Legacy Application Performance Management (APM) vs Modern Observability - Part 3
May 17, 2022

Colin Fallwell
Sumo Logic

Share this

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I introduced APM and Modern Observability, and dove into the history of the APM market. If you haven't read it, I recommend going back to the start of the series here.

The Birth and History of Modern Observability (so far)

Between 2012 to 2015 all of the hyperscalers (including Netflix, Google, AWS, LinkedIn, etc.) attempted to use the legacy APM solutions to improve their own visibility. To no avail. The problem was that none of the previous generations of APM solutions could match the scaling demand, nor could they provide interoperability due to their proprietary and exclusive agentry.

This also meant they were really unfit for keeping up with the sheer amount of innovation happening in the Cloud, due to the relatively small number of developers maintaining the agents and integration SDKs/interfaces.

To solve these shortcomings, Netflix, Google, and AWS all began working on their own projects to build telemetry pipelines, instrumentation layers, and control planes into their systems. You can see this today in numerous modern platforms, technologies, and stacks such as Kafka which was developed at LinkedIn, and Kubernetes a.k.a Borg, to orchestrate and scale workloads.

Two other Google projects, Open Census and Open Tracing, were aimed at developing the SDKs and protocols to replicate APM tracing capabilities in modern environments. There are numerous other examples. Ultimately, Google's projects succeeded in solving the scalability and interoperability limitations by developing open standards that could be implemented across any cloud. The community (and enterprises) saw the value immediately, and the projects became well-known but not widely implemented.

More recently, the CNCF merged Open Census and Open Tracing into OpenTelemetry, which is now an incubating project with massive adoption. OpenTelemetry provides a robust and highly customizable ecosystem of specifications, protocols, and libraries that results in a highly converged telemetry stream of data. What's more, it provides flexible and scalable pipelines that can be deployed at the edge via a standard set of SDKs, APIs, and protocols for discovering, instrumenting and enriching meta-data.

The best part lies in the fact it's all open-source, so if something you need is missing or broken, users are free to fork or contribute to the projects as needed.

Click on image above for larger version

Modern Observability encompasses more than CNCF, open standards, protocols, and SDKs. Success with any new technology is highly dependent on the people engaging and the processes governing adoption and use. I define Modern Observability more broadly as a model or framework where all the things related to building observable systems are shifted left and declared as code.

Successful Modern Observability is led by the developer, and is defined early in the development lifecycle and continuously improved with each release. It becomes a declarative statement in the code-base deployed with the services and used as input to other GitOps models. Instrumentation is owned by developers. Developers declare in code what normal looks like providing the basis for a massive reduction in toil and churn. Observability as code enables automation in defining and deploying real-time Service Level Management (SLIs and SLOs), auto-remediation playbooks, and literally any AIOps use case.

Imagine if every service were able to reliably report the health of its internal state in real-time to the rest of the environment? How does that improve automation being orchestrated in a GitOps model and through toolchains? This is easily achievable with sound governance, frameworks, standards, and processes in place.

Giving developers the structure and tooling to declare everything as code actually matures software development teams to design not just observability telemetry but also security into the earliest phases of development, giving them a robust process to define "normal" operations "as code," along with the rules for defining Service Levels associated with the services being developed and deployed. This is really what these new ideas and methodologies such as Observability-driven development (ODD) are all about.

In the case of ODD, it provides a framework of governance and process by which developers standardize how they will build a service to be observable. It informs how they will standardize (based on each organizations' — or even each teams' — standards) the build and deploy pipelines, define what telemetry is emitted, and how they will define what normal looks like in the metrics emitted as a non-functional configuration in the codebase.

Because observability is not an afterthought in the development and deployment process, this simplifies the work developers already undertake to service the needs of business stakeholders such as customer success teams, business analysts, and the C-suite. It enables organizations to standardize how their teams digitally transform their applications, leading them to innovate faster and with observability built into everything to ensure reliability is properly measured and tracked over time.

Ultimately, for the mature developer, it creates an environment by which they are able to write services that are state-aware and can dynamically adjust to a variety of failure modes. For example, they may employ circuit-breakers to prevent already saturated downstream dependencies from compounding effects, or they may change to an alternate logic within the services in times of high latency, or dependency failure.

