Why I joined Chronosphere Engineering

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Prashant Varanasi lays out why he joined Chronosphere after more than a decade working as a software engineer at tech giants – Microsoft, Google, and Uber.


Prashant Varanasi Member of Technical Staff | Chronosphere

Joining Chronosphere

I recently joined Chronosphere after more than a decade working at some of the largest tech giants – Microsoft, Google, and, until September, Uber, where I spent six years as a software engineer. Of course, there’s a lot of change involved when going from a behemoth to a startup. Since Chronosphere is growing so fast – and at only two years old people are still getting to know us – I thought it would be helpful to share how I arrived at my decision to join this amazing team as a software engineer on the Platform team.

Compared to the places I worked at previously, Chronosphere is significantly smaller and younger. This means there wasn’t a long company track record to rely on, so I had to really get to know the team, technology, and market before making a career change. After doing my due diligence, I found several ways Chronosphere aligned well with what I cared about as an engineer, which I’ve outlined below.

Leadership, trust, and track records

My relationship with Chronosphere co-founders Martin Mao (CEO) and Rob Skillington (CTO) goes way back — I’ve known Martin since my high school days in Australia, and Rob from early in my career at Microsoft (we were all part of a group of Aussie software engineers in the US). The three of us later worked together at Uber – them running observability teams and me running networking, which was a large stakeholder of observability. We parted ways, professionally, once again when Martin and Rob left to start Chronosphere in 2019.

While Martin and Rob introduced me to Chronosphere, our friendship wasn’t the key factor in my decision to join their observability startup — I was quite happy having a large impact at a massively successful company like Uber.

Rather, it was Martin and Rob’s experience in the monitoring space and their leadership and approach to building a company that led me to join Chronosphere

Martin and Rob have a proven track record with observability and with M3, the open source time series database they built from the ground up – and that would eventually become the Prometheus-compatible engine powering Chronosphere’s SaaS offering. At Uber, I watched them create M3, all while Uber was in a period of hyper-growth, and delivering a solution that not only scaled up with the business, but also reduced costs, improved reliability, and modernized the observability stack.

At the same time, looking at the company Martin and Rob were building (Chronosphere became a unicorn in just two years!) convinced me I needed to be part of the Chronosphere journey. They were building a company on top of the hardened M3 technology stack; they found the right product-market fit; built a high quality team; and shared their vision for where they want to take Chronosphere, all while remaining closely connected to the employees.

It was clear that Martin and Rob were focusing on more than short-term business success – they’re building for the future in a sustainable way with an employee-first approach. This can be seen in the growing list of benefits (impressive for a company this size), in their transparency with the team, and by the time they spend on employee feedback and questions during the weekly all hands.

Good people attract (more) good people

Strong leadership steers a company in the right direction, but as I mentioned above, this is simply where a great company starts. It’s the rest of the team that executes and delivers.

Another reason that convinced me to join Chronosphere was the high calibre of the Chronosphere team from the early days — right away they hired some of the best people in engineering (many that I’d worked with in the past), and kept that bar up even as they grew quickly. The company has gone from a handful of employees in early 2020 to over 100 today across many disciplines (engineering, sales, marketing, ops, CS, and more) while retaining the high bar.

This was a contrast to my expectations of a startup, as I assumed the focus would be on iterating quickly on a product at the expense of engineering fundamentals such as scalability and reliability, which I care about deeply. The team at Chronosphere is not just strong technically, but has also been fun to work with. Thanks to traditions like “Chronuts” where we’re introduced to a new teammate every week, I’ve been able to meet many amazing folks from across the company.

Technical Challenges

My focus on high quality engineering, especially scalability and reliability, was emphasized by my previous work at Uber where I worked on the load balancing infrastructure used by thousands of microservices. Degradations in infrastructure performance or reliability often have a multiplicative effect on the overall system, and this adds a technical challenge that I enjoyed immensely and wanted to keep. I came across very few startups that measure their scale in tens of millions of data points per second.

Technology solves real-world problems

Chronosphere stood out as one of the few options I would have  considered joining, given the high-scale infrastructure problems being tackled, and I got to continue using Go language, which was a bonus!

As much as I enjoy working with technology, it’s not quite as satisfying if it’s not solving real-world problems. As an infrastructure engineer helping many service owners investigate degradations, I’ve personally felt the critical need for observability at high-scale — I’ve witnessed multi-hour efforts to root-cause some user degradation, engineers having to trawl through fragmented observability data (often separated by type such as metrics and logs, or by service), trying to trace the relationships between the fragments of service-specific latency increases, error messages, etc.

The transition to cloud-native makes this a problem for everyone, and it requires a modern approach to observability that is purpose-built and scalable, which is what Chronosphere is focused on. I’m excited to be involved in building out a solution that improves this experience, breaks down the barriers, and unifies the data across the different observability data types.

Distributed Tracing

Which brings me to my next reason: solving distributed tracing at Chronosphere!

Distributed tracing has been one of those holy grails in the industry for solving the needs of cloud-native debugging. While at Uber, Martin, Rob, and I were all involved in rolling out Jaeger – a graduated project of the CNCF and one of the defining tracing projects.

While distributed tracing has had a large impact, I believe the potential is significantly higher; there are still many gaps limiting the usefulness, such as head-based sampling, lack of powerful query tools, and scalability limitations resulting in too few traces being stored.

At Chronosphere, we’re building a tracing solution to unlock the full potential of tracing by addressing these gaps. I’m excited to contribute to these efforts that can end up improving how distributed tracing is used by cloud-native services, and solve the problems I’ve faced personally in the past.

Market and Growth

When Martin and Rob first started Chronosphere, I underestimated the size of the market, thinking that big companies had already solved this problem for themselves, and smaller companies didn’t have the same scale needs of Uber.

I was wrong.

Very quickly, Chronosphere’s rapid growth (such as 9x ARR growth) made it obvious this company is solving a critical challenge – observability – affecting many companies, and the need is only growing as companies transition to cloud-native. The recent $200 million Series-C funding valuing Chronosphere at over $1 billion reflects this growth and recognition in the industry.

I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how quickly Chronosphere would grow, both in terms of revenue, customers, the size of customers, and as a company. Having witnessed hyper-growth at Uber previously, I knew what that meant — the growth simultaneously presents many challenges and opportunities for the whole team to grow quickly, and I knew I had to be a part of it.

If you’re like me and enjoy working with the reliability and scalability challenges that come with the  explosive growth in the cloud-native space, while also working with strong leadership, high calibre people, and positive company culture, check out Chronosphere’s open roles page to see if there’s a position that fits your career goals.

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