In-Depth Interview: Generative AI and the Future of Observability in India

New Relic
Rob Newell, VP of Customer Adoption, APJ at New Relic andPeter Marelas, Chief Architect APJ, New Relic

New Relic has experienced tremendous traction in India to propel it to the next level of growth and is highly appreciative of its partners and customers in India for their proactive engagement with the company

Generative AI is making waves across the world, from being used by individuals on their devices to driving large-scale business value, almost every industry is testing the capabilities on offer. At the sidelines of FutureStack, a global technology conference organized by New Relic, in a special interaction with SME Channels, Peter Marelas, Chief Architect APJ, New Relic and Rob Newell, VP of Customer Adoption, APJ at New Relic discuss how generative AI can increase the productivity of engineers in India, the technology’s potential and how it sets the tone for observability adoption in the country. Edited excerpts…

“Grok is designed to sort of alleviate some of that burden by not only helping you adopt the platform and learn the platform faster, but also help you analyze the data as well so that you don’t necessarily have to interpret the data yourself.”

Peter Marelas, Chief Architect APJ, New Relic

Rob and Peter – today’s conference was really phenomenal and I got a first-hand understanding of what New Relic does in today’s presentation. It was nice to hear you both speak on stage. Can you share with us some of the history of New Relic and what the future of the company looks like?

New Relic’s been a pioneer in observability. Lew Cirne, our founder, invented Cloud APM. Prior to that, he was building APM solutions for On-Prem. When we look at the evolution of observability, it’s subjected to the way technology evolves. Historically, we went from mainframes to three-tier architectures to cloud native architectures, and observability fundamentally evolves from those seismic shifts in technology. It evolves to offset the complexity because each seismic shift adds complexity, making visibility a challenge. It’s precisely why today, we (organizations) need more observability, more data to understand what is happening in those environments and to support decision making to reduce the complexity.

It’s hard to say what the future of observability looks like because it is fundamentally dependent on the future of technology. Currently, it could go in any direction with generative AI. What we’ve seen so far is probably just the beginning. These new ways of interacting with technologies are going to become fundamental through natural language. It opens up technology to people who don’t know how to use a mobile, who can ask just the basic questions and get advice. In the future we can expect generative AI to become more personable, more entrenched in our day to day lives. Some people think that’s a bad thing while others think that’s a good thing. I am sure it will fall somewhere in the middle.

From a business standpoint, we anticipate business applications becoming integral to workflows, along with the ongoing shift to the cloud and cloud migrations. This shift is a driving force behind the demand for observability capabilities. Customers are looking to adopt various observability tools, including APM, infrastructure monitoring, AIOps, and MLOps. These capabilities, while not the top observability tools in use today, will see increased adoption in the coming years as technology continues to evolve.

“As we continue to invest in India, we envision not only substantial business growth but also the chance to assist numerous Indian businesses in achieving their objectives.”

-Rob Newell, VP of Customer Adoption, APJ at New Relic

Peter, when you were presenting the capabilities of New Relic Grok, we were all in awe. So thanks for that and congrats on the launch. But looking at New Relic Grok, how is it going to improve business bottom lines and how is it going to help IT Professionals?

Our goal with Grok has never been about replacing humans. It’s about making them more productive, getting them up to speed faster and making them more efficient. New Relic fundamentally is a platform to help you make decisions using data. Grok and observability as a space is very complex. We collect data from a lot of different endpoints, there’s a lot of different data types. So you have got this mountain of data coming at you. If you are an analyst, you are expected to derive insights and answer questions. That can be challenging if you don’t have that expertise or the analytical mindset.

Grok is designed to sort of alleviate some of that burden by not only helping you adopt the platform and learn the platform faster, but also help you analyze the data as well so that you don’t necessarily have to interpret the data yourself. If I think about data science or data analytics, it’s the interpretation that matters. The data has to be there, which is the source. However, if you can’t interpret it, it’s pointless collecting it. Grok will eventually evolve as these models get better with new interpretation capacities built into it. Once you can automate interpretation of data, you can then automate flow on activities. For example, if you were to automate the interpretation of performance for your application and through that interpretation you were able to identify bottlenecks, then you can have processes downstream that can optimize that software automatically for you. These are some of the ideas looking at Generative AI.

Peter, new Generative AI capabilities are coming out everyday, which is getting more mature and it is all set to supercharge data analytics. As it does it, you are also using and leveraging Generative AI for your products, including Grok. How is it going to impact or change the way the observability industry works?

Generative AI is going to be the assistant that sits side by side with engineers to get insights faster. If I think about observability today, it’s very reactive. People wait for problems to crop up and then react to them using their observability platform. It’s important to be able to do that and then detect and resolve those problems quickly. However, there is actually a lot more value you can derive from observability if you are proactive.

