Insight: Network Monitoring versus Observability

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Insight: Network Monitoring versus Observability

Aug 05, 2021

Enterprises are bombarded with information. Networks are becoming more complex, organizations are deploying more software, more workflows are containerized, IoT devices are generating more traffic, applications span many geographic regions—the list of influences on the amount of data moving through the network is extensive. With each new pillar in your digital transformation, be it SD-WAN, IoT, containers, etc., you’ll generate more information.

The challenges of all this data becomes apparent when businesses try to manage it at scale using traditional monitoring tools. Existing tools weren’t designed for this volume of information, and few have the ability to tackle huge data streams in a network that’s no longer purely hardware based.

That’s where observability comes in. Achieving observability enables your business to manage, ingest and analyze the vast amounts of data being generated across your network, and then to act on it in a way that improves performance and reduces disruptions.

Organizations are already familiar with monitoring. It continues to be a primary component in good network management practices but the shift toward cloud and more complex services means that traditional monitoring needs to be augment with observability.

Monitoring: An active process involved with collecting instrumentation that identifies when something is broken, and the mechanisms used to notify support staff that corrective action needs to be taken.

Observability: A property, rather than a process, which is true when enough instrumentation is available about the internal state of a system to identify the cause of an anomaly or malfunction even when such a malfunction has never taken place. Tools cannot provide observability, but they may facilitate it.

Why Observability?

Consider an all-too-common scenario:

There’s an outage and your IT group is doing a lot of finger pointing. The network, infrastructure and security teams all put the blame somewhere else, but in reality no one truly knows where the fault occurred.

Observability addresses that issue. It’s the push to move beyond siloed, hardware-based tools and move into the comprehensive tool sets and processes that are needed to monitor the end user digital experience from end user device to where application lives in the cloud, whether it’s SaaS, containerized, etc. Achieving true observability means having good—and timely—information about each hop in the network and the services that run across it.

Monitoring is inherently a reactive process. It’s about polling a device or a service and, if it’s down or not operating at full capacity, IT needs to do something to resolve the problem.

Observability moves your enterprise to a proactive state. You’re able to take multiple sources of data and correlate them with logs, streaming data, APIs, event-based data and a host of other inputs, to provide a true proactive picture of how your network and your services are operating.

Because observability puts critical information in front of you prior to a device going down or a hard problem hitting your network, you can stay ahead of potential disruptions and performance gaps. Observability delivers the right level of information, meaning you can see more things in the network. You have awareness around each hop. If something is happening, observability enables you to lower mean time to repair (MTTR), complete your root cause analysis faster and ultimately cut down on those giant outages that take forever to filter through. Finger pointing and blame are eliminated because you have the information you need to understand exactly what’s happening in your environment.

Developing observability becomes more important as devices—not just end user devices but IoT and others, too—move to the edge. That evolution brings additional complexity and polling physical devices with hardware-based monitoring tools in an increasingly software-based environment no longer provides the awareness you need into your networks underlying performance. An end users device at the edge may be working and the cloud server may be running, but if something is happening to disrupt the quality of the experience between those two, only observability enables you to quickly detect, identify and resolve it.

Achieving Observability

Better tooling and processes are needed to process information quickly in the modern network environment. The right solution leverages AI and ML to gather incoming data from multiple sources, to enrich it and to provide business context around events as they happen. That insight moves your business away from a reactive state and toward a proactive mindset. An upstream failure in the middle mile, a data center or a cloud—one that will surely affect downstream users—can be identified and the remediation doesn’t need to wait until performance issues disrupt your operations. A modern observability platform exposes more data within your network, processes it with AIOps and enables you to take action on that data proactively.

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