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Predictions for Observability’s Evolution in 2021

7 min read
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Many conversations in 2020 focused on observability: how you define it; the principles and questions you should be asking when moving from monitoring to observability; whether observability is something you can achieve or something you can always strive to do better—like democracy. How do you know if you’re faking observability? What steps can you take to improve the customer experience by moving from reactive to data-driven analysis?

Next year, observability will continue to evolve. You’ll see observability fuel post-pandemic digital innovation, observability literacy will take off, and human-centric solutions will become a focus of observability. We asked some of the brightest minds at New Relic—and a few of our equally brilliant friends—to weigh in on what they expect 2021 to hold. Read on for a few of their predictions.

1. Observability supports omnichannel

COVID has accelerated consumer expectations for seamless omnichannel experiences. Consumers want to mix online and offline purchases freely, including booking experiences, selecting and trying products, purchasing goods, and having them delivered swiftly. This requires frontend and backend processes (comprising in-store, online, stock management, and supply chains) to work seamlessly together. And successfully executing these omnichannel experiences requires an end-to-end view of business technology that observability natively supports in real time.

Greg Ouillon, EMEA Field Chief Technology Officer, New Relic

2. The rise of cloud-agnostic development frameworks—the pendulum is swinging back

The rise of cloud-agnostic development frameworks is really about how technology is evolving with a pendulum swing. We’ve seen the cloud create a few Infrastructure-as-a-Service components, then create middleware components, and it’s starting to mushroom. It’s starting to get so complicated that cloud providers have started to create groups of services to bring some level of coherence and readability. Cloud providers want customers to go all-in on their solutions, but we are seeing a number of customers demanding the portability of their apps. This is why customers are using the likes of Pivotal, Anthos, and Rancher, and I think we’re going to see an expansion of these cloud-agnostic development frameworks that will allow businesses to develop code and deploy it on any cloud as they wish.

To a large extent, at a lower level Kubernetes is a cloud-agnostic framework; it allows you to bring your containers and run them anywhere you want. And where the effort to port your code does exist, it’s much less than if you deployed using a cloud PaaS. There will always be a battle between portability and integrated verticalization, and it’s not an observability platform’s role to arbitrate that. Observability platforms need to provide customers with the freedom of portability. They need to support every cloud and have the capabilities to manage them effectively.

The beauty of an observability platform is that it creates an invariant across teams, processes, and digital services, fostering transversal stability even as your digital architectures evolve at a faster pace.

Greg Ouillon, EMEA Field Chief Technology Officer, New Relic

3. Observability fuels post-pandemic digital innovation

In 2020, more enterprises leaned on observability as the pandemic forced all businesses to be digital businesses. The ability to view the entire software stack is now a must-have within complex IT and development environments and during continued cloud migration. In 2021, the use of traditional application performance management will continue to decline—and observability will rise to the occasion and fuel post-pandemic digital innovation. But there is more work to be done to adapt observability to tomorrow’s business and IT needs. Modern enterprises will increasingly look for observability platforms that have three fundamental traits—those that are open, connected, and programmable.

Bill Staples, Chief Product Officer, New Relic

4. Observability literacy and consulting

The value of “observability literacy” for practitioners in the DevOps, business operations, and analyst community will become a highly valued skillset. Observability will start to become a core curriculum in higher education and academic programs due to the rarity of these skills today. People who embrace education and certification around observability will find themselves in a position of great opportunity for career development both within and outside of their organizations.

We’ll see a shift in the traditional consulting firms in establishing observability practices to bridge gaps that exist today for many organizations. Boutique consulting firms with strong domain expertise around observability will leverage the industry’s leading tools to help organizations achieve business-relevant observability. With this evolution, 2021 promises to be an exciting year underpinned by the huge number of organizations embracing digital transformation as they emerge from the period of COVID.

Ben Goodman, SVP Asia, New Relic

5. Cloud native observability subsumes traditional APM

Traditional approaches to APM will continue its decline in importance and mindshare as cloud native observability subsumes traditional APM. In particular, agentless approaches that leverage OpenTelemetry will increasingly supplant agented APM. Agents will still have a role, but they will be relegated to legacy environments that aren’t properly observable.

Jason Bloomberg, IT Industry Analyst and President, Intellyx

6. Human-centric solutions will become a focus of observability

As our industry has developed, the focus has been primarily on the complexity of interdependent computer systems, layers of the stack, and the ever-expanding innovations that shift that landscape. In 2021, the observability solutions that begin to take root will focus on the constant layer beneath the systems: the network of interrelated teams that build and support those systems to deliver remarkable experiences to other human beings. Helping humans see, connect, collaborate, and generously serve other humans will mark success in our sector. That looks like use cases over features and a focus on saving people time.

Joel Worrall, Senior Director, Open Source, New Relic

More predictions—observability and beyond

We have many more informative predictions to share:

  • Learn what’s trending beyond the entrenched languages—JavaScript, Python, Java, and .NET—in the ever-more-complex developer landscape.
  • Find out why data-agnostic AIOps technology will continue to grow as organizations strive to further reduce alert noise and enable faster issue resolution.
  • Get the scoop on what new DevOps practices will look like in a post-COVID-19, digital-heavy world; learn how shared data can serve as a bridge across departments; and why tool consolidation can help teams reduce costs and simplify training. You’ll also find out why savvy organizations will use DevOps as a differentiator to drive a competitive business advantage.
  • Find out why digital transformation will continue to accelerate in the year ahead, and with it, open source adoption. And when it comes to serverless, AWS Lambda functions will continue to grow—no longer limited to cloud native early adopters or niche use cases.

Read The 21 Best Tech Predictions for 2021.