The Next Platform

A Health Check For Code And Infrastructure In The Cloud

As businesses continue their migration to the cloud, the issue of monitoring the performance and health of their applications gets more challenging as they try to track them across both on-premises environments and in both private and public clouds. At the same time, as they become more cloud-based, they have to keep an eye on the entire stack, from the customer-facing applications to the underlying infrastructure they run on.

Since its founding eight years ago, New Relic has steadily built upon its first product, a cloud-based application performance management (APM) tool that is designed to assess how well the software is running and pinpoint issues that arise. Since then, the company has added similar capabilities for browsers and mobile applications, and real-time analytics through its Insights product. Last fall, the company rolled out its Infrastructure offering for monitoring servers and other datacenter components. The goal for the company has been to offer a portfolio of products that is delivered in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) mode and covers organization’s environments from the edge to the datacenter core, according to Todd Etchieson, vice president of customer analytics product management at New Relic.

Businesses want to take advantage of the cost, scalability and efficiency benefits the public clouds offer, but the challenges come when they try to keep control of how their applications are performing. As we have noted here at The Next Platform, monitoring the performance of applications and the infrastructure they run on in the cloud is different from what businesses have been used to with their on-premises environments. Infrastructures are less permanent – they can be spun up and down as needed, and some will only stay around for hours or days. Monitoring tools that have been used for more long-term on-premises infrastructures may not work as well in the more dynamic cloud. New Relic has designed its products to be cloud-based to address the new challenges presented by the cloud, both in the nature of the new environments as well as the impact the cloud has in how organizations operate.

“A lot of it has to do with the complexity they’re encountering,” Etchieson told The Next Platform. “More hosts are spinning up and spinning down, changing how many you have and where they are [and] what applications are running on them, so the complexity is increasing. Things are moving very quickly, so they need to move very fast. The other key thing is that, basically, the culture is changing. Agile development philosophy, an approach in DevOps, the rise of site reliability engineering. All of this is changing the culture, and those changes are introducing complexity in how you deal with issues that may arise. Simplifying how they can address these issues is key.”

New Relic seems to be hitting a nerve. Company officials earlier this month said that in fiscal year 2017, New Relic saw 45 percent year-over-year revenue growth and now has more than 1,700 customers, through it did lose $61 million for the year. In addition, the average amount spent by customers has jumped from $9,000 more than two years ago to $19,500, and about half of New Relic’s recurring revenues are coming from customers that buy more than one product. That’s what the company was aiming for as it built out its product portfolio to cover as much of the stack as possible, from on-premises to the cloud and from the edge to the infrastructure.

This approach also enables the company to leverage those products to drive more insights from applications and infrastructure monitoring. Most recently, New Relic this week bolstered the capabilities of its Digital Intelligence Platform with the introduction of Health Map, a tool that unifies data from its APM and Infrastructure products to give organizations a single, deep view of the applications and the infrastructure they run on in a single cloud platform. The growing use of microservices and containers makes it increasingly difficult to sniff out performance issues in the application stack, so the idea is that having a a unified view will give DevOps teams the ability to track down problems whether they are in the application stack or the infrastructure, Etchieson said.

“Teams need to be aligned to a common platform,” he said. “This is where we see some real pain they have. As they’re changing and moving and things are changing and moving quickly, you’ve got operations people trying to manage the infrastructure, you’ve got developers trying to push out new applications. There’s often a discussion between dev and op about whose fault it is or where the issue is, and we want to address that. We are addressing this by having this full-stack capability.”

With Health Map, each application is represented on a single “card,” which shows a range of data, such as error rate, throughput and response time. It also maps the application to the infrastructure it’s running on, and the cards for both are color-coded to represent the performance. Health Map also offers ways to enable users to configure the data to suit their needs.

New Relic has focused much of its attention on integrating its products with Amazon Web Services, the largest of the cloud service providers. The company now offers integration with 20 AWS services, most recently adding support for Kinesis Firehose (for managing streaming data), Elasticsearch Service (for configuring and scaling the Elasticsearch analytics engine), Route 53 (cloud-based DNS), EC2 Container Service (container management), and EC2 Container Registry. At the same time, New Relic also is working with other major cloud providers, including Microsoft Azure. The integration with these other providers is not as deep as with AWS, but it’s growing and an important part of what New Relic officials see as a crucial part of the trend toward the cloud.

“No enterprise moving to the cloud is moving to a cloud,” Etchieson said. “They’re moving to clouds, with an ‘s’ at the end. We’re learning from everything we’ve done with AWS and applying it to the others.”

Health Map will be available by the end of the month for customers who use APM and have either bought or are testing Infrastructure. For customers in the Professional plan, the new AWS integrations and a new software-development kit (SDK) for Infrastructure – which enables organizations to run custom services along with Infrastructure – are available now.