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Blameless: The Best Software Is Built Without Blame

Today, we are excited to announce Decibel’s investment in Blameless, an AI-driven Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) platform that allows software teams to increase velocity and speed in today’s rapidly changing digital world. SRE is a new approach to building software that evolved from more methodical and deliberate software development and deployment (fka “Waterfall” methodologies), to more innovative and iterative methods that enable more agility (“DevOps”). The highest skilled and fastest moving organizations recognize that when speed increases in any complex organization, it is more important than ever to automate routine tasks, resolve issues rapidly, and build a culture of continuous learning and improvement that is devoid of blame in order to more reliably ship great software. Blameless makes this possible for modern software teams and is deployed today at Github, Home Depot, and numerous others who are embracing a more modern approach.

Bhaskar Sunkara, Founding CTO of AppDynamics (which was acquired by Cisco for $3.7 Billion in 2016) shared his thoughts on SRE and the emerging need for automation and AI in the field of software engineering in a Q&A with Ashar Rizqi and Lyon Wong, co-founders of Blameless.  

What is your vision for Blameless? Why did you start the company?

Ashar: I grew up overseas and didn’t have much money, and I was grateful to the software industry for allowing me to get a job as an engineer here in the US. I had the opportunity to work at exciting companies like Box and Mulesoft where I saw first hand how software teams can rapidly grow overnight and become large and complex. I also learned that in today’s “always-on” world, when software breaks it affects the entire company including customers and partners, and on the engineering team there is always something or someone to blame when stuff breaks. Software is written by humans and we all make mistakes. Lyon had a similar experience at Microsoft and when we decided to start Blameless–we both realized that AI and automation could help teams create more reliable software with less downtime if they could more rapidly learn from those mistakes. We also agreed that a culture of innovation and learning is one that is devoid of blame. If everyone is engineering in fear, it is hard to do your best work and move quickly.  

Bhaskar, tell us a little about how you first met Blameless. What was exciting about the company?  

Bhaskar: When AppDynamics was founded almost 10 years ago, enterprise applications were built more methodically as large monoliths–it was easier to ensure reliability because you had more control over how your code was released into production. Over the last 10 years, I have watched almost every major Fortune 500 move into the cloud, develop more agile development methodologies, and embrace more distributed deployments such as microservices. Our world is more interconnected than ever and our software teams are moving faster and have more interdependencies. When you aren’t in control of every variable, it is easy to blame others when there is a problem but in order to scale fast you need to automate fixes and learn from the past. The people that build great software acknowledge that there will always be mistakes–they just want to be working on fixing new problems and not living with sins of the past. When I met Blameless, it just clicked for me. Plus, it’s clear Ashar and Lyon were driven and passionate about this problem, which gave me immediate confidence that they were the right team to back.  

Do you see a lot of similarities between your early days at AppDynamics and the early journey of Blameless?

Bhaskar: There are a lot of similarities! When we first started AppDynamics, engineering and operations teams never really knew why applications weren’t quite running as well as they should in production. To be honest, there was a lot of finger-pointing and everyone was flying blind without the right data. AppDynamics helped bring live data into the conversation so that people could understand the root cause of underlying issues. Blameless is solving a very similar problem in today’s world and can also leverage automation and AI which enables even faster learning. We had much of the Fortune 500 using AppDynamics and I think many of the same customers of our software will need a platform like Blameless as they continue to increase the size and speed of their software teams.

What has been the relationship between Cisco AppDynamics and Blameless? How do you think it will evolve over time?    

Lyon: We are definitely trying to learn from their success and would like to have a meaningful partnership over time. We are already hearing a lot of interest from our joint customers that our products are highly complementary and can work better together. We are still a young company, so it is important for us to focus on a handful of great early adopters in the enterprise and make them successful. We also want to make sure that we are working with the best partners and when we talk to verticals like financial services, insurance, telecommunications, retail, and automotive across the Fortune 500, it is becoming clear to us that AppDynamics is at the center of an emerging ecosystem of AI for software and operations teams. It is a huge opportunity for us to learn about the requirements of enterprises at the earliest stage.  

How does Decibel work with Blameless? How will you partner with them going forward?  

Lyon: It is really helpful for us to have access to founders who have stood in our shoes before and we received specific advice on how to build a great enterprise software company from the beginning. I specifically remember asking Bhaskar about a recent deal we were negotiating with a large customer and he shared his thoughts on how to create a bigger opportunity from his own experiences. He gave us a lot of great advice and eventually helped us win the deal. There have been numerous conversations like this that we’ve had with the team at Decibel over the past several months.  

Ashar: We have a lot of great VC investors in Blameless and where I feel Decibel is unique is that they act like a scrappy start-up with the superpower of a large partner in Cisco. They are founders who remain hungry to help entrepreneurs, but have given us access to the incredible resources within Cisco that really know the enterprise. At times, founders are more comfortable selling to smaller companies in the beginning and it is a steep learning curve to build a product and go-to-market that can service the enterprise market. I don’t think we would be able to learn as quickly or scale as rapidly without their help and I feel that every successful software start-up must eventually must find a way to meet the needs of the largest companies in the world. We are getting a head start with Decibel.

Blameless CEO introducing his company to some of AppDynamics' largest customers