What is Observability?

In this article we will explore what observability is, the Three Pillars of Observability, the role observability plays in DevOps, and how to implement observability into your everyday workflow.

Observability is the practice of gaining insights into a system's internal state by analyzing it’s data, such as logs, metrics, and traces. Observability plays a crucial role in software engineering, IT operations, and DevOps environments. But what are the benefits of observability, what does observability in DevOps mean, and what does modern observability look like? In this article, we will break down observability into three key metrics (The Pillars of Observability), explore its benefits, understand how to implement it, and gain a better understanding of how to leverage it to improve service and operations.

The Pillars of Observability

The Three Pillars of Observability, sometimes called the “Golden Triangle of Observability”, refers to three key components:

  1. Logs

  2. Metrics

  3. Traces


Logs are detailed, time-stamped records of events within a system. They provide context for specific actions or errors, making them invaluable for debugging and auditing. Simply put, logs are the system's diary, capturing every significant event.


Metrics are numerical data points reflecting the system's performance and health over time. These metrics are visualized in dashboards, like Grafana, allowing for real-time monitoring and quick identification of anomalies.

Examples of Metrics that could be observed are:

  • Utilization

  • Saturation

  • Error Rate

  • Request Rate

  • Response Time


Traces follow the journey of a request through various system components, showing how it is processed step by step. Tracing helps identify bottlenecks and performance issues, providing a map of the request's route from start to finish.

What are the Benefits of Observability for DevOps?

Observability offers numerous benefits that extend beyond traditional monitoring. Here’s why investing in observability is crucial for your system and service:

  • Quick Issue Detection and Diagnosis: DevOps observability enables teams to detect anomalies and diagnose root causes quickly, leading to lower mean time to resolution (MTTR) and reduced downtime.

  • Understanding Performance and Behavior: Observability lets you see how your system performs under various conditions, helping you optimize and scale applications effectively.

  • Enhanced Reliability: By continuously analyzing system data, you can anticipate potential problems and address them proactively, improving overall reliability and maintaining Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

  • Better User Experience: Ensuring smooth and efficient operations through observability enhances the user experience, which is crucial for customer satisfaction and retention.

Observability in DevOps

Integrating observability into your DevOps practices is essential for maintaining high system performance and reliability. With available tools like Datadog, DevOps observability can focus on end-to-end or full-stack observability, ensuring every system output is monitored and can be easily observed and analyzed.

Implementing Moden Observability

Effective modern observability requires integrating various tools and practices to collect, analyze, and act on system data. Once your systems are set up and monitored, you can easily implement observability practices like RED and USE methods to stay on top of hardware and service issues.

  1. Set Up Logging: Ensure all critical events and actions are logged. Use a centralized logging system to manage and analyze logs effectively.

  2. Monitor Metrics: Choose key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to your system and set up dashboards for real-time monitoring. Examples of observation metrics include response times, error rates, and throughput.

  3. Enable Tracing: Implement tracing to follow requests through your system. Use distributed tracing tools to visualize and analyze traces.

  4. Automate and Alert: Set up automated alerts for unusual patterns or anomalies in your logs, metrics, and traces. This helps in proactive problem detection and increased availability.

Observability Platforms and Tools

Investing in observability platforms is essential for leveraging its full benefits. Tools like Elastic Observability offer comprehensive solutions for logging, monitoring, and tracing, providing a unified view of your system's health and performance during regular operations and deployments.

As software and tools continue to grow and serve more of our needs, observability plays an ever-expanding role in ensuring those services provide the best service to the customer. Whether you’re a Site Reliability Engineer, a DevOps Engineer, or just part of the DevOps team, implementing observability into your everyday workflow is necessary to succeed and thrive.

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