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The Ollys - 2023

Welcome to the Ollys - the Observability 360 end of year awards. This is our own individual and maybe slightly idiosyncratic take on the highlights of 2023. For example, we don't have a category such as "best Observability system". This is because the best observability system for a particular customer or user depends on a myriad of factors. Is Splunk a great system? Yes - and so are DataDog, Grafana, New Relic, SigNoz, Victoria Metrics, Honeycomb etc. As to which of those is the best - that is arguably in the eye of the beholder.

For this reason, the focus of our Ollys is on features, functions and technologies rather than on a particular stack. In addition to looking at systems and products we will also cast the net a bit wider and recognise actors across the broader observability community, who contribute so much via channels such as blogs, events, videos etc.

The selections presented here are, by their nature, subjective - if you have other nominations then please let us know in the comments or via Twitter. Also, if you have any ideas for additional categories, we would also love to hear your thoughts.

Best Backend Database
Winner: ClickHouse

InfluxDB have really raised the bar with their V3 release - and get kudos for listening to user feedback in re-scoping Influx-QL. Scylla have dazzled this year but ClickHouse have really led the way with astonishing benchmarks and their vision for a SQL-based observability pipeline.

Runner Up: ScyllaDB

ScyllaDB has quickly gained a reputation as a rock solid solution for high availability and high throughput. It is growing quickly and counts the likes of Rakuten, Comcast and Expedia amongst its high profile users.

Best Tool
Winner: Karpenter

Cost management has been one of the hottest themes in observability in recent years, as the exponential increase in log volumes has led to huge spikes in ingress and storage costs. One cost-cutting option for cloud-based solutions is the use of spot-instances, and tooling such as Karpenter opens up this possibility with its intelligent management of K8S nodes. They have also won over major players such as Grafana, who announced that migrating to Karpenter had led to a 40% reduction in costs.

Runner up: Parseable

This is an elegant, lightweight logging tool that has a great UI and is packed with features. What's more it is open source.

Technology of the Year
Winner: eBPF

Whilst AI promised much, eBPF delivered - opening up the Linux Kernel and paving the way for a number of solutions providing low-level, high-performance observability and networking. Cilium, Tetragon, Beyla and Pixie are just some of the tools which are pulling back the veil. Cisco's end of year acquisition of Isovalent really set the seal on a remarkable year.

Runner Up: Apache Arrow

This new platform combines the benefits of columnar data structures with in-memory computing to deliver high speed in-memory processing. It has already enabled OpenTelemetry to achieve a 40% improvement in compression efficiency for the majority of workloads.

Story of the Year

For most of us, this came right out of the blue. Splunk is the observability behemoth, but the $29bn price tag was pretty eye-popping. Most financial analysts concluded that it was a smart move. Splunk's sophisticated SIEM software was a good fit for Cisco's customer base, who were demanding more advanced network security tooling. Splunk's strategic move to a cloud-based ARR model also offered the promise of a continuous and growing revenue stream.

Runner Up: The $65m Bill

This is a story that has pretty much entered into observability folklore and many column inches have been expended in discussing it. It has often, somewhat unfairly, been used as a stick with which to beat DataDog but, as this article notes, eight digit observability bills are nothing new.

Event of the Year

Creating a film about a bunch of system enginers hacking the Linux kernel is a brave and magnificent proposition. This much trailed and eagerly awaited production did not disappoint - a riveting account of the long and sometimes arduous journey to build eBPF.

Runner-Up: Splunk .conf23

The scale of this gathering was truly impressive - 7,000 observability specialists gathered together under one roof for a vibrant and informative event.

Blogger of the Year

Seifeddine Rajhi is a prodigious author who has produced a string of readable, authoritative and detailed investigations of a whole range of cloud technologies. One of the best bloggers on the Medium platform.

Runner Up: SigNoz Blog

Many corporate blogs are merely thinly disguised adverts for their own products. Commendably, the SigNoz blog provides a rich stream of in-depth and highly professional articles on key topics of relevance to devs and observability engineers.

Video of the Year

Danny Kopping of Grafana delivers a performance masterclass at the P99 conference. A fascinating investigation into the trade-offs involved in different storage and caching strategies and a surprisingly gripping tale.

A captivating presentation at RoachFest 2023 by Thomas Boltze of Santander. He covers the technical and cultural aspects of resilience with clarity and panache.

Best Podcast

Some podcasts come across as people who like the sound of their own voice chatting into a mike for 30 minutes. The OpenObservability Talks podcasts really set the standard. They come across as well prepared and well structured and underpinned by a desire to inform and communicate. They have excellent guests and the topics are interesting and relevant.

Best Use of AI
Winner: LogSail

There are a number of examples of products applying AI to certain features of their Stack but few companies have AI right at the core of their product as LogSail do. They are planning to rollout a major upgrade in 2024 which will feature anomaly prediction and detection.

Runner Up: Grafana

Whilst both AWS and Splunk have released AI tools which use Natural Language processing to assist with search, both of these are still in preview as we write. Grafana have nudged ahead by rolling out AI-driven features designed to 'delight' the user. These are mainly aids for housekeeping - such as generating summaries and intelligent auto-completion - however, they represent significant steps in using AI to reduce toil for engineers.

Best Newcomer
Winner: Embrace

Mobile is a huge but largely neglected space for observability. In 2023, Embrace emerged to fill this gap. Embrace is a new product but it is polished and feels highly mature. The Embrace toolkit provides SDK’s to integrate with all the major mobile development platforms and their API supports integrations with Grafana, DataDog, New Relic and other providers.

Runner up: Dylibso

WebAssembly has the potential to revolutionise the way that applications are built, packaged and hosted. The intricacies of WebAssembly architecture however, can break conventional observability tooling. Dylibso are pioneering observability in this space.

Ones To Watch for 2024
Hopefully these predictions do not end up being the kiss of death for the following products/technologies, which look set to catch the eye in 2024:

A really exciting CNCF project aiming to bring IaC principles to dashboarding and visualisation technologies. Dashboards as Code is an idea whose time has come.

SigNoz is a developer-oriented full stack observability offering with a focus on high performance and cost-effectiveness. They have a growing following, over 15 thousand stars on Github and bags of ambition.

VM is not just metrics, it is a full stack open source platform. It is gaining enormous traction and its metrics engine is emerging as a popular alternative to Prometheus.

The observability space has seen the arrival of a number of venture capital funded startups over the past few years. Chronosphere may be a relatively unknown player but they have some serious financial backing and their focus on reducing costs and avoiding data overload could be a winning formula.

Keep in touch!

2023 was a huge year for observability and 2024 is shaping up to be even bigger. Keep in touch with all the key news and stories with our fortnightly newsletter.

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