What is Observability: A Detailed Guide for E-commerce Developers

observability in e-commerce

E-commerce developers work with complex distributed systems where tracing user interactions and events from the front end to the back end is necessary.

For large e-commerce businesses, the software architecture paradigm is forever evolving –

  • They have come a long way from monoliths (or applications architected traditionally)
  • APMs and other observability tools have worked well for these monolithic applications but haven’t been useful with the rise of cloud-native microservices, containers, and serverless functions.
  • Developer responsibilities have changed after the emergence of DevOps

Modern complex systems use microservices running on Kubernetes clusters and cloud infrastructure. Hence, developers tend to write small pieces of independent code, deployed multiple times a day to production (increased deployment frequency). This makes it challenging for them to track and monitor outages.

During production, if an issue arises, the development team has to quickly identify the source before it impacts the customer. Hence, they monitor logs, metrics, events, and distributed traces in a correlated manner.

That’s observability!

What is Observability?

The term ‘observability’ refers to the ability to assess the inner workings and state of a system by measuring its output. About a decade ago, troubleshooting distributed systems for developers meant just one thing – browsing error logs.

However, this approach doesn’t suffice for enterprise firms like large e-commerce companies. Plus, as the role of DevOps grew significantly, developer roles for programs after delivery evolved.

Yet, developers were monitoring their distributed systems using tedious instrumentation and monitoring tools. In response to this, X (previously Twitter) got the term ‘observability’ in the mainstream. They created an observability team to centralize and standardize the collection of telemetry data (system data like logs, traces, metrics, and events) across their services.

It offers observability data and enables developers and software engineers to go beyond traditional monitoring (using just the logs, metrics, and alerting). Thus, they can understand the “why” (not just the what) behind system behavior.

Observability = Visibility + Understanding

Why is Observability Key to Developers/DevOps?

Deployment frequency has skyrocketed with microservices coming into the picture. The constant changes make it tough to realistically expect development teams to predefine each and every possible failure mode in the given environment, be it the code or the infrastructure that supports it.

Observability data contributes to several aspects of the modern software development process. It gives them the flexibility they need to test their software systems in production, ask questions, and investigate issues.

Let’s see how observability is central to developers and DevOps teams.

Helps in the Early Detection of Issues

Observability offers real-time insights into the system’s behavior of applications and their performance. Developers and DevOps teams can collect, explore, alert, and correlate all telemetry data types, understand user behavior, and deliver a better experience. They can effortlessly spot issues and improve system reliability and availability.

Such insights allow them to address them before they negatively impact users, thereby increasing conversions and retention.

Allows Quick Troubleshooting

Since teams have ready access to events, logs, metrics, and traces, they can effortlessly pinpoint the root cause of the issue and resolve it quickly.

For instance, they get a view into the application performance and drill down to the reasons why an error spiked or why there was an application latency. Thus, observability reduces the mean time to resolution and downtime. This ultimately leads to improved user experience.

Fosters Improved Collaboration

Development teams and DevOps practices revolve around collaboration. Observability offers a common ground for data and insights where teams can work together to assess system performance and behavior.

This shared understanding and transparency fosters a culture of collaboration, cooperation, and joint problem-solving.

Improves New Release and Update Management

Through observability, developers can evaluate the exact impact of updates/ new releases on system performance and stability. They can make informed decisions and ensure smooth deployment by monitoring changes throughout.

Facilitates the Creation of Feedback Loops

Observability facilitates the creation of feedback loops which is one of the core principles of devOps. The process of continuous feedback drives improvements in code quality and system architecture.

Upholds Security Monitoring and Compliance

Observability allows quick detection of security threats, anomalies, and unauthorized activities on the system. This empowers developers to proactively respond to such threats, ensuring compliance with the industry regulations.

Role of Observability Tools

As mentioned earlier, observability is a framework for gathering, processing, analyzing, and visualizing telemetry data at infrastructure and application levels to spot issues.

To make a system visible in this sense, you need access to telemetry data from all system components.
This is possible through open-source and vendor-based observability providers. These monitoring tools often offer both Application Performance Monitoring (APM) and Observability capabilities.

Similarly, APM platforms –

  • Help with backend monitoring and understanding complex digital system
  • Offer a view into the velocity rate of site errors which is useful during a launch

Usually, development teams choose a suitable tool based on their needs and the type of system they are maintaining. However, traditional APM or observability tools do not suffice for large businesses with a whole lot of microservices.

Unfortunately, APM and observability platforms fail to catch regressions, calculate error rates, and identify improperly written lines of code that impact user experiences on websites

Plus, they only point to the velocity rate of site errors during the launch phase.

However, your website or e-commerce store is anything but static. Hence, you also need a platform in your tech stack that detects errors and monitors performance on an ongoing basis and in real-time.
That’s where Noibu comes in! The Noibu platform:

  • Detects all technical errors across all browsers and devices
  • Captures session recordings
  • Offers full stack traces for your developers
  • Assigns a hard dollar value to each bug
  • Auto-prioritizes issues based on potential losses in revenue

Why You Need a Robust Error Monitoring Platform Like Noibu

Noibu’s auto-detection and prioritization software is being used by several leading e-commerce brands to eliminate tech debt, improve UX, boost developer confidence and satisfaction, and accelerate error resolution time.

It is an error and health monitoring platform designed specifically for e-commerce teams so they can be alerted in real time of any site error that occurs. The platform also provides the corresponding user session details and suggestions on how to resolve the error along with the exact line of code that needs fixing to completely eliminate the need for further investigation or replication of bugs. Noibu can run in parallel with APM and observability tools to optimize website health and performance by detecting and helping resolve revenue-impacting errors.

Noibu platform

Why Add Noibu to Your Observability Tool Stack

Noibu empowers developers with answers they seek:

  • It detects JavaScript and HTML website errors in real-time
  • It offers AI-generated explanations of errors
  • It prioritizes errors based on revenue impact
  • It provides actionable insights into how to resolve errors without the need to replicate
  • It correlates errors to customer complaints and user sessions
  • It helps eliminate friction in user experiences by helping resolve site errors 

Check out how Avon’s development team detected a critical checkout outage with Noibu. The issue affected 21% of their shoppers, negatively impacting their bottom line. Using Noibu for real-time monitoring and error detection helped them diagnose the root of the problem.

The result?

  • Significant savings
  • Improved customer experience
  • Increased sales
  • Developer satisfaction

Read more about how Noibu helped Avon improve their checkout experience here.

Summing Up

Observability coupled offers a proactive approach to troubleshooting and optimizing complex system performance. It offers a real-time and interconnected perspective on all observability data.

With proactive error detection and resolution, observability can go beyond traditional monitoring, allowing developers to understand what is wrong and why and put a dollar value to such errors.

Stay tuned as we keep exploring the evolving development landscape. Check out Noibu’s blog which offers practical insights on ways to spot and resolve errors that impact user experience.

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