Observability vs. Monitoring

By Grant Swanson,July 2, 2024

Observability vs. Monitoring in Modern DevOps

While often used interchangeably, observability and monitoring have distinct roles and purposes. Understanding their differences and how they complement each other is crucial for any organization aiming to maintain robust and reliable systems.

Monitoring: The Traditional Approach

Monitoring has been a staple of IT operations for decades. It involves collecting predefined metrics to understand the state of systems and ensure they are functioning as expected. This practice focuses on gathering data about specific components, such as CPU usage, memory consumption, and network latency. These metrics help operations teams to identify issues like poor application response times, decreased I/O performance, and failed database operations.

Here are a few problems that we consistently encounter with customers who are using a traditional monitoring tool like DataDog, New Relic or Splunk:

  • Traditional Monitoring does not allow you to troubleshooting from the signal to root cause
  • You need to jump between different dashboards, metrics and logs, because the data is disjointed and often siloed across multiple tools
  • You need to figure out how data is correlated based on knowledge of the system and prior experience

Observability: The Modern Imperative

Observability is a more recent and comprehensive approach. It involves analyzing a system’s outputs—such as logs, metrics, and traces—to infer its internal state. Observability provides a holistic view of the entire infrastructure, enabling teams to pinpoint the root causes of issues, especially in complex, distributed environments.

Why Observability Matters

In today’s IT landscape, applications often span multiple clouds, utilize microservices, and involve intricate dependencies. Traditional monitoring tools, which were sufficient for simpler, monolithic applications, struggle to provide the necessary insights in this new context. Observability fills this gap by offering:

  • High Cardinality and Dimensionality with Metrics Explorer: Observability platforms like Observe handle and analyze data with numerous attributes and values, essential for understanding complex systems. With Metrics Explorer, you can create unlimited custom metrics to track exactly what’s important to you. Whether it’s digging into related logs and traces instantly, changing visualizations on the fly, or getting to the root cause of an issue quickly, high cardinality data is no problem.
  • Rapid Troubleshooting and Reduced Incident Response Times with Log and Trace Explorer: Observability allows for faster incident response through real-time data analysis. With Log Explorer, you can move from legacy log searches to logs with context. Live Mode provides real-time data for time-sensitive troubleshooting, and schema-on-demand lets you structure logs on the fly, even generating regexes automatically with O11y GPT. Additionally, Trace Explorer gives you all your “RED” metrics upfront to monitor request rate, errors, and duration in your services. This enables you to move seamlessly from application services to individual traces, view spans, and pivot to logs to pinpoint the root cause.

Integrating Observability and Monitoring

While monitoring focuses on capturing predefined metrics and alerting teams to known issues, observability digs deeper, providing context and insights into the underlying causes. Together, they form a powerful toolkit for managing modern IT environments. Monitoring can highlight immediate issues, while observability can diagnose complex problems, ensuring faster and more effective resolutions.

Conclusion

In today’s dynamic IT environments, it’s time to shift the paradigm from traditional monitoring to comprehensive observability. At Observe, we champion the motto: “Stop Monitoring. Start Observing.” This approach transcends the limitations of legacy monitoring systems, which often force companies to compromise on observability data due to prohibitive costs. These compromises create blind spots as crucial data is relegated to cold storage, impacting core business operations that ultimately lead to a poor customer experience.

The Observe architecture allows companies to ingest more data at a lower cost than any legacy monitoring vendor. Our observability platform can handle petabyte-scale data and seamlessly integrates logs, metrics, and traces, ensuring that no vital information is left behind. By leveraging our product, organizations gain comprehensive insights into their systems, enabling end-to-end troubleshooting from client to backend and reducing incident response times. 

Stop settling for partial visibility and the inherent risks it brings. Gain unparalleled insights, optimize performance, and secure your systems without breaking the bank. It’s time to move beyond the old ways and step into a new era of observability, where every piece of data is a valuable asset for your business success. Explore how the Observability Cloud can transform your DevOps practices, stay tuned for our upcoming webinars and blog posts.