James Harvey, CTO Advisor, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Cisco AppDynamics

One of the most pressing challenges for business leaders currently is how to maintain or even increase speed to innovation within their organisations, while also keeping a close eye on spending. For the last three years, organisations have accelerated their digital transformation programs in response to evolving customer needs and to enable hybrid work. In most cases, new applications and digital services have been developed at speed by leveraging the capabilities of cloud native technologies. Modern application stacks are enabling IT teams to dramatically increase release velocity, while instilling operational agility and resilience. At the same time, most IT teams are having to maintain on-premises technology for many of their business-critical applications and supporting infrastructure. This means that technologists are now managing an increasingly sprawling and fragmented, hybrid IT estate and, unfortunately, this is presenting major issues.

In the latest research from Cisco AppDynamics, titled “The Age of Application Observability”, technologists report that the shift to hybrid environments is leading to an expansion of attack surfaces and heightened vulnerability to cybersecurity threats. With application components running across a mix of cloud native platforms and on-premises databases, visibility gaps are being exposed and the risk of disruption, downtime or security breaches is rising significantly. The worry is that organizations jeopardise all of their innovation efforts because they are unable to optimise availability, performance and security within their applications and underlying infrastructure.

In response, growing numbers of organisations are now recognising the need to move beyond traditional application monitoring and embrace application observability as a way to cut through the complexity of their hybrid environments and ensure that applications are operating at peak performance at all times. Application observability provides IT teams with unified visibility accross both on-premises and cloud native environments, and correlate IT performance data with business metrics. This allows IT leaders to track and report on the impact of their investments and to deliver rapid innovation on a more sustainable basis.

Cloud native technologies and the explosion of data

As anybody that has worked with cloud native technologies knows only too well, microservices and containers spawn overwhelming volumes of metrics, events, logs and traces (MELT) data. And currently, most IT teams do not have a way to cut through this data noise. They also do not have a clear line of sight of the entire application path where components are running across cloud native and on-premises technologies because they are still deploying separate tools to monitor different environments.

In the research, 78 per cent of technologists claim that the increased volume of data from multi-cloud and hybrid environments is making manual monitoring impossible. IT teams do not have the visibility and insights they need to quickly troubleshoot issues and to prioritize those issues that could do most damage to end user experience. The inevitable result of this is unrelenting pressure in the IT department and increased mean time to resolution (MTTR).

Organisations are looking to application observability to maximise their innovation investments

Technologists are acutely aware of the limitations of their current monitoring methods and the need to adopt new approaches – as many as 97 per cent believe that their organisation needs to move from a traditional application monitoring approach to an application observability solution to manage a multi-cloud and hybrid environment. And encouragingly, 53 per cent claim that their organisation is already analysing application observability solutions, and 44 per cent report that they will do so in the next 12 months.

Application observability allows IT teams to take a more proactive approach to managing their hybrid IT environment, integrating security into the application lifecycle from day one and bringing teams together around a single source of data. Technologists can access deeper insight into each area of their IT estate, enabling them to detect issues, understand root causes and remediate far more quickly.

With innovation speeds likely to increase further over the coming years, application observability allows organisations to embed speed and agility into their development processes. IT teams can get onto the front foot, rather than being stuck in firefighting mode.

Crucially, given the fact that 81 per cent of technologists report that there is heightened scrutiny on cloud investments within their organisation, application observability allows IT leaders to correlate IT performance data with business transactions so they can track the impact of their innovation initiatives in real-time.  Organisations can approach innovation in a more controlled and sustainable manner, focusing their time and money where it will have the biggest impact on customers and the business. Indeed, 88 per cent of technologists claim that observability with business context will enable them to be more strategic and spend more time on innovation.

Of course, application observability on its own is not enough to deliver accelerated innovation on a sustainable basis. IT leaders also need to recruit and develop the necessary skills to develop and manage applications within a hybrid environment, foster greater collaboration between teams and work with the right strategic partners. But without doubt, application observability provides the foundation for all of this – that is why 85 per cent of technologists state that it is now a strategic priority for their organisation.