Unlocking the full potential of observability

4 mins read

As the pace of digital transformation accelerates how can IT professionals manage a volatile and dispersed IT landscape? By James Harvey.

Those immersed in the IT sector are certainly well aware that the rapid pace of digital transformation in recent years has heightened complexity within their IT operations.

The widespread adoption of cloud-native technologies, in particular, has left IT professionals grappling with managing an extremely volatile and dispersed IT landscape.

At present, only a handful of technologists have a comprehensive, unified perspective on IT availability and performance across multi-cloud and hybrid settings. This lack of insight makes pinpointing and resolving performance issues, as well as identifying and rectifying security weaknesses before they affect end users, an incredibly arduous task.

The consequence is a never-ending cycle of emergency response within the IT department, with professionals perpetually on the defensive, straining to prevent expensive downtime or a devastating system failure.

This situation necessitates a shift in approach from IT leaders, moving from traditional monitoring towards observability in managing and optimising IT availability and performance across their IT resources.

Observability empowers IT specialists to maximise their contributions by directing their efforts based on business outcomes and affirming the value of digital transformation investments.

Across various industries, observability is beginning to offer revolutionary advantages to proactive organisations, facilitating seamless digital customer experiences, supporting hybrid work models, and laying the groundwork for swift and sustainable transformation.

Transitioning from monitoring to observability

As organisations increasingly move to hybrid environments, with application components running across cloud and on-premises environments, IT teams need to ensure they have unified visibility across their entire IT estate.

Currently, however, most IT departments are deploying separate tools to monitor on-premises and cloud applications, and this means they have no clear line of sight of the entire application path across hybrid environments. This means they are having to run a split screen mode and can't see the complete path up and down the application stack.

As a result, it becomes incredibly difficult to troubleshoot issues which means that MTTR and MTTX inevitably go up, as does the likelihood of end users encountering a poor digital experience.

Most monitoring solutions simply can’t handle dynamic and highly volatile cloud-native environments. These highly distributed systems rely on thousands of containers and spawn a massive volume of metrics, events, logs and traces (MELT) every second. And currently, most technologists simply don’t have a way to cut through this crippling data noise when troubleshooting application performance problems caused by infrastructure-related issues that span across hybrid cloud environments.

Nor do they have unified visibility across what is increasingly a sprawling and fragmented IT estate.

Critically, traditional monitoring only tells IT teams whether applications or supporting infrastructure are running - monitoring solutions are just focused on avoiding downtime and outages. But that’s no longer enough. Technologists need to know how applications and supporting infrastructure are performing, in real-time, 24/7.

This is why organisations need an observability solution which provides flexibility to span across both cloud native and on-premises environments - with telemetry data from cloud native environments and agent-based entities within legacy applications being ingested into the same platform.

Technologists need to be able to properly understand how their application is performing, and therefore they need visibility across the application level, into the supporting digital services (such as microservices or Kubernetes) and into the underlying infrastructure-as-code (IaC) services (such as compute, server, database, and network) they leverage from their cloud providers.

This unified visibility and insight is crucial for technologists to cut through complexity and optimise availability and performance at all times; and it’s vital for IT leaders to lead their organisations into a new phase of digital transformation.

Transformative advantages unlocked by observability

Observability enables technologists to monitor the health of key business transactions distributed across their entire technology landscape. If an issue is detected, they can follow the thread of the business transaction’s telemetry data, so they can quickly determine the root cause of issues, with fault domain isolation, and triage the issue to the correct teams for expedited resolution. Rather than spending hours trying to understand the potential severity of a problem, IT teams can immediately prioritise issues and focus their efforts on the right places.

Observability makes it far easier for IT teams to manage and optimise applications and always supporting infrastructure, irrespective of whether they reside in the cloud or on premises. And therefore, they can deliver brilliant, seamless digital experiences that engage and excite customers and keep them coming back for more.

In fact, observability becomes the foundation for brands to differentiate in the market and drive competitive advantage through digital experience.

Another benefit of observability is that it breaks down silos between people, processes and data and harnesses a culture of collaboration in the IT department which is so important when organisations are dealing with the complexity and dynamism of multi-cloud and hybrid environments. A unified view of the entire IT environment provides a single source of truth for all availability and performance data, and this means that all teams, and the business as a whole, can work in collaboration, making smarter, faster decisions.

Perhaps most importantly, given that digital transformation investment is coming under scrutiny as organisations look for cost efficiencies, observability provides IT leaders with the ability to generate business transaction insights in real-time, and then to view them in business-level dashboards. Rather than being in the dark when it comes to ROI, IT leaders can continually track and share the value that innovation programs are delivering.

Observability enables IT leaders to take an agile approach to digital transformation, focusing their investments where they are having or could have the biggest benefit for customers, employees, and ultimately, the business. They can validate their investments in real-time and achieve their digital transformation objectives.

Over the next few years, as organisations enter the next era of innovation, market share will increasingly be determined by the ability of brands to provide customers with world-class digital experiences. By transitioning to observability now, organisations can get a head start.

Author details: James Harvey, CTO Advisor EMEA, Cisco AppDynamics