Closing Remarks

OpenTelemetry is increasingly the framework organizations are turning to solve their observability needs. It's now a CNCF Incubating Project and contribution and advancement in what it offers are accelerating rapidly. It provides a vendor-agnostic solution that is quickly becoming backward compatible even in monolithic on-premise environments.

Organizations adopting modern observability take ownership of the standards and practices for building observable systems. Doing so in a vendor-agnostic way means they forever own their telemetry and can continuously improve the state of observability just like they do the rest of their applications, services, and value streams. This is the bedrock upon which successful digital transformation happens. The freedom of knowing your telemetry is no longer tied to vendors ensures developers can take ownership and make technical decisions that drive successful outcomes for themselves, and the business.

As the standards and frameworks continue to mature, OpenTelemetry is poised to redefine how modern and traditional architectures are instrumented and observed. I for one firmly believe OpenTelemetry is going to be the gold standard for all telemetry acquisitions in the foreseeable future.

I truly hope you found this series informative. I also hope this gives you some ideas and strategies for improving your visibility, and innovation potential. Most of all, it's my hope that everyone can find a way to rely less on proprietary agents and more on their own resources and capabilities for building the next generation of applications and services.

Colin Fallwell is Field CTO of Sumo Logic
Share this

The Latest

June 27, 2022

Hybrid work adoption and the accelerated pace of digital transformation are driving an increasing need for automation and site reliability engineering (SRE) practices, according to new research. In a new survey almost half of respondents (48.2%) said automation is a way to decrease Mean Time to Resolution/Repair (MTTR) and improve service management ...

June 23, 2022

Digital businesses don't invest in monitoring for monitoring's sake. They do it to make the business run better. Every dollar spent on observability — every hour your team spends using monitoring tools or responding to what they reveal — should tie back directly to business outcomes: conversions, revenues, brand equity. If they don't? You might be missing the forest for the trees ...

June 22, 2022

Every day, companies are missing customer experience (CX) "red flags" because they don't have the tools to observe CX processes or metrics. Even basic errors or defects in automated customer interactions are left undetected for days, weeks or months, leading to widespread customer dissatisfaction. In fact, poor CX and digital technology investments are costing enterprises billions of dollars in lost potential revenue ...

June 21, 2022

Organizations are moving to microservices and cloud native architectures at an increasing pace. The primary incentive for these transformation projects is typically to increase the agility and velocity of software release and product innovation. These dynamic systems, however, are far more complex to manage and monitor, and they generate far higher data volumes ...

June 16, 2022

Global IT teams adapted to remote work in 2021, resolving employee tickets 23% faster than the year before as overall resolution time for IT tickets went down by 7 hours, according to the Freshservice Service Management Benchmark Report from Freshworks ...

June 15, 2022

Once upon a time data lived in the data center. Now data lives everywhere. All this signals the need for a new approach to data management, a next-gen solution ...

June 14, 2022

Findings from the 2022 State of Edge Messaging Report from Ably and Coleman Parkes Research show that most organizations (65%) that have built edge messaging capabilities in house have experienced an outage or significant downtime in the last 12-18 months. Most of the current in-house real-time messaging services aren't cutting it ...

June 13, 2022
Today's users want a complete digital experience when dealing with a software product or system. They are not content with the page load speeds or features alone but want the software to perform optimally in an omnichannel environment comprising multiple platforms, browsers, devices, and networks. This calls into question the role of load testing services to check whether the given software under testing can perform optimally when subjected to peak load ...
June 09, 2022

Networks need to be up and running for businesses to continue operating and sustaining customer-facing services. Streamlining and automating network administration tasks enable routine business processes to continue without disruption, eliminating any network downtime caused by human error or other system flaws ...

June 08, 2022

Enterprises have had access to various Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) tools for quite a few years, to guide in their project selection and execution lifecycle. Yet, in spite of the digital evolution of management software, many organizations still fail to construct an effective PPM plan or utilize cutting-edge management tools ...