The great Facebook outage of 2021 taught the world many lessons, especially regarding how extensive and costly a networkwide connection issue can be. In Facebook’s case, five hours of downed internet amounted to about $65 million lost. In today’s hyperconnected world of remote work, if IT doesn’t work, work doesn’t get done, and for government agencies, the inability to work would be disastrous. Ensuring mission success today begins with a secure, reliable network and the technologies supporting it. Keeping this system running seamlessly requires full visibility of all assets with the awareness and tools to fix any issues that materialize.
Traditionally, agencies have relied on numerous monitoring tools to watch their networks. According to recent Gartner research, enterprises are reporting having upwards of 15 monitoring tools and are hesitant to add more. But as networks continue to expand and cybersecurity threats loom, a more advanced, proactive monitoring of networks is necessary. Taking traditional monitoring a step further is observability, and many agencies are starting to realize how it can help save time and resources.
Observability is based on three pillars: metrics, traces, and logs. On top of these three traditional pillars, Brandon Shopp, group VP of product at SolarWinds, adds a fourth element equally as important: security. The data and information received from these sources provide deep insight into how a network is running and can alert users on any problems. With an observability solution, log data can easily be compared with other insights to provide a more comprehensive overview of the entire enterprise. Logs can also be cataloged for analysis at a future time or set up to alert for predetermined events. Shopp explained how agencies and organizations operating under unusual schedules, like the U.S. IRS, can take advantage of these seasonality algorithms to set up alerts that understand their unique schedule and environment and won’t cause more work with false positives.
Agencies and organizations are already overwhelmed with monitoring tools and are looking for simplified solutions instead of adding complexities, as evidenced by Gartner’s research. Shopp observes this same sentiment from agencies he works with who are experiencing challenges with IT consolidation and improving efficiency. Although monitoring is at the core of observability, observability differs because it allows for more efficiency with fewer resources as it’s not merely reactionary but is instead based on a proactive response. Current monitoring applications alert users to problems requiring investigation to find the root cause so it can be addressed appropriately. Observability increases agency efficiency by providing specific information and actionable items, speeding up resolution time.
Aimed to address needs not only today but wherever agencies are moving tomorrow, observability helps to hasten the identification and repair of IT issues, saving time and resources. Shopp explained before observability came into play, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) UK outsourced its IT management through approved government vendors, believing this would make them more agile and better protected. Instead, they increased risks and decreased the visibility of the infrastructure. Observability allowed the MoD to bring IT management back in-house and improved its ability to identify and respond to network issues. In the U.S., the Department of Veterans Affairs has experienced similar successes with observability.
Government agencies are seeking new solutions with more capabilities using fewer resources to optimize their work, and a shift to observability is one of those solutions. By using a system’s output, observability allows full visibility into internal issues so they can be quickly addressed. Not only can more be done with less, but observability keeps systems running, avoiding costly interruptions.