Many organizations don’t have time to be proactive. They don’t think, ‘I should log in to my system and look at the data to help me understand where I can optimize my cloud spend.’ That is all doable and possible with observability with the right skillset. That kind of skill can be encoded into Grok and used to help identify optimization opportunities and then deliver them with recommendations. Organizations don’t have to go looking for those proactive opportunities, there’s generative AI doing that for you and then when it spots an opportunity, it identifies that for you to take action. I think that’s where things will end up going. Today, it’s still very much a ‘ask a question, get a response’, but really where it’s going to unlock more potential is where it explores and takes action. That action will be approved by the customer (humans), obviously.

Rob, when we look at observability as a tech or business segment, what is the total business size that you are looking for?

I think one of the best things about the observability market at the moment is it’s still growing at a really rapid rate across the world. When we look at organizations that are adopting observability in countries like India, we see a real opportunity to help these organizations to grow and to help build amazing applications and experiences in the process. The market we feel is really untapped at the moment. We came to India in 2020, and opened our first office in 2022. As we continue to invest in India, we envision not only substantial business growth but also the chance to assist numerous Indian businesses in achieving their objectives.

Rob, how is the response so far for the India market?

The response has been phenomenal. We’ve experienced tremendous growth in India to propel us to the next level of growth. What I particularly appreciate about our customers in India is their proactive engagement with us, thinking about how we can support them on their journey. Instead of seeking specific point solutions, they are asking, ‘How can you assist us in addressing all our observability needs and embark on a comprehensive journey with full-stack observability?’. It’s been amazing to see the customers lean into what a full stack platform looks like and the value it brings because as we spoke (about) before, this tool proliferation, which seems to be happening in the market at the moment, is a real challenge for skill sets. It’s been incredible to witness customers embracing the concept of a full-stack platform and recognizing the value it brings.

As we discussed earlier, the current market trend of tool proliferation poses a real challenge in terms of skill sets. This situation affects the productivity of our engineers. The more we can integrate them into an all-in-one observability platform, the more effective they become, ultimately enabling them to develop better and more resilient applications.

One unique aspect of the Indian market is its sheer scale. When an organization aims to develop a product or service here, they must contend with the immense scale, addressing tens of hundreds or millions of users every minute. To achieve such scale, a modern software architecture is essential. However, in this evolving landscape, the more reactive a process, the more complex it becomes to manage. With numerous moving parts, the risk of issues multiplies. This underscores the critical need for observability, especially for organizations supporting such levels of complexity and rapid scaling.

Consider this: If software experiences just a minute of downtime, it could mean the loss of potentially 100 million transactions within that minute—a significant missed opportunity. While cost is always a consideration, observability essentially pays for itself by safeguarding valuable time. Once that minute is gone, it’s irreplaceable. For instance, during a Black Friday sale, a minute of software downtime translates to a lost opportunity, as customers may turn to other providers. Observability becomes the key to safeguarding these critical moments and opportunities.

Peter, looking at New Relic Grok, this is a great product. But how do you plan to take it to the market? What is your channel strategy to make more market penetration inside the India market?

For us, it’s just a continuation of executing a lot on what we’re already doing now. We have a fairly substantial footprint for e-commerce customers because they can’t afford to lose even a minute of downtime of their IT infrastructure. And one of the areas we’re also focused on expanding is into security, because as our customers get larger, they become larger targets for the adversaries. We’ve been evolving our portfolio to also encompass security. Our focus around security is more around prevention. We want to get ahead of the security problems before software gets deployed. That’s something that’s differentiated for us. Many other competitors, focus on SIEM and SIEM is kind of too late, the security vulnerabilities are already in the software. We’re trying to shift security to the left by leveraging the observability agents and capabilities we have so it can also identify security risks, making it easier for developers to address vulnerabilities before software gets deployed.

Another focus for us is driving the need for full-stack observability. Our Observability Forecast 2023 found that customers are going to deploy more observability capabilities in the next 12 months. And we want to be there with our customers to help them on that journey. Whether it’s them moving into an AI space where they need AI Ops, whether it’s looking at infrastructure monitoring, or how to help them with application monitoring, we will be there with them. Looking at deeply integrated technology teams, as they happen, we help them accelerate that journey too.

Rob, what sort of difference do you find between the Indian market and the APAC market or maybe the North American market? Any major difference that you see between them in terms of customer adoption, and technology adoption?

I would say that tech stacks are different. In the North American market, there are a lot of brick and mortar companies, where not all interactions happen through a mobile application. We have customers in India that are far more technology-forward, where every interaction is through a digital device. So the tech stacks are often different. The scale, its orders of magnitude vary too.

