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Technologists must move beyond IT firefighting to deliver on Industry 4.0 goals

Last updated on June 20th, 2023 at 09:51 am

By Gregg Ostrowski, Executive CTO, Cisco AppDynamics

Whether they use the term ‘Industry 4.0’ or not, there is no denying that manufacturers of all shapes and sizes are looking to integrate cutting edge technologies in order to build smarter factories, embrace new business models and streamline operations. The World Economic Forum’s 2022 ‘Global Smart Industry Readiness Index’ details the impressive progress that is being made across the manufacturing industry, from semiconductors, electronics and pharmaceuticals, through to automotive, aerospace and medical technology.

But as manufacturers look to double down on their Industry 4.0 transformation programs over the next 12 months, they cannot afford to overlook the need to monitor and optimize IT performance at all times. As we have seen over recent years (firstly in the consumer market but now also in a business context), customers are simply not willing to tolerate poor digital experiences. And therefore, it’s vital for organizations to equip their IT teams with the tools and insights they need to optimize application performance at all times; otherwise they risk being unable to maximize their Industry 4.0 investments.

Manufacturing IT departments overwhelmed by data noise from Industry 4.0 programs

The move to cloud is widely recognized as critical in supporting and scaling Industry 4.0 strategies. Modern application architectures, built on technologies such as microservices and Kubernetes, present huge benefits for manufacturers in terms of faster innovation velocity, increased agility and greater reliability and resilience. This explains why most manufacturers are now deploying multiple cloud environments to support their innovation initiatives.

But many organizations are now finding themselves being held back by a lack of visibility across public and hybrid cloud environments. In particular, they’re struggling to get visibility into applications and underlying infrastructure for large, managed Kubernetes environments running on public clouds.

The distributed and dynamic nature of cloud native applications makes it extremely difficult for technologists to pinpoint the root cause of issues, due to new application behaviors and fault modes and data volumes which far outweigh what humans (and traditional monitoring tools) can handle. Cloud native technologies such as microservices and Kubernetes rely on thousands of containers and spawn a massive volume of metrics, events, logs and traces (MELT) every second.

This explosion of data is now becoming a major headache for IT teams. Most are unable to cut through the overwhelming volumes of data that are coming at them from every corner of their IT estate, and therefore they’re constantly scrambling to identify and understand issues before they impact end user experience.

Worryingly, in our latest Agents of Transformation 2022 report, 65 per cent of technologists admitted that they feel overwhelmed by the soaring volumes of data being caused by rapid innovation and spiraling complexity. IT teams are stuck in firefighting mode and the consequences of this are severe – firstly, they’re unable to ensure seamless digital experiences for customers, suppliers and employees, which could have profound implications for the business. And secondly, they’re unable to spend time on strategic priorities, and in particular the innovation initiatives which are central to their organization’s Industry 4.0 ambitions.

Cloud observability can ease the pressure on IT teams and keep Industry 4.0 programs on track

Without doubt, monitoring performance is far more challenging in a software-defined, cloud environment, where everything is constantly changing in real-time. Traditional approaches to monitoring are based on physical infrastructure – IT departments operate a fixed number of servers and network wires – they are dealing with constants. This then provides fixed dashboards for each layer of the IT stack. But with cloud computing, organizations are continually scaling up and down their use of IT, based on real-time business needs.

Most monitoring solutions simply aren’t able to handle dynamic and highly volatile cloud native environments. Technologists are unable to cut through the crippling data noise when troubleshooting application performance problems caused by infrastructure-related issues that span across hybrid cloud environments. Nor do they have unified visibility across what is increasingly a sprawling and fragmented IT estate.

In order to get back on the front foot and adopt a more proactive approach to managing application performance, manufacturers need to implement a modern, cloud native observability solution which allows their IT teams to manage and optimize increasingly complex and dynamic applications and technology stacks, and enables them to monitor the health of key business transactions distributed across their entire technology landscape.

With real-time insights from the business transaction’s telemetry data, technologists can quickly identify the root cause of issues and expedite resolution, ensuring that their applications are consistently performing at an optimal level, without any disruption or downtime. And critically, particularly given that technology investment is likely to come under closer scrutiny as the economic slowdown continues, this level of insight into business transactions will allow business and IT leaders to measure and report on the performance and ROI of their Industry 4.0 initiatives on an ongoing basis.

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Gregg Ostrowski
Gregg Ostrowski
Gregg Ostrowski is executive CTO at AppDynamics.