ServiceNow Acquires Lightstep to Gain Observability Platform

Oracle observability platform

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ServiceNow today announced it has acquired Lightstep as part of an effort to add an observability platform to its IT operations portfolio. Terms of the deal, expected to close this quarter, were not disclosed.

The Change Intelligence observability platform from Lightstep is based on a time-series database that is capable of processing a trillion events each day. It was built by the same team that created Monarch, the globally distributed in-memory time series database system that Google employs to monitor its applications and systems. Lightstep team members also co-created both the OpenTracing and OpenTelemetry open source projects for collecting traces, metrics and logs.

Pablo Stern, senior vice president and general manager for IT workflow products at ServiceNow, said ServiceNow will employ Lightstep to enable IT organizations to observe both monolithic and microservices-based applications as IT operations and DevOps teams continue to collaborate more closely with one another. The goal is to provide a single pane of glass through which IT teams can observe their entire IT environment via the Now platform that ServiceNow makes available via a software-as-service (SaaS) delivery model.

That approach will enable DevOps teams to programmatically manage IT environments alongside IT administrators employing graphical tools, noted Stern.

Lightstep CEO Ben Sigelman added that, in time, the number of users of that observability will only increase as more application stakeholders start to track software development projects that are at the heart of various digital business transformation initiatives.


Thanks mainly to the rise of microservices that are now being deployed across highly distributed computing environments, it’s become more difficult to discover the root cause of an IT issue. Microservices-based applications have lots of dependencies that, while serving to make the overall application more resilient, conspire to make it difficult to determine which specific microservices might be adversely impacting the performance of an application.

The time-series database that lies underneath the Change Intelligence observability platform makes it feasible to go beyond logs and metrics to process distributed traces that provide more insight into application behavior. Ultimately, the goal is to enable organizations to innovate faster with a higher degree of confidence in the IT environment, said Sigelman.

As far as the march to observability in the enterprise is concerned, it’s still early days. While observability may be a core tenet of any DevOps practice, most IT organizations rely on myriad tools that surface data the teams then attempt to correlate. Whenever there is a major issue, those IT teams typically convene in a “war room” to compare reports generated by the various IT monitoring tools employed. Observability platforms that collect and process distributed traces used to instrument an application using a consistent set of specifications, frameworks and libraries. The OpenTracing and OpenTelemetry tools are significant because they provide an open source approach to instrumenting applications that reduces the total cost of observability. In comparison, many legacy application performance management (APM) platforms employ proprietary agents to instrument applications.

Naturally, each IT organizations will be moving down the path toward an observability platform that provides greater application context. At this point, however, it’s not clear to what degree observability platforms will need to be installed before making the transition to microservices versus being a capability that only gets appreciated once the trouble with microservices finally becomes apparent.

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