15 Best Observability Platforms for Data & Infra in 2023

Hey there!

As businesses progressively move their applications and workloads to the cloud, monitoring performance and ensuring reliability becomes paramount, yet increasingly complex. This is exactly where observability platforms come into the picture!

In this comprehensive guide, I will equip you with in-depth knowledge on what observability platforms are, their immense benefits, the varied offerings in the market, and a clear framework to evaluate and zero in on the ideal solution for your needs.

Here‘s a quick overview of what we‘ll be covering:

Chapter 1: Core concepts and use cases around observability platforms

Chapter 2: Head-to-head comparison of 15+ leading commercial and open source options

Chapter 3: Key considerations and Gartner recommended criteria for selecting platforms

Chapter 4: Architecting a best-in-class observability stack – putting it all together

So let‘s get started, fellow technologist! The insights you uncover here will prove invaluable towards building resilient, optimized and secure data and application infrastructure that delivers exceptional value.

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Observability Platforms

Outages are expensive. Very expensive. According to research by ITIC, the average cost of downtime for an enterprise stands at a whopping $245,000!

With increasingly complex and distributed systems, outages are hard to prevent. But the key is to detect them early, diagnose the root cause swiftly and resolve before catastrophic impact. This is where Observability platforms come into the picture.

Observability platforms empower technology and operations teams to gain unprecedented visibility into the health, performance and availability of their entire IT estate. This includes:

  • Applications (web, mobile, microservices)
  • Databases
  • APIs
  • Networks
  • Kubernetes environments
  • Hosts and servers

By ingesting, correlating and analyzing metrics, logs and traces from across all these components, observability platforms help answer critical questions like:

"Is everything running smoothly or are there early signs of trouble?

"How do we optimize performance and infrastructure spend?"

"If a customer reported an issue, how do we get to root cause swiftly?"

"What exactly happened before and during an outage?"

And this observability into IT health and application experience plays a huge role in:

  • <Reducing MTTR> (Mean Time To Resolution) with precise root causing
  • <Minimizing outages> through anomaly detection and predictive analytics
  • <Driving transformational outcomes> like modernizing to microservices, optimizing cloud spend, improving CX

According to Gartner, observability is emerging as a "$3.6 billion market by 2025", growing at a rapid 29% CAGR as more enterprises undertake digital transformation and cloud migrations.

Clearly, implementing the right observability platforms and practices provides game-changing ROI. But with so many tools and pronounced vendor hype, identifying the ideal fit can get challenging.

This guide aims to simplify the decision making process for you…

Chapter 2: Comparison of 15+ Leading Observability Platforms

There‘s a wide spectrum of commercial and open source options in the observability platforms market – ranging from focused solutions for APM, infrastructure monitoring or logs to end-to-end enterprise suites with 30+ capabilities bundled in.

I‘ve compiled a head-to-head comparison across the most popular 15+ observability platforms to give you a bird‘s eye view of what‘s out there. Let‘s analyze the alternatives across some key dimensions:


We can broadly classify observability platforms as focused point solutions or consolidated end-to-end suites. Dynatrace, NewRelic and Datadog for instance offer the entire gammit spanning APM, infrastructure monitoring, logs, synthetic monitoring and more within a single suite. This eliminates tool sprawl and simplifies roll out.

Tools like Honeycomb focus extensively on complex transaction tracing for microservices environments while Splunk Observability Cloud centers on infrastructure monitoring and log analytics. Pick based on your primary use cases.

Core Capabilities

While feature sets vary, all observability platforms focus on some core capabilities discussed below:

Metrics and Events Collection: Ingest performance KPIs from across services, databases, hosts etc.

APM and Distributed Tracing: Instrument applications to map out request flows across decoupled microservices. Essential for troubleshooting.

Visualization: Interactive dashboards that enable drilling down into granular metrics, filtering, pivoting and custom layouts.

Alerting: Define thresholds on KPIs and trigger notifications for potential performance degradations via email, Slack etc.

