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Understanding Observability: The Key to Effective System Monitoring

JJ Jeffries
JJ Jeffries

In the rapidly evolving landscape of modern tech, system reliability has become critical for businesses to succeed. To ensure the stability and performance of complex distributed systems, companies rely on observability—a concept that isn’t synonymous but goes beyond traditional monitoring approaches. In this blog post, we will explore observability, the differences between telemetry data of metrics, logs, and traces, and why observability pipelines are essential for complete visibility.

What is Observability?

As our CEO, Mike Kelly, defined with The Cube at KubeCon EU, “There are many answers to that question, but there’s a technical answer in that it’s the ability to know the state of a system.” Ultimately, one wants to gain insights/analysis into the internal workings of a system based on its external outputs. Unlike monitoring, which focuses on specific metrics or predefined events, observability aims to provide a complete understanding of the system’s state, behavior, and performance. It enables teams to identify issues proactively, troubleshoot problems, and make informed decisions to improve system reliability.

Related Content: Monitoring vs Observability: What is Reality?

Telemetry: Understanding the differences between Metrics, Logs, and Traces

To achieve observability, it is crucial to clearly understand the different types of telemetry data that can be collected and analyzed. Now, there’s debate about other forms, but we’ll stick to the basics of metrics, logs, and traces:


Metrics are quantitative measurements that provide insights into a system's behavior over time. They are typically numeric values representing a particular aspect of system performance, such as response time, error rate, or resource utilization. Metrics are essential for tracking trends, setting thresholds, and triggering alerts based on predefined conditions.


Logs are textual records that capture specific events and activities within a system. They provide detailed information about what happened when it happened, and potentially why it happened. Logs are valuable for troubleshooting issues, conducting post-incident analysis and auditing system activities. They often include timestamps, log levels, error messages, and contextual data.


Traces provide a way to visualize the flow of transactions or requests across a distributed system. They capture the sequence of interactions between various components and services, allowing teams to identify performance bottlenecks, latency issues, and dependencies. Traces are beneficial in microservices architectures, where understanding end-to-end request flows is crucial.

Related Content: observIQ Earns Gartner® Nod for Cutting-Edge Observability Innovation

The Importance of Observability Pipelines

Organizations have to set up robust observability pipelines to harness the full power of observability. These pipelines are responsible for reducing, simplifying, standardizing, and helping organizations scale their telemetry data from different sources to one or multiple destinations. Below are three points as to why these pipelines are essential:

Data Aggregation

Data is growing exponentially, and observability pipelines gather telemetry data from various sources, including metrics, logs, and traces. By centralizing and standardizing this data, organizations can have a holistic view, all in the same format.


With the massive amounts of telemetry data collected, organizations can easily route to appropriate destinations based on business requirements. Whether it's for real-time analysis or storage for compliance reasons, being able to transport data is key


A report from the European Commission suggested that up to 90% of the data collected within organizations is never analyzed or used strategically. With observability pipelines, companies can remove unnecessary data, sending what matters to different endpoints, reducing the amount being ingested, and ultimately saving on costs to SIEM solutions like Splunk.


In conclusion, observability is a game-changer, offering a holistic understanding of system behavior, proactive incident response, and faster problem resolution. By implementing robust observability pipelines and leveraging the power of telemetry data, organizations can enhance system reliability, mitigate risks, and ultimately deliver exceptional user experiences in today’s digital landscape. Embracing observability is no longer an option but a necessity for companies seeking to thrive in an increasingly interconnected and complex world.

JJ Jeffries
JJ Jeffries

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