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In 2015, Vitaly Gordon, then VP of data science at Salesforce, set out with a team to build what became known internally as Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime, a building block of the company’s Einstein AI platform, is a framework that automatically creates personalized AI models and predictions for each Salesforce customer. It’s now helping to make tens of billions of predictions about sales, services and marketing each day.

Gordon left Salesforce in 2019 to apply the learnings from the Optimus Prime project to another platform: Faros AI. Faros, like Optimus Prime, synthesizes engineering data from multiple sources to deliver actionable insights to companies. Launched several years ago, Faros’ customers include Box, Coursera, and GoFundMe. And — in a show of investor confidence — the company today announced that it has raised $16 million in funding from SignalFire, Salesforce Ventures, Global Founders Capital and individual investors.

Engineering ops

Faros focus is on what Gordon calls “engineering ops.” According to him, engineering ops, or “EngOps,” looks at how developers work and seeks to improve processes by removing bottlenecks and eliminating barriers between teams. The goal is to relate software engineering to the broader organization, tying software development to business outcomes by including stakeholders, improving visibility, and creating opportunities to collaborate.

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Surveys show that, contrary to popular belief, developers spend a minority of their time writing code. In a 2019 report, ActiveState found that design and architecture, meetings, testing and bug hunting took up the bulk of developers workdays, with 61.5% saying that they spend four hours or less a day actually programming.

“The very same engineering teams that drive innovation and bring cutting-edge products to market still rely on antiquated methods like spreadsheets and scripts to manage their day-to-day operations,” Gordon told VentureBeat via email. “When we were building the Einstein machine learning platform at Salesforce, we used data and AI to help our customers improve their business processes, and yet, ironically, leveraging data for our own engineering operations was too complex. Seemingly simple questions about productivity, security, compliance, or cost required non-trivial effort cobbling data from various sources, digging through logs, writing ad hoc scripts, and more. Relevant data would take weeks to compile, and by the time analyses were complete, the data would be stale.”

Faros AI’s monitoring interface.

Faros, which is API-based and has connectors for platforms like GitHub, GitLab and BitBucket, collects and presents data from “the whole value stream of software engineering,” Gordon says — with proper team attribution. Using it, software engineers can view metrics, insights, and industry benchmarks as well as send and inspect data and build reports.

Among other data points, Faros — which runs locally or in the cloud — can measure and spotlight deployment frequency, mean time to resolve incidents, onboarding and tenure, investment areas, and security and compliance. As Faros explains on its website: “Our advanced machine learning will correlate, organize and enrich all your data sources. [Companies] can filter by date, drill down on teams and start identifying areas of improvements in [their] value stream [to analyze their] data in … preconfigured dashboards.”

Expanding category

Despite the abundance of tools aimed at streamlining software engineering, developers report encountering roadblocks throughout the software development lifecycle. In a recent survey published by Mabl, a provider of test automation software, developers pegged slow processes, the speed of adaptation, restrictive budgets, and funding as their top blockers. Interestingly, only a minority (18%) said that technology limitations were an issue, suggesting that the problems are largely organizational in nature.

That’s all to say that platforms like Faros aren’t necessarily a silver bullet. In its 2020 report, Atlassian found that, in DevOps — which is closely related to EngOps — it can be difficult to measure the impact of progress and success. That’s partially because at nearly the majority of companies responding to Atlassian’s report, priorities and projects change on a weekly — or even daily — basis.

But it’s Gordon’s assertion that 20-employee Faros and other EngOps platforms can usher in the cultural changes needed to make a positive impact. To kickstart these changes, Faros today launched Faros CE, a free, open source community edition of its software with an automation layer for engineering operational data including source control, task management, incident management and continuous integration/continuous deployment data. 

“Faros … provides unprecedented visibility and insight into productivity, program management, employee onboarding, compliance, cost optimization, and more,” Gordon continued. “Large enterprises are messy. With the extreme fragmentation of the modern tech stack and acceleration of remote teams, visibility into engineering operations is typically really poor. With Faros, the head of engineering can have visibility into the velocity and quality of software delivery, understand progress towards organizational goals, determine bottlenecks in processes, and evaluate the organization’s performance against known industry benchmarks.”

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