In today’s cloud-based distributed systems, tracking an event from its origin to end point is a complex and challenging task. Conventional monitoring tools constantly battle to keep track of dynamic cloud-native environments and the infrastructure, processes and dependencies that come with it. Visualizing and analysing this aggregated computing set up needs more effective tools and techniques that can help strengthen visibility into the entire architecture.
In this blog, we will learn more about observability, why is it so vital today and how can it assist enterprises in increasing productivity, reducing costs and gaining deeper insights into their entire system.
What is Observability?
The term “observability” refers to the ability of a system’s complex internal state to be understood via assessing its outputs. It is the process of measuring the current state of multiple applications, servers, data and hardware via logs and monitoring, to discover how the current set up behaves in real-time. Observability and monitoring go hand in hand and is considered the future of systems monitoring.
Why is observability important?
A combination of tools and techniques help achieve observability on cloud. It is specifically designed to help teams identify, trace and understand system issues and provide solutions. With observability-based solutions in hand, enterprises are able to improve performance, get timely notifications via monitored data and implement proactive resolutions before their end-users are actually impacted.
Observability provides a thorough understanding of the true health of your architecture. It also helps –
- Detect unknown issues and circumstances, monitors their relation to performances and provides root cause analysis and resolutions.
- Provides insights in the initial stages of the software development cycle along with identifying issues and recommending fixes before it impacts the end users.
- Helps development teams to remain aware, productive and economical as well as equip them to evaluate any system, irrespective of how complex it is.
Pillars of Observability
The key components of observability involve the people who need to comprehend the complicated architecture and the data that helps in this understanding. Observability provides exceptional visibility across the systems through its pillars, namely, metrics, traces and logs also known as the golden triangle of observability. They are the three data inputs that give DevOps teams an overview of distributed systems in cloud and microservices environments.
Metrics, also known as time series metrics, is a monitoring technique that helps in establishing the overall health of applications and systems over a defined time period. It determines the status of resources, the amount of memory and CPU consumption, response time, peak load, latency and error rate in order to generate end-to-end visibility into known issues.
A trace is a series of events that translates a distribution system’s request flow. When user requests move from one service to another, tracing helps in bringing in more visibility and understanding into the system’s condition and behaviour pattern. Trace provides a contextual 360-degree view of all the known and unknown occurrences, when a request passes through the system. It enables profiling and monitoring of containerized apps, microservices and serverless architecture.
Logs are exhaustive, time-stamped records of application events that development teams can utilize contextually to play-back and troubleshoot intricate records of every event. Event logs have a capacity to detect and record unforeseen behaviour in distributed systems at any point in time. It generates more information than metrics, for instance, if metrics depict that a resource is non-operational, logs will help the teams know the reason behind the same.
Difference Between Observability and Monitoring
Monitoring helps control the state of the system by collating error logs and metrics beforehand and using them to notify you of incidents. It helps observe a system’s performance over a period of time. Errors as soon as they occur, will be tracked and informed to concerned teams. Monitoring facilitates continuous health check of CPU utilization or network traffic via metrics and helps respond to outages and security incidents with appropriate alerts, alarms, and notifications.
Observability and monitoring are complementary to each other yet distinct, concept-wise, where they both play significant roles in assuring the security of systems, data, and security perimeters.
While monitoring tools gather and analyse system data to convert to practicable insights, observability uses data collected from monitoring, to provide a complete view of overall system health and performance. For instance, application performance monitoring shows if the system is running or no or if there is any issue with application performance. Observability of the system, on the other hand, then depends on how accurately the monitoring metrics are able to interpret the system’s performance indicators.
To monitor your systems, you need to know in advance, what is vital to be monitored. Observability allows you to ascertain what is important by watching how the systems perform over a period of time and pose apt questions around it for better insights.
Benefits of Observability
- Enhanced real-time visibility across the set up
- Better alerting of changes, issues or fixes in the system
- Deeper contextualized insights into simplifying investigations and debugging of issues while also optimizing application performances
- Efficient recording and tracking of data with minimal or no dependency on external third-party organizations
- Increased delivery speed due to effective monitoring and troubleshooting mechanisms
- Enables DevOps teams to focus more on innovation and accelerates business competence
Observability is more than a buzzword; it is a tool that helps gain thorough understanding of your surroundings while offering focused end-to-end visibility across systems. Rather than administering the system in search for answers, the key takeaway here is to empower DevOps to be in control of the entire infrastructure, detect and fix issues and changes effectively and maintain stability of systems while introducing new features for enhanced productivity.