New Relic: Capturing the flag of software observability at FutureStack

What is at the center of a successful software delivery? Is it measured only by the speed and quality of the resulting user experience, or does the real value lie somewhere within the responsiveness of the data that feeds it, from within an increasingly distributed and ephemeral hybrid information technology architecture?

We seem to be in a game of “Capture the Flag” among companies vying to define the future state of application delivery, and the market keeps moving the flag. Ask the first cloud-native application performance monitoring or APM provider, New Relic, where it’s at, and it will pin software’s future success on observability.

“What we call observability is really about getting visibility and collecting telemetry data about technology in four forms: metrics, events, logs, and traces,” said New Relic founder and Chief Executive Lew Cirne (pictured). “Observability requires a platform.”

Now four years into its post-initial public offering journey and grown well beyond the thousand-employee mark, the vendor kicked off its 2019 FutureStack summit series in New York City with a bang, announcing six new capabilities in their New Relic One platform, which was launched earlier this year as a product suite unification strategy.


With all the new functional capabilities beyond APM on board, inputs from logs, traces and events, metrics with or without agents, a Kubernetes cluster explorer, AI ops filtering and more than a dozen new “open” functional apps loaded in, the One platform’s once-spartan dashboard is beginning to look pretty robust.

Most impressive demo of all, though? The subsecond response times of the NRDB data engine under the hood, providing that feel of immediacy to every multitenant query or cross-cluster analysis. If its system can take millions of inserts and billions of requests a second, and still surface results to the UI this fast, customers may insist on it as a new service level agreement of observability.

Recruiting experience at enterprise scale with iCIMS

I had a chance to catch up with Ben Barresi, director of cloud hosting at iCIMS. You may not have heard of his company, but it’s behind many of the recruiting automation and new employee on-boarding integration front ends of hundreds of global companies and HR-related service providers.

“Just one [client/job title] may generate 24,000 applicants in a day, and that request is only open for 24 hours,” he said. “We use New Relic to understand the capacity of our systems to provide a great user experience to those applicants. Without the telemetry data of New Relic, we couldn’t deal with peak periods, for instance if a customer tells us they are going to open up 30,000 jobs in one career day.”

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The company transitioned its data centers to an almost completely hybrid cloud-based distributed application hub six years ago, running its software-as-a-service platform and partner API integrations on either AWS or Azure cloud services, based on customer demand and cost considerations. It’s gradually transitioning further to container and microservices architectures.

“The candidate experience is very important for us, because it’s reflecting the brand of our customers. Recruiting the best talent is a top priority for every CEO,” Barresi said. “I couldn’t imagine our business operating without immediate insight to what’s going on.”

It’s observable, and programmable, but is it open?

New Relic’s user base is quite far-ranging in size and profile. Although IT leaders from high-performing companies like Cox Automotive and Cardinal Health were on hand to talk about their experiences instrumenting and tuning massive infrastructures as they migrate to nimbler cloud-native ones, the real action here isn’t at the trade show. Innovation often happens out there in the open for today’s development community.

“Open-source standards and telemetry are incredibly important to us, in fact, we wrote one of the ‘Nerdpacks’ Lew was talking about in his keynote today,” said Glenn Nethercutt, chief architect and fellow at Genesys. “Expect us to deliver more Nerdpacks by the end of the year, because rather than investing solely in our own UIs, we can contribute to the value of New Relic proper.”

Programmability atop New Relic One is the most promising part of what’s going on here. Cirne, a CEO still known for coding new wrinkles in his company’s software over the weekend (as he describes in the video below), recruited a crack team of nerds from New Relic and its own customers for a hackathon. They were able to whip up a dozen new React-based apps atop the New Relic One programmability framework over a two- to three-day period.

These apps are now published open source modules in New Relic One, ready to be customized to fulfill compelling business functions, such as a single view for optimizing AWS or multicloud usage costs, or a Site Analyzer for determining a customer’s likelihood to bounce based on delivered user performance.

While the code is on GitHub and anyone can modify the new apps to their heart’s content, the mother company isn’t giving out source to the core data and engines the apps run on anytime soon. Thus, open-source purists may take exception to the “open” title, even if the company has been a consistent community contributor and supporter of open integration standards.

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Future states of future stacks

Watching New Relic development leads drill down into regions, clusters and individual pod telemetry on an impressive-looking Kubernetes Explorer function of the platform, I realized how the primary barrier to successful modernization has never been a lack of skills or motivation on the part of teams.

In the cloud-native future stack, where new versions, tools and frameworks come out every week, and all hybrid IT resources are fleeting and ephemeral, simply seeing what is actually going on behind the scenes can get enterprise teams most of the way there. Enlightenment, and resiliency, are the natural fruits of observability.

So by rights, why not plant a flag there if you can?

Here’s more from Lew Cirne from an interview at FutureStack with theCUBE, SiliconANGLE’s livestreaming studio:

Jason English is principal analyst and chief marketing officer at Intellyx LLC, an analyst firm that advises enterprises on their digital transformation initiatives, and publishes the weekly Cortex and BrainCandy newsletters. (Disclosure: New Relic is an Intellyx client and covered analyst expenses for attending the show, a common industry practice.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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