number or percentage of users being impacted.

The future of alerting

We built Smart Alerts because we know that, with the increased complexity and size of modern application environments, a smarter and more intuitive approach to alert management was a requirement. Today’s application owners deserve a modern and automated approach to alerting and performance monitoring.

With this announcement, we’re planning to introduce Smart Alerts and blueprints throughout the entire IBM Instana ecosystem. In addition to incorporating this radical new alerting approach to cover all functional areas within the IBM Instana platform, we’ll continuously introduce blueprint capabilities as we analyze how our clients are constructing their own custom alerts.

Try the IBM Instana platform and Smart Alerts today

Smart Alerts for IBM Instana are now generally available for our clients using end-user monitoring (EUM) with their client-side applications. If you’re monitoring a website, you can get started by clicking on the Add Alert button on your performance dashboard, as illustrated above. If you haven’t started monitoring your websites with our EUM, then head over to the free trial signup and get started today with one of the industry’s best application performance management solutions.

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