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Grafana Labs Observability Survey: Centralization Saves Time and Money

The survey finds that organizations continue to use many different observability tools to gain insights into operations, which can lead to complexity.

Open source operational dashboard vendor Grafana Labs released its Observability Survey 2023 on March 8, revealing multiple challenges organizations are facing with both data and tool sprawl.

According to the survey, more than half (52%) of the respondents stated that their companies utilize six or more observability tools, with 11% using 16 or more. To address this issue, 70% of the participants reported that their companies have implemented centralized observability. Among these respondents, 83% reported experiencing savings in either time or money.

Overall the report identified five key observability trends:

  • Organizations are using a wide range of observability tools. Survey participants mentioned that, beyond the two most commonly used observability tools, more than 20 other tools are currently in active use.
  • Tool and data overload varies. Bigger companies typically utilize a greater number of data sources.
  • Organizations are at different stages in their observability journey. About 30% of the participants have not yet implemented centralized observability, and certain industries have made more progress in this area than others.
  • Not all ROI is the same. Organizations have varying goals with their observability strategies.
  • Accountability and market maturity come to observability. A mature observability strategy is indicated by the effective implementation of service-level objectives (SLOs).

"We hear from our community and customers every day, so we know that organizations are dealing with a lot of different observability tools and data sources," Julie Dam, head of content and communications at Grafana Labs, told ITPro Today. "But I'd say we were surprised to see that several respondents actually chose 76+ for the question about how many observability tools their company uses."

Grafana Labs Observability Survey Reveals Observability Challenges

Dam noted that Grafana also did in-depth interviews with tech leads at a handful of organizations to find out more about their challenges.

One gaming company, while experiencing a 30-40% decrease in MTTR (mean time to recovery) and 10-20% increase in developer productivity, reported that it still struggles with discoverability across a fragmented set of tools. 

"Each team at the company manages observability on its own, which prevents the company from having a holistic view of system health," she said. "That combination of tool overload and siloed observability is certainly a challenge to optimizing observability efforts."

Understanding and then properly implementing SLOs is also a challenge that is reflected in the survey, with only 28% of organizations actively using the approach.

"While the theory of SLOs is relatively simple, it's actually hard to put into practice," Dam said. "This is largely because an organization uniquely needs to understand what services and indicators put them closest to their customer experience and then fine-tune."

How to Improve the ROI for Observability

What the survey really highlighted was that not all ROI is the same. 

Different organizations will have different priorities for observability, according to Dam. While saving money may be the overarching goal, the respondents made it clear that there are multiple paths to get there, including response improvements, less toil and infrastructure maintenance, better adoption, a consistent developer experience, less complexity, SLOs, better capacity planning, and better alerting and visibility.

Dam said that one of the questions that was asked in the survey that didn't make the report was whether people thought observability was just hype or actually substantive. About three-quarters of respondents said it was either "here, real, and critical" (57%) or "a lot of substance and a little hype" (16%).

"While we can't predict the future, we expect to see more organizations moving into this camp as the market continues to mature and more people can see the benefits of observability," she said.

About the author

 Sean Michael Kerner headshotSean Michael Kerner is an IT consultant, technology enthusiast and tinkerer. He consults to industry and media organizations on technology issues.
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