High-profile headliners like Steve Wozniak and “Weird Al” Yankovic added awesome star power to FutureStack15’s keynote addresses. And all the way from laying out our plan to embed analytics across the entire New Relic product line to belting out a stirring karaoke rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in front of a packed house as our conference drew to a close, New Relic founder and CEO Lew Cirne projected plenty of star power himself.

lew cirne futurestack15

But FutureStack is our user conference, and we believe nothing is more important than the value New Relic brings to our customers. That’s why our customer keynotes were such an exciting and essential part of FutureStack15.

On Thursday morning, Lew was joined by top-drawer execs including Paul Kim, Director of Engineering, Web Development at Roku, Paul Cheesbrough, Chief Technology Officer at News Corp; April Underwood, Head of Platform at Slack; and John Engates, Chief Technology Officer at Rackspace.

And the parade of customer awesomesauce continued through three more keynotes, with customer presentations from Camille Fournier, former CTO of Rent the Runway, Colin Bodell, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Time, Inc.; and Kevin O’Brien, CTO at Kiva.org (for more on Kiva, see Yvonne Wassenaar’s post New Relic Lends Kiva a Helping Hand).

Rent the Runway: Building a business on a future stack

camille fournier futurestack15

No one likes getting paged at 3:00 a.m., including Camille Fournier, former CTO of designer fashion rental service Rent the Runway. “Being on call is a difficult situation for everyone, but especially small technology teams,” she explained in her closing keynote on Day 1 of FutureStack15. In today’s brave new world of distributed application architectures, she asked, how does one get out of constantly running into production issues? And, more important, how did we get here?

After walking audiences through “a people’s history of microservices,” Fournier offered a number of useful tips for any company moving towards a microservices model, a few of which are highlighted below:

  • Monitoring is not a substitute for testing. You can’t have one or the other. If you want to lower the risks of change and make your code more maintainable, said Fournier, “please make sure engineers test their freakin’ code.”
  • Enable developers to hand off systems. Life happens. People leave. You can’t force them to support their code in production forever. You want to build a sustainable system that’s not dependent on any one person.
  • Don’t go overboard. Microservices allow you to use all types of storage, languages, monitoring systems, and more, but that doesn’t mean you should reach for anything and everything. Favor “consistency and clarity over creativity” when it comes to supporting elements unrelated to your core business problems.

Watch Camille Fournier’s full presentation in the video below:

Time, Inc.: Modernizing the art of storytelling

What do artists and engineers have in common? “They both start with a blank canvas,” said Colin Bodell, CTO and Executive Vice President at media giant Time, Inc. In his closing keynote on Day 1 of the conference, Bodell talked about what it took to get a company that’s steeped in the historical approach to embrace storytelling in the modern age.

colin bodell futurestack15

When Bodell joined the company in 2014, Time had five data centers, one of which was located in the Time-Life building in New York City. “It was obscenely and stupidly expensive, and it took about four months to procure new hardware,” explained Bodell. “We couldn’t take advantage of any new opportunities. So we moved to AWS.”

With Amazon Web Services in the mix, Time was able to cut its hosting costs by 53%, while gaining speed and agility. Here are a few key takeaways Bodell offered in his tale of digital transformation:

  • Guard your time jealously. IT should focus only on the projects that are going to move the needle for your business. Anything else should be handled by someone else via SaaS or PaaS.
  • Test early, test often. Like Fournier, Bodell stressed the importance of testing in helping the company manage security, availability, and latency.
  • Manage change with seductive adoption. “In any population, there are going to be people who’ll be hungry for change … and then there will be the naysayers,” said Bodell. “Make the early adopters very successful and show the rest of the organization what they’ve done. If they see their colleagues getting excited, other people will want to be on that boat as well.”

Watch Colin Bodell’s full presentation in the video below:


Asami Novak contributed to this post. Photos © Andrew Weeks Photography. 


Fredric Paul (aka The Freditor) is Editor in Chief for New Relic. He's an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite, AllBusiness.com, InformationWeek, CNET, Electronic Entertainment, PC World, and PC|Computing. His writing has appeared in MIT Technology Review, Omni, Conde Nast Traveler, and Newsweek, among other places. View posts by .

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