Network observability tools promise benefits, but obstacles hinder results

Enterprises see the benefits of adopting observability tools, but lack of budget, increased network complexity, and staff burnout represent hurdles to success, according to SolarWinds research.

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Many IT organizations see the value of using network observability tools to improve end-user experience, increase innovation, and speed problem resolution, but IT pros also believe obstacles could hamper a broader adoption of the technology. 

Complex networks represent a challenge when IT pros need to gain visibility into each component and stop along the path an application travels from user request to service delivery. With private and cloud networks intertwined with corporate networks and the Internet, there are often gaps in visibility, which makes it more difficult to prevent and spot problems, according to new research from SolarWinds.

Observability tools aim to fill those gaps. They are an evolution from performance monitoring technologies that provide IT with data on how various components of their networks are performing. The difference is greater visibility and enhanced analytics that go beyond internal networks and extend to everywhere between end-user devices and service provider environments. (Read more about how to shop for network observability tools)

“The fact is, IT environments are now too complex for humans to manage alone,” reads SolarWinds’ 2023 IT Trends Report: Lessons From Observability Leaders. “Observability tools have emerged as a solution for achieving optimal performance, compliance, and resilience in digital environments. Observability goes a step beyond monitoring, using cross-domain data correlation, machine learning, and AIOps to provide actionable business insights needed to identify and remediate issues in real time.”

Avoiding digital service downtime

When asked what matters most when tasked with delivering end-to-end digital services, respondents to the SolarWinds survey reported several priorities. The most pressing are security (cited by 100% of respondents), customer experience (99%), performance (94%), and privacy and data sovereignty (86%).

Performance issues and service downtime remain a concern among respondents; the typical enterprise on average experiences nine brownouts or outages every month, lasting approximately 12 hours each, according to SolarWinds data. The costs of such outages average around $13.7 million annually for these organizations. It is not just money lost during these brownouts, according to SolarWinds. Respondents also pointed to lost productivity, lost customers, loss in stock price, and loss of reputation or damage to the brand, among other negative impacts.

Obstacles to observability

The SolarWinds report states that 100% of survey participants are engaging with observability technology in some form, but just 1% reported leveraging observability tools. “Most respondents say they are still in the early stages of observability,” the report states.

The challenges with fully adopting observability include an accelerating pace of change for 72% respondents. Some 58% pointed to observability blind spots in today’s modern networks—including cloud, tunnels, and databases­—as extreme challenges to full observability. Like networks, modern applications also represent a growing complexity that 58% of respondents pointed to as a challenge.

Additional challenges have less to do with technology and more with an organization’s budget and staff. According to SolarWinds, 52% cited insufficient observability budgets as an extremely challenging obstacle, and 51% indicated that poor staff retention due to burnout as a reason IT observability is challenging.

Leaders get results with observability

The report clearly states that adoption of observability is in its early days, but the research also included the advantages those using observability are achieving, referring to those early adopters as “leaders.”

The positive benefits reported by these respondents include: improved customer experience (cited by 96%), faster innovation (71%); reduced time solving issues (71%); reduced time for detecting issues (60%); and increased operational efficiency (55%).

“Observability leaders are embracing automation more than their laggard counterparts, investing in tools that provide lift to their operations and efficiency, as well as identifying and remediating issues,” the report states.

SolarWinds released the results of its 2023 IT Trends Report: Lessons From Observability Leaders in advance of IT Pro Day 2023. The IT management vendor partnered with Eleven Research to survey 300 senior IT professionals at small, medium, and large organizations in North America for the report.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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