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Gain agility through observability

As the enterprise navigates geopolitical challenges, macroeconomic headwinds, and the post-pandemic comedown, there is intense pressure to drive software transformation, reduce costs, and compete faster in the cloud-transition era of “Lift and Shift.”

Since the pandemic profoundly altered how and where we work, the proliferation of distributed teams has exposed gaps in legacy systems and the lack of visibility across the tech estate. Traditional tools and monitoring can’t keep pace with the growing complexity, scale, and volume of data in cloud-native environments. And without end-to-end visibility, silos remain intact, redundancy persists, and resources are wasted as teams manually try to identify root causes of problems.

By 2024, 30% of enterprises implementing distributed system architectures will have adopted observability techniques to improve digital business service performance, up from less than 10% in 2020.1

Visibility takes on even greater importance as organizations invest more in building and scaling revenue-generating applications. Understanding the health and performance of the tech estate is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s table stakes. This heightened attention also means that DevOps, SRE, and Ops teams are pushed to drive tighter development cycles and innovate faster than the pace that the market demands, while also meeting SLOs. And that may lead to burnout.

According to Forbes, at the start of the pandemic, approximately "58% of developers were suffering from burnout.”2 A study out of the UK, however, reports that figure is closer to 80%.3

As layoffs swell and hiring slows to a trickle, the demand for better tools, real-time insights, seamless experiences, and analysis-in-context has skyrocketed. With so much uncertainty, unified observability will be critical.

So, how do you reduce friction across IT, maintain compliance, improve agility, and keep your teams from burning out?

The answer lies in unified observability and the ServiceNow platform. Together, they can help you harmonize modern DevOps and SRE practices, increase change throughput while minimizing risk and overhead, and improve productivity – with a seamless end-to-end view of your entire application lifecycle.

Why observability

We can’t overstate how traditional monitoring systems fall short when it comes to visualizing the health and performance of complex cloud-native solutions. Microservices are fleeting, as multiple instances automatically scale up and down, adjusting processing capacity to workloads. When you take into account the frequency of changes made by distributed teams and the disconnect between running services and the process that created them, this complexity is further amplified. Often, monitoring fails to capture all the events, communication paths, and other information to trace an issue to its origin. And without end-to-end visibility, there’s simply no way to conduct root cause analysis across thousands, if not millions, of processes. Observability, on the other hand, looks at interdependencies and the architecture of the entire estate to answer, “What caused this change?”

The benefits of observability

Aside from improved alerting, better workflows, and faster response times, observability provides better business outcomes and gains across the enterprise.

Increased leadership trust

Leadership will see their teams release faster, with greater confidence, and have better insight into how changes could impact the security and performance of the system. This leads to improved uptime. And improved uptime leads to happier employees and customers. As more brands compete for attention, both the employee experience and the customer experience become paramount.

Enhanced cross-functional collaboration

With visibility into the entire tech estate, internal dependencies and communication improves. As they gain clarity, everyone from project managers, business analysts, and subject matter experts can shift their attention to opportunities for growth and optimization. Likewise, project sponsors can move onto exploring ideas to increase revenue.

More DevOps success

DevOps teams win because they spend less time figuring out the root cause of problems. No more time wasted manually tracking and tracing across the whole tech landscape. When you reduce the amount of time DevOps spends fixing bugs, they can focus on higher-value work: delivering exceptional software. And that may help address the burnout discussed earlier.

Tooling

To get the full picture of your entire tech estate, you need to aggregate, correlate, and prioritize the data into actionable insights. To accomplish this, your tooling needs to capture three things:

Logs

Logs are a text record of an incident that occurred at a specific time. They include a timestamp, a unique ID for the component involved, and a description of the event or error. Logs can be stored as plain text, binary data, or structured files, with the latter being especially useful for observability because they’re easy to query.

Metrics

Metrics are structured data that contains numeric values that measure a specific item over time, such as a business KPI or the number of recurring paying visitors to a website. Metrics can be used to track the performance of a system or business and identify trends and patterns over time.

Traces 

Traces are data that flows through a distributed system from start to finish. The're uniquely identified and contain important metadata, such as the microservice or serverless function that processes a request. Traces are useful for understanding the flow of requests through a system and identifying bottlenecks or other issues.

There are more considerations, though:

  • Does the tool work with your existing platforms, frameworks, and environments? Without integration, your investment won't deliver the business outcomes you want.

  • Is the data collected in real-time? Outdated data is useless for taking appropriate action, so it's important to use modern event-handling techniques and APIs. It's also important to include the proper context for the data you collect, so you can better visualize and correlate it.

  • Do you have access to user-friendly dashboards? If you don't, it's going to be hard to deliver business value. Since adoption of the tool is crucial, it should be intuitive and easy to integrate into existing processes.

Next Steps

Now that you know what observability can do for your teams, and the kind of agility it can bring, it's helpful to know where to start. For DevOps and SREs, it’s best to jump in and get hands-on experience testing various frameworks, tools, and other technical resources. There’s also the OpenTelemetry OpenTelemetry website, which provides a deep-dive into the features of the observability framework for cloud-native software applications.

Conclusion

Adopting observability in the enterprise can help achieve significant business outcomes, including mitigating developer burnout and increasing operational agility. By collecting, processing, and analyzing logs, metrics, and traces seamlessly within a platform, you can gain a clear understanding of your distributed system. This can help you detect anomalies and make informed decisions about new releases, ensuring stability and quicker root cause analysis. As a result, you can increase efficiency and reliability, and ultimately drive success.

See how observability can help you increase agility and operational efficiency. Get a demodemo with our team.

1

Gartner, Innovation Insight for Observability by Padraig Byrne, Josh Chessman
Published 28 September 2020, Refreshed 9 March 2022

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

2

Forbes, The Key To Retaining Software Developers? Stopping Burnout
Published July 2022 by Bill Mann, Forbes Councils Member

3

Haystack and Survation, Study to understand the impact of COVID-19 on Software Engineers
Published July 2021

January 19, 2023
6 min read
Observability

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Heather Waters

Heather Waters

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