ServiceNow launches UQL for Observable Kubernetes Apps

ServiceNow has made its Lightstep UQL (Unified Query Language) generally available for organizations to use Observability as Code to create visible Kubernetes applications from scratch.

UQL will help companies expand visibility into Kubernetes applications. ServiceNow introduced the completed UQL at the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America event in Detroit this week.

“Engineers can now use Observability as Code for more powerful and flexible insights into the health and performance of their cloud native applications,” said Ben Sigelman, general manager and co-founder of Lightstep (acquired by ServiceNow last year), said in a statement. “This is especially important when thinking about modern architectures like Kubernetes, which are highly complex and dynamic. Lightstep UQL works to ensure that every Kubernetes application deployed is fully deployed and observable by default.”

Ben Sigelman

Baked In

Lightstep UQL makes it easy for DevOps teams to integrate observability by offering “Observability as Code,” said Andy Thurai, an analyst at Constellation Research.

“There are other variations offered by other vendors, so it’s not ground-breaking,” he said. “However, it makes it easier for DevOps teams to prepare observability from the design/code level instead of being an afterthought.”

Lightstep is at the forefront of pushing the envelope of what’s possible in data tracking.

“But because UQL is about both metrics and tracking, and it allows tracking data to move way, way, way the rest of these pipelines,” Sigelman told The New Stack. “So you can now do the same kind of scripting that you do to automate everything from alarming and alerting to CI/CD. That kind of scripting, which was really only possible for metrics before is now possible in one language for all these different types of data.”

Moreover, UQL allows automation to take place regardless of the cardinality for tracking data, and regardless of the type of data in general. That opens up a whole kind of set of use cases that have been closed off because of the kind of fundamental limitations of languages ​​that exist today, Sigelman said.

Blurred lines

“UQL is really another manifestation of our attempt to intentionally blur the lines between these different telemetry silos so that you have one experience, but we’ve done it in a way that we did with OpenTelemetry and OpenTracing before,” Sigelman said. He is a co-creator of both projects.

UQL has been in the works for a long time. Some of the engineers who worked with Sigelman at Google on both Dapper and Monarch, Google’s tracking and measurement systems, respectively, now work at Lightstep. But Lightstep has been working with UQL in a dedicated way for more than a year — largely enabled by the resources and benefits of the ServiceNow acquisition.

Effect of Service Today

“ServiceNow has been very good to us, and we’ve grown faster from an R&D perspective than we could have on our own. And it certainly accelerated things like this,” Sigelman said.

Regarding what ServiceNow enables for Lightstep, Sigelman said: “I think it allows us to move forward with projects like this with the alignment up and down the management chain stack that we need to pursue the long-term vision and really do it in a way that’s hard to do as a startup. So it’s been beneficial, both in terms of allowing us to dream bigger that way. And then just execute faster like from a resourcing perspective.”

Overall, UQL enables deeper and broader visibility into Kubernetes-based applications to drive an Observability as Code approach for DevOps, SRE and developer teams, said Stephen Elliot, an analyst at IDC .

“It allows a consistent language for collecting and managing metrics logs and traces,” he said. “For Lightstep/ServiceNow, this continues their approach to observability and drives deeper into cloud native capabilities. For customers, observability is becoming an indispensable strategy as system reliability now spans multiple stakeholders across IT, security, and more business organizations.”

Don’t Use the ‘S’ Word

Although he refers to UQL as a vendor-neutral approach that he hopes the industry will adopt, Sigelman hesitates to use the word “standard”.

“We struggled with the word standard because ‘standard’ means something like IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] standard or it can mean the de facto standard, because it is what people use. I think I’m kind of growing into the second kind of standard these days,” he said. “We’re trying to create something that has the breadth and depth to address a very wide variety of use cases, and also not lock on people. You can do all that without trying to say you’re a standard.”

While Lightstep hasn’t announced plans to open source UQL, “that’s something we’ve wanted to see for a long time,” Sigelman told The New Stack. “Because I feel that the open source movement that we started with OpenTracing and OpenTelemetry is very effective.”

The arrival of UQL means that observability can come to cloud native, Kubernetes applications from the get-go, Thurai said.

“In addition, UQL allows for searching logs, metrics, and traces easily within the Lightstep platform. ServiceNow hopes this will enable large enterprises to move everything to their LightStep platform faster than using many other competitive tools,” he said. “While it’s easier to imagine that this could happen, in reality the migration of business tools away from open source tools and from other established observability tools is not an easy task.Only time will tell if this is a winning strategy for ServiceNow.

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