Telemetry and Digital Business

Lori MacVittie 축소판
Lori MacVittie
Published April 11, 2023

The convergence of data and digital business should be no surprise. A glance at our phones will demonstrate the nearly insatiable need of every organization, regardless of industry.

But it’s not just our personal, private data in demand. Install an app and you’ll likely receive a request to share diagnostic and performance data with the developer. This data, this telemetry, is full of veritable gold nuggets to those organizations able to consume, analyze, and act on what the data tells them.

Such organizations are few and far between, however, as the insights needed to help organizations optimize performance and address defects are scattered across the various networks, systems, and services used to deliver applications.

Most organizations find it difficult to piece together the digital signals necessary to decode the cipher that is “why did this fail?” let alone “why is it performing poorly for this user but not that user?”

And yet that is a key capability for a digital business: the ability to collect, analyze, and identify the source of performance degradations, the cause of outages, and early indicators of an attack. Many might recognize these as key insights that almost every organization—98% to be exact—is missing.

But the use of telemetry for these operational investigations is not new. Application Performance Monitoring (APM) and Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) are well established and understood.

What makes telemetry different in a digital business is how it is used by the business, as the complementary capability to its operational use.

Digital Signals and Business Outcomes

In the olden times, when the Internet was dark and uncharted, there were physical stores. Made of brick and mortar and sometimes metal, these buildings housed row upon row of tantalizing goods and promised unending delight at the variety contained within. 

Shoppers were counted as they crossed the threshold and announced with the ringing of a bell. 

Associates roamed the aisles, seeking out shoppers in need of assistance and, in some stores, to sell them on the latest, greatest appliance or entertainment system. 

Finally, with a cart full of goods, shoppers became customers as they checked out at a register. 

Now, this still happens in a digital business, but it all happens online and is accompanied by digital signals that can be used by the business to determine its health and potential areas for improvement. 

Visitors are the shoppers crossing the threshold. Traversal paths and session logs tell us what shoppers viewed and where in our digital store they went. Conversions tell us how many shoppers became customers, and how much they spent. 

Digital signals tell us more than traditional measures ever could. It’s hard to know how long a shopper spent searching aisle upon aisle, row after row, before finding what they wanted. Digital signals tell us how long a shopper lingered on a page and how long it took to navigate to the next page. 

More digital signals tell us how long it took for a shopper to become a customer by checking out. How long did it take to fill out the purchase form and how long did it take to process the payment. 

All these signals are valuable to both IT and the business. While much of this telemetry offers IT insight into the performance and health of specific systems, it offers the business a view into factors that might impair conversions and impede business growth. This is where the line between IT and business blurs—where business outcomes are defined as measurable metrics like conversions and transaction value. Because as these outcomes are impacted by performance, availability, and complexity as measured by excessive time on a page, telemetry becomes an invaluable resource for the business, too. 

Digital Business Means Moving Beyond Monitoring

The use of digital signals (telemetry) to achieve business outcomes is one of the markers of a maturing digital business. But it is not as simple as collecting logs, metrics, and traces and performing analytical feats of magic on it. It requires careful attention to practices and culture and inevitably results in new roles and skills.

Data scientists, machine learning engineers, data pipelines, MLOps. These are just a few of the roles and practices that are increasingly part of a data practice for digital business. Strategic decisions include the location and architecture of data lakes—in the cloud or on premises, federated or consolidated?

To find out more on these topics and how incorporating telemetry helps modernize IT and the architecture, read "Operational Data is the New Oil," a chapter by F5’s VP of Engineering, Mike Corrigan, and Director of Development Operations, James Hendergart, in our O’Reilly book, Enterprise Architecture for Digital Business.