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To SaaS or Not to SaaS? Choosing the Right Observability Strategy for Your Organization

Observability can help ensure a successful digital transformation — but the right approach isn't one-size-fits-all.

ITPro Today

May 21, 2024

5 Min Read
cloud observability concept

Have you ever wondered why some businesses thrive in the cloud era while others struggle to keep up? The secret ingredient might be an intelligent approach to transitioning from monitoring to observability — which sets the stage for eventual autonomous operations and self-governing systems. This comprehensive view across the entire stack of digital environments is necessary to safeguard against operational disruptions, performance issues, service delivery bottlenecks, and security concerns.

With the digital arena evolving at breakneck speed, ensuring real-time predictive insights into system performance, health, and security has become an absolute necessity. According to SolarWinds research, the typical enterprise loses more than $13.7 million annually to costs associated with the brownouts or outages they experience each month. Despite this, nearly half of IT professionals surveyed say they lack visibility into most of their organization's apps and infrastructure.

While implementation stages vary, a recent survey of IT leaders discovered that 100% of enterprises were planning to implement, were researching, or were actively implementing observability. Clearly, the burning question for enterprises today isn't whether to adopt observability, but how to deploy it in a way that's best suited to an organization's particular needs.

Each cloud, on-prem, and hybrid observability solution on the market has unique strengths and benefits for organizations to consider before investing. Understanding these options will allow organizations to select the approach that aligns seamlessly with their specific operational requirements and strategic objectives — paving the way for better performance, reliability, and security in today's ever-evolving digital landscape.

Cloud Observability: Flexible & Scalable but Potentially Limiting

Cloud observability solutions inherently possess the elasticity of the cloud, providing the flexibility to scale resources up or down as needed, even as workloads fluctuate. These platforms can handle large volumes of data from disparate sources, giving organizations the power to aggregate, analyze, and correlate data across multiple public and private clouds and applications. This enables deeper insights and better decision-making. Additionally, cloud observability platforms are continuously updated with new features, enhancements, and security patches to ensure organizations benefit from the latest technological advancements without needing manual upgrades or migrations.

One of the standout advantages of cloud observability is its ability to unify visibility across an organization's cloud-hosted environments, which makes it easier to manage disparate apps and services. However, it's important to note that cloud observability solutions are primarily designed to monitor and manage cloud-native applications and infrastructure, meaning they may not provide comprehensive visibility into on-prem elements.

More than half (58%) of IT professionals agree that observability blind spots in today's modern networks — including on-prem, tunnels, and databases — present extreme challenges. Therefore, cloud observability is best suited for enterprises that have fully embraced cloud-native architectures and are migrating most, if not all, of their applications and infrastructure to the cloud.

On-Prem Observability: Customizable & Compliant but Rigid

Unlike their cloud-based counterparts, on-prem observability solutions are hosted in your data center and managed by your team, offering a level of control and security that is hard to match. Enterprises have complete oversight over their data, without the need to transmit sensitive information over the internet or store it in third-party data centers. This is especially beneficial for organizations with strict regulatory requirements or that rely on critical legacy systems as part of their business operations.

For organizations with predictable IT demands, on-prem observability can be a more cost-effective option in the long run. Though there may be an initial investment in hardware and software, the lack of recurring cloud service fees makes it a financially viable option for specific business models. Furthermore, with all observability data and tools hosted on-site, enterprises can benefit from faster data processing and analysis, free from the latency that sometimes affects cloud services. This can lead to quicker issue detection and resolution, enhancing system reliability and performance.

However, while on-prem observability offers significant benefits in terms of customization and regulatory compliance, it also poses challenges around scalability, resource intensity, and the pace of innovation. Enterprises opting for on-prem observability must navigate these trade-offs, ensuring their approach aligns with operational needs and long-term strategic goals. Additionally, as organizations grow and evolve, on-prem observability systems may struggle to keep pace. Without adequate visibility into the cloud environment, organizations can find themselves unable to adapt their strategies effectively, hampering their ability to leverage the agility and scalability offered by cloud technologies.

Hybrid Observability: The Best of Both Worlds

Hybrid observability solutions ensure the best of both worlds by merging the meticulous control of on-prem setups with the cloud's expansive scalability and flexibility. Hybrid observability offers a flexible approach to monitoring and managing increasingly complex IT environments. This is particularly relevant for enterprises navigating the transition to the cloud or maintaining a strategic mix of cloud and on-prem resources — for example, using the cloud for dynamic workloads while keeping sensitive or critical operations on-prem. These solutions provide a truly unified full-stack view across both cloud and on-prem environments into the entire IT infrastructure for detecting and resolving issues that could impact system performance and user experience.

Hybrid observability also helps organizations understand the interconnections between different network components so teams can preemptively identify potential issues. This allows them to take proactive steps to minimize the risk of downtime and ensure continuous service delivery. Finally, hybrid observability allows enterprises to place workloads where they are most cost-effective and performant from a strategic standpoint. Sensitive data can be kept on-prem to reduce security risks, while less critical, scalable workloads can be monitored in the cloud to capitalize on its elasticity. Crucially, none are moved into a blind spot.

Choosing between cloud, on-prem, and hybrid observability solutions is not just a technical decision but a strategic one that can determine an enterprise's future agility, resilience, and competitiveness. By carefully evaluating the advantages and limitations of each deployment model, enterprises can select the observability solution that best supports their journey toward digital excellence — ensuring they remain robust, responsive, and competitive in the ever-evolving digital arena.

Jeff Stewart is Vice President of Product at SolarWinds.

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