Demystifying observability with four simple questions

Last year was a big year for observability, with many businesses making concerted efforts to gain a better understanding of its value.

Leading technology research firms applauded its potential to simplify increasingly complex IT environments, with Gartner® featuring observability in its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends report. Analysts also predicted a bright future for the technology, with some suggesting observability adoption would increase at a compound annual growth of 8.2%.

Based on these and other developments, there is evidence that this will be the year observability achieves mainstream understanding and adoption.

However, despite this positive momentum, there still appears to be a lack of clarity around the technology – with questions ranging from why organisations should consider implementing observability, to what observability even is.

With that in mind, here are four simple questions designed to help demystify observability.

What is observability?

Observability is often described as the evolution of monitoring – a technology that has been incredibly valuable for many organisations for years. With monitoring, organisations have gathered comprehensive data from across their computer systems and digital services. This has been used to identify problems with their applications, performance issues related to the databases they use, and much more. With observability, on the other hand, organisations can now not only collect this data, but also receive actionable intelligence needed to effectively solve these problems.

Observability solutions can automatically analyse massive amounts of information across a business’s entire computer system, which is often made up of a complex network of applications, databases, clouds, and more. With observability, users can pinpoint causes of outages or performance issues affecting their digital services and receive actionable insights to act on and resolve these problems quickly. Modern observability solutions – which contain advanced AI and Machine Learning capabilities – can even use this information to predict and proactively prevent problems before they occur.

The business benefits

Now that we know what observability is, let’s discuss who it can benefit.

Technology teams today are often overworked and understaffed – and all of them could use some help. Observability has shown to be a particularly important tool for many different teams, including but not limited to IT operations, DevOps, database administrators, and security operations teams. With observability, these technical staff have a powerful solution that proactively provides analysis and insights. Teams can quickly and efficiently identify and resolve problems and optimise the performance of their company’s digital services.

This proactivity reduces the amount of time teams spend analysing data and reactively resolving problems. In turn, these different technology teams are free to focus on more productive work. For IT managers, this can mean a renewed focus on achieving service-level agreements. Developers can again focus on innovating and creating exciting applications. Meanwhile, security teams can focus on preventing digital threats.

The case for observability

It’s well established that today’s organisations rely on countless applications, infrastructures, databases, and remote workforces to get business done.

This has resulted in complex “hybrid” IT environments and computer systems that are far too complicated for humans to manage. Technology teams have difficulty seeing across these environments, meaning that when a problem arises, it may take longer to identify and solve. The result can be applications that are not working or services that are not available, which can be costly.

To remain competitive, companies today need their computer systems, applications and services to be highly performing and highly available. Observability has emerged as an invaluable tool to ensure this. With observability, businesses can simplify the management of their computer systems to ensure excellent experiences for customers, employees and partners.

The result is reduced costs, optimised performance and improved operational resiliency.

Evolving from monitoring

For organisations that are already leveraging monitoring solutions, IT leaders should start by detailing which tools and processes their business has in place. This will allow technology teams to determine where there are gaps and how observability solutions can help fill them. Companies should not feel they need to replace their current monitoring technologies, but instead can use observability to supplement their practices.

One concern that organisations have when considering implementing observability is which additional cloud-native architectures or technologies their businesses may adopt in the future. Thankfully, modern observability solutions are designed to help companies, regardless of where they are on their cloud journeys – whether on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid model.

Regardless of how distributed an organisation’s applications, databases, and services are, as well as where they run, or how often they change, there is an observability solution that fits every company.

About the Author

Thomas LaRock is Head Geek at SolarWinds. SolarWinds is a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software. Our products give organizations worldwide—regardless of type, size, or complexity—the power to monitor and manage their IT services, infrastructures, and applications; whether on-premises, in the cloud, or via hybrid models. We continuously engage with technology professionals—IT service and operations professionals, DevOps professionals, and managed services providers (MSPs)—to understand the challenges they face in maintaining high-performing and highly available IT infrastructures and applications.

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