What’s With All the New Observability Tools?

Organizations struggle with getting the right visibility into their environments. Better visibility can improve performance, increase uptime (or decrease downtime, depending on your perspective) and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Finding the right tool, however, can be a real challenge. Making matters even worse, vendors seem to be announcing new observability platforms every day. Full Stack Observability, Hybrid Cloud Observability, Unified Observability are just some of the new “products” I’ve seen recently. Should your organization be running after these shiny new tools?

While messaging has shown incremental improvements, the reality is that most offerings are simply existing tools with rebranded messaging.

The Flavors of Observability Tools, Demystified

Observability is the current hot buzzword, and every vendor wants to get in on it. But because the term observability is being used in numerous ways that are all independent of each other, the term is becoming more and more meaningless. A quick search shows vendors offering the following types of observability (and I’m sure there are plenty more):

  • Observability
  • Full stack observability
  • Unified observability
  • Network observability
  • Hybrid observability
  • Cloud observability
  • Observability suite

With this many different uses of the term observability, how can you figure out what they mean, what they do, and if you need them or not? Every vendor pitching some sort of observability tells you that they are the only solution you need and will solve all your problems. That may be true, but again, how can you tell?

Do you really want to go out and evaluate products in each of these (and probably more) categories? How long will it take to run full evaluations on at least seven different types of products? More importantly, how do you compare different products to each other? Can you really compare a network observability product with a cloud observability product? If you try, are you going to really be able to figure out which is better?

Based on just the words, one of these products appears to focus on the network and one on the cloud. But if I have both physical and cloud infrastructures to monitor, do I need both or will one suffice? And, just to complicate matters, as we discussed in a previous blog post, the term observability is not really being used the way it should be anyway.

Monitoring vs Observability – What Tool Do I Really Need?

So, as we asked in the opening, should your organization be pursuing one of these observability tools instead of looking at monitoring or visibility? The answer has nothing to do with vendor descriptions and entirely to do with what your real needs are. In their writeup on Network Observability from the “Hype Cycle for Monitoring, Observability and Cloud Operations, 2021” Gartner states:

Monitoring vs Observability - What Tool Do I Really Need?“Avoid selecting or paying a premium for products because they’re marketed as network observability. Investing in such tools and expecting that they will provide more or better functionality/visibility than traditional visibility/monitoring solutions is unrealistic and unnecessary. The functionality they offer is not different or unique from those provided by network monitoring tools.”

This same sentiment of focusing on your needs and not the marketing buzzwords, should be applied to every tool purchase. Don’t acquire a tool because it is called an observability solution. Acquire a tool because you can see and understand how it will help you and your organization:

  • Reduce application downtime – So your customers (whether they are external or internal customers) are able to access the systems they need when they need them without being impacted by issues.
  • Improve the productivity of your teams – So they can get the things they need to get done more efficiently and effectively.
  • Focus on the actual problem – And stop trying to figure out what or where the problem is.
  • Allow your employees to focus – On performing their actual jobs instead of constantly fighting fires.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Whether the tool is called visibility, monitoring, management or observability is irrelevant. The real question you should be asking yourself is “how is this tool helping our organization achieve its objectives?” A tool that calls itself observability (and charges you for the privilege) but does not help move towards that goal is pointless.

Netreo provides loads of useful information on evaluating tools to optimize your network, especially through digital transformation. Our on-demand webinar series includes helpful tips on aligning your needs with the right tools, including:

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