How To

How To Integrate Observability Into System Architecture

May 19, 2023 | min

Observability architecture conceptualized as a security camera viewing IT systems

With the ever-increasing complexity of IT infrastructure on-premises and in the cloud, businesses have more difficulty understanding system health and performance. However, enterprise leaders should prioritize observability in architecture as transparency benefits internal teams and end users. A business requires insight into the implementation process to integrate observability features successfully.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cost-effective integration of observability entails designing architecture from the ground up.
  • Key features to implement include logs, metrics, and heartbeats, as well as dashboards and report systems that heighten the accessibility of those features.
  • With connections to other industry solutions, Nutanix platforms empower greater visibility.

Take the next steps in your journey to integrate more transparent observability practices by learning to integrate key monitoring features into existing architecture.

What is observability in architecture?

Observability in architecture means facilitating the visibility of data, computing processes, and resource consumption. IT infrastructure environments are complex networks that also host numerous other factors. As time passes, new complications arise in these environments and can obscure an otherwise comprehensive view of the entire architecture.

Observability is essential not only for meeting core business needs but also allows for seamless auditing and operability in accordance with customer demands. Enterprises and consumers benefit from observability features that monitor capacity, performance, and service availability competently. 

Architecture features that improve monitoring and observability provide IT teams with external outputs that help analyze ways to troubleshoot an issue or gauge system health. These include:

  • Dashboards
  • Reports
  • Logs
  • Metrics
  • Heartbeats

However, tools and programming practices that lead to observability in architecture do not guarantee the integration of solid monitoring practices. There is still a need for teams within the organization to actively oversee the architecture, enforce security measures and govern data processes.

Design for observability

When shifting observability to the forefront of your IT practices, it can be difficult to retroactively install observability features in an architecture that is not inherently compatible with them. This entails excessive costs for retooling existing systems and testing for compatibility issues.

Instead, designing a new architecture that initially focuses on observability is prudent. When this is successfully done, you can seamlessly integrate your ground-up observability architecture into your current infrastructure, then migrate the processes and workloads that require more visibility to the new system.

Migration is particularly relevant if your organization is adopting a hybrid cloud operational model. As you migrate specific processes into the public cloud, observability becomes more important due to the proximity of your applications to the end user and your third-party platform providers.

If your enterprise is already an adopter of cloud-native development, your applications built on the principles of containers and Kubernetes can more efficiently migrate to a new and more observable architecture.

Implement observability features

Integrating observability in architecture requires implementing monitoring features in the infrastructure’s design. Logs and metrics are the most common and perhaps most crucial observability features in an IT environment, with heartbeat monitoring playing a valuable support role in verifying a system's health, even during periods of inactivity.

While your IT monitoring team may have direct access to the databases where observation data storage takes place, dashboards and reports allow for more accessible monitoring of the entire scope of your architecture. These features work in tandem to provide a comprehensive vision of health and performance for the infrastructure environment.

Implementing logs, metrics, and heartbeats

Logs are simple observability architecture tools you implement via a low-end database or cloud-based service. Each request and response should have a corresponding code that generates a log message identical to the data processed as a part of your service. 

Those log messages may then automatically save in a secure database due to the potentially sensitive nature of the information. Your IT team can proceed to investigate the log system for anomalies in the event of an incident.

IT metrics refer to resource allocation, such as processing power usage, disk space and memory. Observability of these metrics is vital for on-premises systems you control so you can monitor energy consumption and hardware reliability. 

Even when your processes are running in a third-party cloud, it is still beneficial to understand metrics. Metrics can help you optimize your applications' performance and have a transparent relationship with your vendor regarding capacity costs.

Metric observability architecture can consist of a simple code that records the start and stop times of service. It also can be seen through the validity of requests and the apparent success or failure of the requested activity, which can go far in increasing the visibility of a system’s performance. You can program these records to store them in a database for comprehensive analysis.

While logs and metrics can help identify the source of a problem after the fact, using heartbeats is a more preemptive measure. Services designed with heartbeat calls in mind will receive signals regularly, even when inactive. A successful response to these heartbeat calls indicates that the service is healthy and ready to operate on demand.

Seek observability architecture solutions

Integrating observability in architecture within your organization is possible as an internal process by hiring or training staff specializing in infrastructure modifications on this scale. The teams involved also need hands-on experience with monitoring practices to create an architecture and dashboard accessible even to users without an in-depth understanding of the underlying complexity. 

Another obstacle exists in the form of ongoing workforce requirements. Observing and evaluating logs and metrics without using sophisticated AI solutions means employing a dedicated team available 24/7 to monitor IT infrastructure via specialized observability features.

There is a solution to the challenges presented by observability architecture integration in the form of an alliance between Nutanix and ThoughtData. Unified observability that functions passively on a hyperconverged infrastructure is difficult to achieve, but the ThoughtData platform accomplishes this through compatible integration with Nutanix HCI.

Learn more about Nutanix Prism and how ThoughtData observability works in the Nutanix AHV environment.

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