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New Relic Launches Data Apps Platform, Acquires Ducksboard

Having made "data apps" easy to build, the company is poised for its first acquisition.

New Relic

You hear a lot these days about “big data,” and as I often say, it’s essentially a catchphrase for a big idea: That the more information you have, the better decisions you can make about your business.

But big data in its rawest form is typically hard to work with, which means there are lots of software companies raising big money and making big plans around organizing it. One I’ve written about before is New Relic.

Its conceit comes down to this: If every company under the sun is at some level a software company, then every company under the sun will have to track its software and Web apps to see where they work, where they don’t and what trouble needs shooting. Tracking that data quickly leads to better understanding about the state of a business.

Last year, it created a product it calls Insights, a cloud-based service for tracking and examining that data. More than 7,000 customers used Insights on its first day of operation. Today, at its Futurestack conference in San Francisco, it will venture into new territory again.

In an age where the quality of one company’s software — usually running on the Web — often creates a competitive edge that allows it to outmaneuver another, New Relic is creating a platform where companies can build their own data apps. Since every company’s data is different and used in a different way, they’ll now be able to create and publish custom data apps that can grab exactly the data they want and arrange it precisely as they need to see it.

Developers around the world are pouring 2.5 trillion software events into New Relic’s database every month (roughly 83 billion per day). An “event” is click data on websites or uses on mobile apps, critical for understanding if you’re, say, a Web retailer or a company that sells stuff via smartphones and tablets.

CEO Lew Cirne is quick to demonstrate in his office in San Francisco’s South Financial District. In seconds he’s able to call up the number of a website’s paying customers who have viewed the site from the city of San Francisco, using Google’s Chrome browser, within the last 20 minutes. If that’s the kind of raw data you want to track for a specific business reason, its easy to do within New Relic. Now the same processes can be repeated in apps.

“We just decided to make it so you can put your queries together as an app,” Cirne said. Rather than cobbling together a hodgepodge of different software apps that may not get you to where you need, companies can build their own super-custom app to track the data just the way they like it.

New Relic is also taking it a step farther. Today it will announce its first-ever acquisition: Ducksboard. Created by an eight-person team based in Barcelona, it has created a series of 65 analytics dashboards that track the activity in cloud apps like, Zendesk and Github, as well as social media services like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. They can also be mixed and matched as needed.

The idea is to get all kinds of data together in a manageable way — for instance, when tracking data on Zendesk’s customer support calls, it might be useful to have a direct feed of information about every customer stored in Spin that use case on its head and you might notice that a specific customer makes an unusual number of customer support calls, meaning they might be a candidate for a higher level of product.

Cirne declined to discuss the terms of the acquisition, but he called Ducksboard “the right eight people with the right product.” More than 700 customer companies have built more than 50,000 dashboards in Ducksboard.

It’s another indicator of his own big plans. “Our intent is to be a serious player in analytics,” he said. “It’s a crowded business now, but we’ve got 2.5 trillion data points coming in every month. Now we’re getting data from all the cloud services.”

New Relic is pretty well funded, having raised $175 million from venture capitalists over six years, and is a pretty solid candidate for an IPO in 2015. Does this signal that Cirne is on the hunt for more deals? “We prefer to build our own stuff, but we’re not dogmatic about it.”

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