With Insights, New Relic hopes to win new customers outside dev shops

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New Relic is branching out into a new area of analytics with a service that offers users the kind of data that could let them make better business decisions, rather than simply improve an app's performance. Called New Relic Insights, the service is out in public beta for now.

New Relic is best known for tools used by developers to discover app performance issues. It has 80,000 customers. "But there was something nagging at Lew," said Jim Gochee, senior vice president of product for New Relic, referring to company founder and CEO Lew Cirne. "He felt like we should be doing a lot more with the data we collect."

Cirne began to work on a new system to collect different data and offer new ways for users to view it, Gochee said.

Example of a New Relic Insights dashboard

Image credit: New Relic

The new service uses the same language agents that New Relic has been using to gather information for application performance monitoring, said Todd Etchieson, director of analytics product at New Relic. Instead of aggregating that information to show application performance, New Relic is collecting the information, which includes transaction events on the server side and page view events from real users, and sending them to a purpose-built, schemaless big data event database, Etchieson said.

From there, users can query the data using a language that is similar to SQL. The results they'll get are real time, he said. Users can opt to add data to what's being collected by adding a lie of code to their production software. They could, for instance, collect user name, subscription level, product ID, or other information that could be relevant to the data they're searching for.

The executives offered a couple of examples for how businesses might use the analytics. New Relic uses the analytics internally to look at which languages to invest in. It can look in real time how many page views are coming from a specific language. It can then slice and dice to see how the results differ depending on user subscription level, which also indicates whether the user is a small business or a large enterprise. That exercise ended up returning different results than the company expected, Etchieson said.

One early customer is using it in combination with New Relic's traditional app performance monitoring product to better identify the source of problems. It has started looking at individual transactions on its web site based on which data center the user hits. If application performance starts degrading, the company can look at whether it's degrading across the board or only for users hitting a specific data center. If so, it can look there to identify the problem rather than assume it's an issue with the application, Etchieson said.

While New Relic thinks that its existing developer users will find the new data valuable, it also hopes to attract new users within businesses, such as marketing people.

Users can create dashboards with widgets displaying graphs of real time changes to queries. They can also export the data, using a JSON Web service from New Relic, so that customers can add the data to an existing analytics product.

To build the offering, New Relic created its own system, adding the SQL-like query language that it thought developers would find easy to use. It looked at some open source products but didn't find any that quite fit, Etchieson said. For instance, it looked at using Hadoop but found it wasn't very useful for real time querying, he said.

New Relic started talking about the offering late last year. It's available now as a public beta, although the company still hasn't set pricing and declined to indicate exactly what the new service might cost.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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