Network Observability: Take Your Network Monitoring to the Next Level

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Networks are more complex now that ever!

As your IT operations grow, you’ll take on more applications and services. As a result, the amount of data that your operations teams need to monitor grows as well. This will eventually overwhelm your team and the network will suffer over time. That’s where network observability comes in. When you have too much data to process, network observability will allow you to look at your applications from your users’ point of view. This should help you find issues and resolve them faster. 

In this article, I’ll dive deeper into why network observability is important and its pillars. I’ll also help you clear your mind on the differences between network observability and DevOps observability. Let’s first get into what network observability is all about. 

Why Is Network Observability Important?

Once a network grows so large, all the monitoring you’ll do won’t keep the fatigue from setting in. Then, your network overloads and loses all its efficiency

Network observability comes in here to show your team an entirely new perspective. It’ll also allow them to see how the end-user experiences the network. You won’t be monitoring connections between devices. Instead, you’ll see if a user suffers from jitter on his Teams calls. Your team will then act quickly and properly diagnose the network. 

Network Observability vs. Network Monitoring

To start off, don’t confuse observability with monitoring. While they build on top of each other, they’re two different things. Monitoring is looking at devices, their connections, and the metrics they provide. On the other hand, observability is looking at the network connection from the end-user’s perspective. 

Network observability tools build on the data collected with network monitoring. Network observability tools help you maintain your network’s health. But they also offer a more efficient and scalable approach. Thus, observability tools may be a good fit for network teams that are reaching their network monitoring fatigue limit. Fatigue can set in when too much is happening on a network for the team to process and act on time. Think of it as being surrounded by alarms all the time and getting used to them. That’s the fatigue. 

The world of DevOps also comes into play with network observability. How? Through DevOps observability. Let’s compare the two below and see how they’re different. You’ll also see how they work together for optimal results.

Network Observability vs. DevOps Observability

Network observability and DevOps observability can complement each other. But they’re still distinctly different. Teams use DevOps observability to observe the state of applications. Usually, this also applies to various distributed environments, like on-prem servers, cloud-based VMs, etc. 

In recent trends, leveraging metrics, logs, and distributed traces have been all the rage. The aim was to transform traditional application performance monitoring into DevOps observability. This methodology has become essential for the performance management of complex, cloud-native applications. These applications are hosted in distributed environments. Then, they’re deployed using orchestration tools that abstract applications from the underlying infrastructure. 

Thus, DevOps observability is a must for tracking performance at the application level. That said, it doesn’t address the needs of network performance. DevOps observability tools don’t fully include network-specific data and contexts. For example, you won’t find network prefixes, paths, underlays, overlays, etc. DevOps observability also doesn’t have a lot of analysis capacity. It doesn’t understand how complex network architectures correlate with application performance.

In the above case, network observability can give teams full visibility into the state of the network. Then, teams will also know how the network impacts the business side. As a result, they can fill the gaps. Network observability serves as a critical complementary component to DevOps observability here. Compared to network observability, DevOps observability looks at the performance of the application only. This is good for on-the-fly debugging reasons should something go wrong. 

In the world of observability, it’s vital to know what comprises the main facets of observability. Let’s get into that next!

Pillars of Observability

Observability has 3 parts you’ll need to know about.  Simply put: gather, organize, and analyze the data. Then, act on what you’ve learned

1. Telemetry

Telemetry is the data that allows you to understand the state of the network. To do this, it’s based on external outputs. Network telemetry includes data sources like flow logs, routing tables, application latency, and performance testing data. Essentially, this will help you look at all your connections. After that, you get answers to your questions. These questions are: Is your data being sent? Is it being received? 

2. Data Platform

A data platform consumes diverse telemetry data. Then, the platform contextualizes this data. That way, you can ask and answer questions about the network’s state. For example, a data platform could map network performance data to users and applications. This makes it easier to understand how network performance trends impact specific users and apps.

3. Action

Action is the final step in network observability. This also comprises deploying flexible workflows, automation, and integrations. These specifically let you remedy network performance problems. It also spawns collaboration among your coworkers. They’ll work together to respond to performance issues.

Now, it’s time to take the pillars and put them into action and best practices. 

8 Observability Best Practices

These are the 8 best practices that will help improve your network observability performance.

  1. Understand your platform: To best understand your network and monitor it, you need to know it well so you can watch it. 
  2. Enable your logs: Logs are just as important as real-time data. You sometimes need to go back in time and look at the logs to see patterns to properly diagnose a problem.
  3. Set data filters and filter often: Most times, data logs are just saying everything was ok. That’s why you want to ensure you’re getting the right data. That said, be careful what you filter since you might lose something important. 
  4. Centralize your data reports: You want your data to be accessible to everyone who needs to see it. Storing reports in a centralized organized directory is helpful.
  5. Ensure you have the right data tools to do the job: Events and Security data are crucial to your operations. Watch them closely. 
  6. Write reports for a wide audience: Your observability reports should understandable for everyone. It’s important the business understands what’s happening on the network. 
  7. Use automated remediation systems: IT automation is in full swing, so automate where you can. Many times issues found will be minuscule. You can have these issues wiped out without even knowing about them with automation. 
  8. Efficient work cycle: Your team should consist of the proper people: observe, report, make a ticket, and then fix the issue. 

Final Words

Network monitoring and observability are interlinked. They should be used in conjunction with one another for optimal network monitoring results. It’s also advisable to include DevOps Observability as a tertiary mode of observability. This will also further drive your end results. Understanding that observability will help facilitate monitoring, is the first important step in adding it to your IT toolbox. Finally, remember to use the best practices to tie everything together. 

This article should come in handy when you need to learn more about how to monitor your data better. Do you have more questions? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below.

FAQ

What are the direct benefits of network observability?

After implementing network observability, your network team will start to see benefits. These benefits could be higher productivity, few alerts and alert fatigue, and quicker resolution time to issues. That is just the start, you’ll also see more and more benefits the longer it is implemented. 

What are some observability tools?

Many tools are available out there. However, they aren’t specifically built for observability. They also encompass monitoring. Some of these tools are Gitlab, Auvik, Logic Monitor, and AppDynamics. These tools will give you visibility into your end-user experiences. You’ll also find others out there, but these are some of the better and more versatile ones.

What is an observability platform?

A platform will take your data and aggregate it into metrics and logs. After that, any human can read and use this information. This data can also be used to create KPIs that the system can later be measured against or set standards. Without creating KPIs, it’ll be hard to understand how your network health is. You also need to create a baseline to determine your network health.   

What is full-stack observability?

Full-stack observability fills in gaps. It also provides IT teams with a powerful, single view across all a network’s components, dependencies, and performance metrics. This is beneficial to help your team  better understand its behavior, performance, and health.  

What is Telemetry?

Telemetry is an automated process that collects data from devices. It then sends it to receiving equipment or software for monitoring and logging. Telemetry has two major components: recording telemetry metrics and a platform to manage telemetry metrics.

Resources 

TechGenix: Top Open-Source Projects for Kubernetes Monitoring and Observability 

Learn how Kubernetes fits into monitoring and observability practices.

TechGenix: Managed Vs. Unmanaged Switches: Which is Better for Your Environment?

Discover the differences between managed and unmanaged switches

TechGenix: Google Cloud Platform Journey

Learn about monitoring in the Google Cloud Platform

TechGenix: Monitoring Network Connectivity Using Azure Network Watcher

Learn about monitoring network connectivity with Azure Network Watcher.

TechGenix: Skills that Every DevOps Engineer Needs in 2022 

Uncover the skills you need to have to be at the top of your DevOps game!

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