Observability Working Architecture and Benefits

December 18, 2018 

Observability Working Architecture and Benefits

What is Observability?

Observability is a way to get insights into the whole infrastructure. It is essential for the operations team . Observability means 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. Observability is combining multiple items to create a deep understanding of the actual health, real issues, and what should be done to improve the environment and troubleshooting at a root level.


Why Observability Matters?

Following are the reasons why Observability matters -

  • Enables transparency across application deployed in the environment.
  • It helps in documenting the production environment and get the information needed to improve it.
  • It helps to understand what’s going on behind the scenes.
  • It allows catching unknown issues in time and helps understand how to handle them.
  • Detecting issues without observability in place is hard.
  • Allows feedback loops essential in DevOps movement.
  • Enabling Observability inside environment is very important.
  • It helps both Developers and DevOps guys to find insights, bottlenecks in applications, tracing information.
  • Observability importance increases in real production environments to prevent downtime. Proper alerting should be in place.

How Does Observability Work?

To attain the ultimate state of observability, consider the following -

Overview of Logging Process

Logging is a mechanism to collect logs from various input sources. Usually, logs are in raw format. To gain real insights, parse these logs, apply query-type to gain insights quicker. Usually, logs sent to an output tool which organizes the logs.

Logging defines what to log and how it should be logged and how logs shipped to an external system for aggregating. Debug mode disabled for better logging as logging everything based on a debug level will become really expensive to manage, create extra false positives, not so important alarms, and more difficulty in getting important data. Debug should be the default only while troubleshooting, not in real production environments.

Guide to Monitoring Process

Monitoring is an activity performed by DevOps guys. It’s simply observing the state of an infrastructure/environment over a period of time.

Monitor for three reasons -

Detecting Problem – Usually by alerts, or looking at issues on dashboards.

Finding Resolution for Problem – Finding root causes of issues and troubleshooting.

Continuous Improvement – Reporting and documenting.

Tracing Working

Trace the calls between various applications. Priorities defined to different failures of service and the one with the highest priority caught and alerted immediately. Tracing shows what either happened in past or what is happening at present.

Tracing is a very important piece of Observability proactively. It also suggests what code we can add to service to provide better insights into the application. There should be transparent visibility end to end for all transactions happening in the environment.

How Alerting Works

Alerting helps in defining how to notify and the Ops guys notified when an event occurs. False positives, it is very important to remove them.

There should be -

  • Alert only important events.
  • Self-healing infrastructure.
  • Enable analytics when something has been done manually many times.
  • Enable Automation to fix the problems.

Benefits Of Observability

  • Helps to understand what’s going on in production and make it work better for end users.
  • It eliminates the need for debugging in a Production environment.
  • Monitors performance of applications.
  • Helps in identifying the root causes of issues and helps in troubleshooting.
  • There are many intuitive dashboards high to observe what is happening in Real-Time.
  • Allows Self-healing infrastructure.
  • Observability helps in enriching the data and provides information faster. Encouraging developers to use tracing helps them to see how what they’re doing on an everyday basis maintain Observability and improve overall application and its' infrastructure.

How to Adopt Observability?

Observability is essential to discipline in DevOps. To Adopt Observability, Along with logs ingestion, Dev should add code to the applications to be able to provide more additional and insightful data to enable alerts. Devops run automated end-to-end tests on a daily basis, before and after deploying applications, to understand if deployment broke anything or not.

Observability should be the responsibility of both Dev and Ops guys. Developer provides appropriate logging data, which makes sense and useful to get insights, proper error codes for requests. It reduces outages time while Ops teams troubleshoot. Both Dev and Ops guys add values to Observability to achieve full success.


Best Practices while enabling Observability for applications

Following Best Practices followed while allowing Observability for applications running in the environment -

  • Do not Monitor everything.
  • Monitor only things which are essential to fix when they fail.
  • Do not put Alerts on everything.
  • Put alerting only for critical events.
  • Do not Store all logs and all data.
  • Store only logs which give insights about critical events.
  • Don't use default graphs.
  • Create a custom graph according to customer needs.
  • Create alerts based on Prometheus or Grafana metrics of running applications in an environment.

Tools for Enabling Observability

Various Monitoring Tools

Deployment tools

  • Containers and Orchestration tools such as Docker and Kubernetes.
  • Log Aggregator
  • AWS Cloudwatch

Alerting Tools


Concluding Observability

Observability enables infrastructure. At first, applying this is little change of mindset, adding new tools in place but once proper Logging, Monitoring, Alerting is in place, it will be beneficial on a daily basis as well as in the long term. Plan to deliver applications in modern ways, spend more time to debug and adding operational visibility tools to optimize the speed of troubleshooting and ultimately automating them.