Anomaly Detection: Apply machine learning models across metrics to detect deviations from normal baseline and catch emerging issues early. Very handy!

Log Analysis: Collection, storage and reporting capabilities for high volumes of log data generated across services and infrastructure.

Incident Management: Tools to link events during an outage into a cohesive incident timeline for accelerated root causing. Ability to capture state of affected components.

Querying and Analysis: SQL interfaces and data exploration tools to analyze metrics, events and logs with aggregation, filters, funnels and other analytic methods for insights.

Infrastructure Monitoring: Auto discovery of hosts, visualization of topology and tracking of availability and health KPIs for servers, networks, containers etc.

Each platform has some unique strengths and weaknesses in the above areas. Plot out your primary requirements before finalizing a choice.

Buyer Personas

The ideal observability platform for a 25 person startup is quite different from that for a Fortune 500 bank. Keep your organization‘s size, maturity and use cases in mind:

Many vendors offer free trials or freemium editions with limited data ingestion – perfect for startups with constrained budgets. Mature enterprises on the other hand require extensive compliance certifications, granular access controls and hands-on support which enterprise packages offer. If operating regulated workloads like Healthcare, ensure your shortlisted tool meets related compliance needs.

Similarly architect the solution keeping your primary persona – dev, ops or security – in mind. Developers prefer plug and play instrumentation with minimal performance overhead. Ops teams want out-of-the-box content packs tailored to their specific stack. InfoSec leaders look for advanced correlation rules to trigger security alerts.

Strike the right balance!

Deployment Architecture

SaaS delivery or on-prem installation? Agent based or agentless? These are key aspects that vary across observability vendors.

Most modern solutions rely on light weight agents deployed on hosts/containers to collect system metrics at source and stream back to the vendor cloud or an on-prem analytics engine. This provides flexibility to customize what‘s gathered while minimizing overhead. Dynatrace pioneered the agentless approach using passive network sensors instead which has appeal in certain security sensitive environments.

While SaaS solutions simplify rollout and administration, highly regulated enterprises often demand on-premise installations to meet data sovereignty needs. Pick what aligns best to your environments.

Pricing Considerations

Observability platforms typically follow usage based pricing models for commercial SaaS offerings. You pay based on number of hosts monitored or volume of data ingested. This allows better alignment of software costs to business growth. Minimum commitments apply for enterprise plans.

Open source alternatives like Grafana and Prometheus involve no licensing fees but require upfront and ongoing investments for infrastructure, maintenance and support. Compare total cost of ownership (TCO) tradeoffs between both approaches.

I‘ve compiled an indicative comparison of pricing across some popular vendors below. Reach out for latest custom quotes.

This should provide a helpful overview of the diverse range of commercial, open source and hybrid observability platforms available today and their respective strengths and potential blindspots.

Let‘s now move on to developing a clear framework for evaluating options…

Chapter 3: Key Considerations for Selecting Observability Platforms

Here I‘ll outline the 6 key dimensions you should analyze while researching options:

1. Data Collection

Carefully analyze key data sources like apps, DBs, containers and services in your environment.

  • Which all contribute meaningful monitoring signals today?

  • What are current and future plans around instrumentation – frameworks, SDKs, auto instrumentation etc?

Ensure the shortlisted vendor can handle relevant data collection out-of-the-box or offers required SDKs, integrations and guidelines.

OpenTelemetry conformance allows seamlessly feeding data from diverse sources into the observability platform and is a key consideration.

2. Data Management Capabilities

Evaluate underlying architecture of each solution with regards to:

  • Scalability of storage and analytical engine to handle data volumes as you scale

  • Sampling, compression and data management techniques to optimize TCO

  • Retention policies and archival options to meet regulatory needs

  • Security standards compliance (SOC2, ISO etc.) and protection against data breaches

3. Analysis and Operationalization

The effectiveness of an observability platform depends hugely on ability to surface insights from the deluge of monitoring data collected.

