Outage outcry: Pressure continues to build for IT teams as business leaders face-up to high-profile digital disasters

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Outage outcry: Pressure continues to build for IT teams as business leaders face-up to high-profile digital disasters

Making the case for full-stack observability

Less than two weeks ago, a major outage from one of the world's biggest brands resulted in its services going offline for over six hours, impacting millions of users. This high profile digital disaster was headline news, but let's face facts, this won't be the last of its kind. Next week, another business will likely be facing a similar firestorm. Here, Joe Byrne, Executive CTO, Cisco AppDynamics explores new data which highlights just how concerned technologists have become about the threat of major outages to their organisation and the readiness of the tools they currently have in place to avert these situations. He argues that full-stack observability holds the key for IT teams as they seek to balance the demands of rapid innovation alongside increasing IT complexity, and user expectations for incredible digital services.

In an era of sky-high expectations for digital experiences and record levels of intolerance for poor performance, a disruption to digital services and applications can cause businesses significant financial loss and damage to their reputation. No wonder the threat of these outages is keeping technologists up at night.

In the wake of the recent events, AppDynamics conducted a global pulse survey of 1,000 IT decision makers in 11 countries to explore their current attitudes towards digital service disruption.

We found that 87 per cent of enterprise technologists are concerned about the potential for a major outage and the resulting disruption to their applications and digital services. Similarly, 84 per cent reported being on the receiving end of pressure from their organisation's leadership, as board and executive teams are becoming increasingly focused on the far-reaching consequences of performance issues that impact the user experience. All of this is piling pressure on technologists to keep applications and digital services running smoothly, so that brands can deliver seamless experiences to their end-users.

But this is easier said than done. The Covid-19 pandemic forced companies across all industries to accelerate their innovation and digital transformation initiatives. The result? Huge technology sprawl, with companies now utilizing a patchwork of legacy and cloud technologies that are extremely difficult to manage. And the pain of this complexity is starting to hit IT teams hard, right now.  87 per cent of the technologists we polled said the increasing complexity of their IT stack is causing long delays in identifying the root cause of performance issues. 

IT complexity won't go away on its own. In fact, as the demand to innovate at a rapid pace shows no sign of abating, it's going to get worse. 

So, what steps can technologists take? 97 per cent of IT teams already have some form of monitoring tool in place, many of those tools provide advanced methods for identifying and fixing anomalies. But IT teams are now questioning the effectiveness of these tools in this new world surrounded by overwhelming IT complexity. In fact, only 27 per cent are entirely confident that their current monitoring tools meet their needs. 

Enter full-stack observability. Full-stack observability provides technologists with a single, unified view of the full technology stack, enabling them to connect the dots up and down the stack. This spans the customer or employee-facing applications, all the way down to the lowest level infrastructure, such as compute, storage, network and public internet - and inter-services' dependencies to easily understand causes and locations of incidents and sub-performance. 

Our survey of global technologists found that 72 per cent recognise the urgency of deploying a full-stack observability solution within the next 12 months, so that they have the required visibility and insights to stave off future application performance issues.

Beyond the technical complexities driving the need for full-stack observability, the other major factor at play is ever-growing user expectations. A recent AppDynamics study showed the overwhelming reliance consumers now place on digital services and applications. There is a zero-tolerance policy for poor experiences from consumers, who automatically place blame on the application and brand, irrespective of the cause of the problem. 

All of this further stresses the urgency for technologists to implement not just full-stack observability, but full-stack observability with business context. This approach gives IT teams the ability to connect IT performance to business outcomes. Technologists can pinpoint the most critical data and contextualize IT performance insights with real-time business data,  only then can they prioritize actions and innovation based on what really matters the most.

Of course, it's nearly impossible to eliminate all potential issues. What is now widely understood, however, is that technologists must have the tools and solutions available to them so that they can ensure that if and when issues arise, IT teams can quickly establish the root cause of the problem and remediate this, before the end-user is impacted. Full-stack observability is focused exactly on achieving this level of readiness.

Joe Byrne is Executive CTO at AppDynamics

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