Digital transformation: Why observability is critical

Industry experts Jayne Groll and Helen Beal share insights on how observability helps enable digital transformation by providing real-time performance analysis
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Observability tooling has become critical on the road to digital transformation. As DevOps and cloud, the key enablers of digital transformation, guide us towards ever more federated and distributed processes and systems, incidents become more unpredictable, and observability is our best chance for assuring availability.

IT professionals have always dealt with change, but never at the speed of our current digital transformation. The humans of DevOps are being asked to learn and implement new technologies at a pace that often outpaces their current skill level.

Here, industry experts Jayne Groll and Helen Beal share their thoughts on why observability is critical for digital transformation.

Helen Beal, Chief Ambassador, DevOps Institute: “As the world embraces digital transformation, businesses must focus on organizational performance based on observability. Observability is a characteristic of systems; that they can be observed. It’s closely related to a DevOps tenet: ‘telemetry everywhere,’ meaning that anything we implement emits data about its activities. It requires intentional behavior during digital product and platform design and a conducive architecture.

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“It’s not monitoring. Monitoring is what we do when we observe our observable systems and the tools category that largely makes this possible. Since it requires intention, it relies on an organization’s human and cultural aspects for implementation.

“Global digitization puts us firmly in the middle of a technological revolution, and according to Carlota Perez, on the brink of a golden age of prosperity. All around the world, organizations are racing to transition from waterfall (project-centric) ways of working to agile/DevOps (product-centric) ways of working.

“This demands IT leaders change the organizational structure from layers and silos to an organic, cellular design constructed of multifunctional, autonomous teams. That means those teams contain all the skills needed and are empowered to develop and deliver an idea for their product to their customer and service them. Leaders that get this right directly contribute to organizational performance; it’s the difference between being a disruptor or being disrupted.”

Jayne Groll, CEO, DevOps Institute: “Think of the origins of the word ‘observability.’ According to the Oxford dictionary, ‘observe: notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant.’ The ability to ‘observe’ an application and its related elements provides a proactive opportunity to optimize the data, logs, metrics, traces, etc. in order to predict its performance in real time and contribute to root cause analysis when necessary. Observability not only allows for post-production insight into performance; it requires an intention to build observability into the design and development of applications and infrastructure.

“Observability does not replace monitoring; rather, it takes it to the next level, thus enhancing the way we predict and how the software performs. The traditional approach, APM, was more reactive by relying on green, amber, and red dashboards that were available only to a limited operations group.

“Observability as a more proactive approach to telemetry improves real-time collaboration between teams and individuals involved in the software delivery supply chain, each of which may have a unique perception of what they are observing.”

[ Related read Using eBPF for network observability in the cloud ]

Final thoughts

In order to compete in the digital economy, organizations don’t just need to make their culture, processes, and systems highly adaptable; they also have to make them strong enough to withstand the turbulence of continuous change. Monitoring alone is not enough in this new world — the complexity of microservices architectures demands a new, proactive, data-driven approach.

And that’s observability. It makes software performance more predictable and equips teams with the insights they need to ensure the customer experience is optimal and that their digital business will thrive.

Today’s DevOps humans face dynamic, ever-changing digital environments. It is important to master a few essential skills to lead the journey of digital transformation. For more observability knowledge, join SKILup Day: Observability on Oct 20, 2022, live or for a limited time, on-demand. Register here.

Jayne Groll is co-founder and CEO of the DevOps Institute (DOI). Jayne carries many IT credentials including ITIL Expert™, Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Agile Service Manager, DevOps Foundation and is a Certified Process Design Engineer (CPDE)™.