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What is Observability in DevOps? Its Advantages & Drawbacks

StarAgilecalenderDecember 12, 2022book15 minseyes2095

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Observability refers to the ability of a system to generate data about its behaviour. In other words, a system can tell you what's happening inside it. The best way to think about observability is by comparing it with the human body: If you have a fever, you don't know why you have a fever until you see a doctor. The doctor will perform tests on you and then tell you what's wrong with your body in a way that makes sense for humans (even if it might not make sense for computers).

Observability can be used at all levels of software development — from individual functions up through entire systems and applications. You can use observability when you need information about what's happening to decide how to fix problems or improve performance. For example, if one server isn't responding correctly, having access to observability logs could help identify the cause of this issue quickly so you can fix it before it becomes worse or more widespread.

Importance of Observability in DevOps

Observability is the practice of monitoring and observing the behaviour of a system over time. It helps you understand how your software works and where it can be improved.

For example, imagine you have a mobile app that allows users to check into their favourite coffee shop. If there is no observability in place, you won't be able to tell if your users are actually checking into their favourite coffee shops or just pressing a button on your app daily.

Observability aims to increase transparency into how your application works so that you can make better decisions about how to improve it.

Components of Observability

Observability is about making your system predictable, understandable and safe for everyone involved. It's about understanding what happened in the past (retrospective), anticipating what may happen in the future (proactive) and explaining why something happened (diagnostic).

Observability can be broken down into three components:

Metrics

Metrics are a category of measures used in many fields (such as education) for specific purposes (such as assessing learning). The term may be used differently depending on the subject area: it may be used narrowly to refer to quantitative measures (for example, test scores), more broadly to include qualitative measures (for example, essays or performances), or very broadly to include all types of measurement or assessment at all levels of generality (for example, statistical measures).

Event Logs

Logs are an essential component of observability. They're the easiest way to collect data about what's happening in your system. Logs can be structured or unstructured, text-based or binary. An application, a server or an operating system can produce them.

Traces

Traces are a fundamental building block for observability. They are an ordered list of events that happened during the execution of an application. Events can be anything from file accesses to database queries, and garbage collection pauses to synchronous method calls.

Advantages Provided by Observability

The benefits of observability are numerous, including:

  • It helps identify faults faster. When you have observability tools in place, you'll be able to detect errors quickly and fix them before they cause problems for users.
  • It makes debugging easier. Observability lets you see what happens if something goes wrong in production by providing insights into the system state. You'll be able to see what data was involved in an error, why it occurred, and how it relates to other events in the system.
  • It improves understanding of complex systems. Observability gives you visibility into how your entire system works — from individual components to user interactions with your website or mobile app. This way, you can more easily understand where bottlenecks are occurring or where there are opportunities for optimisation.
  • It helps teams collaborate better through shared responsibility for monitoring, troubleshooting and improving performance across their infrastructure stack.

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Common Drawbacks of Observability

As with any tool, observability has its own set of drawbacks. When using observability, it’s essential to understand the potential downsides to use them wisely and avoid any issues.

The following are some common drawbacks:

Uneven Information Distribution

When an organisation becomes too large, it can become challenging to disseminate information across all teams. This can lead to a lack of awareness among team members and a lack of accountability for performance.

Absence of Proper Tools

One of the biggest challenges with observability is that there are no tools for monitoring everything you might need. For example, if you want to observe the performance of your API endpoints, you will have to use different tools than if you wanted to monitor the logs from your app server.

This means that instead of using one tool for everything, you will have to use multiple devices without integration. This makes it harder for developers to get a clear picture of their system and leads to poor observability overall.

Lacking Alerting System

The most crucial part of observability is an alerting system that can alert you when something goes wrong with your system. Without an alerting system, it's impossible to know when something goes wrong or if it goes wrong.

Without an alerting system, it's impossible to know when something goes wrong or if it goes wrong.

Best Methods for Observability in DevOps

Many tools and techniques are available to make your software more observable. These methods can help you to identify performance bottlenecks, understand how your application is used, and detect bugs early.

Here are the best ways to be followed for observability in DevOps:

1) Use the right tool for the job

2) Collect metrics and logs from all layers of your application stack

3) Store your metrics in a centralised location for easy access

4) Visualise your data with tools like Grafana or Graphite

5) Measure end-to-end latency from users' perspective

Wrapping Up

Observability is a critical concept in DevOps. It's also one of the most challenging ideas to explain, with many different definitions.

With DevOps online training, you'll learn about observability in DevOps. The DevOps course will explore the concepts behind observability and how to implement it at the application and infrastructure levels. You will also learn about the different tools and techniques for implementing observability in your organisation. Sign up for a course of your choice at StarAgile Consulting.

 

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