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LightStep launches to help companies understand why their apps don’t perform well


There’s a new company on the block that aims to help businesses better manage the complexity of massive application portfolios. LightStep emerged from stealth today with software that is designed to take information about how applications are performing and provide businesses with data about what’s causing performance issues.

Called LightStep XPM, the system is designed to integrate with businesses’ computing infrastructure and watch how different systems perform in real time. It pulls in all of that activity, and uses the information to determine when systems are behaving oddly. At that point, LightStep’s software can notify human operators of anomalous activity, and provides those operators with an end-to-end trace of a process which they can then use to diagnose problems.

While performance management software is nothing new, LightStep says its software beats the competition by being able to handle broadly distributed systems, which is important as application architectures shift. Companies are increasingly building applications that use multiple independent components that work together to complete a particular goal.

But while that shift in architecture can help with the scaling and performance of applications, it can also obfuscate what’s causing problems with them, according to Ben Siegelman, the company’s cofounder and CEO.

“The thesis for the company is that the complexity and scale of the software systems that power enterprises is just growing at an unhealthy clip, and someone needs to start from scratch and think about how we deliver insights about those systems,” he said in an interview.

One of the key advantages to LightStep’s technology is that it’s built to preserve all of the complexity of the way these systems operate. Siegelman said that in the past, performance monitoring systems aggregated data or got rid of some of it, in order to ease processing. That meant the systems could run, but they were missing out on the whole picture.

The company has already landed a number of high-profile clients, including Lyft, Twilio and Yext. LightStep has already been through its first round of contract renewals, and its initial customers are coming back for long-term deals.

One of the key benefits that LightStep’s software can provide is the ability to set goals for particular software teams around the performance of their portion of an application. For example, the traces generated by LightStep XPM can be used to determine which component is holding up a process, so that the team in charge of that particular subsystem can be held responsible.

As part of its launch, LightStep also revealed that it has raised a total of $29 million in a pair of rounds led by Redpoint Ventures and Sequoia Capital, respectively.

Siegelman said that the funding would be used to build out LightStep’s technical workforce, as well as the company’s sales and marketing operations. The team opted to take on funding now so that it’s possible for them to scale the business and tackle the market opportunity in front of them, he said.

There’s more on the horizon for LightStep beyond performance monitoring, though Siegelman declined to provide specific plans for the company’s future products.

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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