What is Applied Observability? Why is it important? and why does every organizations need it? What benefits does it bring, and what happens if an organization lacks it?
The term "Observability" is derived from two words: "Observe," meaning the act of observing, combined with "Ability," signifying capability. Applied Observability, in simple terms, refers to the ability to observe and understand a system's behavior.
For example, everyone has probably watched spy movies, right?
Spies have a primary duty, which is to infiltrate, surveil, gather information from the opposing side, relay crucial information swiftly to their own side, and then strategize based on that information. Moreover, they adapt their plans to various situations. Beyond that, they can address specific problems if danger arises. This is akin to having Observability, not just monitoring to see if there's a certain number of enemies in a particular location. It involves infiltrating every point with information, allowing us to understand the enemy group's size, weaponry, and plans. This, in turn, enables us to plan and respond effectively to the situation at hand.
Adding Observability to our IT system makes resource management easier because we can continuously monitor the system's performance. For example, we can receive alerts when our server's CPU usage exceeds normal levels or when our application crashes. When such incidents occur, Observability helps us investigate the root causes of the problems, allowing us to be prepared for any future events. Additionally, we can use this data to assess our budget estimates annually.
Observability consists of three main components, following the theory of 3 Pillars of Observability.
1. Metrics: It is the type of data that we can measure over a period of time.
For example, typical metrics could include the time it takes for an application to open, the error rate within an hour, or business-related data such as the number of customers using our application daily. All of these fall under the category of metrics. We utilize this metric data to create dashboards, making it convenient for users or data analysts to visualize and interpret the information.
2. Logs: Logs are something everyone looks for when an event occurs. We typically start by investigating logs to find a way to debug, making it a good and essential component of Observability.
3. Traces: This indicates how each request entering our application performs. Within a single request, there might be interactions with multiple systems, such as application servers, database servers, or systems both on the cloud and on-premise. We can observe the entire journey from the beginning to the end, known as end-to-end observability.
When these three components - Metrics, Logs, and Traces - are combined, it significantly simplifies troubleshooting and management within an organization.
Once we understand what observability is and its components, let's delve into the concept of Applied Observability.
Applied Observability involves leveraging the data obtained through observation to derive maximum benefits for every team. Whether it's the Business team, Developer team, or Operations team, this approach aims to make the most out of the abundance of data within an organization. This involves various processes, including data storage, processing, and numerous other steps until the data is ready for practical use.
The goal of Applied Observability is to reduce time and minimize communication gaps or errors between teams, facilitating rapid planning and decision-making. Having Applied Observability doesn't mean isolating teams or preventing interactions. In fact, having teams that oversee various aspects of the system is highly beneficial. However, Observability comes into play by streamlining what is referred to as the data layer – each team having its own set of data.
While having teams manage their specific data is efficient, retrieving information across teams can be challenging and time-consuming. Applied Observability addresses this challenge by consolidating data from the same events into a unified space. This simplifies the narrative and makes everything more accessible. No need for extensive calls or emails; Observability helps reduce the layers of data or data layers, allowing everyone to access the same information in one place.
For small organizations, searching for or forwarding information may not be a significant concern. However, for large organizations with an immense influx of data each day, these data might be scattered across different platforms. The process of exporting, forwarding, or analyzing this data on a daily basis can become intricate. This becomes even more critical for heavily used applications, such as banking applications handling numerous daily transactions like fund transfers and scans. Even a mere minute of delay can have significant consequences, such as a decrease in revenue.
It is evident that the performance of an application is crucial. Slow and unresponsive applications can be frustrating and discourage users from using them extensively. This directly impacts the overall performance and user experience.
For example, a recent incident involved a delivery application that sent a rapid influx of notifications, numbering in the hundreds within a few minutes. This event resulted in a significant backlash on the application's Facebook page, leading to a wave of negative reactions. Many users went to the extent of uninstalling the application. To mitigate the fallout, the application had to offer discounts as compensation for the erroneous notifications. However, this gesture incurred additional costs in managing the situation. If the application decides to offer discounts as part of a marketing campaign to regain users, it further adds to the expenses. This illustrates the risks organizations face when abnormalities occur in their IT systems.
Therefore, if we Apply Observability within the organization to plan and manage risks, we can real-time monitor and identify issues through Metrics, Logs, and Traces. We can utilize this data to create dashboards or conduct analyses, establishing use cases to be prepared for unforeseen events without the need for speculation. This allows us to have backup plans and go a step further by integrating with DevOps or various automation tools. This integration enables the system to perform self-healing or self-maintenance automatically when issues arise, reducing the need for manual intervention and saving time. Through Observability, the system can achieve self-healing, decreasing the number of personnel required for monitoring and troubleshooting.
There are numerous tools available to assist in observability, ranging from open-source to platform-based solutions. Each tool possesses distinct capabilities, and Gartner regularly ranks them in the Magic Quadrant every year. Tools in the "Leader" quadrant are considered highly effective, providing users with a range of options based on their preferences. However, in terms of value for investment, we recommend exploring platform-based tools. These tools, purchased once, allow observation across every segment, including application performance, digital experience, application security, and even automation through integration with various DevOps tools within the organization. This is a one-time investment that proves cost-effective.
Thank you to all readers. See you in the next article!