Where are Monitoring Tools Headed? Help from Innovation Insight for Observability by Gartner®

Gartner blog post Innovation Insight for Observability

Enterprises are getting fed-up with their existing system monitoring tools. Despite decades of investments in monitoring tools, many businesses fail to notice a problem in their digital services until a customer calls to complain about it. So, it’s no surprise that businesses are looking for better solutions, and this has sparked an increasing interest in observability, according to Gartner in its updated report, “Innovation Insight for Observability.” 

Although less than 5% of enterprises have adopted observability solutions, Gartner reports growing interest among its clients. “By 2024, 30% of enterprises implementing distributed system architectures will have adopted observability techniques to improve digital business service performance,” Gartner says. 

Now is a great time to look into the Gartner report and explore observability as a promising approach for augmenting your existing monitoring capabilities.

Prefer to read the full report? Download a complimentary copy here.

The limits of traditional monitoring tools

As the IT landscape evolves, traditional monitoring tools are revealing their limitations, Gartner says. Relying on “static dashboards with human-generated thresholds do not scale to these modern environments and are inflexible in assisting the resolution of unforeseen events.” This makes it difficult for infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders and Site Reliability Engineers to determine how their applications are performing – and thus impacting the customer experience – potentially hampering their competitiveness.

This is why businesses need to “... go beyond infrastructure and make their digital business observable,” Garter advises. 

What is observability?

There is little consensus about the term ‘observability’ in the market - which can sometimes leave I&O leaders confused. Let’s start with the definition provided by Gartner itself. 

According to Gartner, observability is “the characteristic of software and systems that allows them to be ‘seen’ and allows questions about their behavior to be answered.” It represents “the evolution of established monitoring, emphasizing visibility of the state of the digital service by exploring high cardinality data outputs from the application.”

Gartner’s explanation is very much in line with the definition of observability we came up with at StackState: “Observability combines metrics, logs and traces to infer IT system state and, subsequently, health. Observability can detect unknown failure modes and provides a deeper and more holistic view than monitoring. At its best, observability helps you understand the state your system was in at the time of a problem so you know what to do to fix it.”

In order to better understand the state and health of your system, observability tools should give you deep insights. They have to look at the entire system, Gartner suggests. “Observability by its very nature must look at the full stack of data available. Looking at a single layer provides only a silo view,” the report states. And because observability is an inherent part of an application, it’s important for observability to be designed into an application and its supporting infrastructure. Only then can tools make full use of observability principles.

Observability use cases

Gartner describes a wide range of use cases for tools that leverage software observability. For example, observability tools can help improve time to market by speeding investigations into outages, reducing resolution times, improving development efficiencies, and accelerating the rollout of new product features. Observability can also help assist canary deployments by allowing SREs to quickly investigate outages or issues. This ensures the blast radius is contained and the code is easy to roll back, helping improve development projects.

Benefits

Beyond reducing root-cause identification time, Gartner anticipates that I&O organizations that implement observability could see a host of operational and cost benefits, such as:

  • Improved end-user satisfaction, reduced attrition rate, enhanced return rates, and increased client spend.

  • Lower infrastructure costs.

  • More collaboration between development and operations teams, ensuring tighter integration across the development process.

  • Improved coverage of modern software architectures like containerization and microservices

Overall, Gartner suggests observability “offers insight into digital business applications, speeds innovation, and enhances customer experience.”

Risks

Since observability is a natural extension of monitoring solutions, Gartner says there are “less downsides” to investing in these new tools. However, Gartner tells I&O leaders they should be aware of the following problems that could crop up:

  • Operations teams can be unwilling to adopt observability, especially if they use niche tools.

  • Operations teams can be concerned about overlapping toolsets adding more complexity. 

  • Not all vendors implement observability the same way. 

  • Because many hyperscale cloud vendors (e.g., AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform) are improving their observability tools, third-party tools might not be needed in the future. 

Recommendations

Ready to see how observability can help improve your operations and boost competitiveness? Gartner has a few tips for I&O leaders focused on infrastructure, operations, and cloud management:

  • Select vendors and systems like OpenTelemetry and OpenMetrics that utilize emerging open standards for collection.

  • Use observability to create time and SRE error budgeting to investigate problems not addressed by traditional monitoring.

  • Utilize AIOps to analyze detected dataset relationships generated by monitoring tools and apply pragmatic observability to digital business. 

  • Design observability directly in the application to increase application uptime.

Traditional system monitoring tools aren’t going away soon. But as digital businesses powered by modern architectures continue to grow, I&O teams will need to take a closer look at new observability tools and strategies to keep up with industry leaders.

We hope you enjoyed this summary of the Gartner report Innovation Insight for Observability. Did it pique your interest and would you like to read the full report? You can download a complimentary version here.

Attribution and disclaimers:

  • Gartner, Innovation Insight for Observability, Padraig Byrne, Josh Chessman, 28 September 2020.

  • Gartner is a registered trademark 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, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Crush observability silos with StackState

As Gartner mentions: “Observability by its very nature must look at the full stack of data available. Looking at a single layer provides only a silo view.” In order to crush these silos and to get a clear overview of the state of your stack at any time, we believe topology-powered observability is crucial.

In IT, a topology describes the set of relationships and dependencies between components of the entire stack (for example, business services, microservices, load balancers, containers and databases). In today’s modern environments, topologies evolve quickly as new code gets pushed into production continuously and the underlying infrastructure changes rapidly. Managing these dynamic environments requires the ability to track the changes in topology overtime.

StackState is the only observability company with a platform that combines topology with existing monitoring data over time. Our topology-powered approach provides the most complete picture of the state of your stack and the intelligence you need to quickly find, fix and prevent problems.

Want to see how topology-powered observability can work for you? Play in our sandbox, request a free, 14-day StackState trial or schedule a personalized demo with one of our engineers.


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