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What is Observability Testing and Why Is It So Important to Quality?

When it comes to building quality software, why is Observability so critical? Does it help deal with the “unknown unknowns” of software quality today? How does observability relate to monitoring, testing, and chaos engineering? Let’s find out in this article, featuring Federico Toledo and Lisa Crispin’s voices.

When it comes to building quality software, conducting observability cannot be overstated. But why? Does it help deal with the “unknown unknowns”? How is it related to monitoring, software testing, and chaos engineering? Let’s delve into these questions and more in this article, featuring Federico Toledo and Lisa Crispin’s voices.

Observability Testing

Have you ever stopped to think about the relevance of applying observability testing on a daily basis? Some time ago, Federico Toledo, CQO at Abstracta, interviewed Lisa Crispin for his podcast Quality SenseShe co-founded the Agile Test Fellowship with Janet Gregory and is the author of numerous influential books on agile testing. 

As we move further into the digital age, the concept of observability continues to grow in significance and garner more attention across industries.

What Does Observability Testing Mean?

Observability plays a pivotal role in understanding a system’s behavior. It provides an in-depth insight into the inner workings of a system, facilitating the identification and diagnosis of potential problems that may occur at any stage of the software delivery life cycle, even in the production environment.

From the initial development phase right through to deployment, including production testing, and extending into maintenance, it enhances our ability to monitor the system’s health, performance, and functionality.

Observability supports the measurement and improvement of key performance indicators (KPIs) related to system performance, incident response, and operational metrics. It provides valuable insights for optimizing performance. By enabling teams to effectively detect and resolve issues, observability ensures smoother operation and reliability of the system.

Moreover, observability is not just limited to identifying problems. It aids in comprehending how different components of a system interact with each other. And also how these interactions influence the overall performance of the system.

In this article, we will go over the main concepts Federico and Lisa discussed in their episode of Quality Sense Podcast.

What is Observability in Software Testing?

According to Lisa, even people working in operations who have done monitoring and log-in don’t really know what test observability is about. Sometimes they get confused and think it’s just a new name for monitoring.

There is a lot of debate around observability testing in Agile and also in traditional software testing! But if something is sure is that it is definitely different from monitoring.

Lisa explained, “Observability is instrumenting more things in our code, more events in our system so that if something goes wrong that we totally could not have imagined that could happen (even with all of the risk assessment and things that we did in advance), we can still delve into what has gone wrong and see what to do about it. We can also trace what users did. So, even though we really have a lot of complex distributed systems now, we can see what path our users took through our application”.

She then went deeper: “Being able to implement observability allows us to trace what users did across all the different services and APIs to see exactly all the steps they took. So we can reproduce or directly fix the problem. It’s a way to explore the infrastructure and production environments using really sophisticated and modern observability tools that are available to us. And also because we’re able to store huge amounts of data at an affordable cost now.”

Federicoremarked that, as part of the software testing process, observability is key to having the possibility of “analyzing more things in different parts of the operating systems because the systems have more components and more things to monitor or analyze.” 

“Basically, we have to prepare for possible problems that we don’t know about,” outlined Federico. Observability tools (and also monitoring tools) can help us a lot on this path. These issues are known as “Unknown Unknowns,” and they are undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges when we seek to uncover valuable information about the system as part of our testing process.

All this with the aim of reaching a competitive advantage, enriching the customer experience, accomplishing business objectives, fostering digital transformation, and building quality software.

Discover our software testing case studies that show how we’ve helped top brands achieve their business and development goals.

Why is Observability an Important Issue in Testing?

In the context of continuous delivery, continuous integration, and agile teams, the challenges in the digital era have grown. As the software development process becomes increasingly complex, it becomes progressively more difficult to thoroughly test every aspect of it.

Growing Challenges in the Digital Era

Modern applications are intricate ecosystems of interconnected components, and traditional software testing approaches often fall short of providing a comprehensive view of their behavior. This is where conducting comprehensive observability comes into play as a crucial element of effective testing strategies.

In this context, Federico Toledo and Lisa Crispin agreed that the goal of observability and conduct testing is basically the same. “Because it’s like getting information about the usage of the system or the quality, or considering different aspects of the application with the goal of providing this information to someone who is going to make a decision”, he said.

“We still want to do all the testing we can before we release. But we have to take advantage of all these extra approaches like observability” specified Lisa.

