Observability seems to be the fashionable term for what we used to call monitoring, but is it really that simple? Observability is much more than a word game when used in the IT Application / Service Delivery arena.
A bit of history may help give a clear picture of Observability. As a concept, it originated in the mathematics subfield of control systems engineering. The study of Control Theory dates back to the 1870s when Edward Roth developed the idea of Controllability and Observability of sensor data as a continual feedback mechanism. They were recognized as key concepts that have evolved into manufacturing automation. The continuous, never-ending feedback concept reminds me of the Möbius loop, the never-ending edge that represents the infinity sign and the inspiration for our company’s name.
During the last 150 years, the Observability concept expanded from the manufacturing arena to include the current day Application Performance Management and Digital Omnichannel Solution areas. The transition from old-school monitoring of infrastructure (compute, network and storage) to an Observability posture implies differences in culture, technologists and underlying technology.
Observability dovetails into organizations that are practicing Agile development methodologies and are embracing Dev/Ops concepts for the SDLC. Observability as a culture is the degree to which a team or company values the ability to inspect and understand systems, their workloads and their behavior. Companies that have a strong observability culture often have specific observability teams, although they may not be named as such.
Critical to the overall success of an Observability culture is Site Reliability Engineering (SRE). This role provides a bridge between developers releasing code and operators maintaining infrastructure impacted by code. On top of this, it shifts some of the monitoring workload onto development.
Observability-focused organizations often embrace emerging feedback approaches, modernizing from polling-based infrastructure monitors to very robust and detailed streaming sensors. Streaming instrumentation provides more granular level of fidelity but requires a more scalable approach to data collection, storage and analysis approaches.
Möbius Partners has helped customers leverage Observability to achieve goals successfully in several ways:
• A major electrical utility provider implemented log analytics technology to gain transaction insights for millions of electrical utility exchange transactions daily. The utility gained real-time visibility into transaction error code and queue performance. This transaction insight provided their operational support team with the information needed to exceed SLA / OLA and avoid the ramification of government-mandated penalty situations for failed transaction.
• A large telecom provider brought Möbius Partners in to help architect and implement an Observability solution for a new Cassandra-based solution for their text messaging reporting and billing system. We partnered with the customer to instrument the Cassandra application to transform transaction data into indexed searchable information. The solution leveraged several technologies integrated together to provide scalable insight. Those technologies included: Telegraph to collect data and metrics, Jolokia for Cassandra JMX endpoint query interface, and Splunk to collect logs and present insights to information.
• Möbius Partners teamed up with a large private grocery store’s IT and application owners to give Insights into a new pharmacy application, which is viewed as a high-value business line for the retailer. The goal was to ensure a positive pharmacy customer experience by providing insight into the new application’s performance and availability. We consulted on the application’s architecture and deployed the New Relic APM solution for infrastructure and application insights. Additionally, Splunk log analytics were leveraged in the solution to bring together ops/sec insights into the Observability solution.
As with these examples, Möbius Partners can support your organization on the path to an Observability culture. Please let us know if we can help you and your organization.
Practice Manager DevOps and Observability