Observability means data. It encompasses a set of practices and tools designed to track the performance and health of software applications, providing insights into the “why” behind system behaviors, not just the “what.” At its core are data pillars we’ve learned how to work with and hopefully get the most out of—metrics (quantitative data on system performance), logs (recorded events within the system) and traces (detailed views of request paths through the system) that offer a comprehensive view of the system’s operation in real-time. SaaS is where the industry has been turning towards for the past decade. It’s easy to operate and upgrade and takes away maintenance and manpower requirements.
But, using a SaaS solution where data is stored on the vendor’s infrastructure can be compared to playing a football game at your opponent’s home field. Your team does not own the field and must play along with conditions that are outside their comfort zone. While your team can still strategize, execute plays and score points, the control over the playing environment, including the surface, lighting and even some rules, lies with the owner of the stadium (in this case, the SaaS vendor).
You don’t get the home-field advantage and the comfort of your familiar surroundings, and you also can’t control the audience’s shouts and cheers in the stands across the arena.
Just as a visiting team must trust the host’s management of the stadium and adapt to its conditions, organizations using SaaS solutions entrust their operational data to third-party vendors. They must trust its data protection policies and privacy agreements to ensure that the organization’s data is handled securely and in compliance with relevant regulations.
And even more importantly, they have to adhere to its hosting costs.
Let’s Leverage the Home-Field Advantage
The alternative is clear: While playing on your own field, you, the coach—hell, the entire team—know this field by heart, and you know best how to keep and enforce your own rules.
Just as a football team controls the ball and decides on the play, having on-premises data means a company or organization keeps its data within its infrastructure, offering direct control over its storage, management and security. The organization decides how to deploy, use and protect this data and even how to manage the tradeoff of data costs.
The downsides? Playing on your home field at all times means you’re running slower than the world out there. You’re not quick to update your software to the newest common practices and you’re tasked with maintaining another stack—your observability stack—on top of building your product, which serves your users.
There’s Another Way. Play the Data on the Scrimmage Line
In football, the scrimmage line is the imaginary line across the field where the ball is placed at the start of each play. This line serves as the point of engagement between the two opposing teams, with specific rules governing how players can position themselves and how the play begins.
What if we can keep the data on-premise, in the home field, a little like having the ball on our side of the scrimmage line, within our team’s possession and control? We have the ball, and we decide and strategize how to advance the ball or score from the position behind the scrimmage line, but we can still interact with the outside world (or the opposing team) under a set of rules to which we both adhere.
This is exactly where observability solutions are heading: A combination of the advantages of SaaS—easy to update and maintain value, with an easy way to distribute the solution inside the organization, alongside the advantages of on-premise—data privacy, data control and full transparent and controllable data costs.
I call this approach inCloud. It is a modern on-premises approach—data in your cloud environment, protected and controlled by the user, but still governed, managed and served with a guaranteed SLA just like the best SaaS offerings out there.
Just like the scrimmage line in football that provides a clear boundary and set of rules for how the game is played, inCloud acts in a similar way. Data is kept on-premises, allowing the organization full control over retention, privacy and data integrations. And on the other hand, inCloud defines a set of strict rules under which a control plane is allowed to operate and pass the scrimmage line, or past the organization’s cloud borderline, to manage and access the data like a SaaS solution does best.
So when we sit down to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday—let’s use that halftime show to think about where we’ll be taking our organization’s observability capabilities in 2024. Will the data be in our hands, crossing that invisible scrimmage line? Or will we lose to our opponent’s home-field advantage?
May the best team win.