What is Observability vs Monitoring?

Heidi Gabrielson

Observability and monitoring are related concepts in the field of IT operations, but they are not the same thing.

Monitoring refers to the practice of collecting and analyzing data from network, applications, infrastructure, and user experience data to detect issues or anomalies. Monitoring typically involves setting up threshold alerts to notify operators or developers when something goes wrong. The goal of monitoring is to provide insight into availability, performance, and usage.

Observability takes monitoring a step further by emphasizing the importance of understanding the internal workings of a system, rather than just monitoring its inputs and outputs. Observability involves collecting and analyzing data at a deeper level and requires full-fidelity cross-domain data to gain a holistic view of system behavior. The aim of observability is to enable proactive detection and resolution of issues, rather than just reactive problem-solving.

Monitoring is a subset of observability
Monitoring is a subset of observability

In short, observability and monitoring are like different sides of the same coin. Monitoring provides a basic level of visibility into a system, while visibility provides a more comprehensive view of performance behavior. Observability takes this even further by emphasizing the need to understand the internal workings of a system to improve its overall performance and reliability.

What is observability?

Observability is a concept used in various fields, including engineering, computer science, and systems analysis, among others. It refers to the ability to understand and analyze the internal workings of a system or process based on the data and information that it produces. Essentially, it is the degree to which we can observe and measure what is happening within a system.

In computer science, observability is often associated with software and application development. It involves the ability to monitor and debug complex software systems by collecting and analyzing data from various sources, such as application logs, metrics, and traces. By doing so, developers can identify and resolve issues within the software and improve its overall quality and performance.

It expands the concept of observability to all IT systems, including the network, infrastructure, applications and user experience. It leverages full-fidelity data, analytics and correlation, and intelligent automation to gather contextual data that supports fast identification and resolution of performance and security issues.

Overall, observability is a crucial concept that enables us to gain insight into the internal workings of complex systems and processes, which can help us improve their performance, reliability, and overall effectiveness.

What is monitoring?

Performance monitoring is the process of tracking and analyzing the performance metrics of a system or process, such as a computer system, network, or application, to ensure that it meets the required performance levels or SLAs (service level agreements). It involves monitoring various metrics, such as response time, throughput, and error rates, and comparing them against predetermined benchmarks or thresholds.

The goal of performance monitoring is to identify and diagnose performance issues, such as slow response times, high resource utilization, or system crashes, and take appropriate action to resolve them. This can involve adjusting system configurations, upgrading hardware or software components, or optimizing code or algorithms.

Performance monitoring is critical for ensuring the efficient and effective functioning of systems and processes, as well as for ensuring customer satisfaction and maintaining business continuity. It is commonly used in industries such as IT, telecommunications, finance, healthcare, and manufacturing to monitor and optimize the performance of critical systems and applications.

Observability and monitoring: what’s the difference?

Observability and monitoring are both important concepts in IT operations, but they have slightly different meanings.

Monitoring generally refers to the process of collecting data about a system, such as its performance, availability, and usage, and using that data to identify and diagnose problems or to optimize performance. Monitoring is typically done using specialized telemetry that collects and analyzes data from various sources, such as from the network or applications.

Observability, on the other hand, is a more holistic concept that refers to the ability to understand and reason about a system’s behavior and performance from its outputs. An observable system is one that provides enough information to allow IT to understand how it is behaving and to diagnose problems more easily. It typically has a well-defined interface that allows IT to collect and analyze data about its behavior.

In summary, monitoring is a subset of observability, where monitoring is a way to gather data about a system, while observability is the ability to reason about that system from its data outputs.

What are the benefits of observability?

There are several benefits of observability, including:

  1. Faster problem detection: With observability, it becomes easier to detect problems as they occur, rather than waiting for user complaints or failures. This can help reduce downtime and improve overall reliability.
  2. Faster problem resolution: Once a problem is detected, observability tools can help pinpoint the root cause of the issue. Riverbed Unified Observability uses intelligent automation to gather supporting evidence and context. This reduces the time it takes to resolve the problem and get the system back up and running.
  3. Better performance: By monitoring key metrics and indicators, observability can help identify performance areas that are not optimal. This can help improve performance of networks, applications, and user experience and prevent potential issues before they occur.
  4. Improved collaboration: Observability tools can provide visibility into the internal state of a system to multiple teams across an organization. This can improve collaboration between teams and help everyone work towards a common goal of improving performance and reliability.
  5. Better customer experiences: By detecting and resolving issues faster, observability can help improve users’ digital experiences, which leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

What is Riverbed Unified Observability?

Riverbed IQ, a SaaS-delivered Unified Observability service, surfaces impactful issues with context to solve problems fast. It leverages key metrics across a full range monitoring telemetry—from the network, infrastructure, applications, and end users—to provide the foundation of unified observability. It applies a diversity of analytics and correlates across five dimensions to group related indicators into a single incident for more accurate alerting and faster problem identification. It then employs intelligent automation that replicates the best practices of IT experts to gather evidence, build context, and set priorities. As a result, IT can fix problems faster and more efficiently.

For more information on Unified Observability and monitoring, click here.

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