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IRL: Cisco Live 2022 goes full-stack o11y

Observability, or o11y, looks more deeply and broadly into an IT environment than traditional IT monitoring. At Cisco Live in June, Cisco unveiled plans for full-stack o11y.

A couple of weeks ago was Cisco Live 2022 in Las Vegas, where two colleagues and I spent time with the Cisco teams, diving deep into their announcements.

My colleague Bob Laliberte has given his perspective on the networking and network observability updates, while Paul Nashawaty unpacked what Cisco was announcing for developers. The overall takeaway was that, by all measures, Cisco delivered new products that customers were hoping for -- and new methods to consume those products.

Cloud talk

From talking to many customers in attendance, there was a sense of relief to finally see more cloud-based or SaaS-delivered products. This included the new AppDynamics Cloud.

For some customers, all this "cloud talk" caused some confusion, however, about which product they should use and whether they were being forced to transition. But overall, most of the customers seemed pleased with the announcements. This is not surprising, as our research shows that 76% of organizations will procure their technology as a service. This just takes it to the next logical step: delivering it as SaaS.

The future looks cloud-native

As Paul mentions in his blog, I was pleased to see some of the forward-looking, cloud-native products taking the main stage with Liz Centoni, chief strategy officer and GM of Applications. The two projects announced were Panoptica, a cloud-native security product for the software-supply chain, and Calisti, the service mesh manager Istio platform.

So, why are these announcements important?

In the past, Cisco shied away from giving a glimpse into potential products and from discussing its open source work. Cisco is making commitments and becoming a top 10 contributor -- and did in May -- to open source projects, such as OpenTelemetry. This is not the first time Cisco has been a top 10 contributor to open source, but rather one of the more visible investments.

In the research ESG has done recently, organizations with a higher number of applications (500+) are 53% more likely to identify open source as "very strategic." Within those same organizations, the top three reasons for open source being "very strategic" were reliability, security and being more innovative.

What does Cisco mean by 'full-stack' observability?

While I think calling what Cisco is doing "full-stack" observability is a bit of a reach, I get why the vendor is using that term. Full stack is a phrase commonly associated with "full-stack developer," defined as "a type of programmer that has functional knowledge of all techniques, languages and systems engineering concepts required in software development." This is not what Cisco intended to cover with its products, but some features that go deeper in the developer persona are on the roadmap.

Through the acquisition of AppDynamics, InterSight and ThousandEyes -- plus the addition of some internally developed modeling engines and embracing open source -- Cisco has a lot of the parts and pieces to cover what they refer to as full stack, consisting of physical network and servers, virtualized resources and cloud-native application observability use cases. The vendor is currently focused on seven use cases, broken down into three categories:

  • Security. Security focuses on the entire application -- wherever it lives -- and uses multiple pieces of the above-mentioned Cisco products.
  • Optimization. Cisco is focusing on hybrid cost optimization and application resource optimization, which is mainly contained in one of the modules of InterSight.
  • Performance. The largest set of use cases lies in the performance tower, with focuses on hybrid application monitoring, modern cloud-native monitoring, customer digital experience monitoring and application dependency mapping. These sets of use cases are solved, once again, in part by AppDynamics, InterSight, ThousandEyes and the open source projects Cisco is working on bringing to market.

Cisco can rightfully claim that it has full-stack observability. But, right now, it is done through multiple interfaces or multiple single panes of glass. There was some discussion about building a unified data platform to share data among the different platforms. This is not an easy problem to solve. One place where Cisco is building new observability capabilities on an existing platform is Nexus Cloud monitoring, which is built on top of InterSight.

The bigger truth

It will take some time for Cisco to pay out the promise of full-stack observability. Like with Nexus, the vendor is also expanding the integration of ThousandEyes with other infrastructure platforms to have more consistent coverage, even when the hardware is not Cisco. This reminds me of the days in the late '90s when many network management startups were aimed at the "manager of managers" (MOM) market. Some did this better than others and were bought up: Micromuse was bought by IBM, SMARTS bought by EMC and CA bought by Concord Network Health, amid other consolidation in the MOM market. I would say that you will see Cisco and others continue to invest in this market. Applications are being built in a more distributed and componentized way every day. This complexity will feed the need for observability.

ESG is a division of TechTarget.

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