When customers engage with organizations, they expect seamless experiences. Consequently, companies are trying to determine how to use software to meet customer demands for top-notch customer experiences.
Enterprises must ensure their infrastructures scale to meet the demands of users on their busiest days while continuing to deliver the best possible customer experiences. Observability, an up-to-date approach to data management, helps companies deliver reliable customer experiences and improve the bottom line despite increasingly complex digital enterprises.
In other words, observability comprises practices, tools and strategies that enable developers to bring together and analyze data from distributed applications so that they can more easily monitor, investigate and actively fix applications, and prevent problems from happening again.
Observability capabilities enable developers to figure out what's going on inside a software system using external measures, such as metrics, log files and traces. A good observability practice means companies must use external data to understand the entirety of the internal state of all the systems, applications and infrastructure they manage.
Observability lets developers query systems to troubleshoot or prevent issues in real time, emphasizing the user experience rather than how individual system components perform. An essential part of rapid incident response is determining the root cause of the issue, which depends on observability strategies, such as collecting data from logging and distributed tracing.
Goals of observability
Observability's main goal is to enable teams to be aware of what's occurring throughout their environments, identify and fix issues to ensure the systems are reliable and efficient, and keep customers happy. Observability helps companies drive operating efficiencies, innovation and growth.
By looking at the outputs of their systems, observability helps teams understand a software system's performance, status and health, including when and why errors happen. Although the responsibility of keeping complex systems up and running falls to IT operations teams and site reliability engineers, everyone throughout the software development lifecycle should be concerned about observability.
Observability also helps enterprises ensure they comply with the legal obligation to protect corporate data from cyber attacks, as they can use observability to identify breaches and prevent information leaks.
In addition, observability enables developers to understand how updates affect customers' experiences in real time and helps engineers understand why a failure occurred, not just that it occurred.
Ultimately, the practice of observability is about running an organization successfully. Observability provides visibility into enterprises' systems, enabling them to better understand what their customers want -- and how best to deliver what they want in terms of stability, functionality and performance.
Goals of the observability maturity model
As they continue on their observability journeys, teams that are more mature in their observability practices realize better business outcomes, including deploying software more often, finding bugs faster before and after releasing software into production, and helping developers reduce burnout.
The goals of the observability maturity model include enabling organizations to do the following:
- Enhance their customers' experiences.
- Boost software delivery speed and reduce the time to get products to market.
- Operate more efficiently.
- Improve business performance, uptime and reliability.
- Understand the performance of their systems from beginning to end and the effect of technical debt on the business.
- Visualize context-rich events that enable on-call processes that are focused, efficient and actionable.
- Prioritize how to respond to the feedback and behaviors of users.
- Totally or mostly automate releases, which means less work.
- Establish and measure service-level objectives, enabling the engineering department and the business to align their goals.
- Stick to predictable release cycles because developers can confidently address issues that arise.
Observability maturity model framework
Organizations that are establishing observability practices must have guidelines and an understanding of how various facets of the practice can affect the business.
The framework for the observability maturity model gives teams the necessary tools and structure to analyze the observability practices they have in place and move them forward. The aim is to deliver the best experiences to customers.
The observability maturity model framework includes these five key areas:
- Show resilience when responding to system failures. Resilience is the adaptive capacity of organizations' teams, along with the services they're supporting, that enables them to restore service and minimize the effect on customers. As such, companies must measure how their people and their systems respond to emergencies to measure the maturity of their emergency response processes. Observability is related to resilience, as skills are dispersed across teams so that all team members can handle issues as they arise.
- Ensure quality of code. Companies must have high-quality code to have successful engineering teams and happy customers. High-quality code enables developers to more easily determine when and how processes are failing, as well as detect and repair vulnerabilities. High-quality observability lets developers use the same tools to debug code on one machine or thousands of machines.
- Establish predictable releases. Predictable releases are critical to making customers and developers happy. Therefore, a stable, predictable, frequent release cadence is crucial for almost every organization, as the cadence at which software is shipped defines the business. Observability is how developers understand the build pipeline and production. It also lets developers know if any tests are slow or always failing, shows any patterns in build failures, and identifies other issues as well.
- Manage complexity and technical debt. Code with high technical debt is code that developers have selected that offers quick solutions rather than code that is architecturally stable. If not managed properly, selecting this type of code can lead to higher costs in the long run because maintenance will be expensive and any additional revisions will depend on how much they cost. Observability helps teams understand how their systems perform from beginning to end and enables them to quickly fix failures.
- Understand user behavior. Developers and product managers must understand how their software affects users. To manage products effectively and determine how they affect customers, teams need access to relevant data. Observability enables teams to generate the necessary data to understand what their users are doing so that they can build the right products for them.