IBM this week announced it plans to acquire Instana, a provider of an application performance management (APM) platform that is optimized for microservices.
Robin Hernandez, vice president of hybrid cloud management and AIOps for IBM, said Instana will plug an observability gap that has emerged in IBM’s portfolio as organizations start to build and deploy cloud-native applications more broadly.
Previously, IBM provided APM capabilities via a Tivoli portfolio of tools that were optimized for core static Java applications, noted Hernandez. Instana will add an APM platform designed from the ground up to automatically instrument applications as they are being deployed by DevOps teams, he said.
Istana also provides distributed tracing capabilities that the existing Tivoli portfolio lacks, Hernandez added.
The data collected by the Instana agents injected into those microservices also will play a critical role in IBM’s overall approach to applying artificial intelligence to IT operations, also known as AIOps. The IBM approach to AIOps seeks to combine data from platforms such as Instana and Tivoli with third-party data sources such as ServiceNow to advance IT automation, he said.
Available both as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform and as software that can be deployed in an on-premises environment, Instana has gained traction as organizations have embraced observability as a core tenet of a set of best DevOps practices. Historically, IT teams only employed APM platforms to monitor their most mission-critical applications because of both the cost of the APM platform and the inherent difficulties involved in applying agents pervasively.
Hernandez said observability takes monitoring to the next level because instead of simply tracking a known set of processes, platforms such as Instana make it possible to observe interactions in a way that discovers unknown relationships and dependencies between applications and infrastructure.
IBM plans to primarily focus its Instana efforts on microservices-based applications. However, Instana can also be applied to observe existing legacy applications. IBM is still studying that use case as part of its ongoing due diligence, he noted.
Massive amounts of capital have been pouring into observability startups that are trying to supplant legacy APM platforms as organizations transition to microservices. Providers of legacy APM platforms, meanwhile, are re-engineering their platforms to support microservices-based applications that are most often deployed on Kubernetes clusters. IBM is addressing that challenge via an acquisition that complements its renewed focus on hybrid cloud computing and AI, Hernandez said.
It’s too early to say which vendors will triumph in the observability wars, but the one thing that is certain is there is no shortage of options. It’s not clear to what degree the shift to observability will result in the rolling up of a variety of tools to manage IT, but the days when IT tools simply monitored a process are starting to fade away.