As businesses accelerate digital transformations and cloud adoption to better serve customers and employees in the face of the global pandemic, operational complexity has also mounted. To untangle these complexities and enable executive visibility into IT ecosystem , business leaders are increasingly looking to observability solutions as a strategic investment.

Throughout this unprecedented time, Elastic has been uniquely positioned to help our customers succeed in their digital transformation journeys, and drive their observability initiatives. We’ve been part of thousands of customer conversations and efforts to manage digital transformation. Here’s what we’ve learned and predict for the years ahead.

1. Observability is a critical business initiative

With customers and employees increasingly going digital, businesses need to innovate faster with increased adoption of cloud and cloud-native technologies. Keeping cloud applications running effectively has also become significantly more difficult. Organizations continue to struggle with a lot of data, but few are able to extract actionable insights. Observability connects the dots in your telemetry data, provides visibility into application performance, and enables accelerated digital transformation.

As a result, the criticality of full-stack observability efforts to accelerate digital transformation has now been deemed a strategic initiative for the C-suite. Observability is moving from being a buzzword to becoming mainstream. Executives will continue to expect observability solutions to increasingly connect business and operational KPIs. According to EMA Research, microservices, containerization, public cloud, and application transformation has lifted observability to the top of enterprise priorities and is the #1 challenge for DevOps teams.

2. Kubernetes visibility and the emergence of eBPF

Container and kubernetes-led adoption continues to grow rapidly. However, the newer, ephemeral, cloud technologies have also introduced several operational and visibility challenges. As the number of kubernetes clusters increase, so does the management complexity related to scaling and monitoring. Emerging technologies such as eBPF represent a big leap forward to provide visibility into complex Kubernetes environments with minimal overhead. eBPF also delivers the ability to provide visibility from the infrastructure to the application without the complexity and overhead of service meshes and will continue to see increased adoption. Expect increased focus on managing Kubernetes as well as the adoption of eBPF.

3. Increasing need for visibility across hybrid and multi-cloud environments

As organizations continue to rapidly evolve in their digital transformation journey, the adoption of the public cloud is a critical component. To facilitate and accelerate digital transformation, teams need visibility across hybrid and multi-cloud environments which are becoming increasingly complex. According to 451 Research, over 70% of respondents say that the public cloud has increased complexity in their IT organization. Observability solutions that can provide visibility across hybrid and multi-cloud environments will be the solution of choice as organizations look for unified and comprehensive visibility across legacy technology as well as modern cloud environments.

4. Machine learning will improve and deliver actionable insights

With the amount of observability data exponentially growing, it’s harder for teams to manually sift and sort through the data to detect outliers and trends. In fact, infrequently occurring anomalies can be quite disruptive to the business but can be difficult to detect. According to EMA Research, 45% of SRE time is spent on searching for actionable data. Operations and development teams are looking for ways in which machine learning can help identify anomalies as well as any outlier trends and patterns to accelerate root cause analysis and reduce downtime.

5. Ad hoc analytics and data visualization in observability

While machine learning and automated troubleshooting will continue to improve, DevOps and SRE teams will still need the ability to analyze and segment their observability data to answer the unknown unknowns. Ad hoc analytics along with data visualization enables collaboration between teams as they seek answers to trends and understand patterns to isolate application issues, along with the resulting business impact. These advanced capabilities will require observability solutions that can store large amounts of data with custom metrics and contextual data from a variety of sources and treat all data as a first class citizen. Observability is all about the data and storing it at the granularity needed for true insights.

Expect customers to increasingly focus on these advanced observability requirements as they continue to tie operational performance to business impact.

6. Increasing adoption and reliance on open standards

As the observability technology ecosystem gets more complex, DevOps teams continue to converge on technologies based upon open standards. Adopting open standards help organizations avoid vendor lock-in while also unlocking community-driven innovation. We will continue to see the evolution of OpenTelemetry standards support for traces, metrics, and logs. Increased adoption of Prometheus for metrics and Apache Kafka for data streaming. DevOps teams are increasingly choosing observability solutions that support these open standards to provide organizations the ability to integrate and observe their heterogeneous application ecosystems.

