2021 IT Ops Prediction: Observability
February 11, 2021
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Cloud-based innovations like microservices, containers and orchestration let developers code better, faster, but the underlying infrastructure becomes dynamic and ephemeral, and service-level interactions are hard to see. It's a critical evolution, but the rapid change reduces visibility, predictability and control. Hence, observability.

Going beyond traditional application or infrastructure monitoring, observability helps you understand how your systems and processes (aka your business) are operating. The Silicon Valley mantra to "fail fast" works better when you also have the ability to "learn more" and "find and fix fast."

In a complex hybrid/multicloud world, instrumenting the right tools to provide effective observability will (and should) keep IT leaders busy in 2021.


The addition of cloud technology to existing on-premises or hybrid infrastructures increases the complexity for practitioners. Even cloud-first or cloud-native organizations add new complexity as they adopt new technologies or techniques, such as a microservices approach that brings containers, Kubernetes and service mesh into the organization. All of which needs to be not just monitored, but observed and secured.

"The way that people build applications is evolving very quickly, from applications that lived in a Java virtual machine in the data center to a model where it's entirely in the cloud, composed of a series of services," says Splunk CTO Tim Tully. "And you need to be able to monitor that application that's now mostly in the cloud, talking to mobile devices. That 180-degree change is naturally driving rapid adoption of observability tools."

Observability differs from monitoring in that monitoring tools tell you when something's wrong, while observability tools give you the what, along with insight into why, and therefore how to remediate. It's essential as software architectures shift to a modern approach. We will still have applications that are run without a cloud-centric or microservices approach, and monitoring the marriage of these different approaches increases complexity.

To establish visibility into cloud environments, monitoring tools must be able to collect and process data at scale and provide advanced analytics and support for automation. Tools also need to see across silos created by discrete tools and applications.

"Traditional monitoring tools don't work across multiple environments. The legacy tools are geared for the on-prem data center," says Splunk CIO Steve McMahon. "And then there's the new class of tools for the cloud. But I don't care about the underlying infrastructure; I need to know what's happening."

Splunk's CPO and SVP of Cloud, Sendur Sellakumar, agrees. "How do you take a retailer's e-commerce or mobile experience and tie it to their backend, SAP supply chain experience?" he asks. "Those are two different systems with materially different ways that they operate, and ways that they're monitored. But you've got to bring those worlds together when you think about, say, a customer buying a pair of shoes on her mobile phone."

This situation is driving an appetite for integrated monitoring solutions, which will push vendors to deliver. "It's an issue we hear about when we talk to customers and investors," Tully notes. "And the need for an integrated approach is only growing."

This is an excerpt from the ebook: Splunk IT Operations Predictions 2021

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