DevOps companies are in the business of observability. The sooner they realize that, the better.

Observability has come to mean more than just logs, metrics, and traces. It has encompassed the entire lifecycle of system management – from alerting on anomalous data to securing endpoints. Observability helps businesses manage their software.

What does that have to do with DevOps? At a high level, DevOps products sit in the software development lifecycle – from development, to CI, to deployment. It also includes all of the glue that keeps everything together, the building blocks that higher level business applications use (e.g., a DAG executor, a secrets manager, an event streaming platform).

What are DevOps companies selling?

What's left is managing the software – keeping the service running. As creators of the software, these vendors are experts in running it. To do this efficiently, the vendors create their own observability tools – managed control planes, performance optimizations, customer dashboards, and higher-level metrics APIs.

But observability-as-a-service isn't enough for these managed SaaS platforms. That's because no DevOps SaaS exists in a vacuum. Any service on the critical path needs to export observability metrics somehow. Some of this comes for free with on/cloud-prem software (profiling, infra monitoring). But to debug upstream (or downstream) issues, engineers need to collect observability logs, metrics, and traces in the critical path end-to-end.

So DevOps companies should think about how they are positioned as an observability provider. Good management comes from good observation.