“I think it’s all part of the package and testers need to be involved on both sides of that continuous delivery loop or DevOps loop. We need to be involved all the way around because we need that firsthand knowledge of what’s going on in production as well,” she added.

Shift-Right Practices and Test Observability

Matías Fornara, leader of the automation hub at Abstracta, explained that with the popularization of the DevOps concept, Shift-Right practices have also become linked to application release, configuration, and better monitoring processes.

Undeniably, a critical component of this path is associated with test observability. All in all, observability aims to achieve a detailed understanding, customer satisfaction, and positive business impact.

Building on this, when applying Shift-Right practices and integrating observability into the process, organizations can gain invaluable insights into how their systems operate in real-world conditions.

Observability’s primary aim is to achieve a detailed understanding of the system during its operation. This detailed understanding enhances the capacity to react promptly and effectively to any issues that arise post-deployment, thereby reducing system downtime and improving customer satisfaction.

Observability not only allows for the detection and resolution of problems but also offers a broader view of system performance and user behavior. These insights can guide further the development process, making it increasingly aligned with actual user needs and behavior.

Don’t miss this article! Shift-Left Testing & Shift-Right Testing, a Possible Strategy.

Observability Testing and Conduct Testing

Federico Toledo emphasized the significant role that chaos engineering plays in enabling teams to assess the observability of their systems. By deliberately injecting errors into the system, the entire team gains valuable insights into their ability to analyze and address potential issues using the available information.

This practice goes beyond simply identifying flaws; it also fosters a culture of resilience and adaptability within the team. Additionally, chaos engineering allows for the identification of any weak points in the system’s monitoring and alerting capabilities, highlighting areas that may require further improvement.

This proactive approach empowers teams to proactively strengthen their systems, ensuring that they can confidently handle unexpected scenarios and maintain the overall stability and reliability of their applications.

Lisa Crispin exclaimed, “Chaos engineering is one way to discover the unknown unknowns.”

In short: testers should be involved because observability is a property of their systems. They need to know the architecture and the technology behind their systems to be able to understand where to pay attention to be able to test how observable their systems are.

We invite you to read this article: Why Abstracta’s Testers Can Elevate Your Software Quality.

Some Stats

Recent research published bySplunk explained that as the evolution to hybrid, multi-cloud infrastructure continues, organizations are encountering escalated complexity, lower visibility, and intensifying burnout. 

Fluid Observability

“Fluid observability is the antidote… As observability becomes essential, leaders extend multi-cloud visibility and dramatically improve digital experiences,” it held. “Organizations that build a rich observability practice into everything they do can expect to see compounding benefits in security, system’s performance, and cost savings each year.”

The research includes a survey of 1,250 observability practitioners, managers, and experts on this topic.

Key Survey Outcomes

Some of their results revealed that:

✔️Observability leaders are 2.1 times as likely to say that they can detect problems in internally developed applications in minutes.

✔️Leaders report a 69% better mean time to resolution for unplanned downtime or performance degradation.

✔️ Leaders’ average annual cost of downtime associated with business-critical internally developed applications is $2.5 million, versus $23.8 million for beginners.

Observability remains a huge challenge. There is no doubt that there’s still much to come!

The Future of Observability

“The future of observability is a continued expansion throughout the IT organization. For all but the youngest digital-native businesses, traditional IT operations have bigger teams and bigger budgets than DevOps and observability. But the proliferation of clouds and the constant pressure to move faster will drive observability forward,” concluded the report. 

Quality Sense Podcast- Lisa Crispin & Federico Toledo

Would you like to learn more about observability? We recommend you check out Lisa’s episode of Quality Sense Podcast!

Looking for a Quality Assurance Partner for Automation Testing? We are quality partners! Learn more about our solutions here and understand why we have received such praise.

We offer a comprehensive suite of services designed to ensure the smooth and efficient delivery of your software projects. These include Testing Strategy, Software observability, Functional Testing, Automated Testing (also known as Test Automation), Performance Testing, Load Testing, Testing Tool Development, Accessibility Testing, Security Testing, Exploratory Testing, and DevOps Services.

Our Software Delivery and Business Process offerings cater to a diverse range of needs, and our focus on observability enables us to help you in every step and every business context. We understand that every project is unique, and we are committed to providing services that match your distinct requirements, enhancing its success at every step of the way.

We encourage you to reach out to us to learn how our services can be beneficial to your business. Our team is always ready to help and looks forward to partnering with you to drive your software projects to the next level.

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