If the opening keynote of FutureStack: New York was all about laying out New Relic’s corporate vision of helping our customers move faster with confidence and introducing our latest features, the kickoff for Day 2 focused on how to make that vision a reality.
R “Ray” Wang, founder and CEO of Constellation Research, started off the morning with a fast-moving, high-energy presentation on the importance of dynamic leadership. Then GE Digital’s Senior Director of Digital Operations CK Rao and Jet.com’s VP of Engineering Leo Gorodinski talked with New Relic Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales Erica Schultz about how they use New Relic to accelerate their businesses. And, finally, New Relic Chief Product Officer Jim Gochee shared the story of how New Relic is scaling for the future, and what we’re planning next.
Ray Wang, Constellation Research
Wang woke up the crowd with an engaging, fast-paced exploration of how digital disruption is requiring companies to rapidly transform themselves in new and challenging ways. He packed so much into his talk that we can’t possibly cover it all here, but key takeaways included:
- Digital transformation is about new business models, not new technologies.
- Agile is not fast enough to keep up with changes—we need new tools and approaches to accelerate transformation.
- Dynamic leadership is required to adjust for all these changes.
To highlight the impact of this transformation, Ray pointed out that 52% of the Fortune 500 has either merged, been acquired, or gone bankrupt since the year 2000, causing the average age of a Fortune 500 company to fall dramatically. According to Ray, we’re now living in a post-sale, on-demand-attention economy that creates a winner-take-all environment dominated by a few market leaders. And “digital Darwinism is unkind to those who wait.”
That gives modern businesses a stark choice: disrupt or be disrupted. And that means incremental innovation—getting better at what you already do—is no longer enough. You need transformational innovation that creates brand new business models.
Critically, data is the foundation of all digital businesses, Ray said. He even shared a benchmark: “If 20% of your revenue is not an insight stream by 2020, you won’t have a digital business model.”
To get there, he shared five steps to get started:
- Design new experiences and outcomes.
- Develop a culture of digital DNA.
- Apply new business models and technologies to existing infrastructure.
- Move from gut-driven to data-driven decision making.
- Co-create and co-innovate with new partners.
CK Rao: GE Digital
At GE Digital, CK Rao leads a team dedicated to helping standardize monitoring and help power digital transformation of IT operations across the 125-year-old company.
His big “aha” moment with New Relic involved providing Single Sign On (SSO) for GE’s 330,000 employees. This is a priority zero issue for his company, CK said, even more important than a priority 1. With New Relic, he said, “I now have visibility from start to end, and not just for my team. I can provide information to the business about any issues, and they are very happy.”
That’s important because “if you don’t explain it well enough, you don’t understand it well enough.” You can have pretty graphs, he said, but if that doesn’t help solve production problems, it’s not really providing value.
Going forward, CK’s goals include creating a “single pane of glass” to monitor each GE app, being able to tell the business about issues before people come to him with problems, and monitoring more business-critical applications, such as Siebel.
Leo Gorodinski, Jet.com
According to Jet.com VP of Engineering Leo Gorodinski, the 3-year-old online retailer’s goal is to “move fast at scale, without compromising customer experience.” (Sound familiar?) The company knew it had to scale its technology to handle the load, Leo told FutureStack attendees, but it also had to scale the organization to handle it.
His strategy was to design for modularity, building a large number of microservices and associated management tools. “We haven’t had to change the architecture” as the company has grown, Leo noted, just change the components in order to scale up.
“There are a lot of moving parts than can operate independently,” Leo said, “but they can also malfunction independently.” So instrumentation with New Relic was key to get the visibility and intelligence needed to operate a system of that size in real time. “Our customers are shopping in real time. Bots are attacking us in real time,” he said, “We have to be there with them.”
In an effort to embed instrumentation into its DNA, Jet.com began implementing New Relic well before launch. It seems to have helped: “We made it through launch day glued to those New Relic dashboards,” Leo recalled. Jet.com’s launch drew a lot more traffic than anticipated, and “we certainly couldn’t have made it without instrumentation.”
Just as important, when Jet.com was acquired by Walmart, the instrumentation—and a focus on SLAs and modularity—helped make the integration smoother, Leo said, as metrics and visibility are even more critical in a large organization like Walmart. In fact, during a pre-acquisition technology audit, the Jet.com team was complimented for “running a tight ship,” said Leo.
Going forward, Jet.com is working to collaborate more deeply with the larger Walmart organization, Leo said, and “bring some of the these idea to their organization.”
Jim Gochee, New Relic
The morning keynote was capped by a conversation between Erica Schultz and Jim Gochee, recounting how New Relic restructured our own engineering organization to deal with scaling challenges. He updated the story of Project Upscale, our own bold move to solve the organizational challenges of scaling by cutting dependencies between teams, improving the flow of information, and letting engineers choose their own teams.
“High-performance teams are a puzzle,” Jim said, “but they solved the puzzle for us! It’s taken a little while to get our feet under us, but the results have been outstanding.”
For example, the preview of distributed tracing announced at FutureStack: New York wasn’t even on our radar screen six week ago, Jim revealed, and several teams had to coordinate efforts to make it happen. “Being that agile would not have been possible without Project Upscale.”
To end the session, Jim shared New Relic’s forward-looking focus on extending our use of APIs, improving usage reporting—including reporting on what individual users are doing with New Relic within a customer account—and more cross-account tools.
FutureStack: New York photos by Andres Otero