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May 25, 2017 By Chris Tozzi

6 Metrics You Should Monitor During the Application Build Cycle

Monitoring application metrics and other telemetry from production environments is important for keeping your app stable and healthy. That you know. But app telemetry shouldn’t start and end with production. Monitoring telemetry during builds is also important for application quality. It helps you detect problems earlier on, before they reach production. It also allows you to achieve continuous, comprehensive visibility into your app.

Below, we’ll take a look at why monitoring app telemetry during builds is important, then discuss the specific types of data you should collect at build time.

App Telemetry During Builds

By monitoring application telemetry during the build stage of your continuous delivery pipeline, you can achieve the following:

  • Early detection of problems. Telemetry statistics collected during builds can help you to identify issues with your delivery chain early on. For example, if the number of compiler warnings is increasing, it could signal a problem with your coding process. You want to address that before your code gets into production.
  • Environment-specific visibility. Since you usually perform builds for specific types of deployment environments, app telemetry from the builds can help you to gain insight into the way your app will perform within each type of environment. Here again, data from the builds helps you find potential problems before your code gets to production.
  • Code-specific statistics. App telemetry data from a production environment is very different from build telemetry. That’s because the nature of the app being studied is different. Production telemetry focuses on metrics like bandwidth and active connections. Build telemetry gives you more visibility into your app itself—how many internal functions you have, how quickly your code can be compiled, and so on.
  • Continuous visibility. Because app telemetry from builds gives you visibility that other types of telemetry can’t provide, it’s an essential ingredient for achieving continuous visibility into your delivery chain. Combined with monitoring metrics from other stages of delivery, build telemetry allows you to understand your app in a comprehensive way, rather than only monitoring it in production.

Metrics to Collect

If you’ve read this far, you know the why of build telemetry. Now let’s talk about the how.

Specifically, let’s take a look at which types of metrics to focus on when monitoring app telemetry during the build stage of your continuous delivery pipeline.

  1. Number of environments you’re building for. This might seem so basic that it’s not worth monitoring. But in a complex continuous delivery workflow, it’s possible that the types of environments you target will change frequently. Tracking the total number of environments can help you understand the complexity of your build process. It can also help you measure your efforts to stay agile by maintaining the ability to add or subtract target environments quickly.
  2. Total lines of source code. This metric gives you a sense of how quickly your application is growing—and by extension, how many resources it will consume, and how long build times should take. The correlation between lines of source code and these factors is rough, of course. But it’s still a useful metric to track.
  3. Build times. Monitoring how long builds take, and how build times vary between different target environments is another way to get a sense of how quickly your app is growing. It’s also important for keeping your continuous delivery pipeline flowing smoothly. Code builds are often the most time-consuming process in a continuous delivery chain. If build times start increasing substantially, you should address them in order to avoid delays that could break your ability to deliver continuously.
  4. Compiler warnings and errors. Compiler issues are often an early sign of software architecture or coding issues. Even if you are able to work through the errors and warnings that your compiler throws, monitoring their frequency gives you an early warning sign of problems with your app.
  5. Build failure rate. This metric serves as another proxy for potential architecture or coding problems.
  6. Code load time. Measuring changes in the time it takes to check out code from the repository where you store it helps you prevent obstacles that could hamper continuous delivery.

Monitoring telemetry during the build stage of your pipeline by focusing on the metrics outlined above helps you not only build more reliably, but also gain insights that make it easier to keep your overall continuous delivery chain operating smoothly.

Most importantly, they help keep your app stable and efficient by assisting you in detecting problems early and maximizing your understanding of your application.

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Chris Tozzi

Chris Tozzi

Chris Tozzi has worked as a journalist and Linux systems administrator. He has particular interests in open source, agile infrastructure, and networking. He is Senior Editor of content and a DevOps Analyst at Fixate IO. His latest book, For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution, was published in 2017.

More posts by Chris Tozzi.

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