What’s Better Than Rehydrated Microwave Pizza?

by Lilia Gutnik September 27, 2017 | 5 min read

Time-based alert grouping, that’s what. And today, we’re proud to announce that time-based alert grouping is now available on all PagerDuty standard accounts.  

Futuristic Technology vs Practical Technology

I remember being amazed and inspired by the futuristic technology in Back to the Future II. I’d argue the title should have been: Back to the Future: But this time, let’s actually go to the Future. While the first movie nostalgically travels to a town 30 years in the past, the second movie explores what society and technology would look like 30 years into the future.  

Most people remember flying cars, rehydrating microwave pizza, and 3-D movie sharks that jump out and eat you in the street. I am partial to more practical technology: self-lacing sneakers. Self-lacing sneakers solve a real problem with a simple and elegant solution. Your shoes will never be too tight or too loose. You’ll never trip on a loose shoelace with self-lacing sneakers.

Time-based alert grouping is like self-lacing sneakers. If you’ve tried to solve a problem during an “alert storm”, triage can be impeded by superfluous alerts generated by redundant monitoring tools. What is triage? Triage is when you know something’s wrong, and you have to gather information to help you make a decision and take action. Triage is painful because every minute of downtime is expensive and stressful.

How can time-based alert grouping help you and your team triage during incident response?

  • Improve the signal to noise ratio: All alerts within a specified time period on a service automatically group into an incident that represents the full span of the issue instead of letting each alert create a new incident with no other context.
  • Reduce alert fatigueInstead of 100 incidents with one alert each, your team can manage 10 incidents with 10 alerts each, for example. Imagine receiving 10 notifications (phone calls, text messages, emails) instead of 100.
  • Collect relevant information in one place: Grouping alerts on a service over a period of time captures the changing state of the incident itself in one rich incident object instead of distributed over many separate incidents.

One of our customers suggested the following:

“ We should be able to roll up to a single alert rather than getting paged (literally) hundreds of times…”

If you’ve ever struggled with redundant incidents notifying you 10 times an hour during an outage, you know what I mean. If you’ve force-resolved dozens of incidents cluttering up your incident list because they all have the exact same title and came in within seconds of each other, you know what I mean. Time-based alert grouping may not have the pizzazz of a 3-dimensional shark, but it solves a real problem in a simple way. Like sneakers that automatically adapt to your needs.

At PagerDuty Summit, Dominic Marion from NBCNews Digital and I hosted a breakout session called AI and Machine Learning Get Real. In it, Dominic talked about how his team of NOC responders streamlined their response process during “alert floods.” Over 40 of their critical business services are configured to use time-based alert grouping to help his team focus on triaging and responding to incidents. During the customer beta, his team prevented thousands of redundant incidents from ever being created.

Now you, too, can enjoy the benefits of time-based alert grouping for your team. Automatic alert grouping is designed to help you triage a problem effectively and calmly, reducing noise when you need to focus most.  

“ Often the things that we monitor go down in groups, which creates multiple incidents, which causes the same team to get multiple text messages, emails, phone calls, etc.”

Now you can configure a service to automatically group alerts with a predictable cadence — options range from grouping by 2 minutes to 24 hours. When alerts group into incidents, your team will be notified at the start of an incident and can continue to monitor how the incident changes over time. Time-based alert grouping allows responders to resolve issues efficiently instead of spending time reacting to redundant alarms. And when a routine issue turns into a major issue, it’s now easy to centralize response around a single, rich incident — looping in responders, notifying stakeholders, and driving every stage of the response (assess, resolve, learn) from a single source of truth.

Your feedback, like the feedback mentioned throughout this post, continues to shape our roadmap. We’re excited to develop features like time-based alert grouping that we hope will solve some of your biggest pains.

Time-based alert grouping is simple, powerful, and available today (read more on the support site here). We’re continuing to develop intelligent alert grouping in a limited customer preview — if you’re interested, please fill out this form.

If you have feedback on time-based alert grouping or are interested in the customer preview for intelligent alert grouping, please let us know in the Community!