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New Relic, one of Portland’s largest software development companies, occupies several floors of “Big Pink,” on the right. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons and Steven Morgan / cc4.0)

LAS VEGAS – The velocity of change in the enterprise computing market is an unsparing fact of life in this business, and New Relic CEO Lew Cirne is well aware that companies that fail to keep up can quickly become, well, relics.

One of Portland’s largest employers of software engineers, New Relic rose to prominence helping companies understand whether or not their web applications were actually working. Monitoring is an extremely important part of any web company’s IT arsenal, but like everything else in this business, the criteria and metrics that companies need to monitor are changing as companies move from on-premises data centers to cloud computing.

New Relic CEO Lew Cirne (New Relic Photo)

A lot of New Relic’s customers have made that transition, and the company is now focusing on customers who are moving farther ahead with the adoption of newer cloud technologies like containers and serverless computing, Cirne said.

“Our products have always been particularly valued by the type of technologists and the type of companies that think of technology as a growth driver. They play offense with software; that’s very different,” Cirne said this week at Amazon Web Services re:Invent 2018, holding court at New Relic’s booth amid the bustle of the show floor.

That mentality isn’t necessarily shared by a lot of the market, however, which often sees software as a problem that needs to be solved rather than an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors, Cirne said. Even well-meaning companies that understand how software is eating the world can be hamstrung by legacy IT systems that are just too difficult to move or regulatory requirements that require complicated heterogenous environments across public clouds and on-premises data centers.

Yet some companies are taking the new cloud era to the extreme: Cirne said he was not allowed to divulge the name of the customer, but New Relic is working with one financial services company that runs the exact same workloads on two different public clouds at all times to ensure their applications will always remain up and running. That is undoubtedly expensive, but for that customer, “the cost of downtime is that severe,” he said.

Beyond monitoring, it sounds like New Relic is exploring new product categories that it thinks could benefit from all the performance data it is able to collect about its customers’ environments. Security is one, and compliance, one of the faster-growing segments of enterprise computing thanks to increased regulations, are two potential categories that New Relic might consider entering, although it has no specific plans right now, Cirne said.

“What excites me is we’ve got this incredibly valuable data in a really powerful platform and the platform is capable of servicing so many use cases. We happen to be focusing right now on most painful one in the early days of adopting cloud, which is, ‘can I keep my systems up and running and fast?'” he said.

No matter which direction New Relic winds up taking as enterprise computing strategies continue to transform from a sleepy cost center to one of the most important things a tech company does, Cirne remains excited about the power and potential of software.

“I believe software is, for me, the most important creative outlet or outlet I could ever conceive of,” he said.

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