We have some customers in India, whose business is very seasonal. We need to be able to scale with that seasonality. Sometimes we don’t know that they’re going to launch something, because they don’t want to make it visible to the competitors that they’re going to do some major campaign or major launch. So partnering with a vendor that can scale with you, is very important. We’ve proven that, and we continue to prove that.

Additionally, India is quite a cost conscious environment. So the focus for New Relic is ensuring we drive the right levels of value. When we think about Bigbasket or Healthifyme, we’re engaged with them with observability. But we also make sure they’re getting the right value out of the platform. This is where it’s so important, where a consumption-based business model, which New Relic has and it’s quite differentiated in the market. We only recognize revenue when our customers use the platform. We have a very vested interest to help them adopt our platform, and adopt the capabilities, which obviously drive value for their organization. This consumption piece is also really well aligned to the model and the macro environment in India.

Rob, what are your key focus areas when it comes to partner business?

When we assess the channel landscape, we see significant opportunities in India. It’s crucial for us to align with partners who have a strong presence in the industries we operate in, such as e-commerce, retail, media, and telecommunications. Our aim is to ensure that our partners deliver tangible value to their customers within these focus sectors, and we encourage them to maintain their independence.

We want our partners to proactively drive their own revenue and service streams in India, with our support, of course. Additionally, we are committed to providing effective support through both technical and sales channels to ensure the successful delivery of products that, with their collaboration, we can bring to market. The channel market, for us, represents a huge opportunity, and it holds significant importance in our strategy.

Rob, any major investment plans to grow your channel network in India?

Without citing specific numbers, we continue to invest in India both in terms of people and on the go-to-market product side. It’s an area where we continually look to invest here. We perceive India as a key growth market for us in the Asia Pacific region. As we think about investments across the landscape, India is very much number one on our list. But also we just see amazing demand for observability in the country.

We’re very excited that New Relic is continuing that growth where we can make these investments that bring in amazing talents into the organization to help us fuel that next level of growth.

Rob, coming to New Relic, when you are talking about New Relic as an all-in-one observability platform, what exactly do you mean by this? Is it a comprehensive portfolio that you vouched for?

When it comes to observability, organizations consider both technology and economics. However, it’s the economic aspect that often hinders organizations from harnessing all the necessary capabilities for achieving an end-to-end view of the customer experience. New Relic has always been differentiated in that. We put ourselves in our customer’s shoes to really understand whether we’re delivering good service or bad service, whereas many other vendors focus more on the infrastructure, and then work their way up towards the customer.

If organizations want end-to-end visibility, the solution needs to cover the entire stack, from the endpoint device, to the network, to the infrastructure, the software, and the business metrics. To achieve that, they actually need an economic model that allows them to acquire all those technologies without it being a burden and costing more. That’s our key differentiator, is not just the fact that New Relic supports all these different use cases in one platform, it is that we have an economic model that allows customers to use them all collectively. If you look at the analysts, like Gartner, for example, one of the advantages that they point out with New Relic is our economic model.

Rob, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Modern day businesses do not buy products, they in fact buy experiences. When a customer looks for a product he wants to experience it first-hand. Does New Relic have any set provision, where you would be able to ask customers to experience your product first, before buying?

Yes, we offer a free tier within New Relic, allowing anyone across the world to create a free account with 100 gigabytes of data, and this offering is available indefinitely. That’s typically how most of our users initially experience the platform. From developers to engineering students graduating from university, many want to understand the observability space.

Many of those students will sign up on New Relic’s free tier to start to experience observability and learn how to become an expert within this domain. That’s how we typically drive, both from a commercial sense, but also from influencing the market that we are a leader in the space. I think that is unique to New Relic, I don’t believe any other service provider in our space offers the concept of a free tier, and one that is free forever.

Peter, what would you rate as your key unique selling point as your product platform?

I would say our key unique selling point is our focus on prevention. Traditionally, infrastructure monitoring has lived in the operation space. Many of our competitors still focus on satisfying the needs of the operator. But operators don’t prevent the problems. They detect a problem and then try to resolve it, which we can do as well. But to really differentiate and to prevent issues from occurring, we need to move the observability cloak into the software development lifecycle. While software’s actually being developed, it should be observed, because that will identify issues within the environment. It could be performance issues, software issues, or security issues. Our focus and differentiation is our ability to shift that observability earlier into the software development lifecycle, to prevent problems from ever getting into production.

Over the past three years, we’ve acquired a range of companies and technologies to execute this strategy effectively. One of the key acquisitions is CodeStream, which provides developers with essential information integrated into their IDEs, enabling them to make informed decisions before hitting the deploy button.

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