Optimized IT Operations Monitoring: Your 2021 Roadmap

    Within today’s enterprises, digital services form the backbone of virtually every key workflow, transaction, and interaction. To ensure these digital services are performing optimally, effective IT operations monitoring is key. However, while these efforts continue to grow more critical, they also keep getting more difficult. This post examines the challenges that teams are struggling with, and offers some key strategies for establishing optimized IT operations monitoring.

    New Year, Old Challenges

    To put it mildly, IT operations (ITOps) teams had a lot on their plates last year. In the wake of the global pandemic, dramatic shifts occurred. Plans for digital transformation that may have been envisioned as being rolled out over a two or three-year timeframe, had to happen in two to three months, if not faster. In fact, in many organizations, moves like supporting bring-your-own-device policies for global users effectively had to be instituted overnight.

    As they start to navigate 2021, ITOps teams can expect to continue to be under intensified pressures. In addressing their key imperatives, however, many will be hampered by these stubborn realities:

    • Tool sprawl, and the limitations and operational overhead of disparate point tools, continue to be widespread issues.
    • Teams lack linkages between infrastructure and business services. Further, they can’t really see how infrastructure performance and availability map to business outcomes and customer experiences.
    • Operational data remains scattered across technology domains

    How can ITOps teams finally get past these persistent obstacles? Gartner recently introduced a new report, 2021 Strategic Roadmap for IT Operations Monitoring, which offers a lot of useful insights. We believe the report can be a big help for teams looking to advance IT operations monitoring in the upcoming year.

    The report offered this key recommendation: “Achieve pragmatic observability, detecting relationships and dependencies impacting digital business applications and customer experience (CX) by analyzing telemetry from the full stack—shared and in-context.”1

    In the following sections, I’ll outline a few key requirements for effectively addressing this recommendation.

    Establish Pragmatic Observability

    Modern application environments typically feature a diverse mix of services and technologies, including microservices-based architectures, distributed systems, multiple clouds, and more. To track, manage, and optimize performance in these complex, dynamic environments, observability is emerging as a vital imperative.

    Observability is defined as “a measure of how well internal states of a system can be inferred by knowledge of its external outputs.” Given current trends, it appears that environments will keep getting more complex, interrelated, and dynamic, meaning this observability will only continue to grow more important.

    Moving forward, the emphasis will need to be not just on observability, but making observability pragmatic. This requires advanced solutions and approaches that promote better DevOps collaboration, ensuring observability is baked in at the beginning of the lifecycle, not tacked on as an afterthought. In this arena, teams are increasingly looking to AIOps for help. One recent survey found that 89% of respondents say that they expect AIOps will increase collaboration between development and operations teams.2 This collaboration will be vital in maximizing observability across the software development lifecycle.

    Gain Visibility into Relationships and Dependencies

    One of the challenges today’s complex environments pose isn’t just contending with the variety of platforms, protocols, and technologies that need to be managed, it’s gaining an understanding of the heightened layer of interdependencies that may exist between all these elements. Teams can’t be surprised by these interdependencies after issues are discovered; they need to understand and manage these relationships intelligently and proactively.

    Today, it is vital to gain a unified way to observe structures and cross-domain interdependencies. Following are a few examples of how this visibility can help:

    • A team responsible for networks can see how changes in the broader environment may affect specific devices, such as when an application update causes traffic to start being sent to a different router, creating an unexpected workload spike.
    • Line-of-business leaders can assess how a backend infrastructure upgrade affected a business metric like sales per hour.
    • In development scenarios, teams can track build deployments and compare them with changes in application performance, so they can more quickly and intuitively spot issues and optimization opportunities.

    Analyze Telemetry from the Full Stack and Across Domains

    For today’s ITOps teams, establishing unified intelligence is an increasingly important key. Teams need to be able to create a unified data lake that incorporates intelligence from across all the different technology domains, geographies, and layers that business services rely upon.

    Toward this end, it will be essential to integrate diverse sets of IT and business data that comes from different domains. Through this approach, the platform can build a unifying model that describes all aspects of the enterprise environment. It is this kind of platform that will enable teams to gain control and keep pace as these environments continue to grow in size and complexity.

    Establish Context

    While establishing a data lake that incorporates comprehensive data is critical, it is also vital that context from disparate domains is also retained.

    To accomplish this, teams need ontological abstraction, an ability to integrate diverse sets of IT and business data that comes from different domains, while preserving the context from each domain. Through this approach, the platform can build a unified model, while enabling semantically rich context to be transferred from one domain to the other.

    Ontologies vary across domains. For example, while a network monitoring ontology will be concerned with elements like routers and switches, a DevOps ontology will be focused on testing and production rules. It’s vital to leverage a platform that can accommodate different ontologies, including application performance management (APM), infrastructure, network, DevOps, security, and more.

    The Payoff: Gain Proactive Insights and Control

    Given the critical role digital services play today, the capabilities outlined above are key ingredients, not just to effective IT operations monitoring, but to business success.

    As the authors of the above-referenced Gartner report state, “Enterprises will switch to a top-down approach to identify opportunities for improvement in CX (customer experience) and business outcomes, instead of just reactively fixing problems.”3

    As environments and businesses continue to move faster, reacting and playing catch up aren’t tenable strategies. Through harnessing the capabilities above, teams will begin to establish the proactive capabilities needed to stay in front of change, while ensuring continuously optimized service levels. With these capabilities, teams can better understand the correlations between technology performance and business performance, and manage accordingly.

    To learn more about the keys that will define successful IT operations monitoring moving forward, be sure to check out the Gartner report, 2021 Strategic Roadmap for IT Operations Monitoring.

    1. Gartner, “2021 Strategic Roadmap for IT Operations Monitoring,” 8 October 2020, ID G00732455, Analysts: Federico De Silva, Padraig Byrne

    2. Dimensional Research, “Using AIOps to Gain Observability and Insight: A Global Survey of Executives and IT Professionals,” November 2020, URL: https://learn.broadcom.com/hubfs/BizOps.Com/Resources/ES_2021_Bizops.com_Dimensional-Research-Using-AIOps-to-Gain-Observability-and-Insight_PDF.pdf

    3. Gartner, “2021 Strategic Roadmap for IT Operations Monitoring,” 8 October 2020, ID G00732455, Analysts: Federico De Silva, Padraig Byrne