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Full-stack observability top priority for IT teams

Annual forecast reveals observability – the ability to see everything in the tech stack that could affect customer experience – has become a board-level imperative, but only a quarter of organisations have achieved it

As IT and application environments increasingly move toward complex, cloud-based microservices, technology professionals have bold plans to ramp up observability capabilities to get ahead of network-based issues that could affect customer experience and application security, yet actually doing so across full stacks is some way off for the majority, research from New Relic has found.

The company defines observability as the ability to see everything in the tech stack. Its 2022 observability forecast surveyed 1,614 technology professionals in 14 countries across Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America in March and April 2022 to capture insights into the current state of observability and its growth potential. Of the respondents, 65% were practitioners (developers and engineers) and 35% were information technology decision-makers (C-suite executives and non-executive managers).

The study found fundamentally that organisations today monitor their technology stacks with a patchwork of tools. At the same time, respondents seem to long for simplicity, integration, seamlessness and more efficient ways to complete high-value projects. Moreover, as organisations race to embrace technologies such as blockchain, edge computing and 5G to deliver optimal customer experiences, observability supports more manageable deployment to help drive innovation, uptime and reliability.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said C-suite executives in their organisation were advocates of observability, while 71% of respondents surveyed in the UK and Ireland saw observability as a key enabler for achieving core business goals, which implies that observability has become a board-level imperative. Yet only 27% had achieved full-stack observability – the ability to see everything in the tech stack that could affect the customer experience – and just 2% said they had already prioritised or achieved full-stack observability by the report’s definition.

New Relic noted that the findings implied that the ideal state of observability was one where engineering teams monitor the entire tech stack in all stages of the software development lifecycle, employ mature observability practice characteristics, and have unified telemetry data and a unified dashboard or visualisation of that data – ideally in a single, consolidated platform. Nearly half of all respondents (49%) said they preferred a single, consolidated observability platform, yet just 2% said they used one tool for observability.

Drilling deeper to look at the UK and Ireland, respondents predicted their organisations would most need observability for artificial intelligence (45%), internet of things (44%) and 5G (30%) in the next three years. They also noted that some of the main challenges preventing them from achieving full-stack observability were a lack of understanding of the benefits, lack of budget, too many monitoring tools and a disparate tech stack.

Some 60% said they primarily learn about software and system interruptions through multiple monitoring tools, compared with only 15% with a single observability platform. A quarter said they still primarily learn about interruptions with manual checks and tests that are performed on systems at specific times or with complaints or incident tickets. 

Just under two-fifths (38%) said their organisations’ telemetry data was more siloed, and 29% said the visualisation and dashboarding of that telemetry data was disparate. Nearly half (49%) said they experienced high-business-impact outages once per week or more, and 62% said they took more than 30 minutes to resolve those outages.

Going forward, the executives surveyed saw their organisations needing observability for a variety of trending technologies, including artificial intelligence, 5G and Web3. C-suite executives anticipate needing observability most for the internet of things (56%), artificial intelligence (54%) and 5G (27%) in the next three years.

“In the digital age, a business’s health is underpinned by its software stack, so having a full understanding of its performance is critical,” comments Gregory Ouillon, chief technology officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at New Relic. “A full-stack observability is a top priority in enabling IT teams to improve uptime, customer experience, and efficient and reliable operational services, which gives businesses the insurance they need to achieve important core business goals.”

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