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IT buying patterns force vendors to cater to DevOps shops

DevOps shops are pushing for changes to product pricing, packaging and sales and marketing efforts among IT tool suppliers.

IT buying habits are changing, as IT pros mandate that vendors trying to cash in on DevOps approach them differently.

Global changes, such as the increasing collaboration between developers and IT operations, as well as the increased IT purchasing authority of developers, will force new ways of doing business for IT vendors and their customers alike. In the past month, a handful of software hawkers, including New Relic, SUSE and Citrix, have taken the lids off product plans meant to appeal to these new demands.

New Relic, which added microservices mapping in May, rolled out customizable cloud pricing last month to appeal to fast-moving DevOps shops where cloud instances may be short-lived. To accommodate this, the company offers pricing by compute unit: an adaptive measurement calculated by the number of CPU cores and gigabytes of RAM in a given instance, multiplied by the amount of time it's in use.

As with competitor AppDynamics' Microservices iQ pricing, New Relic's compute unit pricing allowed some shops to put it into use for the first time, where its previous host-based pricing model was cost-prohibitive.

"We reached out to New Relic and said, 'We have a problem: You charge $75 per host and our instance cost is somewhere around $10 and $15,'" said Roman McBride, technical manager at Australian financial services technology company Credit Sense. "How can we justify $75 to monitor that ten-dollar instance that only lives for a very short period of time?"

With the introduction of compute unit pricing, "it doesn't cost you more to get insight into the application than it takes to get the application up and running," he said.

New Relic plans to branch out from its dev-centric application performance management roots by the end of this year with an infrastructure monitoring offering.

New Relic infrastructure was a missing piece that will combine well with New Relic's existing Insights business intelligence software as business units, developers and operations blend into a more tightly knit organization, McBride said.

"One of the reasons we went with New Relic, aside from pricing, is the Insights product and the new beta of Insights-based alerts," he said. "We needed something that can use infrastructure knowledge, business knowledge and tie them all together."

McBride said he looks forward to creating graphs that tie network activity to business activity in the same place without requiring developers to go to multiple interfaces.

Citrix changes sales tune in appeal to developer IT buying

New Relic is a born-in-the-cloud software as a service business that can be expected to learn new tricks fast, but traditional on-premises software vendors are also changing their spots.

For example, Citrix began offering a new Express edition of its CPX cloud load balancer to developers via a microsite for free late last month, in an effort to lure sales-phobic app developers without coming on too strong, a habit that in the past has fueled open source load balancer utilities that don't come with an immediate sales pitch.

Citrix channel partners hope the new approach will help developers warm to Citrix's NetScaler product line.

"Developers will be happy to download the image from the Docker Hub or a public site, but not to sit on calls with salespeople discussing their wider requirements," said Anthony Shaw, head of innovation at Dimension Data, an NTT subsidiary and Citrix partner headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Developers have hard delivery dates to meet and getting quick and easy access to the software is the norm in open-source but always such a challenge with enterprise software vendors," Shaw said.

But there's still more that IT vendors can do to cater to such new IT buying habits.

Shaw said he'd like to see vendors moving away from a single contact point like a vendor manager or account manager for IT buying decisions into systems where the customer organization has access to licensing, documentation, free development licenses and APIs from the design and development phase on.

"Otherwise we need to run procurement in parallel, [which] creates a bottleneck in a few individuals ... needlessly," he said. "Companies need to be more transparent at the beginning about the state of their APIs and provide access, documentation and examples early on so we don't discover that they aren't complete until the last moment when we finally get access to production licenses."

SUSE learns new skills alongside IT pros

SUSE Linux first came on the scene in 1992; a lot has changed since then, but with recent developments such as the Portus open source authorization service and user interface for the Docker Registry and integration with Ceph open-source storage software, the operating system company is following an overall skills diversification trend in IT, according to Dan Elder, senior engineer and Linux services manager at IT consulting and services firm Novacoast Inc., in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"Vendors have to approach things differently," Elder said. "One of the reasons you see them talking to different groups [in an organization] is because they're filling out all these different niches, whereas in the past they might just be focused on operating system or patching or a specific infrastructure role."

There's been a learning curve for Novacoast and SUSE in areas such as storage, but vendors who are still focused on one little niche could be in trouble.

"It's a very different world," Elder said. "But if I sourced my core infrastructure from one of these vendors that hasn't been making changes and trying to grow into those areas, I'd be a little bit concerned right now."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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