The Relationship Between Monitoring and Observability
Observability seems to be a topic of discussion stirring debate around the argument that observability is different than monitoring. Observability is achieved when data is made available from within the system needing monitoring. Monitoring is actually the task of collecting and displaying this data. There is another term when having the debate between observability and monitoring that seems to be forgotten and that is analysis. After the system is observable, when you have collected the data via monitoring, you need to perform analysis either manually or automatically. Without meaningful analysis the whole purpose of creating observability and monitoring is useless. The better the analysis, the more valuable your investments in observability and monitoring.
A more useful monitoring vs observability distinction is between how applications are performing and what is actually going on. Monitoring sticks to tracking how applications are performing communicating bottlenecks, access speeds, downtime and connectivity. Observability drills down into the why and what of application operations delivering specifics on the reasons for errors that monitoring can only tell you about the existence of. You need high-level tools that can tell you about the health and functionality of your system as a whole. You also need the ability to zoom in and understand what has gone wrong in the event of an error. The reality is that an error will inevitably arise, nothing can be perfect. In this context, both observability and monitoring capabilities are required. True observability platforms are a critical investment to confidence in the face of reality.
Monitoring and observability are not the same but both are needed. Risks are reduced, innovation improved and observability maximized. Gaining insights from your data requires more than collecting and analyzing metrics and logs. With the acceleration of customer and business demands, site reliability engineers and IT Ops analysts now require operational visibility into their entire architecture, something that traditional APM tools, dev logging tools, and SRE tools aren’t equipped to provide. Observability enables you to inspect and understand your IT stack.
As things get more complex, with more moving parts, more data and especially more distributed environments, we need more observability but we also need better monitoring. In the end we need them all. Different teams may use and focus on different terms, directions, and intents but it's all in the name of making our systems more reliable, easier to manage and meet business requirements.