5 Ways to Increase Release Velocity with Observability

By Valerie Silverthorne  |   Last modified on June 5, 2023

The pressure on today’s development teams is real: innovate, release quickly, and then do it all again, only faster. Is it any surprise that studies are showing 83% of software developers are feeling burnout? We’re here to remind you that it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Teams with observability baked in can support rapid release velocity and developer morale, all while creating space and time for truly creative application development. Observability provides the ability to see inside your complex and distributed systems to know exactly what’s happening in real time. Rather than hours or days wasted trying to debug novel issues, teams can use specific workflows to remediate, in minutes, what release changes caused issues and how users are experiencing the new code, making it simple to decide whether to roll forward or back.

Think of observability as the best gift organizations can give to developers (and, ultimately, to their bottom lines). That was certainly the case at Slack where releases were delayed due to a high rate (50%) of flaky tests. When the team added Honeycomb’s event-based observability to their CI pipeline, flaky tests fell to just 5% and the release velocity dramatically increased.

No matter where teams are on their journey to faster releases, observability can help. Here are five ways observability enables faster and more stable releases.

Build quickly but with dependencies in mind 

It’s impossible to move rapidly without seeing clearly, and that’s why baking observability into the build and release process just makes sense. Honeycomb’s observability platform will give developers actionable insights that enables them to deploy stable releases quickly. Our Service Map is a visual correlation of services and dependencies so developers can easily build with interconnectivity in mind. And, bonus, Honeycomb integrates easily into existing development tools, so teams can spend time innovating rather than context switching.

Leverage real-time feedback on code behavior 

Releasing code “into the wild” won’t be scary anymore because observability gives teams in the moment feedback on how an application is behaving. Get granular visibility into the behavior of distributed systems before, during, and after deployments. And with Honeycomb, teams can easily monitor key factors such as performance degradation, response times, and resource utilization to ensure that systems continue to operate as they should. 

Also, Honeycomb and the open source framework OpenTelemetry (OTel) are truly better together. Instrument (automatically or manually) with OTel and it’s possible to explore rich data down to individual user requests, creating nearly instant feedback loops on how customers are experiencing new code post-deploy. 

Empower the entire team to find and fix issues quickly 

If newly released code has a problem, Honeycomb needs just seconds to surface thousands of contextual results, meaning anyone on the team, regardless of tenure, is able to step in to solve the incident. Our industry-leading query engine and our BubbleUp visualizations make it a snap to zoom in on outliers, or search for unique identifiers such as build ID, and use Honeymarkers to pinpoint exactly where and when something went wrong with a release. 

Get alignment on error thresholds to reduce customer churn

Find problems before customers do using our industry-leading query engine combined with thoughtfully-crafted service level objectives (SLOs). Honeycomb and SLOs are an ideal combination to ensure customer expectations are met (and even exceeded) and our experience is proof: SLOs alerted us to a partial degradation that monitoring missed.

Create an engineering culture that makes releasing new features routine

According to the DORA metrics, elite DevOps teams deploy code multiple times a day. That may sound like a stretch, but smaller deploys are easier to manage than large ones, and this is definitely a place where observability plays an important role. Deploying observable code is simply less stressful/risky because teams will know quickly if there are any issues. Embrace the benefits of frequent smaller deploys, and take advantage of that extra time and energy to create code that can delight users.

Observability is more than a platform: it’s a culture shift.

No organization can afford to waste time or valuable engineering resources which is why adding observability into the tool mix is a “just makes sense” solution. But even the best observability offering needs a culture of support. To achieveand sustainincreased release velocity while also taking care of the people, it’s critical to shift observability left, creating a culture of shared problem-solving that at the same time allows for velocity, decreases stress, and promotes creativity. It’s a tall order, but we live it at Honeycomb, and we’re here to help.


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