Software and technology developer ERT has tapped intelligent software firm Dynatrace to automate various dev-ops processes. The efforts of the partnership reportedly are using artificial intelligence (AI) to help make it possible to ramp up delivery of new applications from six weeks to as little as four weeks.
Andreas Grabner (AG), dev-ops activist with Dynatrace, spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma about the collaboration and its potential impact on the clinical trial industry.
OSP: Could you please tell us the ‘cocktail party’ description of Dynatrace—what you do, who you are, who your clients are and what sets you apart in the field?
AG: As organizations in every industry have become increasingly reliant on software, it’s also become imperative that their software works perfectly so their services run smoothly. For organizations in critical areas, such as the healthcare or life sciences, the performance of their software can even be a matter of life or death.
Dynatrace helps these organizations ensure their software runs perfectly, by simplifying the complexity of their IT environment and allowing them to understand the experience of their users during every interaction and transaction from start to finish.
The ‘secret sauce’ of Dynatrace is that we provide a single, all-in-one platform with an AI engine, which we call Davis, and a common data model at the core. This not only provides organizations with a single source of truth about the impact that the performance of their software has on outcomes such as user experiences and revenues, but it also identifies the root-cause of problems in real-time to ensure users are not impacted.
Our platform is used by many of the world’s largest organizations to automate cloud operations, develop and release high quality software faster, and ultimately, compete more effectively in the digital age.
OSP: How did you come to work with ERT?
AG: We initially met with ERT at a technology conference in Berlin and got into a discussion about how the company’s rapid growth, from both client demand and a string of acquisitions, had left it with an increasingly complex IT environment. This was making it difficult for its DevOps team to quickly optimize the performance of the applications it builds to support clinical trials, which meant it was unable to fully accelerate the pace of innovation; after hearing this, our team explained a bit about what Dynatrace offered and how we could help ERT to improve the way it was operating.
After that conversation, the two engineers we’d met with set up a trial account with Dynatrace in just a few minutes during their train journey back from the event. They were really impressed by how quickly and easily they were able to roll-out the solution and immediately start surfacing insights to their IT teams.
Based on what they saw during that trial, ERT decided to deploy Dynatrace more widely and we began working together to automate ERT’s software delivery pipeline and enable its DevOps teams to deliver software innovation faster.
OSP: How does this solution work in automating processes, and speeding up production of new apps?
AG: ERT uses Keptn, Dynatrace’s open source control plane for autonomous cloud operations, to automate software development processes and deliver new custom applications for clinical trials much faster. With Keptn, ERT can implement automated quality gates to immediately identify any anomalies that arise in its application code, so its IT team can rectify issues before they become a problem or delay its customers from launching a new clinical trial.
This automation enables ERT to speed up the process of delivering new clinical trials applications, as testing and other labor-intensive tasks are taken care of automatically, rather than requiring manual effort.
OSP: Could you please tell us how that automation and acceleration helps clinical trial sites and sponsors?
AG: With Dynatrace’s AI-assistance, ERT can identify any issues in real-time and automatically prioritize them based on their impact, saving developers time, and ensuring that its DevOps teams can find, understand, and resolve problems before they affect clinical trials. These insights also help ERT to automate key processes within the development cycle, which has enabled it to speed up the delivery of the customized applications that trial sponsors and clinical research organizations (CROs) need to support trials, from an average of six weeks to just four weeks – including recent trials for potential COVID-19 vaccines.
This use of automation helps ERT to ensure that the clients it serves can strike the delicate balance between accelerating trials and maintaining safety, as it drives a high degree of quality within the applications it develops, while allowing it to deliver them much faster. As a result, CROs and sponsors can ultimately get new, potentially life-saving treatments out of the laboratory and to the patients who need them faster.
OSP: Just out of curiosity, where did the names “Davis” and “Keptn” come from?
AG: The name Davis originally stood for ‘Dynatrace Artificial Virtual Intelligence System’, but it’s since become synonymous with how we refer to the AI that sits at the core of our platform.
Keptn is the German phonetic for ‘captain’, and the name is based on how it fulfils the role of a captain for developers as they navigate the process of cloud-native development using Kubernetes – the container orchestration platform. Keptn is an open source control plane for cloud-native applications that automates operations so innovation can be continuously delivered faster, with IT teams having more time to focus on value-added tasks. ERT, for example, takes particular advantage of Keptn’s quality gate feature that helps it to prevent bad code from ever reaching the applications that it develops to support clinical trials.
OSP: How long has this project been in the works, and what have initial results been like? Any feedback from people outside the two partnering companies?
AG: We began working with ERT in the first half of 2019, and the initial results were achieved quickly, as it was able to deploy Dynatrace in a matter of minutes. Dynatrace instantly illuminated ERT’s IT environment, surfacing insights to the teams in charge of developing and deploying new applications within hours, not weeks or months.
Dynatrace’s AI engine automatically identifies the root cause of any problems that arise during the application development process, saving ERT time and giving its teams the confidence to automate its pipelines and deliver new applications for clinical trials faster, without wasted time and effort.