Tech Corner

Network Observability: How Important Is It?

Enterprise networks are growing in complexity. To keep the apparatus running smoothly, monitoring the network for its health is essential. But with large networks, monitoring can be incredibly complicated. 

Network observability is a step after network monitoring. Network observability tools can answer bigger questions for large organizations that monitoring alone does not offer. DevOps teams, in particular, can greatly benefit from network observability, as it simplifies complex network data. 

This article explains network observability, how it’s different from monitoring, and how it relates to maintenance. 

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What Is Network Observability? 

Network observability refers to using data analysis to answer questions about the network. It uses the data network monitoring tools collected and employs a deeper analysis to identify issues and their causes. 

Simply put, you can analyze network issues more deeply with network observability. That results in a quicker resolution of issues as admins don’t have to spend nearly as much time identifying the cause of a problem. 

Network observability shouldn’t be mistaken for network visibility. The latter is more focused on individual network devices. In essence, network visibility is a part of both monitoring and observability. 

Network Monitoring vs. Observability

Although there are similarities between networking monitoring and observability, there are also significant differences. While both help identify issues and improve network performance, the way these technologies work differs. 

Network monitoring involves collecting data from individual assets in the infrastructure. Network admins then have to analyze this data to find solutions to problems. So the element of human intervention is higher in monitoring. 

On the other hand, network observability is more analytical. It uses the data from monitoring to analyze possible solutions. 

Perhaps the most important distinction between network monitoring and observability is that the latter is not as focused on network components but rather on the overall experience, particularly from the user’s perspective. 

Network monitoring tools may also have analytical capabilities, but these tools are often centered on components. Observability tools are centered on the connections from one end to another, not so much on the nodes between them. 

While networking monitoring is crucial for all enterprises, observability is more suitable for large organizations with complex network architectures and widespread WANs. For such organizations, monitoring may produce a lot of data that may be hard for administrators or network engineers to analyze. 

As a result, critical problems may be overlooked, and network optimization may become a difficult target. Observability tools, powered by data analysis, filter the data to find what’s most important. 

Network Observability in Action

Network observability processes vary based on the size of the enterprise, network architecture, and the size of workloads. Network observability generally relies on metrics, traces, and logs. 

  • Metrics: Network performance metrics can help detect issues. There are many different metrics to gauge performance, but typically it’s the service-level indicators that observability tools use. 

  • Traces: Traces move with the data and help diagnose and troubleshoot problems with network components. Admins or analysts can track the data lifecycle with the help of traces. Observability tools can detect bottlenecks by tracking the path of undelivered or delivered data. 

  • Logs: Logs are events that help identify the root cause of network issues. With granular details for each event that’s taking place on the network, log files are critical for monitoring and observability. Analyzing log data tells you where and when something went wrong.

The collection of these three pillars of observability is telemetry. In other words, observability depends on network telemetry. 

But telemetry can also include other data, particularly data corresponding to end-to-end visibility and user experience. It’s important to mention that all this data is necessary for complete observability. You may not succeed with observability tools if you just rely on one or two of the three pillars.

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How Is It Useful for Large Enterprises?

Large enterprise networks are typically quite complex, now more than ever. With many applications and layered tech stacks, managing such large networks can be a tall order. 

Network observability has become important for organizations with large IT footprints and data centers mainly because of its performance benefits. It leverages network monitoring, which is already a part of network management. Observability tools build upon the monitoring data, providing the big picture. 

Enterprise networks today span multiple clouds, data centers, and locations. Observability can form a fundamental part of IT reporting in such organizations, as it brings together data from various segments of the overall network. As mentioned, it’s about answering the bigger questions. 

Here are the benefits of network observability:

Shorter Time to Find Root Causes

The more complex the network, the harder it can be to find the cause of a problem. And if the problem is spread over multiple network sections, it gets even more complicated. As network observability considers the end-to-end movements, it can identify the root cause of a problem. 

It may not identify the exact device or application causing the problem, but that’s what monitoring is for. 

Identification of Architecture Improvements

A big reason why large enterprises should adopt network observability is that it can also identify issues with the architecture. Often the slow performance of a network isn’t due to a memory-hungry application or a failing server but because the architecture is not optimized for the use of the network. 

With observability, DevOps teams or hardware engineers can find answers to questions about architecture. It becomes easier to determine what works and what doesn’t. 

Preventing Bigger Downtime-Causing Problems

Detecting and resolving issues before they become more damaging prevents downtime. And that, in turn, saves enterprises money. Downtime can be incredibly expensive, depending on the size and niche of the business. Network observability and monitoring reduce the likelihood of downtime and unavailability. 

Network Observability and IT Maintenance

Network monitoring and observability are intrinsically linked with hardware maintenance. As network observability pertains to gaining insights into a network’s health, it can be useful to proactively address preventable issues such as failing hardware. 

Similarly, it can identify the need for upgrades or reconfiguration for certain hardware. For example, if a router reports too much CPU use, it likely needs a hardware upgrade. 

On the other hand, network observability is also dependent on hardware maintenance. It needs real-time data from network components, including equipment, to provide accurate data about its health and performance. 

Regular IT maintenance can ensure reliable network observability that answers questions accurately and shows the state of the network as is. 

Choose OneCall for IT Maintenance

Network monitoring and observability, combined with timely maintenance, can ensure your enterprise network is fully optimized and performing at its best. OneCall can be the maintenance solution for large enterprises with complex networks. With a global presence and short service-level agreements, OneCall is the go-to for multi-national organizations. 

When your networking monitoring and observability tools identify issues with hardware, especially legacy hardware, OneCall will have your back. 

Third-party maintenance with OneCall can help you avoid downtime while keeping costs down.

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