The People Need to Know

Feb 2, 2021

Welcome to my first Au blog post. At Autonomic, I’m responsible for many of the Transportation Mobility Cloud’s foundational operations. I wrestle daily with questions like: how do we show what’s going on within the platform, what information should be shown, and how do we make every aspect of this as easy as possible? We have a motto that drives our work in this area:

The People Need to Know.

To fulfill our motto we are developing an extensive variety of platform visibility features, available for internal use in troubleshooting or customer support, but explicitly designed for customers. Variety is the key word here. There is a huge amount of variety in the technical know-how of our end users, and our platform visibility offerings must address this.

For example, our customer’s support engineers, who are responsible for services that span across multiple backend platforms, often spend too much of their response time tracking problems across the various services. What they need is a unified health monitoring system, coupled with the tools to rapidly diagnose problems as they surface. This in turn leads to quicker turnaround time on customer issues, and an enhanced overall customer service experience.

On the other end of the spectrum, teams in our customer’s finance and business strategy departments often prefer to simply export the data into their tool of choice, which is usually Excel. We are going a step further and will provide them with the ability to configure their own custom dashboards, which can export the data on demand, delivering much greater efficiency. They are no longer reliant on our development teams, their IT departments, or monthly data dumps in CSV format. Unsurprisingly, this group’s response to our early releases has been overwhelmingly positive.

As we continue empowering our customers with the tools that they need, it’s critical that all internal teams who work directly with customers have access to the same tools and data the customers have, at a minimum. This can lead to some complications around federated identity management, but it’s still necessary. Customer facing teams must be able to see exactly what the customer sees.

As great as these tools are, it’s worth mentioning that they don’t replace the need for a strong internal observability stance. The capabilities I’ve described above will help customers and customer-facing teams rapidly confirm an issue, but engineering teams are needed to find the root cause and implement lasting solutions. For these teams to act quickly and detect issues early, we continue to develop powerful log management, tracing implementations, and monitoring tools.

As I mentioned earlier, the people need to know, and variety is the key word when it comes to user needs. Building a toolset and product to serve the many different needs and interests of our internal teams and external customers is certainly a challenge! It requires thoughtful planning and creative engineering — a combination that makes my job both difficult and exciting. In the near future, I believe that we’ll see the rise of hybrid systems that automate away some of the complexities (particularly around identity management and data access) we encounter today. When that happens, we can expect a new breed of platform visibility systems to evolve that will make it easier than ever before to offer total platform visibility.

At Autonomic, we’re excited to be working on this evolutionary edge and benefit greatly from the open source projects available as building blocks — things like Grafana, Prometheus and Cortex. As we move towards a better future for frictionless platform visibility, my hope is that we can all take part in designing and developing the intermediate solutions that get us there. I plan to use future blog posts to keep you apprised of our progress. Stay tuned!