Assess each tool‘s dashboarding, visualization, correlational analysis and ML augmented analytics capabilities under:

  • Noise reduction and anomaly detection accuracy
  • Flexibility to build custom dashboards and hierarchy mapping
  • Powerful analytics interfaces like Traces Search, Performance Assistant and Topology Explorer
  • Ability to establish SLOs, alert thresholds and leverage analytics to prevent issues

Ease of analyzing data and orienting teams around decisions influences ROI significantly.

4. Incident Management

Review incident, outage and war-room management features thoroughly:

  • Does platform detect anomalies and performance changes and trigger alerts automatically?
  • What collaboration capabilities do tools like incident timelines, state sharing and annotations provide?
  • Can you document RCAs and remediation details for future auditability?

MTTR stats offered by each vendor also signal effectiveness.

5. Ecosystem Integrations

The promise of observability involves bringing disparate signals from across the enterprise stack into a unified view.

Review number of native integrations offered for services, databases, containers, orchestrators etc across cloud, virtualization and on-prem infrastructure.

Assess capabilities around ingesting and correlating events, metrics and traces through open standards like OpenTelemetry and StatsD.

Tools that require excessive custom coding to onboard data sources lose effectiveness over long term. Pick wisely!

6. Total Cost of Ownership

Both commercial and open source options carry direct and indirect costs around implementation, maintenance and scaling challenges.

Pricing models are complex with minimum commitments, tiered ingestion slabs and add-on modules. Expert help navigating proposals is key.

For open source, factor in engineering costs for integrating tools, managing infrastructure and building custom integrations before TCO assessment.

With the right guidance, you can make smart tradeoff decisions across options keeping budgets and flexibility top of mind!

Other Notable Evaluation Criteria:

  • Team Skill Sets: Open source tools require investments in DevOps skills. Vendor offerings provide greater out-of-the-box capabilities but can risk lock-in
  • On-Premise vs SaaS: Assess for cloud readiness or data residency needs requiring on-prem installation
  • Vendor Standing: Assess technology vision, customer satisfaction levels, analyst recognition and continued R&D velocity to minimize risks

Hopefully these guidelines provide a structured way to cut through the hype in evaluating observability tools. Now let‘s shift gears and talk about architecting monitoring stacks…

Chapter 4: Designing Effective Observability Architectures

With so many point and end-to-end solutions in the market, what does a best practice observability stack look like?

Here are my recommendations on key elements to think through for maximizing visibility while optimizing costs:

A robust observability implementation requires:

1) Foundational Data Platform: I typically recommend a cloud data lake environment like AWS S3, Azure Data Lake etc combined with a cloud data warehouse for aggregated persistence of both raw and transformed data. This provides centralized storage, governance and querying.

2) Core Engines: Match engines to primary use cases – application performance, infrastructure or logs. For a pure play APM scenario, start with vendors like Dynatrace or Datadog. InfoSec teams driving threat detection initiatives prefer Splunk‘s extensive coverage of security events. Blend and match for your environment.

3) Data Consolidation: Managed services like Azure Monitor provide frictionless transportation of observability data from native environments into preferred data platforms. Accelerates roll out.

4) Visualization and Dashboards: Layer tools like Grafana on top for flexible reporting, custom views and collaborative analytics without getting locked into proprietary UIs.

5) Extension Modules: Expand to advanced analytics around digital experience, infrastructure optimization and automation based on evolving needs.inplace of multiple disjoint tools.

With the right architecture foundations, you can start small while keeping future extensibility and flexibility top of mind!

In summary, observability platforms help enterprises tame IT chaos, drive cloud success and deliver superlative customer experiences via precise and predictive environment insights. I hope this guide brought clarity in navigating the crowded observability space!

Reach out if you need help shortlisting platforms for your specific environment or assistance with getting pilots kicked off. Would be glad to partner in your optimization journey!

Until next time…