The work of federal IT pros has become much harder, thanks to hybrid IT. According to a recent survey, for the first time, IT complexity has overtaken budget constraints as the primary challenge for public sector agencies as they strive to ensure resilience and establish a robust cybersecurity posture. Furthermore, 47% of public sector IT pros cited hybrid environments as their top visibility challenge.

Observability addresses this problem by providing visibility across entire digital ecosystems. Unlike traditional monitoring, which scans systems for outages and reactively addresses them, observability preemptively detects anomalies and potential issues – before they become full blown outages or security issues. With greater transparency, more effective detection, and more intelligent insights, federal IT pros can boost performance, compliance, and resilience in their digital environments.

Although some think of observability as a buzzword for more sophisticated monitoring, it has emerged as a priority for IT leaders tasked with managing complex hybrid infrastructure. Gartner predicted that by this year, 30% of architectures will have adopted observability techniques to improve digital business service performance, up from less than 10% in 2020.

For IT pros thinking of implementing observability, the following recommendations can ensure smooth adoption:

1. Support multi-cloud environments

Today, 70% of agencies utilize two or more cloud vendors. These multi-cloud environments offer strategic advantages, including the flexibility to choose the right cloud for any workload, objective, and budget. They also ensure redundancy, allowing agencies to switch cloud providers in case of an outage.

Despite these benefits, a multi-cloud strategy can be chaotic and difficult to manage. Any observability strategy must provide a single pane-of-glass view into hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Only with full-stack visibility, can IT teams monitor all networks, infrastructure, applications, databases, and more, from one vantage point.

Any solution must also benefit the C-suite. Federal IT and security leaders depend on at-a-glance insights to monitor business KPIs and metrics to guide decision-making, resource allocation, and drive continuous improvement.

2. Embrace autonomy

Observability enables federal IT pros to come a step closer to autonomous operations. Rather than playing a constant game of whack-a-mole – sifting through alerts and reacting to incidents – observability leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate the collection and analysis of event data across the digital ecosystem. With this insight, IT teams can anticipate network issues, detect anomalies, gain the context they need to remediate, and act before performance is impacted.

The right observability approach should also learn about the IT environment and continuously improve over time, providing more insight into root cause and recommending actions so IT teams can proactively address issues in real time. Optimal AI and ML observability solutions can also observe the remedial steps taken and use these observations to inform and trigger automated mitigation workflows, relieving teams from initial triage and ensuring a more resilient, autonomous digital environment.

Observability won’t replace humans completely, but it can free up time, eliminate tool sprawl, and give IT pros the latitude to focus on strategic efforts supporting the mission and drive innovation.

3. Don’t overlook the database

At the core of every federal application are databases. Their health, security, and functionality are critical to data insights, user experience, and improving citizen services. Despite their pivotal role, they are the most difficult ecosystems to monitor, tune, manage, and scale. They require massive computer power, are memory-intensive, and often represent the bulk of agency cloud spend.

It is crucial to implement an observability solution that simplifies even the most complex, open-source databases. Only with full, transparent observability across the many resources a database depends on and interacts with, can teams quickly identify bottlenecks, establish the root cause, prioritize remediation actions, and keep databases up and running.

Beyond the buzzword

Observability emerged as a buzzword in 2023, but it is only going to become more important in the year ahead as IT environments continue to become increasingly complex.

With observability, IT teams can balance competing priorities, demystify complexity, while increasing agility, efficiency, and innovation. Meanwhile, executives can organize massive amounts of data and gain a comprehensive, ecosystem-wide view of performance, enhancing their ability to manage business operations more effectively.

Implemented correctly, observability not only promotes transparency and collaboration, it also cultivates a practice of continuous review, which benefits the agency, IT teams, and crucially – the mission.

Sai Krishna is senior vice president of engineering at SolarWinds.

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