Another day, another vendor launches to entirely redefine that has gone before. I’m not sure whatever happened to less grandiose corporate visions, but there you have it, in this day and age it’s all about disruption and domination.

Anyway, slight snarky angst aside, LightStep is a startup founded by a team of ex-Google employees that is aiming to redefine Application Performance Management (APM) for the microservices age. But while it is one thing to claim lofty ambitions, it is another to have some high-profile customer success this early. LightStep seems to have both.

LightStep is having a coming out party to celebrate both the launch of its first product, and the fact that it has secured nearly $30 million in funding from Redpoint and Sequoia. But LightStep didn’t just come down in the last shower, it was actually founded back in 2015, with a focus on enterprises that have embarked on a more web-scale approach towards building software.

So, what’s the hypothesis?

As LightStep sees it, introducing microservices has accelerated software development, but these additional services bring greater operational complexity and an increase in the volume of diagnostic data, thereby making performance management a challenge. In addition, according to the company, the existing APM solutions fail to scale or to provide accurate insights in real-time since ordinary transactions can involve dozens to thousands of distinct services.

LightStep aims to address these challenges with a decentralized architecture that continuously analyzes 100% of transactions across all services, in production. The result of this is that customers can measure performance wherever it impacts their business: distinct microservices, key mobile transitions, crucial customer accounts, or individual end-users. When LightStep’s statistical engine detects an anomaly, it replays and records a detailed end-to-end trace. This trace provides the cross-service context needed to resolve an incident or identify a performance problem.

Integrating into a complex world – LightStep’s data sources

The aforementioned complexity of the modern world means that organizations have challenges in integrating into all the multitude of different components they work with. To this end, there are many ways to integrate with LightStep, and customers can combine them to reflect their own usage:

  • Native integration with OpenTracing, a CNCF member project and open API standard co-created by Ben Sigelman, CEO, and co-founder of LightStep, and others in the OSS tracing community
  • Existing centralized logging data from many sources
  • Service mesh technologies and load-balancers like Envoy, linkerd, nginx, haproxy and others

Early customer traction

It’s unusual to have established companies relying on a new offering in production, and even more so for them to go on record saying so. LightStep seems to have bucked this trend and has three referencable case studies at launch:

  • Twilio reduced incident resolution times by 92% with LightStep. Twilio SVP Platform Jason Hudak said: “LightStep [x]PM not only finds our performance problems, it tells us why they’re happening. Within an hour of running LightStep, our billing transactions team was able to identify issues and deliver betterments that led to a 70% reduction in latency. LightStep helps me sleep better at night knowing that our engineers will able to identify and remediate issues in real-time, maintaining customers’ trust in Twilio.”
  • Yext uses LightStep to monitor top customers to provide a best-in-class experience. Yext VP of Engineering Rob Figueiredo said: “With LightStep, we have performance omniscience. It delivers stats and detailed traces, all broken down per customer, in real time. It ensures we deliver on our promises to customers.”
  • Lyft moved from monoliths to a distributed architecture with LightStep. Lyft VP of Engineering Pete Morelli said: “LightStep is the future of monitoring. Our systems generate more than 100 billion microservice calls per day. LightStep is one of the only systems that can make sense of that firehose: it jumps to the root cause of performance problems anywhere from mobile all the way to the bottom of our distributed stack.”

MyPOV

Clearly, the makeup of modern applications is different from those in the past, but it’s not like existing APM vendors are ignoring that change. Datadog, New Relic, AppDynamics and others are all promising similar results as LightStep is. That said, companies like Twilio down leverage tools that don’t deliver outcomes and so clearly LightStep is doing something right. The APM space is pretty busy, so it will be interesting to see how big of a niche LightStep can carve itself.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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