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A battle for dominance over observability in the enterprise intensified this week with both New Relic and Dynatrace providing updates that expand the number of data sources their platforms can consume and analyze.
New Relic announced it has added a visualization tool dubbed New Relic Explorer to make it simpler for IT professionals to discover the root cause of issues. That visualization tool can analyze data collected by New Relic agent software that has been embedded within an application, as well as telemetry data that open source monitoring tools such as Prometheus generate and information that open source OpenTelemetry agent software, which has the backing of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), gathers.
Similarly, Dynatrace this week extended the reach of its rival platform to now capture logs from Kubernetes and Red Hat OpenShift platforms, as well as cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. The company has also added support for open source log data frameworks such as Fluentd and Logstash, all of which can be centrally viewed via a Dynatrace Log Viewer tool that allows IT teams to search and analyze both real-time and historical log data.
While New Relic, Dynatrace, and a host of other competitors have all opened their observability platforms to collect data from multiple sources, each provider continues to encourage IT teams to employ the agent software they provide. That agent software not only typically consumes less resources, but it’s also easier to install and update across a highly distributed computing environment.
For example, Greg Gentling, enterprise architect for Viewpoint, a provider of project management software used widely in the construction industry, said the total cost of ownership benefits derived from relying on New Relic still outweigh any potential savings that might result from employing open source agent software. Open source agent software, in general, is still in the early stages of maturity, he noted.
“It’s a big risk,” Gentling said. “You don’t want calls from end customers asking why something is suddenly running in a way they didn’t expect.”
In addition, the size and scope of a Viewpoint application environment that spans multiple cloud service providers and regions that consists of both virtual machines and Kubernetes clusters makes it preferable to rely on a vendor such as New Relic for support, Gentling said.
New Relic Explorer also now provides additional visibility into that IT environment in a way that makes it easier to share that data with external organizations that consume Viewpoint software, Gentling added.
Of course, the decision to rely on commercial versus open source software tends to vary depending on the resources and expertise an organization has available. Many smaller developers tend to favor open source alternatives simply because either the scope of the project is too small to justify commercial software or they already have the DevOps expertise in place required to manage open source software within the context of a large-scale application development and deployment pipeline.
Regardless of the path forward, the need for deeper levels of visibility is becoming more critical. Historically, IT organizations relied on separate tools to monitor isolated stacks of software and infrastructure. As IT environments continue to become more complex, the level of dependency between applications and the underlying infrastructure has increased. IT organizations are starting to migrate toward observability platforms that provide more context and deeper insights than a collection of monitoring tools that are not as well integrated. Rationalizing the licenses organizations pay for the privilege of using those monitoring tools is in part funding the transition to more modern observability platforms.
The challenge is that observability platforms need to be more widely employed than, for example, an application performance management (APM) platform that is employed only to monitor an organization’s mission-critical applications. The cost of instrumenting and monitoring every enterprise application was simply cost prohibitive. The hope is that one day open source agent software and other methods of collecting telemetry data will reduce costs to the point where organizations can afford to apply observability platforms more broadly.
Of course, that also assumes that open source projects don’t implode. ElasticSearch, for example, is a widely employed tool for managing logs. That community is being roiled by Elastic’s decision to change the licensing terms under which it makes ElasticSearch available. Elastic is shifting away from an Apache license to a dual license strategy that includes a Server-Side Public License, or SSPL, along with an Elastic License. That shift was made to help ensure more of the revenue ElasticSearch generates winds up in the hands of Elastic rather than the cloud service provides, such as AWS, that routinely launch paid services based on open source code. AWS, however, responded to the Elastic move by announcing plans to fork ElasticSearch code and curate its own branch.
As more developers of open source code look to be fairly compensated for their efforts, many IT organizations that have benefited from open source code are increasingly concerned that in the absence of vendors making more aggressive monetary contributions to a project, an open source project might become too fragmented to sustain itself.
Regardless of how telemetry data is collected, providers of observability platforms are anxious to have as much of it as possible to train AI models that will increasingly be employed to automate a wide range of tasks. It’s just more efficient right now for most of them to still collect that data using their own agent software whenever possible.
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