By Owen Skoler with Tree Lindemann and Joe Wisneski

OpenTelemetry is having its moment in the sun. Although the open-source software has been around for years, more organizations are starting to take an interest with a premium being placed on observability. 

Often confused with application performance monitoring (APM), the practice of observability simply means looking at how an application is behaving before determining what metrics should be used to baseline its health. 

The process of determining the right metrics is becoming increasingly nuanced as more applications are built on modern cloud architectures. With OpenTelemetry, developers can inject flags into an application's code, which opens more data points that can be observed. 

Tree Lindemann is the operations and delivery lead for AIOps at WWT. He sees OpenTelemetry as a great first step toward observability. 

Although OpenTelemetry requires an upfront investment of staff learning a new open-source tool, once they become familiar with it, they can begin to experiment. This experimentation is key to implementing a successful observability strategy, according to Lindemann.

"OpenTelemetry gives you a measuring stick," he said. "You're not going to know what to measure at first. With AIOps, a lot of our clients ask us what other clients are measuring, but the reality is the measurements that are most important to an organization are going to be unique to them. As you figure that out, you're going to make some mistakes along the way and that's okay."

In addition to lowering the barrier of entry to observability, OpenTelemetry gives staff flexibility. As business becomes more agile, it's likely that observability targets for an application will change. OpenTelemetry makes it easy to adjust.

But OpenTelemetry shouldn't be thought of as a replacement for APM solutions. You still need robust analytics once you figure out what to measure. That's where AppDynamics Cloud comes in. 

AppDynamics Cloud, announced earlier this year, will be able to ingest OpenTelemetry data sources. 

"Replicating what AppDynamics does with OpenTelemetry would take years," Lindemann said. "After experimenting, you'll want to use OpenTelemetry for metrics you are 100 percent certain you need. It's like your fundamentals."

IT staff will still want the automatic baselining of performance metrics and user-friendly application mapping of AppDynamics. They'll also want to tie specific metrics to health rules, policies, automatic monitoring, and notifications that work within existing IT service management workflows. 

Joe Wisneski is an AIOps solutions architect for WWT. Wisneski sees a world in which the ingestion of OpenTelemetry data into the AppDynamics platform can begin to simplify APM tool sprawl.

"There are so many overlapping APM tools in our clients' environments," Wisneski said. "One business unit adopted one tool to monitor one application; another business unit did the same thing for another application. It's not that the tools themselves are bad but by having so many different ones, you're building technical debt over time." 

By using OpenTelemetry to observe a sizable chunk of critical data, it's much easier for organizations to standardize on a solution like AppDynamics Cloud. Not only are you driving out unnecessary tools, but IT staff start building domain knowledge around observability in a way that will eliminate technical debt accrued over the years. 

"I think we're beginning to see the landscape change," Wisneski said. "Once staff is familiar with OpenTelemetry, they have a better sense of what they can do on their own versus where an APM solution can really add value for the business." 

Both Lindemann and Wisneski note that OpenTelemetry and the practice of observability is just getting started. They say most clients are still in the early adopter phase. While successful observability won't happen overnight, they believe the technology is at a point where organizations should feel confident moving forward. 

"It's kind of the perfect time," Lindemann said. "You can build these new open-source skillsets and then integrate them into a proven vendor platform." 

While the extent of OpenTelemetry's impact on organizations' overall enterprise monitoring strategies is still evolving, the new capabilities of AppDynamics Cloud are a clear signal that observability powered by OpenTelemetry will continue to gain momentum. 

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