Able to redefine all thoughts and solve all problems, observability has arrived in all its regalia to take on the IT and business world in the form of a superhero. SuperO, its nickname as a child, before being exiled from the planet of Monitor, landed in the planet of ITOps approximately eight years ago. It arrived with no guidance or clear definition on how it should be raised. ITOps land citizens have tried maturing it, as best as they could, for years. But without help, SuperO’s potential has not yet been realized. The hopes and dreams of ITOps land citizens were then shattered when they realized that SuperO had an evil twin. BizarrO was opportunistic and saw that ITOps land citizens had no guidance, so BizarrO stepped in to wreak havoc through confusion and conflation. Where SuperO tried delivering value through clarity of insights and depths of visibility, BizarrO simply sought fame and name recognition through confusion of the term observability.
If Observability Means Everything, It Will Mean Nothing
The term observability is used everywhere. It can be found as a label on technology tools, as headings for organizational initiatives, and as task-focused application data. Observability is now even used to amorphously describe a general state of IT visibility. Is there any kryptonite out there to stop this out-of-control word from taking over every form of IT visibility description? It’s unclear right now if its ubiquitous use will continue, but we must all do our best to stop the abuse. If we don’t, the term observability and broader concept will lose all value. Everyone will be confused, ultimately resulting in unrealistic and false expectations of this powerful and necessary capability.
“I once thought I could protect the world by myself. But I was wrong.”
In Justice League, Superman admitted to the other superheroes that he needed their help. SuperO asks the same of you now. It needs your help to clear the air of the confusion, misuse, and overuse of the term observability. Nobody denies the value that observability brings to organizations, but clarity and consistency are essential for this value to be realized. Expectations are rising to unattainable levels, and that’s mostly due to the lack of clarity about what it is. Every practitioner must work to bring the use of the term back into focus, on system-centric operational insights. We can’t continue to use the term in so many ways that it ultimately waters down the immense value it has to offer. Don’t let that be the kryptonite that destroys SuperO and the planet of ITOps.
“There is a superhero in all of us. We just need the courage to put on the cape.”
I took over this role at Forrester nearly two years ago. First, I set out to lay the groundwork for what I see as a long journey for enterprises setting foundational pillars of insight. That began with defining AIOps and producing a reference architecture. It identifies 18 capabilities that enable it to watch over complex hybrid IT environments. I defined AIOps as:
“A practice that combines human and technological applications of AI/machine learning, advanced analytics, and operational practices to business and operations data. AIOps enhances human judgment, proactively alerts on known scenarios, predicts likely events, recommends corrective actions, and enables automation. It is fueled by coalescing and transforming sensory data into AI-enriched actionable information. A retrospective causal analysis and governance structure fuels foundational improvements and trust.”
Immediately following the publication of the AIOps reference architecture, I published an observability reference architecture with, again, a formal definition. At that time, I was already seeing the term being used in a variety of different and inconsistent ways. With decades of experience in various roles across the IT landscape, I knew that if the term observability continues to be used for everything, it’ll become meaningless to everyone. I defined observability as:
“An inherent ability of an entity to allow exploration and analysis through immutable externalized outputs. Exploration of its characteristics and behavioral patterns provides real-time visibility; real-time and historical analysis interprets and infers the internal state and operations to provide insights and actionable information.”
“Working together, we saved the planet.”
I’m not claiming to have all the answers, nor that the definitions for AIOps and observability are perfect. We’re experiencing incredible changes in technologies and how they’re being used by enterprises. I feel strongly that the research I and nearly 20 of my Forrester colleagues invested to develop these definitions is solid and can withstand scrutiny. But with that said, my primary focus is for our industry to coalesce around common definitions for these two terms in the same way we agree on their value.
Please work with me to stop BizarrO from continuing its reign of confusion. SuperO must win this battle against its evil twin. The future of planet ITOps depends on it.
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- “I once thought I could protect the world by myself. But I was wrong.” – Justice League – Secret Origins: Part III (2001)
- “There is a superhero in all of us. We just need the courage to put on the cape.” – Superman
- “Working together, we saved the planet.” – Justice League – Secret Origins: Part III (2001)