Innovation in the white-hot digital performance management (DPM) market continues to accelerate, and it was clear from this week’s Perform conference in Las Vegas that Dynatrace is setting the pace.
In fact, Dynatrace’s innovations are so cutting-edge and so flashy that on first glance they may seem to be gimmicks. For example, there’s Dynatrace UFO, a saucer-shaped device with flashing lights that one might confuse with a drone. But instead of flying, it provides status reports with patterns of red and green lights.
Or maybe the Digital Experience Center – a video wall that displays several of Dynatrace’s monitoring dashboards. If normal-sized screens are good, the reasoning might go, then large ones would be better, right?
And then there’s davis, the artificial intelligence (AI)-driven interface to Dynatrace’s deep, real-time knowledge about application and infrastructure performance. Interact with davis via Amazon Alexa’s soothing, vaguely British female voice, asking it (her?) such questions as “how are things today?” in order to solicit cogent, concise responses about recent problems with the digital infrastructure.
Gimmicky, perhaps – but there’s method to Dynatrace’s madness. Each of these innovations illustrates the vendor’s efforts to ‘consumerize’ IT.
Performance monitoring and management have heretofore been the sole domain of the techies. But digital performance management is inherently business – and customer – focused.
By adding dead-simple interfaces and corresponding interaction modalities, Dynatrace is opening up the world of DPM for the broader organization, and the techies as well, as everyone benefits from greater simplicity.
Dynatrace’s Biggest Bet: davis
The davis virtual assistant is the most ambitious of Dynatrace’s consumerization efforts. In addition to the Alexa-driven voice interface, davis also sports a text-based interface particularly suited to chat applications like Slack – what the cognoscenti are now calling ChatOps.
davis’s English-savvy user interfaces, however, belie the power behind the scenes. “davis is not a gimmick for us,” explains John Van Siclen, CEO of Dynatrace. “The technically complex can be simple enough for the non-technical people in your office – like your boss.”
In reality, the innovation behind davis is the underlying AI that can process and understand vast amounts of monitoring data in real-time. In fact, Dynatrace has been using AI for a few years now to interpret monitoring data, in order to provide predictions of future issues as well as to identify the root causes of complex problems.
davis adds to these insights by combining Dynatrace’s domain expertise and monitoring data within the context of the problem at hand in order to build a dynamic, real-time correlation graph. The resulting correlations can not only identify solutions to problems, but also answer the question of why davis recommends a particular solution.
davis also adds contextualized filtering based upon previous questions. For example, if someone asks a question about web page performance, for example, davis will assume subsequent questions are on the same topic. This capability gives the impression that davis is carrying on a true conversation, rather than simply responding to isolated queries.
The result: a superior customer experience that delivers powerful, yet simple insights that people in many different roles can understand and take action upon.
Early Success with davis: Coop Denmark
Coop Denmark doesn’t let the fact that it’s the largest retailer in the country deter it from pushing forward with its digital transformation. In fact, Coop’s mobile application is state-of-the-art, featuring digital payments, couponing, and e-receipts, with in-store location tracking and streaming video content on the way.
Coop is a happy Dynatrace customer, and they’re also an early davis user. “We’re using davis for everything we can,” says Jeppe Lindberg, Application Performance Manager at Coop Denmark. “It actually works.”
Coop’s IT environment is as complex as any enterprise’s, with vast numbers of digital transactions traversing mobile interfaces to Microsoft Azure to the mainframe. As a result, “we’re getting a lot of data,” Lindberg says.
Coop is primarily using davis’s text interface for its ChatOps. “Coop is working with Dynatrace to deliver relevant data to relevant people inside Slack,” Lindberg explains.
This capability gives Coop’s ops people the ability to ask questions of davis within chat discussions. “We can ask ‘How is my signup flow application pool doing?’ and Davis will come back with response times,” Lindberg explains. The result: “It’s saving a lot of war room hours,” according to Lindberg.
While chat is the primary way Coop is using davis, it also uses the voice interface for its daily standup meetings. Putting the Alexa device on business executive’s desks, however, is still in the future.
I also asked Lindberg what features he would like Dynatrace to add to davis. “We’d really want davis to speak up if there’s a problem,” he responded. Such push notifications are on Dynatrace’s roadmap for davis, but the vendor wants to be sure it only chimes in when an event is really important – otherwise people will turn it off.
Dynatrace executives are the first to admit that it’s still early days for davis. The range of questions it understands is still quite limited, as are its responses. Authenticating users is also an issue, as enterprises may not want to rely upon either voice recognition or verbal passwords to ensure appropriate access.
That being said, davis is no ordinary product. It represents a leap forward in innovation, putting Dynatrace ahead of its competitors. “We’re going to disrupt the monitoring market as much as the iPhone disrupted the cellphone market,” predicts Bernd Greifeneder, CTO at Dynatrace.
Only time will tell how disruptive davis will become, but in the meantime, it gives Dynatrace the motivation it needs to take the risks inherent in rapid innovation. “davis gives us the innovation playground we need right now,” says Alois Reitbauer, Vice President, Chief Technical Strategist, and Head of the Innovation Lab at Dynatrace. “We’ve learned a lot about user experience working on davis.”
Given the pace of innovation at Dynatrace, however, davis’s future is bright – as is the future of its other innovations. Flashing lights, video walls, and soothing voices may seem to be gimmicks today, but these innovations promise to represent the consumerized future of IT.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, Dynatrace is an Intellyx customer. None of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Dynatrace covered Jason Bloomberg’s expenses at Perform, a standard industry practice. Image credit: Jason Bloomberg.