Remove the Silos and Take a Unified Approach to Monitoring and Observability

Monitoring is no longer simply measuring whether your systems are running or are down. Today, monitoring is an ongoing effort of collecting and analyzing data to resolve issues quickly, prevent major disruptions, and ensure performance requirements are always met. As organizations move to service-centric, always-on environments and quickly generate an increasing amount of data, their traditional approach of leveraging siloed tools and processes simply does not meet these new expectations of monitoring. Correlating alerts, troubleshooting, and managing multiple tools are becoming too time-consuming and costly.

As a result, more organizations are replacing multiple tools with a single, unified monitoring and observability solution. This post shares the challenges tool sprawl and data silos create and the benefits realized when taking a unified approach to monitoring and observability.

Siloed vs. Unified Monitoring

Siloed monitoring is defined as employing disparate monitoring tools that each have a specific purpose and create silos of metric data. Teams operate in a patchwork environment where there is a lack of consistent standards and processes, and as a result, there’s no ability to share information in a clear and cohesive way among different teams within the organization.

Unified monitoring and observability is defined as implementing consistent monitoring processes, workflows, and standards across the organization. Teams employ a centralized platform on which to collect, analyze, alert on, and graph their data to gain a comprehensive view of the health and performance of the systems that underpin the business.

Let’s take a look at how siloed monitoring and unified monitoring compare in three critical ways: costs, mean time to resolution, and overall business value.

Costs

Siloed monitoring leads to tool sprawl, and the costs of this quickly add up — in dollars, engineering overhead, and resource time. Each tool has its own licensing costs, upgrades, deployment cycles, customized configurations, integrations, and vendor communication. And, inevitably, these costs increase significantly as your organization scales its IT infrastructure and teams.

While a unified monitoring platform may cost more than a specific point solution, it’s significantly less expensive than when you add all of these tools together. In fact, Major League Baseball replaced seven different monitoring vendors with Circonus and decreased its annual monitoring spend 66%.

Also, siloed monitoring is the antithesis of productivity. Teams must become experts at using several tools, and, as discussed in the following section, it leads to substantially longer problem resolution time. The cost of IT downtime is real — as significant as hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour.

Mean Time to Resolution

Perhaps the biggest negative impact of siloed monitoring is the inability to automatically correlate data. SREs must analyze different data sources across different tools (which likely present data differently) and manually correlate incidents, many times via exported spreadsheets — substantially increasing time to troubleshoot while also introducing more opportunities for human error.

Conversely, by centralizing all data into one platform, unified monitoring gives organizations a consistent metrics framework. This allows teams across departments to automatically share and correlate data, so they can quickly identify the source of issues. Critically, it also provides the insights required to prevent issues from repeating themselves in the future, so SREs can focus more time on innovating.

Say an application suffers a performance issue that was triggered by an incident in the network. Silos of tools, teams, and metric data will prevent an engineer responsible for application performance monitoring from easily accessing the information they require on network health. But with unified monitoring, the complete, holistic view of all data across all components would automatically add the context necessary for the engineer to rapidly address the issue.

Business Value

When you put all of your monitoring and observability data into a central platform, you now have the ability to ask more sophisticated questions and as a result gain deeper business insights. A single pane of glass provides comprehensive visibility that empowers IT to communicate its value to the business — showing how it prevented issues that harm both the brand and bottom line, how it accelerated digital transformation initiatives with faster time to innovation, how departments have performed in meeting SLOs/SLAs, and critically, how data insights yielded opportunities for operational and product improvements. These achievements are just not feasible with siloed monitoring, an antiquated approach that will leave organizations unable to compete.

Real use case — Major League Baseball unifies monitoring and observability with Circonus

Many likely do not realize this, but Major League Baseball (MLB) is a complex technology company that not just broadcasts and live-streams baseball games but also real-time statistics for sports betting and fantasy league baseball. As a result, it’s collecting and monitoring a significant amount of data while aiming to provide seamless experiences for millions of consumers.

Over time, MLB’s software development teams became very siloed as each had different monitoring solutions and processes. This made it difficult for engineering management to gain comprehensive visibility, and each team was forced to ask another team for answers rather than have the ability to find it themselves.

To address these challenges, MLB chose to unify its monitoring with Circonus’ monitoring and observability platform, which MLB leverages for application, infrastructure, network, video, cloud, and Kubernetes monitoring. Unification has allowed MLB to streamline monitoring processes across teams, enabling each team to benefit from the work and knowledge of one another — ultimately saving time and resources while improving productivity and results.

Each IT department within MLB is able to more effectively solve problems or initiate new projects by learning how other teams have addressed similar issues. Also, with all telemetry data in one place, different teams can access the data they need any time, and can now visualize it, report it, or alert on it in a way that breaks down those legacy barriers in enterprise businesses.

Final Thought

Monitoring and observability have never been more critical to business success — and with digital transformation continuing to proliferate, their importance will only continue to grow. To maintain competitiveness, enterprises must have complete visibility into the health and performance of their entire infrastructure. This requires an approach that eliminates data silos, removes manual work, automates workflows, and gives teams the single source of truth that they need to troubleshoot and innovate faster. Unified monitoring and observability give SREs the ability to efficiently work across teams and gain insights that can have profound impacts on the business.