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How to Achieve Full Stack Observability

“Full stack observability is a really important necessary objective for any modern enterprise”. These technology leaders exchanged their views on full stack observability.

Full stack observability allows technology leaders to view and understand every end point across the modern technology stack. Observability gives real-time insight into what goes on in the IT environment’s underlying infrastructure. In this debate, the speakers discuss why full stack observability is important for the modern-day technology leader, how they can use this to their advantage and the business benefits. 


With Peter Stojanovic moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate include:



The importance of full stack observability


Former CISO at Legal & General, David King, started the debate by explaining his views on full stack observability. He stated that technology leaders are examining their dashboards and going over what they have at the technology level. David believes this is an important aspect of full stack observability. “In terms of managing the IT and managing the services we have, you can’t manage what you don’t know”, he said. 


Shifting this to a security perspective, he argued that you cannot manage the risks if you are unaware of what the risks are. Gaining this visibility into your stack, he noted, is key. Making another observation, David pointed out that in the past, technology leaders didn’t rely too much on the cloud. Now that technology leaders are using the cloud more than ever, he explained that there is potential for impact and getting it wrong. He concluded that it is “absolutely key” to understand what you have in your technology stack in order to react quickly.


Engineering and observability strategies


Moderator Peter Stojanovic asked Head of Engineering and Data at Cancer Research UK, Andrei Adler, if he believes that they have current capabilities to map out everything or a level of observability. 


The priority, according to Andrei, is to understand how their services are performing from an end user perspective. “When something goes wrong we want to know why it has gone wrong and try to fix it”, he said. In this instance, he believes full stack observability will be important as it will help the team get to the problem and effectively resolve it. Andrei talked about how this relates to the engineering strategy. 


“We started with a very eclectic environment with lots of different technologies”, he said. Since then, they have established an engineering strategy working towards standardising a single tech stack. This, he stated, can be used to build custom and off-the-shelf or SaaS services. Andrei pointed out that they added the observability to the engineering strategy; he dubbed this the “product development life-cycle”. 


Observability and value


“Full stack observability is a really important necessary objective for any modern enterprise”, said Former CIO at Johnson Matthey, Paul Coby. He listed multiple examples of where organisations use platforms to help achieve full stack observability. He explained to the speakers that CIOs are expected to maintain the “operational integrity and efficiency” of the technology stack, as well as the security aspect. 


“It’s the ability to ingest all of that and then apply learnings and intelligence”, he continued. Paul believes that technology leaders should work towards adding real value. 


Priorities for a technology leader


The most important aspect of observability, according to Andreas, is a CIO or CDO’s “worst nightmare”. The aspect in question is when you buy something on the cloud with your own credit card. He pointed out that after all the planning, processing, security measures and  compliance, technology leaders expect that return investment back. 


In order to take this forward, Andreas suggested that they need to have a centralised report and a centralised intelligence that they are able to understand. When discussing risk, he argued that it’s not about removing it completely. 


Technologists should manage it and make sure that they are aligned with the strategies they are trying to follow. This also means working towards internal goals and standardising the cloud. Rather than stating that it’s about that “dashboard of the visualisation” Andreas explained that this centres around change management.


Hybrid working and observability 


Peter asked the speakers if hybrid working has affected their ability to make collaborative decisions. 


Hybrid working, in Andrei’s view, hasn’t made an impact or changed much. Commenting on an earlier point, he argued that when it comes to these complex applications they have built themselves, the value is on observability. 


Circling back to hybrid working, he stated that having the same dashboard can help technologists to collaborate. This is because it gives them the opportunity to agree on what the team needs to prioritise and measure. In turn, this will allow them to “build an understanding of what’s important”. 


This roundtable was recorded at The Studio and made in partnership with Cisco.