New Relic opens up its secret sauce database

cloud analytics
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An IPO doesn't seem to have changed New Relic's corporate culture, or its CEO's atypical habits

Software analytics vendor New Relic is a company that I've been following for many years. In part because they do interesting stuff and in part because their CEO, Lew Cirne, is an interesting guy. This is no buttoned down cookie cutter MBA executive here -- Cirne named the company as an anagram of his own name and is well known for taking his "coding retreats" focused time away from the day to day operations of the business to immerse himself in ideating new products and features. I've not caught up with Cirne since New Relic's IPO, so on the eve of his company's FutureStack conference in San Francisco, I caught up with the man himself to hear about life post-IPO, and get a preview on the incoming news.

I started off by asking Cirne what changes he's seen with the listing. Always one to say it like it is, Cirne sees no dramatic changes. While there might be a little more pressure to focus on near-term goals and metrics, Cirne is soon to head off on another coding retreat, an indication perhaps that while one eye must, of necessity, be on quarterly performance, he's still focusing on future opportunities. That said, the metrics seem to be doing just fine. New Relic has scaled to serving 500,000 users and 12,000 paid business accounts. Recent quarterly results saw an impressive 69 percent revenue growth alongside an improvement in margin -- focusing on the product seems to have helped New Relics financial metrics also.

Which gets us to where New Relic is today. Future Stack comes only a few weeks after the company acquired Opsmatic, itself a startup that offers analytics across servers. The Opsmatic deal marked a broadening of New Relic's focus -- beyond application monitoring and on to much broad IT analytics. Today's announcement of a broadening of the New Relic platform, and the embedding of analytics across the entire product suite gives a glimpse of where the company is heading.

Cirne gave me an insight into the breadth of the vision here. New Relic is moving on from offering customers a curated set of analytics reports over their data, to offering a broad analytics engine with which customers can determine their own metrics of import. The so-called New Relic Software Analytics Cloud is now going to enable organizations to query their data in either a curated or ad hoc fashion. In a "best of both worlds" scenario, as well as offering essentially limitless ad-hoc queries, the company is also delivering curated experiences directly within New Relic

Cirne explained that with first generation monitoring products, in general, the only functional and cost-effective way to use them was to aggregate data together and throw away the most granular of data. What this resulted in was a finite set of pre-determined analyses. That works fine if those analyses are the ones of interest, but isn't so effective when the customer doesn't actually know the questions they want to ask. Even so-called "cloud analytics" products are, in Cirne's view, sup-optimal. In his mind, it is only through leveraging a cloud-native, multi-tenanted and built-for-scale solution that customers can economically capture ALL of their data and hence derive the best insights for their particular situation.

In terms of the go to market, as of December 1st, all New Relic customers will have access to eight days of trailing event data to analyze and benchmark their application performance for free. Cirne sees this as a perfect opportunity to give people the ability to troubleshoot production workloads, and deeper or longer-term analytics is a good upsell opportunity for the company.

It struck me that the unveiling of what is, in essence, a far broader analytics engine could signal a new vertical strategy for New Relic. Perhaps the goal here is to let third parties build vertical solutions on top of the underlying database and in doing so to broaden the New Relic franchise? Cirne didn't say there were any short-term plans to embark upon this sort of strategy but did indicate that a number of third parties have been interested in these sort of partnerships. As New Relic continues to grow and continues to need to accelerate that growth, expect this partnering approach to become more attractive.

In terms of competitors, Cirne is, unsurprisingly, fairly relaxed about this. Even the other "cloud-based" solutions Cirne pigeon-holed into a "not truly built for scale" category. Broad horizontal offerings like Amazon Web Services' RedShift are good, but lacking, in Cirne's mind, due to their broadness -- not being vertically integrated and delivering the ease of use and attractive UI's is a barrier to the applicability of services like RedShift for the broader monitoring space.

New Relic has always been an interesting company to watch -- it will be fascinating to see how the market, and the customers, react to this product news.

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