Mon. Jul 13th, 2020

How Developers Can Benefit from Observability

5 min read

In the real world, when a task fails, it’s usually quite obvious why. In the digital world, issues can be a little harder to reproduce. A decade ago, most errors and failure states were inscrutable—and much of that was by design. Today, enhanced observability is making it easier for developers, teams, and businesses to work together and trace issues back to the source. Better observability leads better DevOps, more productive teams, and greater profit for businesses.

Let’s explore some of the key benefits of observability—and how to get there.

Benefits of Observability for Developers

Observability improves company ROI and customer experience. It also has some tremendous benefits for developers. At its heart, observability is a way to ensure that developers get the best and most accurate data regarding unintended behavior and system faults. In a world of integrated, third-party open source solutions, microservices, Kubernetes monitoring, and more, it can be difficult to track the state of an entire infrastructure.

Observability conveys the following benefits to developers:

  • Through better alerting, customer-affecting issues can be discovered and mitigated faster. When new solutions are implemented, developers will very quickly know what has changed in the system and what issues have arisen due to these changes. This alleviates some anxiety for developers as they know that they’ll be able to trace back issues and events, and also ensures that customers have the least disruptive experience possible even when there are large, wide-scale changes that are being pushed down the pipe.
  • Developers spend far less time in meetings, especially as system scales or grows in complexity. Developers no longer need to spend time hunting down information through third-party companies and apps, because they are better able to connect with the solutions that are truly relevant. Rather than having to rely upon third parties and spend days or weeks finding out who owns a particular service, they can access this information immediately and call those who are responsible. There are many use cases for an observability platform, ranging from finding the root cause of client-side SaaS issues quickly, to streamlining server-side development.
  • Better workflows are achieved through superior end-to-end tracing. Debugging, optimization, and putting out fires can all be finessed into better workflows because developers now have more accurate information to react to. Throughout development, this saves a tremendous amount of time and energy and makes sure that developers remain focused on improving the system rather than identifying faults. Developers only need to look at relevant data, which also significantly reduces their cognitive load.
  • Developers spend less time hunting down false leads. Because developers have better and more accurate information, they spend less time digging in areas where the errors could not possibly be. They are able to form better ideas of why the errors are occurring, and they can react to these errors in far less time overall. This leaves them with more time for developing and less time for troubleshooting. When there’s an outage, even complex systems can be brought back to life quickly.
  • Developers experience lower levels of stress and frustration. Operations teams will have greater control over their environments and application performance, in addition to better reporting from end-users. Consequently, developers have to worry less about their new features and deployments and will be able to find out how new changes are affecting end-users much faster.

Developing is already a time-consuming, hectic, and often stressful job. But with better observability (and better observability tooling), developers are more connected with their software and are better able to communicate with the users and their experience.

The Core Tenets of Observability

Organizations seeking to improve their observability should first consider the necessary structure of observability processes. The following are the most important, major features of an observable system:

  • Observability tools have to be easy to integrate. And that doesn’t just mean from the point of view of software engineers and experts. Integration needs to be easy and seamless or it won’t receive support from the company and its end-users.
  • Tools need to be intuitive for end-users to use. If it’s not easy to use, no one will use it. Observability is designed to make the entire process of identifying and reporting easier. If it doesn’t do so, it isn’t doing its job.
  • High-fidelity data must be recorded and available. Without high-quality telemetry, observability won’t be accurate enough to yield positive results. Inaccurate data will be ignored. Machine learning can be used to improve the quality of data.
  • Data has to be collected in real-time. Real-time data is what allows employees and developers to work together effectively and address issues as they occur, improving the productivity of the system. Software teams can improve their continuous delivery processes with real-time data.
  • Human readability is essential. Visualizations, dashboards, and aggregate data are essential to translate machine information into a human-accessible and human-readable format. The front-end has to be able to connect to the data store in a way that makes sense to anyone.
  • Data has to be delivered with context. Many developers can attest to the frustration in hunting down intermittent issues and issues that have no contextual data. Systems are constantly in flux, and observability tools must be built to counter this flux. Overall user experience can benefit greatly from the additional context within monitoring tools.
  • Both tools and processes must be scalable. Part of the major benefits of observability is that it’s a system that can scale. As the system grows larger, it remains easy to track down failures. IT operations and team members can leverage observability tools without having to expand upon their human capital.
  • ROI must be improved. Finally, this is the bottom line. An observability tool cannot complicate the organization’s workings or lead to a net negative.

Once these factors are addressed, observability tools will help an organization begin to operate far more effectively, and will reduce the number of time developers need to spend on their maintenance and optimization. Not only will the customer experience be improved, but developers will be able to operate faster, more effectively, and with greater ROI.

Laila has always been interested in software, web development, and all things technical. She has taken numerous coding boot camps and development workshops to further her education in the tech space. Laila loves learning and writing about all things tech. In addition to being a writer, she also works as a digital marketer at Upgrow, an agency based in San Francisco.