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Observability vs Monitoring - Know the Difference

Gursimran Singh | 25 October 2022

Observability vs Monitoring - Get the Difference

Overview of Observability and Monitoring

In the world of the software delivery process, Observability and Monitoring have become relevant terms, especially when you’re discussing software development. No matter how diligently you work to create high-quality software applications, errors and bugs are inevitable. As user numbers grow and software complexity increases, it becomes even more crucial to have an observable system. The software delivery culture is changing, and it is shifting from it.

Although applications in both on-premises and cloud-native environments are expected to be highly available and resilient to failure, the methods that are used to achieve those goals are different. There are many benefits of monitoring such as improving productivity and performance; you can efficiently allocate resources according to the needs of the users, and you can easily detect and solve problems before they are affecting your business. Thus, you can better allocate time and upgrade to new projects.

Assembling all fragments from logs, monitoring tools and organize them in such a way which gives actionable knowledge of the whole environment, thus creating an insight. Taken from Article, It's Working Architecture and Benefits

What is Observability?

It is the degree to which organizations can understand a complex system's internal state or condition based only on knowledge of the system's external outputs. The more observable a system, the faster and more accurately you can navigate from a recognized problem to its root cause without additional effort.

In DevOps 

The CI-CD pipeline requires each part of the pipe to be observable. Each piece of the pipeline must produce appropriate data to support automated problem detection and alerting, manual debugging when necessary, and analysis of system health (historical trends and analytics).

These are the types of data that a system should produce to be observable.

  • Health checks: These checks are typically customized HTTP endpoints that assist orchestrators such as Kubernetes or Cloud Foundry in maintaining the optimal health and performance of the system.
  • Metrics: Metrics are numerical representations of data that are collected regularly and organized into a time series. This numerical data is easily stored and can be quickly queried, making it valuable when analyzing historical trends. Additionally, over longer periods of time, numerical data can be condensed into shorter intervals, such as monthly, weekly, or daily, for more concise analysis.

  • Log entries: Log entries serve as records of specific events. They are crucial in the debugging process as they often contain detailed information, such as stack traces and contextual data, that can assist in pinpointing the underlying cause of observed failures.
  • Distributed, request, or end-to-end tracing:  Tracing allows for the comprehensive tracking of an application's journey through the system, capturing not only the services it interacts with but also the intricate structure of its workflow. This includes the analysis of synchronous or asynchronous processing, as well as the relationships between different components, such as child-of or follows-from relations.

Gather, organize, and analyze data for instant business insights. Build tools to dive into infrastructure logs, turning data into actionable real-time results. Know more about Monitoring and Data Observability Solutions.

What is Monitoring?

The entire development lifecycle from planning, development, integration and testing, deployment, and operations. It involves a complete and real-time view of applications, services, and system infrastructure status.

In the software delivery process, productive continuous monitoring activity increases productivity, and performance, reduces downtime, and allows us to allocate time and resources better, so we can plan our upgrades and new projects quickly. It alerts us by giving notifications whenever there is any failure in the system before it affects our business.

Monitoring in DevOps 

In DevOps, it is done by tools such as Nagios, tensible, snort, etc. It gives feedback from the production environment and produces information about an application’s performance and usage patterns.

The main aim is to achieve high availability by minimizing time to detect and time to mitigate. The benefit of constant it is to, Automate work that used to be manual, repetitive, and error-prone, resulting in faster speed, productivity, and scalability — and the assurance of standardized configurations across test, dev, and production environments. Eliminating errors and bugs reduces the wastage of time and lets you deploy software faster and more reliably. Why does continuous Monitoring do? In general, it does the following activities.

  • Problem Detection: it lets you know the problems, by alerting, or seeing issues on dashboards.
  • Problem Resolution: after knowing the problem, the root cause, and troubleshooting.
  • Continuous Improvement: by all these, capacity planning, financial planning, trending, performance engineering, and reporting we can improve the software delivery process.
04-25-2022 Newsletter_07 Blog Image - Full-Stack Observability Benefits and Implementations
Solutions for enabling the visibility of Microservices applications and Pipeline with Docker and Kubernetes. Explore XenonStack's Solutions

What is the difference between Observability and Monitoring?

Let’s take an example of a large and complex scalable data center’s infrastructure system, which is monitored using log analysis it and ITSM tools. Analyzing too many data points continuously will generate large volumes of unnecessary alerts, data, and false flags. The software delivery process may have fewer characteristics unless the correct metrics are calculated, and the unwanted noise is carefully removed using Artificial intelligence and continuous monitoring solutions.

On the other hand, an application with a single server can be easily monitored using health checks, metrics, logs, and parameters such as response time, throughput, and efficiency. These parameters are widely interrelated with the health of internal system components. Therefore, the system has demonstrated extensive observability. Using essential tools, such as energy and temperature measurement instruments, software-based tools, or web-based real-time monitoring, the performance, life cycle, and risk of potential performance incidents can be calculated before any negative impact on the business.

The system’s simplicity, the insightful representation of the performance metrics, and the capability of the tools to identify the correct parameters are responsible for the system. This combination yields the necessary insights to construct an accurate representation of the internal states, despite a system’s inherent complexity.

Observability Monitoring 
Actively the information is gained Information is consumed passively
Questions are asked on the basis of hypotheses Questions or queries are based on the data dashboards
In use for complex and dynamic Environments In use for static with a little variation environment
Preferred by developers with variability and unknown permutations Used for developers of systems with little change and no permutation
A system has to be designed to be observable  Any System can be monitored 
Why my system failed? What is the state of system?
Generate Metrics Collect Metrics


We can conclude that Monitoring is similar to taking your vehicle to a mechanic for routine maintenance and when the check engine light comes on. You want to keep your vehicle running as smoothly as possible and avoid breakdowns. On the server, you want to know whether users can access your application and services and if they are performing within appropriate limitations.  Notifications are sent to teams when something is not performing accurately, is about to break, or broken. Before notification is sent, it is crucial to create a baseline and understand the current state of the environment, and here, observability first comes in. Without observing the architecture, it is impossible to know what is wrong and what is not correct. Only by observing application, architecture, system, and service can we determine what is wrong and what is right.