7. Simple, transparent, consumption-based pricing

As observability has continued to evolve and broaden its capabilities along with supporting more data types, observability pricing models have gotten increasingly complex. Each vendor offers multiple pricing levels along with a lot of fine print making observability deployments and their budgets, difficult to predict. Organizations will favor observability solutions that deliver value with costs based on consumption, providing teams the flexibility to adopt a model that works for them financially. Consumption-based pricing models that don’t artificially constrain customers from monitoring different environments, offer data retention and storage flexibility while still maintaining performance will be commonplace.

8. A focus on observability TCO for the long-term

With the exponential growth in operational complexity, organizations are increasingly faced with choosing between improved TCO vs. best of breed solutions. Too many solutions lead to tool sprawl resulting in fragmentation and data silos impacting operational visibility and hampering the ability to correlate data. According to 451 Research, 76% of organizations use more than one cloud provider. With over 800 services now being offered between AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure (according to EMA research), tool sprawl and complexity rises exponentially. Piecing together diagnostic information from multiple tools (otherwise known as the swivel chair effect) leads to increased time to root cause, reduced productivity, and slower innovation. Organizations will continue to consolidate multiple tools on a single platform that offers the best TCO for today and for tomorrow.

9. A holistic approach requiring the right skills, processes, and technology

Observability is not just about tools. Proper observability requires building the right skillset and mindset in an organization. A team that is well versed in modern software development processes, as well as operating in a cloud environment. A team that follows observability best practices, right from the start of the development process: adding informative tags to packages, adding logging to their code, and enabling instrumentation for traces. Observability best practices need to be embedded in the development process from start to finish, not an afterthought.

10. Tighter collaboration between operations and development teams

Organizations continue to adopt DevOps practices as the rate of software development accelerates. To be effective, there needs to be increased collaboration between development and operations teams. All teams need to be analyzing the same data to be able to effectively collaborate and resolve problems quickly. In addition, besides adopting multiple tools within production environments, teams are also forced to adopt different tools used in their dev and stage environments, mostly due to cost constraints. Tool silos in different stages present a fragmented view of the entire pipeline. Organizations will continue to integrate their entire development environment on a single, observability platform to improve collaboration across teams, each analyzing the same data to reduce downtime.

11. The rise of CI/CD observability

Build tools are critical to ensuring the delivery of software from development to production and are often extremely complex. To get insights and visibility into this pipeline, the CI/CD community has leveraged OpenTelemetry to start instrumenting build tools (e.g. Jenkins, Maven, JUnit, Ansible, etc). These initiatives went beyond the expectations of troubleshooting CI/CD platforms and has also helped accelerate software deployment. 2022 will continue to see the rise of an ecosystem of OpenTelemetry, native devops tools transforming CI/CD pipelines into gold mines of metrics on the software delivery lifecycle. Critical information that will support an ever growing range of use cases from troubleshooting and optimizing CI/CD pipelines, to test optimization, cost accounting, engineering process monitoring, and much more.

12. Observability and security working together more closely

As the application development process accelerates with enterprises deploying code multiple times a day or week, it’s important to ensure the security of the application as well as the infrastructure. CIOs and CISOs are looking to embed security and observability teams together so they can ensure that security isn’t compromised while delivering innovation for their customers. Recent survey data from 451 Research shows a major shift in who is using application security tools, suggesting that DevSecOps is not just an idea, but a growing reality. IT decision-makers allocated application security tools to 48% of development teams in 2020, compared to just 29% in 2015, a significant leap forward.

According to the report, “Opportunities abound for security to become more directly integrated into DevOps efforts, with CIOs leading the charge.” The report continues to say: “Security teams must become better versed in DevOps practices and tools, while DevOps pros must increasingly embrace the integration of security practices and technology.” Expect increased requirements from enterprises for solutions that allow observability and security teams to collaborate on the same platform.

While there has been a lot of hype around observability, organizations are starting to understand the criticality of it to ensure successful digitization and cloud adoption. These changes are driving significant and rapid business and operational needs. As you move from traditional monitoring to observability, the end goal of a great, reliable digital experience is what full-stack observability will ultimately bring about. Which is why an observability initiative is an important journey to embark on in 2022.

To learn more and discuss these future observability trends, join us for a virtual event on March 22, 2022 - Observability trends for 2022: A look into the future!