With a star-studded cast of tech luminaries giving keynotes augmented by four tracks of talks and sessions from a variety of tech experts, FutureStack15 gave attendees much to discuss and digest during the three day event in San Francisco last week.
The event, presented by New Relic, is an annual gathering designed for developers, technologists, thought leaders and futurists to come together and discuss and debate developments in a world driven and powered by software. The three days were dedicated to examining the ever-changing nature of modern software and the future of the technology stack.
The Key: Analytics
Film buffs will remember early in the movie “The Graduate,” Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is accosted by a family friend who puts his arm around Benjamin and tells the young man the key to the future in one word.
Fast forward to 2015, and New Relic CEO Lew Cirne put his arm rhetorically around 1,000 developers, technologists, and business leaders last week at the opening FutureStack 15 keynote and told them the key to the future of tech in one word.
While almost missing his own keynote thanks to being stuck in an elevator for 20 minutes on his way to speak, Cirne finally made it with minutes to spare. Within the keynote talk emphasizing analytics, Cirne announced the initiation of the New Relic Software Analytics Cloud, which delivers the power of analytics to customers, enabling users of all of its products to see an extended set of critical, granular event data from their web, mobile, and backend applications. He also announced new features that embed powerful analytics capabilities directly into New Relic’s product suite, which are designed to allow customers to quickly and easily get answers to questions about their application performance, customer experience, and business success.
“Many companies measure different things using different tools from different vendors—and that creates silos,” Cirne said during the keynote. “We think that has to stop. We think all the data belongs in one platform. And the only way to do this is in the cloud.”
Cirne announced the company's new database, NRDB, a multi-tenant cloud database which has unique features which are beneficial to clientele. Keeping costs low through a multi-tenant cloud database is key, according to Cirne, and its cost-effectiveness keeps companies from the enormous expense of “buying a 747 because you fly cross-country three times a year.”
New Relic is building NRDB into all its products, making it a package called Analytics Everywhere, and its appeal to other companies is widespread. Cirne was joined onstage by representatives of several tech and other industry giants to discuss how New Relic and their companies work hand-in-hand.
Paul Kim of Roku said that a year ago their average page load was 7 to 8 seconds, and “it's now 2 to 4 seconds and New Relic was instrumental in that.”
News Corp. CTO Paul Cheesbrough echoed that sentiment, stating that the media giant now compares metrics around the world to see what's working and what's not.
“We saved a hell of a lot of money along the way, but actually it’s the speed that is more important to us,” Cheesbrough said
Amazon also weighed in, with Stephen Orban, an executive with Amazon Web Services, saying that New Relic “plays a very important role in transitioning from on-premise to the cloud … it’s a great way for companies to see what going on farther up the stack and help make that transition.”
Four Speaker/Session Tracks
The sessions and speakers for FutureStack15 consisted of four tracks:
- Create: What do organizations need to know about running modern software? How do you handle application performance in a containerized world? What microservices can mean for your success today and tomorrow.
- Architecture: How your stack architecture shapes your customer experiences. From config automation to single-page application frameworks, what tools do you need to stay ahead?
- New Relic: How New Relic can help build and run amazing software. Tales from the front-end: New Relic and customer experience. Developer deep-dive: tricks from application performance rock stars.
- Hacker Lounge: Informal crowd-sourced talks from our attendees and our global user groups. Registered attendees can stop by and hang out with New Relic Community Managers and Developer Advocates.
Within the framework of these four tracks, a wide variety of talks were given relating to how software and business serve one another, and how customer needs translate into what New Relic, and other software vendors at the show, can provide to a wide range of companies.
For example, one such session on Friday features David Kent, Senior Director of Technical Architecture for US Foods, who spoke on “Step One in our Quest for Dev Ops.” Kent talked about how US Foods, a 162-year-old company, continues to make the transition to a devops culture.
Kent described the challenges US Foods faced with their corporate headquarters in Chicago and their data headquarters in Phoenix. He also said that those in IT who maintained the company's Tandem servers were faced with the hurdles of both a cultural and a mindset barrier.
“Operations folks had to realize that business wants to move quickly, and there was the need to change the mindset,” Kent said in outlining the services they now use in tandem with New Relic.
In fact, Kent told a story about using a GUI tool called Ducksboard, which he found online, and one day he went back to look up something and he found that it has been purchased. By New Relic.
The Woz and Weird Al
Highlighting Friday's keynote was a fireside chat with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and tech elder statesman, who charmed the crowd with personal tales and insights during his “fireside chat.” Hosted by CNET editor-in-chief Connie Guglielmo, we start out the session finding out that Woz is a fan of CNET and it's one of the first items on his feed. “Of course, it is in alphabetical order,” he added.
Other things we find out about Wozniak during the discussion, which ended with a standing ovation, is that Woz was a prankster who led Steve Jobs on for years on some pranks (and he is a fan of the recently released Steve Jobs movie). He also taught for several years after leaving Apple. The video game at which he excels? Tetris. So much so that Nintendo had to bump him from the top spot on the scoring list to allow others to make the cut.
Pop-song parody architect Weird Al Yankovic played a significant role in the event as well, highlighting Thursday night's concert at the legendary Fillmore (you older hippies will remember it as the Fillmore West), and participating in an interview at the closing keynote. Of note in Yankovic's talk in closing was that the paradigm for making music has changed thanks to the Internet, where the multiple-album deal “model” he was caught in when starting his career is no longer the norm.
DZone's coverage of FutureStack15 continues soon an upcoming Q-and-A interview with New Relic's Chief Product Officer Jim Gochee and other news stories related to the event.