The perfect log management solution is invisible.
It sounds like a wild claim, considering that billion dollar companies like Splunk, Datadog, New Relic, and Solarwinds are consistently making national headlines, for both good and bad reasons. Observability leaders are anything but invisible, so how can the perfect solution be different? Are they that far off?
To create a vision of the perfect log management solution, we need to understand what makes observability valuable. In some cases it’s employed as a simple compliance requirement. The value added in those circumstances is binary – either a firm meets compliance, or doesn’t. In a recent blog post, New Solutions to New Observability Needs, we talked about compliance as a barrier to entry, and observability solutions that make surmounting that barrier easier and more affordable as empowering resources that create beneficial competition in industries with strict compliance standards. Compliance reports are important, but today compliance is only a portion of the observability market. Most tech companies invest in some form of log management. It can be tedious and expensive, but companies pay millions of dollars and dedicate entire teams to implement and oversee log management solutions. They must be getting something out of it. What’s the value of log management beyond security and compliance needs?
The answer is nuanced for any specific case, but generally it boils down to three high-level sources of value:
- Cyber Security – a critical and growing concern for firms around the world. Digital infrastructures have never been more vulnerable. Attacks have never been more common. Proper implementation of a good log management system offers insights that help developers tighten ecosystem security and real time alerts that keep teams aware of possible threats and security breaches. The value, in many cases, is quite literally the livelihood of the business.
- Debugging – the painful but necessary process of fixing flaws and errors in digital systems. No system, cloud infrastructure, or application worth its salt performs exactly as intended in all cases. Inevitably, something breaks. Pinpointing the source of unexpected problems is tedious, monotonous, and often infuriating. Log data can draw a map to the problem, directing developers to the point in their stack where the code needs attention.
- Optimization – making applications and web servers operate as efficiently as possible. Like tuning an engine for speed versus fuel efficiency, optimizing a digital system can vary based on the objective. Aggregating log data from real-world performance offers insight into performance, efficiency, and power. For massive ecosystems, just a few percent – even a fraction of a percent – increase in efficiency can add up to millions of dollars in saved cloud service fees.
Log management is valuable. Often essential. So why isn’t it considered a solved problem? New players emerge in the observability industry every year. Why is there so much competition? The simple answer is that no existing observability solution is perfect. “Perfect” is an unattainable standard, but it is clearly visible in the minds of observability experts, so nothing can stop them from trying. In a nutshell, a perfect observability solution implements itself across entire networks, configures with no human effort, and delivers actionable insights to teams that are catered specifically to the needs of the users while maintaining security and privacy (the “perfect” solution is also free, but that is true of any product). Easy, right?
It’s safe to say that as long as no perfect solution exists, there will always be competition to improve. Safe, but not satisfying. The more complicated answer, which lands closer to truth, is that in the pursuit of perfect observability, different players focus on perfecting different aspects of observability, optimizing for certain value propositions and minimizing related pains. For example, a company like Splunk, the current leader in observability for large businesses, focussed on scale and expansive featuresets, made trade-offs with price and ease of use. They appeal to devops teams maintaining massive ecosystems with deep pockets to pay for it. Other companies target niches that large, expensive solutions cannot service perfectly, or simply undercut them and target large businesses that don’t need all the bells and whistles. What are the major pain points that new observability solutions aim to solve?
- Setup – observability used to require in-house custom solutions. We don’t need to completely reinvent the wheel for every observability use case anymore, but many solutions still require a lengthy, highly technical setup process that requires dedicated experts and time.
- Maintenance – in many cases, changes to applications, servers, databases, etc. also require corresponding changes to observability solutions. That takes time, expertise, and can unnecessarily delay progress.
- Insights – data is only valuable when it can be put to use. For analytics, machine learning, compliance audits, etc. collecting the right data and applying it correctly is a challenge.
- Cost – it’s obvious, but worth noting that the cost of observability can be monstrous. A few cents saved per gigabyte can add up to millions of dollars in the course of a year. Cost only increases the longer logs are retained.
Maximize the value, minimize the pain, and a vision emerges of a “perfect” solution. It’s secure, insightful, efficient, and requires no human attention to setup or maintain. It delivers insights and alerts to the right people, while omitting unnecessary clutter. It’s affordable, or free, so teams of any size can comfortably use it. It doesn’t exist. It will probably never exist, but that won’t stop us from trying.
At observIQ, we are pursuing our vision of the perfect observability solution. We maximize our users’ value, while minimizing effort, and keeping costs low. It might never be perfect, but it’s well on its way. It only takes minutes for someone with no technical experience to sign up and ship logs to observIQ. There’s alerts, real time insights, analytics, and unlimited users for collaborative work. Try it out and let us know what you think.