Observability has become a very hot topic in the world of application development and IT operations but understanding what it is and how you can effectively leverage it to support modern apps is also important to anyone with responsibilities in the area of cloud architecture. On our latest multi-cloud podcast, Eric Nielsen (@ericnpro) and I (@davidj7494) speak with Harmen Vanderlinde [BIO] about a new framework for achieving observability that he and his team have been working on. Harmen is a Senior Director in VMware’s Office of the CTO where he heads up the Cloud Data Platforms Team.
Monitoring or Observability – What’s the difference?
We started our conversation by looking at the differences between monitoring and observability. If you do a quick internet search on the differences you generally find something along the lines of the following. Monitoring is associated with metrics collection in a siloed manner from infrastructure in the data center. Observability on the other hand is associated with a more comprehensive approach to metric collection, that looks at the application holistically in order to understand how that application is performing.
While this view isn’t entirely wrong it somewhat misses the point. Monitoring has roots in the data center where legacy applications have historically been fairly static. Consumers of the data tended to be IT operations teams that were responsible for managing an IT infrastructure stove pipe – such as compute, storage or networking.
Observability extended the concepts of monitoring to a new environment and to a new audience. That new environment was a public cloud running modern applications. This new environment involved orders of magnitude more objects to manage and these objects were far more dynamic in nature than anything that was running in the data center.
The audience was different as well. That new audience was the SRE. The SRE was much more involved in the development of the application than traditional IT Ops and as such they needed data earlier in the process and data that that was both more comprehensive and more actionable. These requirements gave rise to a need for both new technology and techniques. Observability was the result.
New Observability Framework – a work in progress
After a level set on what observability is and how it relates to monitoring, we turned our attention to a discussion of a new observability framework that Harmen and his team have been working on. A detailed white-paper on that framework that Harmen and this team authored can be found here. Figure 1 below, is taken from this white-paper. Harmen also did a session on this topic at last year’s VMworld that can be found here.
Figure 1: Observability Framework
During the podcast, Harmen walked us through each level of the framework and explained what it was and how the levels interacted to address observability objectives. Harmen also discussed with us several specific use cases that leverage the framework to address the needs of personas that included application developers, application production support and security and compliance professionals.
Figure 2 below, also from the white-paper, includes the above use cases (and personas) along and with some additional use cases that we didn’t have a chance to discuss. The type of telemetry data that is required to support each use case is also included.
Figure 2: Observability Use Cases
We wrapped up a very lively discussion with Harmen by talking about the state of observability in today’s marketplace. Below are a few of the observations that Harmen discussed with us. These and others are discussed in depth in the white-paper.
- No universal definition (yet) for observability
- Multiple standardization efforts for observability
- Observability instrumentation is becoming day one requirement for new micro-services
Listen to the podcast
The podcast provides a great way to get a high-level view of a new observability framework that if adopted can help you improve the performance of your application portfolio and also help you unify the way you manage your application portfolio. Everything from traditional to modern apps, running on premises or in the cloud. You also get to hear about it directly from one of the lead authors this framework. You can get the podcast on Spotify, SoundCloud or YouTube.
Check out other podcast related to multi-cloud architecture and how VMware technologies can help address challenges in this area check out the SoundCloud playlist on this topic.
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