Observability is important because it provides the raw, granular data necessary to gain an in-depth understanding of complex and highly distributed systems.
The cultural shift towards DevOps dismantled the formerly siloed structure of information to consolidate teams in order to expedite features, fixes, and updates and to bring IT efforts and business objectives into alignment.
As a result, application architecture evolved from a monolithic tech stack to a multi-layered approach including microservices, cloud-native environments, and a trend towards modular infrastructure that functions as a collection of individual components while working together seamlessly. Consequently, application performance monitoring tools were developed to address the challenge of efficiently pinpointing the root cause of an issue in such complex systems. With APM, monitoring data is collected and displayed through customizable dashboards to provide information about when and where an issue may have occurred.
Observability is a specific use case for dev and SREs needing to perform production debugging from high fidelity collected telemetry data.
Monitoring and observability may seem like synonyms, but there are significant differences in who uses them and their respective needs.
To put it simply, monitoring, especially APM, is a higher level tracking of the health of the technology, its users and business outcomes.
Observability is a deeper, more technical approach used by developers and SREs. It requires full fidelity data instead of aggregates and averages to explore the unknowns-unknowns by slicing and dicing high fidelity data in an interactive exploratory way to understand what happened and why in best possible details.
Essentially, monitoring provides visibility that makes it clear when performance issues or bottlenecks occur, where and why at higher level typically for Operations teams. Observability offers deeper views into the technical details needed by engineers in the development and SRE teams. Although the two terms aren't synonymous, the concepts are symbiotic, serving different teams with different needs from the same collected telemetry.
Observability is a growing trend in the DevOps software development methodology due to its many benefits, including:
The ability to witness real-time system performance under various conditions
An abundance of telemetry data that is easily explored, searched, or referenced
Reduced MTTR due to the scope of information available to development and SRE teams
The validation and fined grained understanding that highly distributed applications and systems work as they should
Hear from our customers
“With AppDynamics, our mean time to detection went from hours to less than 10 minutes, which is a huge win for us.”
Nemo Hajiyusuf, Software Engineering Manager, Alaska Airlines