Since its founding in 1892, General Electric (GE) has been through quite a few reinventions. But the latest may be its most exciting yet, as the company that started out manufacturing lightbulbs in the nineteenth century sets its sights on becoming a full-fledged software company in the twenty-first century.

At the recent FutureStack 2016 conference in San Francisco, Keagan Peet, lead analyst in infrastructure services for GE, talked with New Relic’s Seth Schwartzman about how today’s GE is embracing a SaaS-based monitoring solution, and working to get out of the business of managing infrastructure in order to focus on building exciting new products.

DevOps requires more than robots for monitoring

As recently as 18 months ago, Keagan said, the prevailing opinion at GE was that application monitoring could be safely left in the hands of emulated scripts generated by the 500 or so software robots sitting on specific GE machines around the globe. Thankfully, that attitude has changed.

By embracing a DevOps mindset, the company is encouraging its application teams to own the full lifecycle of the software development, deployment, and maintenance process. That’s led to more collaboration, as the barriers between once-siloed teams are being gradually broken down. With this evolution has come a fresh appreciation for building in the monitoring process right from the start.

“New Relic speaks for itself”

futurestack speaker keagan peet from GE

Seth Schwartzman (left) and GE’s Keagan Peet at FutureStack16.

As Keagan explained, the call for widespread adoption of New Relic at GE came down from the very top, but the quality of the tools meant that teams across the company were soon on board. Applying New Relic to “mission critical” apps early on persuaded other teams that they could (and should) follow suit. And with its right-out-of-the-box functionality, he said, “New Relic speaks for itself.”

GE now has more than 200 New Relic accounts in place, with between 1,500 to 2,000 apps being monitored at any given moment. Keagan estimates that the company currently deploys around 20,000 New Relic Servers agents, plus another 5,000 New Relic APM agents. Development teams also rely heavily on New Relic Synthetics (to track response times, in particular), and Keagan expects GE’s use of New Relic Mobile to expand in the near future.

The great benefit of the New Relic Digital Intelligence Platform, he explained, is that people can access crucial data without needing to become fully versed in the complexities of the platform. “GE folks don’t want to be experts in the tool—they just want to see and work with the data the tool can produce.”

Eager to see more Seymour

The reinvention of GE is still very much in progress, and Keagan outlined some of the challenges and initiatives that lie ahead. Foremost was the continued migration of GE apps and services to the cloud. “As we become more and more software-oriented, we want to get out of managing infrastructure and servers.”

Keagan was particularly enthusiastic about Predix, GE’s new Cloud Foundry environment. Billed as a “software platform to power the Industrial Internet,” Predix is driving GE’s rebirth as a software company, he said, pushing the company into a new and exciting market.

New Relic’s Project Seymour, announced at FutureStack by CEO Lew Cirne, also had Keagan fired up. The potential of predictive analytics is huge across all aspects of the company, he said, and represents another way in which the performance monitoring offered by New Relic will continue to be at the core of the new-and-improved GE.

Watch Keagan and Seth’s full talk in the video below:


Photos: © Andrew Weeks Photography.

B.J. Hinshaw is a freelance writer based in Northern California. View posts by .

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