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What is Observability?

In the past, manufacturers would build a tool to monitor a domain element. A business would then have to buy tools or custom develop ways to aggregate those systems - like networking, server, and storage. And then have a completely separate set of tools for application performance monitoring (databases, web servers, and custom code). Then, the sub-teams – DevOps, SecOps, NetOps, for example, only monitored the metrics that were relevant to their own priorities without a complete, unified visualization of the environment.

As businesses modernize and attempt to achieve optimized security and performance, there is too much complexity to not have a centralized and correlated tool. That’s why it is absolutely critical that teams determine what elements of the environment are important to monitor and build a cohesive dashboard representative of those priorities. This will allow them to make sound decisions as quickly as possible as part of their Incident Response Plan (IRP).  Formerly known as “management”, we began referring to this concept as visibility. And as tools have become better, smarter, and faster, we're using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models to develop what we now call observability.

Observability solutions link and correlate multiple systems and domains to identify performance and security issues. In fact, security is the core use case that's really driven this market. Teams cannot secure their environment if they don't have a broad range of observability solutions in place because hackers are attacking all layers in the OSI model. From layer two (the data link layer) on up, they're attacking and they're doing it more quickly with very easily accessible tools. The AI and ML components of observability detect attempts and penetrations faster, and they’re able to learn from previous experiences.

How Do Observability and Domain Monitoring Differ?

Observability is quite different from domain monitoring in that it allows teams to track those multiple processes across a complex environment. That complex environment may be an on-prem data center, workloads in AWS, Google or Azure. It’s important to see how those components interact because if there is a performance issue, teams must be able to identify exactly where it's happening. Our systems have become so distributed in the past 5-10 years that managing them cohesively has become increasingly difficult. And it's not just about outages, it's about performance - because while workloads might be “up,” they may not be working effectively. If the issue is severe, negative business outcomes are inevitable.

Why should organizations be using observability tools?

Teams cannot operate an enterprise environment today without these tools. Due to today’s technological complexity, gone are the days of selecting 5-10 metrics to detect problems before they occur. Observability brings together hundreds (if not thousands) of data points in a consumable fashion. This allows organizations to focus on resolving issues much more quickly because they are leveraging the aggregate knowledge and history of what all of the developers know and what the operations teams know – resulting in accurate diagnosis of problems. When developers are using these agile methodologies, they’re able to rapidly iterate an application.

What About Full-Stack Observability (FSO)?

Full-stack Observability (FSO) encompasses all of the elements of observability and adds the ability to monitor a business’s applications and systems from end to end. FSO monitoring tools can “see” from the application layer down to layer two, sift through that information and present teams with actionable insights quickly. FSO enables organizations to optimize development and management of distributed cloud native environments and apps. It connects business outcomes to the IT stack; specifically, the application infrastructure stack.

As the digital landscape evolves, we must be able to connect full-stack observability with those real-time business outcomes to reduce the business impact of outages or performance problems - whether it's on-prem, in a cloud or in multiple clouds. What we see with most organizations today is a hybrid cloud strategy. Even if they employ a “cloud first” strategy, there's always a transformation. In all cases, we advocate for FSO because of the following benefits:

  • Enhanced alerting - Teams can react more quickly to issues.
  • Improved system visibility – Provides optimized visualization of the environment.
  • Accelerated development – DevOps teams succeed when they can “fail fast and fix” development.
  • Streamlined workflows – Teams have more and better opportunities to collaborate across multiple domains. The change process is accelerated when the priorities of the Apps team, SecOps, DevOps and NetOps are aligned.

How Do I Achieve Full-Stack Observability (FSO)?

The best path to achieve FSO in your application stack is to:

  1. Take inventory of your team’s existing tools, applications, and processes.
  2. Identify key metrics like uptime, application response time, zero trust security, etc.
  3. Approach the overall transition like eating an elephant - one bite at a time. That's not to say that teams can't do things in parallel, but putting together a guiding strategy that will allow multiple teams to contribute to ensuring secure, high performance and highly available application infrastructure performance for the digital experience is the ultimate goal.  

I’d Like to Explore This More. What Next?

For those who would like to begin their FSO journey (or for our partners who are working with a customer who might be interested) we're offering an Observability Assessment of your current environment where we will also read out recommendations based on your business’s specific needs. You may register for the Assessment here

Watch The Video

Join us for a discussion about what "observability" is and how you can extend both your visibility and control to deliver flawless digital experiences to customers and employees.