What is full-stack observability, and how can it help? IDC has some insights

December 22 2021

IDC's new white paper delves into full-stack observability — what it is, why it’s different from traditional monitoring and the value that it can provide.

Woman standing in front of a large screen monitoring applications using full-stack observability

As enterprise IT organizations migrate to multi-cloud and cloud native architectures, the need for end-to-end visibility across the technology stack has become critically important. Cloud-based applications, containers, multiple cloud environments and software-defined infrastructure have dramatically heightened the managerial complexity of the fast-moving, global environments required to deliver the best digital experience for retail and business customers.

Full-stack observability — the ability to monitor the entire IT ecosystem with business context — is essential in this hybrid, multi-cloud world where consumers rely on digital services more than ever. Case in point: Our latest App Attention Index report research found a 30% increase in digital services adoption over the past two years. Businesses that fail to invest in their digital transformation face a multitude of risks, including brand damage as well as lost opportunities and revenue.

This IT-focused transformation is putting enormous pressure on companies, 96% of which anticipate negative consequences if their digital efforts don’t go as planned, according to the findings in our Agents of Transformation 2022: Innovating in the Experience Economy report. As AppDynamics Executive CTO Gregg Ostrowski noted recently, they have one shot to get it right, and full-stack observability with business context — insights gleaned from connecting IT performance to business outcomes — can help them offer their customers an optimal digital experience.

Full-stack observability — an evolutionary step

Unlike in past years when company leaders often learned about a service glitch long after it impacted the business, organizations today are awash in data from a myriad of monitoring tools. That’s not necessarily a good thing, though, particularly if their application performance management (APM) tool doesn’t agree with the infrastructure and network tools when determining the root cause of a critical issue.

A new white paper by market research firm IDC provides a cogent view of how full-stack observability is the next advancement beyond traditional monitoring tools siloed by domains. It outlines how it differs from conventional monitoring solutions and benefits multiple stakeholders within an organization, including DevOps, IT and network operations, site reliability engineers (SREs), line of business (LOB) managers, cybersecurity teams and more.

How full-stack observability solves the IT complexity problem

With modern digital services, a user-facing front end that’s both simple and intuitive often means a back end rife with complexity — one with far more interdependencies than ever. A typical cloud native application can have from five to 15 dependencies on other services, resources or application programming interfaces (APIs), according to IDC analysts Stephen Elliot and Mark Leary. And each of these dependencies generates its own set of operational risks and associated data and metrics.

Unsurprisingly, this rising technical complexity heightens the challenge of:

  • Reducing business risk.
  • Finding new revenue opportunities.
  • Enhancing customer satisfaction and worker productivity.


Too often each internal team uses its own discrete tool kit to oversee its walled fiefdom. For instance, AppOps may use a form of APM for application metrics, while the user experience (UX) team looks to Google Analytics for traffic details and the infrastructure folks rely on a data center monitoring system such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). Other teams like SecOps have their own set of tools as well.

The problem? Classic monitoring’s motley assortment of disparate tools can’t share information and insights, thereby denying the company a comprehensive view of potential issues.

Full-stack observability resolves this by empowering a move from a reactive to a proactive stance, say IDC analysts. It enables companies to understand not only the root cause but also the end-to-end context of a potential problem before it impacts the customer experience. For IT teams, full-stack observability transforms siloed data into actionable insights, enabling productive collaboration that enhances the user experience, optimizes costs and performance, and drives revenue.

Conventional monitoring tools can’t deliver these proactive capabilities, in part because they rely on log-based alerts, static graphical displays and traditional search tools. They’re optimized for IT-centric rather than business-centric users, lack security awareness, and provide limited analytics, triggers and actions. By comparison, full-stack observability solutions deliver end-to-end active monitoring, core-to-client visibility, security integration, intelligent analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) integration, and more.

Table comparing monitoring and full-stack observability

Are you ready for full-stack observability? Look no further

AppDynamics is a core component of Cisco full-stack observability, which provides comprehensive visibility, insights and actions from the API to the bare metal and across all data types. This industry-leading solution enables our customers to optimize for performance, cost and security across hybrid and multi-cloud environments for both traditional on-prem and cloud native applications.

>>> Interested in learning more about the critical importance of full-stack observability in today’s complex IT environments? The IDC white paper is a great resource — get your copy and give it a read today.

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