March 27, 2014

What if big data, that much-proclaimed multibillion-dollar hope of the enterprise software industry, is just a feature of something else?

On Wednesday, a company called New Relic announced that its product, used by information technology professionals to monitor the performance of software applications, would also carry real-time analytics about customer usage. That is the kind of thing that is useful to marketing departments, which are now spending money on custom big data systems.

“We monitor how fast an application is, why it might be taking so long to load, why a line of code’s database query took so long,” said Lew Cirne, New Relic’s founder and chief executive. But the company can also tell “not just how long it took Airbnb to load an app, but what the best price point was in New York for completing a deal, or what products on Disney are getting the most customer hits.”

Both Airbnb and Disney are New Relic customers.

The change in the product signifies two other things. One is the tendency for software developers to work in different parts of the company — the marketing department, for example — and not just in information technology.

“The big trend we’re riding is that software will be in everything, and you’ll interact with it everywhere,” said Mr. Cirne. “Big tech companies invest millions understanding what’s going on in their software.”

Lew Cirne, founder and chief executive of New Relic, a software analytics company.
Lew Cirne, founder and chief executive of New Relic, a software analytics company.

The other is more of a local San Francisco issue: New Relic, by most lights a fairly geeky company involved in a backroom server business, has spent significant money for over a year on billboards, Twitter ads, and T-shirts in the hopes of gaining an audience much bigger than software developers. Mr. Cirne said that the publicity was focused on drawing people from, say, marketing departments.

The company’s move is another sign that data analytics is moving from an esoteric field into the mainstream, sometimes through joint selling between vendors and new offerings to developers, or better data visualization tools.

IBM, which has been pushing its analytics business, announced on Thursday an expanded fraud detection and prevention business that would include big data, as well as human interpreters and error-correction technologies to rule out some fraud suspects.

New Relic’s approach is to inject its analysis of how the software is moving with customer data. “Performance is a ‘must have,’ but it can answer other business questions too,” Mr. Cirne said.


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