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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Unified Observability Takes the Load Off of Overworked IT Teams

Observability needn’t be restricted to specific areas such as DevOps or APM. A unified strategy can deliver benefits to the entire enterprise.

The idea of IT teams doing more with less has become so common these days, it’s practically part of the job description. The need to manage a highly distributed, constantly growing mix of cloud systems and applications -- with different architectures and dependencies -- and defend an ever-expanding attack surface routinely leaves teams overworked and overwhelmed. It brings to mind the old quote from Charles Dudley Warner (often attributed to his friend Mark Twain): “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

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However, there is something enterprises can do about it. Unified observability gives teams a clearer view of their infrastructures, turning data that often is siloed and useless into actionable insights. It delivers full-fidelity data on every transaction, packet, and workflow across the enterprise, and, with artificial intelligence and machine learning, it provides immediate context to help teams prioritize their actions.

Traditional observability tools make it difficult for IT teams to pull insight from their data and proactively manage enterprise and network performance. Most observability technology limits or samples data for IT teams, leaving out critical user, network and application data that IT teams need to troubleshoot problems within increasingly distributed environments.  In contrast, unified observability gives IT teams end-to-end visibility from the employee or customer perspective through their device, across the network into the application service, even in cloud-native environments. With the highest levels of visibility across all flows of data, IT professionals can troubleshoot faster, make more informed decisions, and inject automation into hybrid environments. 

By providing enterprise-wide data and insights through intelligent automation, unified observability can significantly reduce alert fatigue, streamline decision-making, and produce better business outcomes.

The Next Step in IT Performance

Observability is the next frontier in IT management, measuring the internal states of a system by examining its outputs. It doesn’t replace the current practices of monitoring and visibility, but improves on them.

Monitoring works according to predetermined metrics and thresholds, requiring teams to already know what they’re looking for. The visibility gleaned from monitoring is based on transparency into those preset parameters, and it is sometimes blind to the data in siloed systems. Observability, however, can combine the benefits of monitoring, visibility, and automation, correlating information across disparate tools and providing appropriate context. It allows teams to investigate the “unknown unknowns” in real time, helping organizations uncover the hidden gold that leads to actionable insights, which current tools often miss.

However, observability must be unified to work most effectively, and a lot of current observability tools have their limitations.

Observability Helps IT Focus on What’s Important

Most observability tools today are targeted on specific environments, such as DevOps, site reliability engineering (SRE), cloud-native environments, and application performance management (APM) use cases. They generate massive amounts of data, but only in those areas and without the context of an entire IT environment. Teams still must manually troubleshoot problems and investigate alerts, enlisting the help of scarce IT experts, and are left with little time to focus on critical business activities. In partial deployments, observability can produce more of the same challenges enterprises already face.

A unified approach, however, can pull together new and existing technologies to work across the enterprise, working with intelligent automation to deliver genuine actionable insights to securely improve business performance.

Unified observability can capture full-fidelity data across diverse sources -- ranging from devices and networks to users, applications, and third-party feeds. Due to the scale of distributed environments, instead of sampling, it captures every packet, transaction, and flow, including the user experience for each application. By automating the collection and correlation of every relevant metric, it provides context-rich, prioritized insights that enable informed problem-solving and self-healing.

The Pillars of Unified Observability

To ease the burdens on overwhelmed IT staffs and deliver performance results, a unified observability technology strategy should have several important features.

Full-fidelity telemetry. Capturing data from the diverse array of devices, applications, and environments across the enterprise can deliver a complete view of what’s going on. Coupled with analysis of actual user experience, it provides qualitative (rather than quantitative) measures of employee sentiment and a deeper level of insight into operations.

Intelligent analytics. One of the most promising benefits of observability is that it can find what existing monitoring and visibility tools miss. With the use of AI and ML, a unified platform can better detect anomalies and changes in the environment, quickly leading to prioritization and effective action.

Actionable insights. The insights gained from unified observability create a single source of truth that can spur effective cross-domain collaboration. With the use of open APIs, actionable insights can be shared with a broader ecosystem of third-party systems to improve digital experiences, security, and IT service quality.

Automated remediation. In addition to finding problems and providing insights, unified observability can draw on an expandable library of actions -- both preconfigured and customizable -- to support both manual and automated remediation. It recommends action aligned with the organization’s goals while IT maintains decision-making control.

Insights and Actions that Benefit the Enterprise

Observability needn’t be restricted to specific areas such as DevOps or APM. A unified strategy can deliver benefits to the entire enterprise. Its intelligent automation and actionable insights can ensure business continuity and improve service delivery, benefiting both customers and employees.

Just as important, unified observability increases the agility and productivity of IT staffs, reducing alert fatigue and allowing them to focus on fewer, more important events. It improves service availability and reduces cost by shortening the time it takes to identify and resolve problems. By bridging silos across domain-specific IT teams, unified observability also fosters collaboration and informed decision-making.

About the Author

Mike Marks is the VP of product strategy at Riverbed, where he leads Riverbed's product marketing team, and is responsible for sales enablement, go-to market planning and execution, and thought leadership. Before joining Riverbed, Mike held senior roles in marketing, business development, and product marketing in the cloud, managed services, and service assurance teams of Aternity, CA Technologies, Concord Communications, 3Com, and Pacific Bell. You can reach the author via email.

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