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Dynatrace expands observability tools with an eye toward BI

With new features and roadmap plans, Dynatrace looked past IT observability toward becoming a broader business intelligence platform.

Dynatrace expanded its observability tools this week with support for new data types, more DevSecOps environments and advanced DevOps pipeline automation -- and it has no plans to stop there.

The company was among the first IT vendors to offer AIOps features with its DAVIS AI engine in 2014 and now harbors aspirations beyond IT management, in the realm of general business intelligence, according to a presentation by SVP and CTO Bernd Greifeneder during a virtual event this week.

"We are massively investing to not only be your number one observability solution, but your number one analytics and AI platform for digital services in a broader sense," Greifeneder said. "Including observability, user experience, feature adoption and business data."

The vendor took initial steps to broaden its scope with five product updates. Its Software Intelligence Platform now displays raw log data, and its Session Replay user experience management and Business Analytics tools support mobile-native apps. The company's Application Security Module refined its Kubernetes vulnerability detection features and added support for Node.js workloads.

The company also folded its open source Keptn project into a new DevOps orchestration product called Cloud Automation Module. Finally, Dynatrace launched the Software Intelligence Hub, a catalog of supported partner tie-ins that can be installed through the Dynatrace platform UI.

Future product releases for the company will further expand its business analytics capabilities, such as feature adoption analysis in the Dynatrace Digital Experience Monitoring module, Greifeneder said.

"This provides project owners and decision-makers important information [about] whether to invest in a few more sprints to … have a feature completed," he said. "It also allows development teams to self-serve a comparative sprint-by-sprint analysis of user experience and business goals versus the reality of feature adoption."

Bernd Greifeneder presents Dynatrace roadmap plans
Bernd Greifeneder presents Dynatrace roadmap plans

Dynatrace gobbles up more data

Before IT pros expand their use of Dynatrace into new domains, there are also some gaps to fill in its observability tools, such as native log data format support for Kubernetes and cloud provider infrastructure. Dynatrace could ingest logs before, but a new Dynatrace Log Viewer introduced this week can search through and filter raw log data such as error codes or universal event IDs, which users say could speed up troubleshooting.

"[Previously] you wouldn't get to see your overall systems logs -- you'd just see just what the AI generates," said Ken Schirrmacher, senior director of IT at Park N Fly, a travel services company in Atlanta. "Let's say I had a problem within my application that was generating an Event ID 304 response, or another specific ID code … Dynatrace wouldn't show me that."

There are some cases where it might be helpful to get that kind of universal event ID and Google it for troubleshooting information or support from other users, Schirrmacher said, and the new log viewer will make that possible through the Dynatrace dashboard.

It's a subtle change, but it means Dynatrace could potentially displace Sumo Logic's log analytics tool in Schirrmacher's environment. He still prefers Sumo Logic's flexible reporting interface for PCI compliance over Dynatrace's Business Analytics tool, but future Dynatrace releases will incorporate more reporting options for log data, a company spokesperson said.

Other speakers in a customer panel at the Dyntrace virtual event said it had already begun to replace other tools for them.

We started with 42 monitoring tools three years ago. [Having] one source of data…about the health of the production [environment] is critical.
Vana Matte Senior Vice President of Technology Services, J.B. Hunt

"We started with 42 monitoring tools three years ago," said Vana Matte, senior vice president of technology services at J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., a logistics company in Lowell, Arkansas. "[Having] one source of data … about the health of the production [environment] is critical."

Application Security Module chips away at DevSecOps

Dynatrace made a major foray into DevSecOps automation when it shipped its Application Security Module in December 2020, which scanned Java apps against partner Snyk's vulnerability database as they traversed development and QA environments, as well as after they reached production. The Application Security Module also identifies which vulnerabilities have the highest potential impact on the user's business.

The first release of the product included support for Kubernetes, but this week's updates identify and track specific Kubernetes versions that may be vulnerable. The new release also supports applications written in Node.js, with support for more programming languages planned in future versions.

While Dynatrace, like its competitor AppDynamics, looks to displace existing SecOps tools in its bid to capture a broader share of enterprise environments, the Application Security Module also puts security tools such as Snyk in reach for smaller companies.

"I would never have access to a tool like this otherwise -- Snyk would cost me more than I pay for Dynatrace as a whole," said Mark Kaplan, senior director of IT at Barbri, a Dallas-based firm that offers legal bar review courses online.

Barbri has been using the Application Security Module to scan code in its QA and development environments since its beta phase.

"Usually I wouldn't have that kind of security vulnerability data until we did a penetration test after [deployment] twice a year," Kaplan said. "Now we can see all the potential vulnerabilities before they reach production."

Dynatrace plans DevSecOps expansion as well, to incorporate log data analysis and add more applications such as fraud analytics, Greifeneder said in his presentation.

Dynatrace sets a course for BizDevOps and beyond

As Dynatrace and its observability competitors expand, they have already begun to run up against products they didn't previously compete with, especially more generic business intelligence tools such as Google Analytics.

Though some IT pros would like to eliminate tool sprawl, this new overlap calls for subtle decisions about how and when to introduce expanded Dynatrace features.

"Initially, when we went and shared our information with marketing, it was a bit of 'We already have Google Analytics, why do we need Dynatrace data?'" said Mark Forrester, digital readiness manager at Mitchells & Butlers PLC, a bar and restaurant company in the U.K., in a presentation this week.

"It became a case of not forcing the issue, not saying one system is better than the other or that somebody's data is better than somebody else's," Forrester said. "It's about showing where our data can add value to the data they've already got."

For example, the marketing team could already see URL tracking data in Google Analytics to evaluate whether an email campaign was driving traffic to the company's website, but Dynatrace could show live bounce rates on that website among customers, and correlate them with the way the site was constructed, Forrester said.

It's more likely that large enterprises will find similar ways to accommodate this new overlap than standardize completely on a single data analytics platform, said James Governor, analyst and co-founder at RedMonk. But at least some consolidation is probable as businesses increasingly depend on digital services.

"Everybody's trying to do digital products and move from the IT project perspective they've had into an engineering-led product management approach," Governor said. "Buyers are more technically sophisticated than they were 10 or 15 years ago … [engineering leaders] will lay out a pathway, and individual teams can go and [use] something else, but they've got to have a reason for doing it."

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning 15-year veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.

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