June 18, 2024

The Secret to Enterprise Observability: Automation & Configuration Management

Configuration Management
Infrastructure Automation

Computing environments are more dynamic, distributed, and complex than ever. Observability tools help collect, monitor, and interpret the data they generate — like logs, metrics, and traces — to give IT teams and leaders real-time insights that can help detect issues, troubleshoot solutions, and improve the reliability of their IT systems.

But observability tools can’t do their job without a strong infrastructure foundation and the right tools to manage it. Let’s dig in to find out what the benefits of observability are, list a few common tools for getting the insights that lead to observability, and learn what makes configuration management a must for achieving enterprise observability.

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What is Observability?

Observability is the ability to understand the internal state of an IT system and its components through analyzing logs, metrics, and traces. Observability lets teams analyze the performance, health, and operations of applications, data pipelines, and business processes.

In the broadest sense, the concept of observability in IT can include everything from monitoring server performance to tracking user behavior to reporting data analytics. Observability is crucial for system security and performance, enabling insights into system behavior and efficiency for timely response and better decision-making.

When you hear about observability in an IT context, it’s usually referring to one of two main practices: System observability and data observability.

System Observability vs. Data Observability

While system observability emphasizes the functioning and performance of the IT system or environment, data observability ensures the reliability and quality of the data flowing through that environment.

Let’s draw the line a bit more clearly with a definition of each:

System Observability

System observability means collecting and analyzing metrics, logs, and traces to gain insight into the internal state of an IT system (infrastructure). System observability tools help IT teams monitor and understand the performance and reliability of hardware, software, and network components.

Data Observability

Data observability means tracking the quality, lineage, integrity, and accessibility of data in an IT system to gain insight into its accuracy, reliability, and timeliness. Data observability tools help IT teams determine if data can be used for analysis, reporting, and decision-making.

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Observability Tools & What They Do

Observability Tool



Infrastructure monitoring, security monitoring, and logging

Scalable log management, security information and event management (SIEM)

New Relic

Application performance monitoring (APM), user experience insights


Support for cloud-native environments, extensive metrics collection capabilities


Customizable dashboards for observability visualization


Infrastructure, application, and user experience monitoring

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Why Infrastructure Management is Essential to Enterprise Observability

Observability in an IT system relies on the uniform installation and maintenance of monitoring agents, logging configurations, and tracing libraries. That’s what makes infrastructure automation and configuration management essential to observability, especially at enterprise scale.

Observability tools provide insights to system state through individual system components. Those tools can only do that when they’re properly installed, configured, and maintained. Configuration management tools like Puppet, Ansible, and Chef ensure that those observability tools are installed and configured on each component.

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Puppet policy as code (PaC) turns all those configurations into code — the installation, configuration, and maintenance of those tools on each server or VM — and repeats them across every resource to keep all those components in your desired state. For example, Puppet makes sure that Prometheus node exporters, Datadog agents, and New Relic agents are properly installed and configured on managed servers so they can collect deep insights about system state, configurations, and performance metrics.

Puppet’s always-on automation uses lightweight agents to autonomously keep the system in a secure, compliant state, including the setup of your observability tools, to create a uniform monitoring infrastructure that consistently delivers the observability insights you need.

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The Secret to Enterprise Observability: Agent-Based Automation

Agent-based automation enables capabilities that are crucial to observability, including more comprehensive data collection, real-time monitoring, self-healing capabilities, controlled access, and uninterrupted operations during network outages. Agentless automation tools can’t ensure the same level of control, security, and reliability as agent-based automation.

The benefits of an agent-based automation approach outweigh the performance overhead of installing agents on target nodes. Choosing agent-based automation for supporting observability gives you real-time data and the confidence that your desired state will be enforced even during a network outage.

Since agentless tools like Red Hat Ansible rely on standard protocols like SSH or WinRM to interact with target nodes, they’re highly dependent on network connectivity. That means that if you’re using agentless automation and your nodes are offline (due to network performance issues or outages), you could be getting outdated or incomplete data from your observability tools. The less you know, the less you can do about issues.

That’s also one of the main reasons to choose agent-based vs. agentless security >>

Especially when you’re managing infrastructure observability at scale, agent-based automation is a must. Agents enable continuous configuration automation, which maintains visibility and consistency at a level agentless automation can’t match.

Puppet provides agent-based automation that enforces your desired state with each Puppet run, which occurs every 30 minutes by default. That means your observability tools and the nodes they run on are installed, configured, and managed exactly the way you want across your entire managed infrastructure fleet.

Find out more about how Puppet configuration management supports observability in your IT with a demo of Puppet or pick the right Puppet package on our Plans & Pricing page.


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