Building Observability for the Future

Observability has the potential to reshape digital transformation and customer experiences for generations.

Few things seem to change as quickly as the IT landscape. IT, and the new digital experiences it enables, continues to evolve while becoming both more exciting and complex. Each new tool needs to be specially configured. Every system must be secured against a growing force of increasingly sophisticated threats. And every element of the ever-expanding IT perimeter needs to be monitored and managed for optimal performance and availability.

It’s challenging for even the most sophisticated IT organizations. But enterprises shouldn’t be content to merely react and respond to whatever outages or service disruptions may occur. Observability solutions provide an answer to this challenge. Observability is the ability to measure a system’s current state based on its data, such as logs, metrics and traces. Observability solutions proactively aggregate data and signals inside and out of IT environments to gain intelligence that:

• Brings meaningful context to why issues arise in the first place

• Enhances application and systems optimization

• Provides real-time, on-demand snapshots of an organization’s health and performance

Now and into the future, enterprises will need flexible, scalable and intelligently automated solutions that provide granular, real-time observability over every square inch of the company’s IT ecosystem to improve performance, reliability and the customer experience.

Monitoring at the expense of true observability

Application and network monitoring solutions (APM and NMS) have exploded in popularity in the last decade and continue to gain adoption today. The APM market is expected to continue growing by more than 12% per year until 2025, according to Mordor Intelligence.

However, many organizations have gone all-in on monitoring at the expense of true observability, significantly increasing their general future-risk profile. That’s because monitoring provides teams only with a surface-level understanding of apps and network performance — without identifying any of the underlying potential causes for concern.

Monitoring solutions tend to operate in silos, resulting in widespread visibility gaps. These gaps can be especially challenging to fill in hybrid IT environments where core databases reside on-premises and computing is handled in the cloud. Even among internal teams, where each one uses its own preferred set of tools and solutions and runs them manually, organizations reliant only on monitoring will continue to meet roadblocks to visibility, transparency and efficiency.

Raising the bar to meet customer expectations

At a time when customer behaviors and preferences continue to shape enterprise strategies, companies are feeling increasing pressure to optimize performance, minimize outages to services and systems, and protect against real, measurable damage to their brand.

Consumers expect the businesses they patronize to be available around the clock to answer questions and address their needs. In fact, research shows that nearly two-thirds of consumers will switch brands following a poor interaction or experience with any of a brands’ various public-facing apps or services.

As a result, enterprise business and IT teams must be able to spot issues easily and quickly. But it’s not just a matter of resolving major incidents quickly — it’s also about finding ways to prevent them from happening in the first place. And this can only be accomplished with a renewed focus on, and more significant investment in, the enhancement of observability solutions and strategies.

The next generation of observability solutions

The continued mass migration toward digital transformation puts increasing pressure on IT and software teams to resolve issues faster and understand the underlying technologies that may cause them in the first place. In the future, enterprise teams will need to go well beyond reactive app and systems monitoring. Instead, they’ll need to dive deeper into the nitty-gritty technical details of every app, system and endpoint to witness real-time system performance under various conditions.

Today’s observability solutions have already been overwhelmed by the sheer size, velocity and magnitude of an ever-expanding IT perimeter. AppDynamics and ThousandEyes are pioneering the next generation of enterprise observability tools. Solutions like the AppDynamics Business Observability Platform give organizations holistic visibility and actionable insights across their entire domain.

What can you expect from observability in the future?

You may be able to project the evolutionary path of most technologies: a handful of new features, additional automation capabilities and more integrations with third-party applications to expand the breadth of the company’s IT capabilities.

However, observability is a different beast. The chasm between an enterprise’s ability to observe the farthest reaches of its IT environment and the pace at which the IT perimeter is expanding continues to widen, unbridgeable by most of today’s technologies. It’ll demand improvements and enhancements to observability capabilities by orders of magnitude greater than changes to other parts of an enterprise’s operations.

Despite the difficulty of forecasting observability trends, I am willing to bet that AI, automation and ops will have a part to play in shaping its future. For example, I can foresee AIOps becoming embedded in more observability platforms, and that IT Operations and Security will be more closely aligned in the future. Observability will ultimately result in improved end-to-end visibility, product integrations and enhanced automation.


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About the Authors

Troy Partain

Sales Engineering Leader

Troy Partain

Troy Partain, Sales Engineering Leader, joined AppDynamics Corporation in April 2017. While leading sales engineering across the Americas Troy is responsible for enabling, engaging and building observability practices across Cisco’s partner ecosystem. Troy, and his team of pre-sales engineers, focus on all aspects of observability, while serving as technical experts across the Americas.  Across two decades, and three continents, Troy has spent his career focused on the health and performance ofc complex IT systems. Troy has touched all the apps we’re familiar with today from 3 tier on-premesis solutions through bleeding edge serverless, or Kubernetes deployed cloud native services. In doing so, he has seen the shift from old-school monitoring where we just asked questions such as “Is the server up, is it available” to a mindset of observability where we are asking questions of our data that we didn’t even know we would need to ask when we started collecting the datasets. This is a shift from monitoring known things to being able to observe, or ask questions on elements of a system that you didn’t even know you needed to know. Mr. Partain holds a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications Management, an MBA, a Masters of Informatics and a myriad of certifications from Microsoft, Amazon and others. 

Read more about Troy Partain