Making a Case for Observability

Observability Blog

Unlike monitoring which only tells you what’s not working, observability reveals why and can even help with the solution.

Imagine the following scenario for an online retailer: During a holiday weekend, the retailer sees a dramatic spike in site visitors after heavily promoting a sales event. On Tuesday morning, the sales and marketing teams meet to review the results. To everyone’s surprise, the spike in traffic resulted in very few sales. Interestingly, the report shows that many site visitors were deep into the sales process before abandoning their carts. For the rest of the week, the staff proposes several theories regarding why visitors didn’t complete their purchases.

Not only are scenarios like the one described above very real, but they’re becoming more prevalent as companies move their IT environments from on-prem to the cloud (i.e., hybrid). At the same time, the pressure to deliver an exceptional customer experience has never been higher. For example, according to the App Attention Index, 66% of people say they avoid brands known for delivering a poor digital experience. And 83% of customers who have an issue with digital services don’t notify the brand for a chance to put things right. So the challenge for many businesses—and the IT solution providers who serve them—is getting visibility to IT assets outside their local networks so that they can mitigate poor digital experiences for customers and employees alike.

 

Observability: delivering a new operating model for hybrid cloud

Even digitally resistant businesses realize the customers they serve are incredibly digital-savvy. They’re well versed in sourcing much of their information across product reviews, price comparisons and product quality through mobile apps or web mediums. In addition, some businesses have launched augmented-reality-based solutions to show customers what’s possible before they even get it in their hands. All this ties back to the need for a solid digital foundation to launch innovation from, and that’s where the need for observability comes in.

The term observability refers to the ability to infer the internal state of a system based on its external outputs. For example, one can understand the internal state of a software system based on its telemetry, which can be classified into logs, metrics, events and traces.

Unlike mere monitoring, observability aggregates these multiple sources and types of telemetry data, enabling admins to better understand how a software system works and detect unusual change points more quickly.

Recalling the example shared earlier of the online retailer, adopting an observability platform could have eliminated the after-the-fact guesswork the team went through trying to determine the problem. Further, it could have alerted the team during the weekend sales event, so the admin could see, for instance, that the discounted price wasn’t being applied correctly, and they could quickly fix the problem.

Observability takes a unified end-to-end transactional view (from the front end to supporting back-end services) for the whole IT ecosystem. Currently, 85% of admins admit they struggle to identify root causes of performance issues.

With recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), observability solutions can help organizations get to the root cause of IT problems. These technologies don’t just analyze a single software system—they analyze all interconnected systems and services, eliminating finger-pointing among teams.

Observability addresses that struggle and ends the blame game by helping people work together as a team to trace problems to their root cause and fix them more quickly.

But what if you have seven problems? Or several dozen? IT teams have massive numbers of alerts that pop up constantly. So how does anyone know where to start?

Here’s where business observability comes into play and provides valuable context. For example, each problem costs the business something. With observability, you gain more insight into issues. The business impact could be how much money you’re losing or how many customers are affected. It could be any business KPI that your organization tracks. And when you can connect what you see to how it’s affecting the business, your team can make better decisions about prioritizing the list and taking action.

 

Does observability sound too good to be true? Then, put it to the test.

Any time you’re told that there’s a tool or service that can give you better visibility to your distributed IT environment, increase your productivity, enhance the end user experience and reduce downtime, it’s natural to be skeptical. The good news about this technology is that you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars in IT equipment and tie up IT resources for several weeks to know if it can help. Instead, you can run a one-week pilot on one of your cloud apps, such as billing or shipping, and know for sure whether it’s right for your company. If you’re experiencing problems with one or more of your cloud services and you’ve been unable to pinpoint the culprit, running an observability pilot is that much more of a no-brainer.

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