Observability Tools Fall Short
January 25, 2023

Shannon Weyrick

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As companies generate more data across their network footprints, they need network observability tools to help find meaning in that data for better decision-making and problem solving. It seems many companies believe that adding more tools leads to better and faster insights. Earlier this year, the research firm Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) found more than 35% of organizations used 11 or more tools for network operations, and more than 50% used six or more.

And yet, observability tools aren't meeting many companies' needs. In fact, adding more tools introduces new challenges. Only one in four companies say they are successful with their network observability tools, according to a recent EMA and NS1 survey of IT stakeholders, and just 15.2% can identify and fix every network issue before it harms the organization.

Observability strategies are being held back both by the strategies surrounding tool adoption, and the capabilities of the tools themselves. Companies are responding to increased data in ways that add complexity and cost, and networking teams aren't obtaining immediate insight from their observability tools, which leaves them unable to quickly find or remediate network issues.

Let's review the data surrounding these shortcomings:

More Data and More Tools Bring Growing Pains

Increasingly complex networks are now generating more data — 85% of firms report that they have recently increased the amount of data they collect — and many companies are eager to take advantage of this increase. But companies can quickly run out of quota or storage space, resulting in either short retention times or substantial cost increases, and 43.5% of respondents say that data storage is now a major challenge.

Networking teams often respond to more data with more tools because their current ones aren't sufficient. More than 50% of respondents said they don't believe they have a single network observability tool that can fully answer any network question. Yet adding more tools often requires expensive customization, according to 54% of respondents, and even once set up is done, 46% say that conflicts between observability tools are a major problem.

Actionable Insights Remain a Work in Progress

Networking teams need observability tools to provide them with immediate insight so they can take action, but in practice, getting insights often requires excessive time and effort. Only one-third of respondents say obtaining a global view of network operations is very easy, and four in five say they are not fully satisfied with the ability to obtain insights from the tools they use. It's no surprise that 84.8% of respondents cannot detect every network issue before problems arise, and 88.8% cannot remediate every issue before problems occur.

Another significant problem is the high rate of false alarms — tool alerts that are ultimately meaningless but require investigation anyway. Remarkably, respondents report that 53% of all alerts are false alarms. This represents a tremendous time sink that likely contributes to three in four respondents saying they are not fully satisfied with their network tooling.

For companies overwhelmed by data storage and a failure to obtain insight, it may be worth deploying observability agents on the edge where data is generated. Such agents can analyze data in real time, so networking teams can bypass the challenges associated with backhauling potentially unused raw data and obtain real-time insight for rapid issue detection and remediation.

Moving forward, it is essential for the people who build network observability tools to understand what networking teams need. This includes deep but dynamically defined data collection with meaningful insights, especially regarding network and application performance, network security, and the end-user experience.

Shannon Weyrick is VP of Research at NS1
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