Dickerson’s Hierarchy of Service Reliability

From Wikipedia: “Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority…”

In developmental psychology, Maslow’s hierarchy is a classification system that reflects the universal needs of society as its base and then proceeds to more acquired emotions. Here is a graphical depiction of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that people are motivated to achieve certain needs, and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival (things like food, water, warmth, rest), and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled, the next level up is what motivates us (in this case, safety), and so on (relationships -> esteem and prestige -> self-actualization and fulfillment). Maslow postulated that in order for motivation to occur at a given level, the level below it must be completely satisfied.

Maslow’s hierarchy is not only relevant to psychologists and psychology academia — it has been the premise of management books and many other applications. Enter Mike Dickerson. Dickerson is a former site reliability manager at Google, and he leveraged Maslow’s work to create this hierarchy in an effort to explain how to increase system reliability.

Service Reliability Hierarchy

From the Google SRE e-book: “We can characterize the health of a service — in much the same way that Abraham Maslow categorized human needs — from the most basic requirements needed for a system to function as a service at all to the higher levels of function…”

In this version of the triangle you’ll notice that “Monitoring” is at the very bottom as a foundational layer.  Also from the book: “Without monitoring, you have no way to tell whether the service is even working; absent a thoughtfully designed monitoring infrastructure, you’re flying blind.”

Building monitoring pervasively into every feature delivered as a basic requirement is a key tenet to delivering the high levels of service availability that the SRE teams deliver every day. Key takeaways we can infer from this include:

  • Don’t implement monitoring as an afterthought.
  • Focus on perfecting things like incident response or root-cause analysis only after you have your monitoring capabilities completely in order.

Once you have a monitoring solution that meets your organization’s needs — including complete coverage for your entire stack, unified views of hybrid environments, monitoring for ephemeral systems (containers/microservices), real-time models of your IT services, and massive scalability — you’re then set up for success. Now you can take integrated data and insights from monitoring into incident response, root-cause analysis, remediation procedures, capacity planning, and so on — at any scale.

As you evaluate IT monitoring solutions and their capabilities, check out how Zenoss Cloud can set your organization up to achieve the ultimate service reliability. You can also click here if you would like to request a 10-minute demo.

Fun fact: Abraham Maslow is also known for Maslow’s hammer, also known as the law of the instrument. The concept is a cognitive bias that involves an overreliance on a familiar tool. As Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” So if you’ve heard that expression before, that’s where it came from.