An interesting thing is going on in the application and infrastructure monitoring space. A ton of money is being poured into the various vendors in the market, and all of those vendors are rapidly morphing their platforms to provide holistic monitoring functionality. No longer is it just about application monitoring or infrastructure monitoring in isolation. What is de rigueur today is combined monitoring that provides the often-talked about “single pane of glass” across all of an organizations assets.
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It’s a fairly busy space—New Relic, DataDog, AppDynamics and a host of others compete. And to that list we must add Wavefront, a Silicon Valley company that recently scored an impressive $52 million by way of a Series B funding round. The company advises that their valuation increased four times compared to their Series A round—no down valuations for this player. It also scored top-shelf investors, existing investors Sequoia Capital and Sutter Hill Ventures were joined by new investor Tenaya Capital and other equity holders.
What does Wavefront do?
A quick note on what Wavefront does. It’s all about ensuring applications and infrastructure remain available and performant. Wavefront detects and diagnoses outages and, true to the theme du jour, it sprinkles a bit of analytics in there to enable customers to make sense of the data that is being captured.
But this isn’t just a small startup with no credibility; Wavefront has already snagged some high-profile customers—names such as Workday, Box, Intuit, Lyft, Groupon, Okta, British Gas, Citrix, Doordash, Xactly, Edmunds.com and Medallia have signed on.
Since it’s Series A round, Wavefront has built its business and its product. It has increased its aggregate metric data ingestion rate into its service by more than 10x; developed 30-plus data plugins to ingest metrics across leading application, cloud, and infrastructure sources; and introduced intelligent alerting, expanded query functions, quick start configuration wizards and a suite of default dashboards.
From the business-building perspective, it has certainly hired up, having attracted a CEO, CFO, CMO, vice president of sales and vice president of engineering. I talked with one Wavefront executive, founder and current CTO Dev Nag, about what the company is doing and what its differentiation is. Nag was happy to answer some broad-ranging questions about the origin, technology perspective and future potential of Wavefront.
Ben: What is the genesis of Wavefront? Why was this a problem you wanted to solve?
Dev: We (Wavefront’s founders, Dev Nag and Clement Pang) were engineers at Google, one of the first companies to combat the operational challenges caused by hyper-growth and web scale. The system we were developing was Borg, and the system we helped build to monitor its health was called Borg-Mon, based on metrics monitoring. Later at Facebook and Twitter we faced similar challenges and had to build those companies’ own, in-house metrics monitoring platforms.
Sam Pullara, a partner at Sutter Hill Ventures, saw the same problem and need when he was an engineering director at Twitter. Bill Coughran, a partner at Sequoia Capital and former Google senior vice president of engineering, also experienced the problem. We all knew each other and began talking, and [we] realized we had a common vision for how to solve the problem. Today, a whole new generation of companies are attempting to run at scale and encountering the same issues. Google, Facebook and Twitter had to build their own custom solution. Now companies can buy Wavefront.
Ben: So, what does Wavefront do and what big problem does the company solve?
Dev: Wavefront delivers cloud application monitoring for SaaS companies and takes an approach based on metrics monitoring. A whole new generation of companies operating at scale is running into the same technical issues and challenges faced by Google, Facebook and Twitter. Now companies can simply use Wavefront, a cloud-hosted service to collect, store, analyze, visualize and alert on all the metrics generated across a SaaS vendor’s or digital enterprise’s cloud and modern application environment.
The neat “enterprise stack,” as it was once known and which was appropriate for “old world” monitoring solutions, is disappearing. Accelerating digital transformation within large enterprises to modern cloud and SaaS application architectures—including public and private clouds, software infrastructures, DevOps, containerization, microservices, big data and consumer web platforms—have combined to create tremendous new operational complexities and challenges for understanding and managing the performance of highly distributed applications, while the need to optimize user experience in real time has never been greater.
Legacy monitoring tools, including APM (application performance monitoring), NPM (network performance monitoring) and log monitoring, were architected to serve in a different era. They are simply not up to the task and are no longer suitable or appropriate in this brave new world. Metrics monitoring is the wave of the future and is critical to maintaining the overall health and customer experience of cloud and modern applications, particularly those that are revenue generating.
Ben: Who exactly does Wavefront compete with and what is your unique selling proposition?
Dev: Wavefront’s primary competition is in-house, internally developed monitoring platforms. Other competitors include legacy monitoring tools in the APM and NPM space. Enterprises typically find the functionality, performance and/or economics of those tools lacking.
Our most direct competition is SaaS and enterprise businesses that believe the only way to get good metrics monitoring is to build and maintain a platform themselves but later realize there is an enormous cost in doing do. Industry categories that complement Wavefront and with which we may eventually compete include heartbeat monitoring, log monitoring, APM, NPM and in-house metrics data store projects. Customer complaints around the products in these categories include: “Not Unified,” "Not Real-Time,” “No Analytics or Analytics Unusable,” “Not Enterprise Scale,” “Not Developer Friendly,” “Not Reliable Enough.”
Funding isn’t in and of itself an indicator of a company’s future prospects, but when taken with the impressive roster of customers that Wavefront has snagged, it is fairly indicative. The company clearly understands the space and is executing masterfully. It's one to watch.
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