Joe Byrne, CTO Advisor, Cisco AppDynamics

It has become almost clichéd within IT to talk about the ever-increasing speed of innovation. For several years, the overriding focus for organisations has been on delivering digital transformation as fast as possible to respond to changing customer needs and enable hybrid work. Applications have been at the heart of that transformation. Most recently, the move to modern application stacks and no-code and low-code platforms has enabled organisations in all sectors to increase release velocity and deliver new applications and digital services at speeds which were previously unimaginable.

However, accelerated innovation has come at a cost. IT teams find themselves consumed by soaring levels of complexity and overwhelming volumes of data which are being spawned every second by cloud-native technologies. Technologists are finding it almost impossible to manage application availability, performance and security within highly volatile and dynamic cloud native environments. And this is significantly increasing the chances of organisations suffering from disruption and downtime to their applications. Worryingly, the unrelenting pressure being felt in IT departments is also taking a more personal toll on technologists. In the latest research from Cisco AppDynamics, The Age of Application Observability, 79 per cent of global technologists claim that they are experiencing more stress and tension within their IT department because of the switch to hybrid environments, and this in turn is leading to growing numbers of technologists leaving their jobs.

Without doubt, there is now a widespread recognition that organisations need to find a more sustainable approach to innovation which prioritises not only application performance and security, but also the wellbeing and productivity of technologists.

Accelerated innovation has led to crippling levels of IT complexity

The new research finds that 49 per cent of new innovation initiatives are now being delivered with cloud native technologies, and this figure is expected to climb to 58 per cent by 2028. The reasons for this are quite clear – technologists believe that increased adoption of cloud native technologies will enable them to deliver applications at least four times faster than with traditional, on-premises technology. Given the extent to which innovation has already sped up since the outset of the pandemic, it is quite staggering to think that technologists still see this much room for further acceleration.

The problem is, however, that most IT teams are already buckling under the massive volumes of metrics, events, logs and traces (MELT) data which are coming at them from microservices and containers. They cannot cut through this data noise to identify and resolve application performance issues. And where organisations are operating hybrid environments, with application components running across cloud native and on-premises technologies, IT teams cannot get a clear line of sight up and down the application path. In fact, 78 per cent of technologists claim that the increased volume of data from multi-cloud and hybrid environments is making manual monitoring impossible. They are still relying on multiple monitoring tools and so do not have unified visibility across their hybrid applications to quickly pinpoint and troubleshoot issues.

The result is growing concern amongst technologists that their current approach to innovation just is not sustainable. They have not got the tools, processes, structures, and skills required to deliver accelerated digital transformation while maintaining world-class application performance.

The shift to application observability is now vital to achieve innovation goals

More than anything else, technologists now point to application observability across multi-cloud and hybrid environments as important for their organisation to deliver accelerated and sustainable innovation. In fact, 85 per cent of technologists point to observability as a strategic priority for their organisation.

Application observability provides IT teams with unified visibility across both cloud native and on-premises environments, ingesting and combining vast volumes of telemetry data from cloud native environments and data from agent-based entities within on-premises applications. It enables technologists to access real-time insights into application availability and performance across their hybrid environments. 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 to develop more robust products. Technologists can access deeper insight into their applications, enabling them to detect issues, understand root causes and remediate far more quickly.

Interestingly, 81 per cent of technologists report that they are coming under increasing pressure to validate the impact of their cloud investments. Organisations are putting more scrutiny on their digital transformation budgets amid ongoing economic challenges. The worry is that if IT leaders cannot demonstrate the value that they are delivering then investments will decline, and the current pace of innovation will inevitably slow down.

However, application observability allows technologists to correlate IT data with real-time business transactions, so IT teams can measure, optimize and report on the impact of their innovation projects. This is vital to keep investment flowing. It is important to remember that the implementation of application observability solutions needs to be complemented by cultural and structural change. IT leaders need to break down silos between people, processes and data within the IT department, with technologists from all disciplines coming together to achieve shared goals around innovation and application performance.

Ultimately, application observability can enable IT teams to get away from constant firefighting and get back on the front foot – indeed, 88 per cent of technologists feel that observability will allow them to be more strategic and spend more time on innovation. For organisations, this statistic alone should be enough to convince them of the need for application observability. It is about arming their best technologists with the insights they need to innovate at speed, while ensuring applications are performing at an optimal level at all times. IT teams can regain control and deliver digital transformation on a sustainable basis for years to come.