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Traditional observability solutions aren't designed with engineers in mind. Here's why companies are switching to developer-first tools.

If we take a look at some of the more noticeable trends in the tech world, we'll see the demand for observability tools. Gone are the days when developers are content with their established, static monitoring tools. The past few years has seen a significant rise in the demand for dynamic observability tools that allow them to ask real-time questions about problems that aren’t expected.

Static traditional observability tools simply aren’t cutting it anymore. Honestly, they never really were. That’s because observability tools weren’t designed for software engineers. They were designed predominantly for DevOps and SREs. They just don’t provide developers with the level of visibility and understanding that they require.

Let’s dive more into why this is.


1. Traditional observability tools focus on infrastructure metrics

The main issue with traditional observability tools is their tendency to hyperfocus on infrastructure-level metrics. Monitoring and APM tools do a great job with visualizing these metrics in insightful dashboards. Developers, however, are more concerned about getting code-level insights to understand what’s happening in their applications.

Traditional tools don’t give developers what they need, which is to extract data from any code, including code that’s running in their production environments, without having to redeploy their application or write new code. While traditional tools collect logs, traces, and metrics in a central place and then require code changes every time a new issue arises, developers need tools that enable these changes to happen in real time, and give developers access to the production environments in which these issues arise.

2. Traditional observability dashboards are built for SRES and Ops, not devs

Traditional observability tools were brought in to go a level beyond the classic monitoring tools: to ask real-time questions about problems you didn’t anticipate. But the ability to do this still isn’t enough. They’re still missing a crucial component because they’re not geared towards engineers. Rather, the visualizations and information they provide are aimed toward SRE and DevOps personas.

These tools can be great at what they do, but they fall short of getting developers the information they need, when they need it, without planning ahead.

3. Traditional observability tools are static, not dynamic

Traditional observability tools hand information to its user in a “Push” mode; they push observability data to their management layer that present to users what they decided to track and predefine in advance. Users can access and query for a specific trace, metric, or piece of information about their application, but in order to do this, they must go through code changes and redeployments of their applications. Imagine doing this in a heavily regulated enterprise environment that requires more stages of approval, and you’ll understand why debugging processes are still slow and cumbersome.

Traditional tools don’t give developers the ability to access these metrics and data without planning ahead, or without having to go through long redeployments of the application, write new code, and search through an endless amount of logs for a tidbit of information.

4. Traditional observability tools don’t enable real-time production debugging

We all know what it’s like to encounter a bug in real time in production. It’s safe to say that it’s one of the worst experiences for any developer. As the demand from companies and customers to fix issues quickly becomes increasingly more important, getting real-time insights and feedback from code has become more crucial to research and development teams.

Traditional tools are limiting because they require developers to plan ahead, and don’t allow them to get the data they need whenever from production. Developers are suffering through long and frustrating processes, only to realize they need additional logs. They have to anticipate their needs ahead of time, which is next to impossible when dealing with unanticipated issues, rather than getting immediate insight into their running code.

It’s time to adapt to developer-first observability

Traditional observability tools aren’t going anywhere, and we don’t want them to, because they serve their own purpose for SREs and DevOps folks. However, it’s time for the world of observability to shift left with developer-focused tools, and focus on what’s important for engineers as well.

Developers need a tool that puts their needs first. That’s where developer-first observability tools come in. These tools take observability a step further and give developers what they need, which is to extract data from any code, including code that’s running in their production environments, without having to redeploy their application or write new code.