Observability in action: Nationwide and Rome Airport
Residents of Jersey, a British Crown dependency located just off the coast of Northwest France, were left without gas for days thanks to a software error that caused a system failure at the Channel Island’s gas plant a couple of weeks ago.
The gas supplier said the error was caused by “rogue code”, something that observability platform provider Dynatrace claims could have been caught and fixed before it even happened with the right technology in place.
“Seeing an entire island cut off from its gas supply is a stark reminder of the consequences that software failures can have in our digital-first world,” says Evrim Tekesin, UK regional director of Dynatrace.
“We’ve come a long way from the days when a website outage was the worst of our worries. Now, software controls everything from our banking systems to border control, and of course, essential utility networks,” she adds.
According to Tekesin, IT teams simply cannot keep up with using traditional approaches to building and running their software, and need to shift to automated approaches, driven by real-time observability and security data.
Observability tools and platforms claim to be the solution to ensuring the backend of software is faultless.
In a nutshell, observability takes the huge amounts of data from every interaction, generated by infrastructure such as servers, virtual machines, containers, and cloud, as well as applications such as code, databases, web services, and customer interactions and security technologies.
It takes data from all these sources and displays it in an accessible dashboard.
The results offer an insight into all facets of a firm’s IT estate, and, when powered by AI, claims to help predict future faults.
In Jersey’s case, Tekesin says that if the island wants to protect itself from issues such as “rogue code”, it can implement automated quality gates within software pipelines which will automatically check any new code before it goes live.
“As a result, rogue code is stopped in its tracks, preventing it from causing any impact,” she explains.
At a recent Dynatrace ‘Innovate’ event, which TI was invited along to in Barcelona, the firm’s CEO, Rick McConnell explained that software engineers are often required to produce software to tight deadline.
With generative AI, this software is even easier to knock out – but this doesn’t come without its own set of problems.
For instance, as the amount of code and data, usually stored in multi-cloud environments, increases, so too does the probability of a software failure, which may lead to a full-blown outage, or that the security of the application is weakened.
Observability, McConnell claims, serves as a net with which to catch these kinds of incidents before they occur.
At the event, the firm and its customers showcased several examples illustrating how observability was uncovering ‘hidden secrets’ in their software and stopping any faults in their tracks.
Nationwide Building Society
Chris Reeve, lead observability manager at Nationwide Building Society, tells TI that the bank has only “really scratched the surface with Dynatrace, and we’re at the really early stages of the rollout process.”
After a successful proof of concept, Nationwide is looking to bring Dynatrace’s observability platform to improve its capability, centralise its data and get to the root of its software.
The need for centralising its data comes as Nationwide’s data sits in separate silos.
“Getting to the source of that data and correlating it together, and using it to come to a quick decision, and that might be during an incident, was hard with so many tools,” explains Reeve.
For this application, Dynatrace is used to bring the data together and to help Nationwide make decisions more efficiently.
“One of our other challenges in the past has been getting to the root cause quickly enough,” says Reeve. “So, bringing all the data together, layering that on top of AI, hopefully, means that when we have an incident, we can get to the cause quickly enough.”
For Reeve, adopting these technologies and adding AI can add to the business metrics – for instance, by calculating the value of payments which did not take place during an outage, for example.
“Knowing how many customers haven’t been able to log into their phone, so bringing those metrics together in one place is really powerful and I think that’s something I really want to get across to the business to show what’s possible,” he adds.
Observability doesn’t just analyse what went wrong, however, particularly with the help of predictive AI.
“We’re looking more at preventing issues in the first place. So, using the predictive AI capability to avoid issues happening, and I guess ultimately reducing the number of servicing issues that we have. And that’s going to be good for the customer as well,” he adds.
Observability can also help the customer by mapping out the entire customer digital journey and presenting the data to ensure a decrease in issues.
“Digital journeys are more important now than ever before, and knowing what each step of that journey looks like is another important aspect,” enthuses Reeve.
Aeroporti di Roma
Aeroporti di Roma is the operator of Leonardo da Vinci- Fiumicino Airport in Greater Rome and Rome Ciampino Airport.
The operator’s vice president of information and communication technology Pietro Caminiti, explained at the Dynatrace Event how the airport is using artificial intelligence and observability to drive automation in its processes.
“We have the largest operator in Italy,” says Caminiti, “Just from numbers, we manage 50 million passengers, which is more or less the same passengers managed by New York or San Francisco,” he explains.
Daily, ADR meets around 150 to 200 thousand passengers, plus 40,000 operators in one day.
“This is the complexity we manage,” says Caminiti, and is something that the airport wanted to optimise to reduce any issues through the airport journey.
“If you think about [a passenger’s] journey,” explains Caminiti, “You’re stressed during the drive to the airport because you don’t know where the gate is, or how much time you will have to get through security.”
With the acknowledgment that the process of getting through the airport door and onto the plane is a stressful and complex journey for passengers, the airport is aiming to make this as seamless as possible without any faults along the way.
The operator used Dynatrace’s observability platform to collect and present each step of a passenger’s journey in data.
“When we started to have specific observations from each passenger, we understood what we needed to do better,” says Caminiti.
With Dynatrace’s observability, and its AI, ADR used this data to uncover the root cause of performance issues and security vulnerabilities and proactively resolve them before they impact travellers.
According to Dynatrace, this has helped ADR process 90% of travellers through security in just three minutes and enable punctual arrivals and departures for more than 99% of its daily flights.
Plus, it was also able to be guaranteed that 13 million bags reach the 200 destinations that leave ADR.
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