Monitoring vs. Observability: What’s the Difference in DevOps?


As software deployment becomes more complex and companies work to scale their DevOps transformations, the need for observability increases. While observability is an important part of any DevOps journey, it is often confused with surveillance. While both are typically discussed in the same context, they are not one and the same.

To get a clear picture, I asked Participant of the SKILup Day and Ambassador of the DevOps Institute to clarify some of the key differences. Here is what they said:

Collection vs. context

“Monitoring is the collection of metrics, traces and logs from sample or sample systems in your environment. The result is huge amounts of data that users can examine and extract to gain insight. “

“Observability dispenses with sampling in order to capture every trace from anywhere with high granularity, including containerized microservices. Observability also makes the data available in context with additional information so that you can take meaningful measures without having to go to the monitoring data store. ” Priya Satheesh, CEO Instantana

[ What DevSecOps tools might your team consider? Read also: 5 DevSecOps open source projects to know. ]

Characteristic vs. act of observation

“Observability is a property of systems – that they can be observed. It requires conscious behavior in digital product and platform design and a conducive architecture. Observability is not surveillance. We monitor when we observe our observable systems and the tool category that largely enables this. ” -Helen Beal, Main Ambassador, DevOps Institute

Process vs. potential

“Surveillance is the process of observability. By the time the monitoring takes place, it has already been decided which events and applications will be tracked. Observability creates the potential to monitor various events along the pipeline and the entire software development lifecycle. Observability should cover a broad spectrum. The monitoring finds specific events throughout the system and creates artifacts and reports that can be integrated into the overall metrics. ” -Mark Peters, technical manager, Novetta

Single level vs. passable map

“For the most part, surveillance is a single level. You set up rules, aggregations, and alerts when a known scenario occurs (e.g. a path towards 100 percent disk usage is an indication of a problem in the near future). Observability, on the other hand, is the means of depicting an environment or context, and the ability to flow through this map in order to achieve a greater awareness of ‘what is’. ” -Ryan Sheldrake, Field CTO, Top work

Key criteria vs. full assessment

“Observability is an important design and development criterion for application development, where data is provided from the system being monitored, the entire application facility and its environment.”

“On the other hand, monitoring observes the state of an environment over a certain period of time and is mainly used to display information for the SRE team.”

“The main difference between observability and surveillance is that location observability, compared to surveillance, provides a more comprehensive assessment of the overall environment in which the application resides, thus more effectively addressing the most important success factor for an application – location reliability. ” -Sushant Mehta, Senior Manager Application Development, Diyar United Company

Understand vs. Action

“Monitoring means putting mechanisms in place that enable teams to observe and understand the health of their systems. It is based on collecting predefined metrics or protocols. The main purpose of monitoring is to control the system health by actively collecting error logs and system metrics and then using them to warn of incidents. “

“Monitoring is about putting mechanisms in place that allow teams to see and understand the health of their systems.

“Observability means putting in place mechanisms that enable teams to actively debug their system. It is based on the study of properties and patterns that have not been defined in advance. The main purpose of observability is to use the results of the system to gather knowledge and act on it. ” -Parveen Arora, Co-Founder and Director, VVnT-SeQuor

Tracking vs. Knowledge

“In general, when you monitor data, you need to know exactly what data you are looking at. If / when something goes wrong, a good monitoring tool will notify you based on what you are monitoring. Monitoring is used to track performance, discover bugs and anomalies, pinpoint the root cause of problems, and get insights into physical and cloud settings. “

“Observability examines system outputs and rates how well you understand the internal states of a system. It is the result of control theory. The instrumentation is used by the observability to provide insights that help in making the monitoring visible. Surveillance is impossible without some degree of observability. “

[ Could DevOps bolster your digital transformation? Read Digital transformation: 10 more ways DevOps can help. ]

“Think of observability as the knowledge you need to know exactly what to monitor. Observability is more than just a fancy word for monitoring. It is proactive and uses protocols, machine learning and causality to build a comprehensive system that is visible to all. ” -Supratip Banerjee, solution architect, Main global services

Broad vs. deep

“Monitoring is a well-known framework and concept that has been used over the years to provide a comprehensive view of system behavior and performance so you can analyze trends, dashboards and alerts.”

“The main difference is that observability complements surveillance by using different telemetry sources to provide the deep state of all system components.”

“Ben Sigelman said, ‘Don’t confuse the coexistence of metrics, tracing / APM and logging with observability.'” -Jose Adan Ortiz, Solutions Engineer, Akamai Technologies

[ To continue advancing your observability knowledge, join DevOps Institute for SKILup Day: Observability on September 23. ]

Limited vs. sustainable

“Observability is a sustainable approach that goes beyond monitoring operational insights, better incident management and quality control, and helps make a better product. It helps you gain actionable insights for better decision making and a faster feedback loop. When I talk about observability, I like to talk about the quote, ‘If you are observable, I can monitor you,’ and that sums it up pretty well. ” -Anshul Lalit, Head of Technology and Transformation, Kongsberg Digital

[ How do containers and Kubernetes help manage risk? Read also: A layered approach to container and Kubernetes security. ]

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