Emergent observability topics at KubeCon 2023

New use cases like cost management, sustainability and scalability will lead observability discussions in the North American KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2023 conference.

There are worse places for a conference than Chicago in November, but not many. Windy City weather aside, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation's 4-day flagship conference -- KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2023, set for Nov. 6-9 -- will bring 12,000 Kubernetes and cloud-native adopters and technologists together, along with 100+ sponsors eager to show off their latest offerings. 

This year's event expects to be the largest to date and features nearly 200 sessions in the catalog: 30 related to AI/ML, 35 tagged as security, 26 on operations and performance, and 16 dedicated to observability. Observability is the increasingly important approach to monitoring and managing complex, distributed multi-cloud and cloud-native applications. We expect to see full stack offerings from Cisco and other major players, as well as many interesting point products on data reduction approaches like Cribl, data pipeline and workflows like Chronosphere, and Kubernetes and container monitoring, a core capability of most observability offerings. 

Our latest ESG survey -- "Distributed Cloud Series: Observability and Demystifying AIOps," -- found that 85% of organizations with observability practices use six or more tools to collect data from their application environments. That number appears to be growing, making observability a major forward-looking investment area. In addition to the traditional use cases for observability, such as application performance monitoring and infrastructure monitoring, there are several emerging use cases that solve increasingly important problems that stem from cloud native adoption. Let's look at three prominent observability topics to watch for in the upcoming conference.

Cost management 

"Business Observability: FinOps at Grafana Labs" with Richard Hartmann will look at using OpenCost and Prometheus for managing Kubernetes costs. As a discipline and a career path, FinOps has been growing rapidly, and open source tools have an important role to play in making FinOps accessible to the broadest range of customers. 

Complementary to data, made available by major cloud providers, open source observability tools can provide an important feedback mechanism to developers in environments where controlling costs is important. I'm looking forward to seeing the Grafana visualizations of this data.


"Energy Observability Using Kepler: Revolutionizing Cloud Efficiency" with Sally O'Malley and Marcelo Amaral will dive into the use of observability data to understand how much energy applications and infrastructure consume. Getting granular consumption data down to the microservices level gives administrators more insight into how workload design and workload placement decisions can affect environmental outcomes.

Greenpixie, a specialist firm that provides cloud emissions data to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint, does something analogous at a commercial level, and I'm interested to see the difference in approaches. O'Malley and Amaral will also show PEAKS, a power and energy-aware Kubernetes Scheduler developed using the Kepler observability framework that takes advantage of this data for automatic energy savings. 


Even though observability is widely adopted, frustration with application instrumentation, data overload, storage consumption and cost are widespread. Our April 2023 ESG survey found that 7% of midsize and large organizations reported no problems related to their observability rollouts.

Against this backdrop, Charity Majors of honeycomb.io (who literally wrote the book on observability) and others will present "Observability in the Cloud Native Era: Why is it Still So Hard?" During this session they'll discuss the operational friction that happens when multiple tools are used and how leveraging open source technologies -- like OpenTelemetry, Prometheus or Grafana -- can reduce friction. They'll also provide insight on how to prevent incidents and outages from happening in the first place.  

Even though Chicago isn't perhaps my first choice of cities to visit in November, KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2023 is my top choice for a cloud-native observability conference. With a projected record attendance, many expected commercial product and open source project announcements, this year's KubeCon promises to be overwhelmingly informative with important developments that will affect observability in 2024. 

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget. Its analysts have business relationships with technology vendors.

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