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ASEAN organisations face observability gap

Organisations in Southeast Asia are grappling with a hodgepodge of observability tools and have some way to go before they can achieve full visibility over their technology stacks

Just a third of ASEAN organisations have mature observability practices, with most being held back by a patchwork of observability tools and other challenges that are hindering them from gaining full visibility over their technology stack.

That was one of the key findings that have emerged from New Relic’s 2021 Observability forecast study, which found that 88% of ASEAN respondents believed observability was important and strategic to their business.

To close the gap in their observability efforts, 73% of respondents expected to increase their observability budget in the coming year, with 19% expecting budgets to increase significantly.

“IT teams are under an unprecedented amount of pressure to ensure that they keep up with the pace of innovation demanded by customers. This means shipping new features fast, while ensuring downtime is kept to a minimum,” said Ben Goodman, senior vice-president of New Relic Asia-Pacific and Japan.

“Modern observability empowers software engineers, developers and decision makers with the information they need to make swift, data-driven decisions, and is non-negotiable for enterprises looking to deliver great digital experiences that keep their customers coming back,” he added.

Goodman noted that having mature observability practices is particularly crucial for organisations that are increasingly adopting a hybrid cloud strategy, as well as those whose entire business is built on the digital customer journey. “If you don’t have observability to understand that journey, it’s very hard to granularly run the business,” he said.

This was especially stark during the pandemic when accelerated digital transformation efforts have shortened software development cycles and burdened data pipelines, making both increasingly complex for engineers and developers with multiple stages of telemetry ingestion, processing and compounded interdependencies between various systems of record, applications, infrastructure and networks.

For one thing, engineers have had to spend an unreasonable amount of time stitching together siloed data and switching context between a patchwork of analysis tools for different parts of their technology stack – only to discover blind spots because it is too cumbersome and expensive to instrument the full estate.

According to the study, nearly nine in 10 ASEAN respondents have had to toggle between two to 10 different tools to monitor the health of their systems, which tend to be a mix of legacy and modern applications.

“Most organisations aren’t leading with a modern application architecture,” Goodman said. “They have legacy applications, legacy applications that are being refactored for the cloud, and cloud-native applications. To maintain that spectrum of support from a single platform is challenging.”

Consolidating tools into a single, unified observability platform is among the research report’s five key insights for charting an organisation’s path to achieving modern observability. Adopting a data-driven approach for end-to-end observability, expanding observability across the entire software ecosystem, modernising the IT budget for full-stack observability and up levelling the value of observability to further engage the C-Suite round out the list.

“Modern observability is the domain of engineers and business leaders alike, because of its ability to make crucial data easily accessible, understandable and actionable. By taking a data-driven approach and creating a clear line of sight across the tech stack, modern observability is able to improve uptime and reliability while creating best of breed customer experiences,” noted Goodman.

In Asia-Pacific, Goodman said conversations about observability in traditional industries such as financial services are being driven by CIOs in a bid to improve site reliability, resiliency, uptime and availability. Once observability becomes part of their organisational fabric, he said other parts of the business, such as marketing, will start to look into it to improve customer experience and drive other business goals.

“If we flick to the other end of the spectrum and look at the digital natives who might be in the e-commerce space, it’s much more driven around the customer journey,” Goodman added. “So, our principal point of engagement might be their chief marketing officer, head of customer experience or head of customer retention.”

While most ASEAN respondents in the study still have some way to go before they can achieve full stack observability, it is surprising that just 15% of them have experienced outages multiple times per day.

Goodman said this could be due to the differing definitions of outages by different organisations as well as outages that went under the radar.

“A lot of firms are not aware of all the outages they have,” Goodman said. “They may know the major ones, but there are a lot of smaller services and sub-services with outages that are not tracked.”

“Sometimes, this may be okay but if you’re a large firm, and you find out from your customers that you’re having an outage because you’re not actively observing it, then you’ve got a real problem.”

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