A Comparison between Network Observability and Network Monitoring

If you aren’t “observing” your network, you won’t fully “see” it.

Cloud computing has made our networks complex to the point that we need better resources to watch over them. Network observability and monitoring are two resources you can use to achieve that. Of course, they have unique use-cases, but can you use them together?

In this article, I’ll go over what network observability and monitoring are and their different use-cases. Then, finally, I’ll compare the two and explain how they’re intertwined.

Let’s begin with what network observability is.

What Is Network Observability?

Network observability builds on top of network monitoring, like a layer in the network monitoring world. Observability allows you to see what the end-user is currently seeing. For instance, you may have visited a website and found a button or feature doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Moreover, each time you revisit that site, you see the problem persists. 

This glitch is a consequence of a lack of network observability. Unfortunately, the team operating the website hasn’t implemented any form of observability software, and this negligence can lead you to lose customers permanently. 

In short, the right observability software can help you out immensely. For example, this software can tell your team when a user-facing feature is completely broken or not working the way it should. With this information, you can fix the problem quickly and prevent it from happening again.

Let’s dive deeper and look at some network observability use-cases.

Network Observability Use-Cases

You can use network observability for several purposes. In this section, you’ll learn more about what network observability has to offer your business. 

Let’s begin!

Network Architecture Observation

With network observability, you can easily oversee different data within your systems, network infrastructure, applications, etc. Based on system metrics, you can then analyze this data and figure out where problems might occur (or will occur). Just remember that you’ll need to set a baseline first.

Data Monitoring, Aggregation, and Reporting

Network observability allows you to monitor, aggregate, and report data easily. Telemetry (more on that later) and log data are rich resources. So it’s wise to use data gathered from these resources alongside your data streams and metrics to get the bigger picture. As a result, you’ll receive real-time reports you can use to find any issues before it’s too late.

Security and DevOps Combination

You can combine network observability with DevOps to create an excellent security mix for your system. This mix can enhance your network’s security. For example, if any system or application starts to act abnormally, you can use observability to fix the problem easily. An example of abnormal behavior is an unusual increase in external network traffic.

Infographic of a laptop on top of the world map with a lock on its monitor implying network observability's ability to protect.
Protect your global network with network observability.

As observability has strong use-cases, you need to add it to your firm’s systems. These use-cases are simple to understand but difficult to master. So, you have to arm yourself with the knowledge of the 3 pillars of network observability

Let’s go over them in the following section.

3 Pillars of Network Observability

The 3 pillars of network observability will help you master gathering, organizing, and using data. Each pillar I discuss corresponds to one of those three actions. 

Let’s look at each pillar in more detail.

1. Telemetry

Telemetry data is concerned with external outputs—what’s sent and where to. Examples of where you can gather this data include flow logs, routing tables, performance testing, and site latency. In essence, telemetry looks after your connections and data: Is data transmission intact?

2. Data Platform 

A data platform takes data from telemetry services and puts it into a context you can understand and analyze. In short, you get organized and clear data to analyze. Data platforms map your network performance data.

3. Action

Action includes any steps you take after you’ve gathered, sorted, and made the data readable. After analyzing the reports, your team should take the necessary steps to remedy any issues they find.

You now understand what network observability is, what it does, and its pillars. Let’s move on to network monitoring

What Is Network Monitoring?

Network monitoring helps you track various aspects of the networks in your systems. For example, you can use it to gather data metrics about operations, network traffic, bandwidth, uptime, and downtime

Network monitoring systems detect any hardware or software that interacts with the network. However, unlike network observability, monitoring is only an internal-facing system. This quality means you don’t get the end-user view network observability offers.

Let’s look at some network monitoring use-cases to give you a better idea.

Infographic of giant magnifying glass showing Earth.
You can’t simply stand by and observe; you must monitor your network consistently!

Network Monitoring Use-Cases

You can use network monitoring for many purposes. But, remember, you must first understand why you plan on monitoring your network.

In any case, here are some common use cases for network monitoring.

Network Performance Monitoring

Network performance monitoring ensures the network performs optimally without the apps or sites facing any downtimes. It achieves this by analyzing traffic and tracking it against metrics.

Network Security Monitoring 

Monitoring tools add an extra layer of security features. With network security monitoring, security teams look for endpoint security breaches, malware, DDoS attacks, etc. You also can use network security monitoring tools to help you set up a monitoring system capable of informing users about any security issues.

Network Device Testing 

Network device testing is another use case that will help your company ensure devices are up-to-date and working correctly. While device management is never fun, newer systems, capable of automation, can discover and connect a device without human interference.

Now that you have an idea of network observability and monitoring, it’s time to decide if you need one or both. Let’s find out in the next section.

Network Observability vs Monitoring

Earlier, I mentioned how network observability and monitoring aren’t the same. Observability is user-facing, and monitoring is internal-facing. But they can work together to provide a more robust security monitoring experience than standalone monitoring. In addition, your team can always use the advanced insights network observability offers. 

So, which one should you use?

Here’s what you should do. You most likely already have some network monitoring system set up, so your next option is to add network observability. In effect, network monitoring and observability are intertwined.

Let’s wrap up now, shall we?

Final Words

Network security is important. Both network observability and monitoring can help improve your network security. Having both is a great combination to ensure security and visibility.

With cyberattacks on the rise, it’s imperative for your business to set up robust defenses. Network observability and monitoring can help you achieve that.

Each has several use-cases, so you need to consider your business needs first before implementing your choice. 

Do you have more questions on network observability or monitoring? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!

FAQ

What should I look for in a network observability or monitoring tool?

When you decide you want an observability or monitoring tool in your security arsenal, you’ll want to remember the following 3 things. You should achieve full automation, create a result-oriented approach, and finally, keep it user-friendly. If the tool has an automatic report-generating feature, that’s a plus. 

Can I use network observability and monitoring together?

Yes! That’s the recommended approach to take. You’ll want to have your observability tools layered on top of and integrated with your monitoring tools. That way, you get the best picture possible about what’s happening in your network. 

What are some examples of network observability tools?

You have plenty of tools out there for observability and monitoring. Some of these might cross over into monitoring and some into observability. Examples include AppDynamics, Logic Monitor, Gitlab, and Auvik. These tools will allow your team to have better observability of your network as well as insights into end users’ experiences.

What are the benefits of network observability?

You’ll get better productivity, fewer alerts, a decrease in alert fatigue, and, most importantly, quicker problem resolution times. It’ll also make your team happier since they need to focus less on boring tasks. 

What is telemetry?

Telemetry is an automated software that collects data from devices. It then passes this data to a monitoring system, where it gets parsed and served to the data teams. Telemetry also has two principal parts: Data collection and having a data platform to manage the telemetry metrics.

Resources 

TechGenix: Article on Network Observability 

Learn even more about network observability and 8 best practices to apply.

TechGenix: Article on the Top 7 Open-Source Networking Tools

Find out what the top 7 open-source network monitoring tools are.

TechGenix: Article on the Nmap Monitoring Tool

Take a deep dive into Nmap and learn all about this free, open-source network monitoring tool.  

TechGenix: Article on Kubernetes Observability and Monitoring

Learn more about how to conduct observability and monitoring with K8s

TechGenix: Article on Network Monitoring Alerts and Alarms

Learn how to deal with network monitoring alerts and alarms

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