Nobl9 Launches Hydrogen: Technical Debt Optimizer for Dev Teams

New platform gives developers a pulse to balance reliability against new features; automates Jira creation for team-level early warning of technical debt risks

WALTHAM, Mass.--()--Nobl9, the leader in software reliability, today launched Hydrogen, the first platform designed to identify customer-impacting technical debt in a way engineers and business stakeholders can understand. Hydrogen gives software reliability issues their own Agile workflow, so that teams can break the cycle of neglecting the very issues that cause arduous on-call rotations, avoidable outages, and engineering burn-out.

Modern software developer tooling and workflow emphasizes speed of new feature delivery, but most organizations fall into a pattern of jamming known reliability and technical debt issues into Jira backlogs, where they disappear until things break in production. This “tech debt” spans everything from known bugs to security patches, to testing, to strategies for managing performance, and many other software reliability issues.

When software outages occur, many of the underlying causes were known all along, but never prioritized. On-call teams burn out, and the cycle begins anew with the next feature sprint.

“Companies who view their business architecture as their technology architecture use software development and deployment as a competitive weapon,” said Stephen Elliot, Group VP of the DevOps, I&O, and cloud operations team at IDC. “As part of this operating model, the role of automation and managing technical debt with new feature development is becoming an important capability set for developers, DevOps, and Site Reliability Engineering teams.”

Introducing Hydrogen

Jira is great for prioritizing development efforts, but prioritizing software reliability issues requires much more context and live data. Hydrogen is the first platform that helps engineering teams define software reliability requirements, to have the data to prove to the business when tech debt issues rise to the highest priority, and to bring that data back into Jira. With three simple steps, Hydrogen can give developers the insights to take control of technical debt in the context of their Jira milestones.

"We saw an opportunity with Hydrogen to model the amount of unreliability development teams are willing to accept. That applies not only for incidents but also alerting them when their technical debt needs focus, allowing a data driven approach to prioritizing tech debt," said Brian Singer, chief product officer and co-founder at Nobl9. "Hydrogen enables teams to bring tech debt directly into their backlogs and bring that work directly into sprints if they are using Agile methodologies, so that issues impacting system health leading to outages and pager fatigue are addressed as part of the regular development process.”

Software-Defined Service Level Objectives (“SLOs”)

What you can’t measure, you can’t improve. SLOs are software-defined reliability targets that can be used both for reporting and automation. As customer expectations and business needs change, SLOs can be fine-tuned to discover the optimal point on the cost-for-service=level curve. SLOs are traditionally used to identify risks associated with the runtime, called Error Budgets. Hydrogen adds the ability to identify business-impacting technical debt risks.

Connect Your APMs and Logging Tools

Hydrogen supports many existing metrics sources including Datadog, New Relic, Splunk, Google BigQuery, AppDynamics, Thousand Eyes, Dynatrace, Prometheus and more. Hydrogen allows you to quickly connect the data you already have to goals around reliability, error rates, and (un)acceptable technical debt.

Define Your Error and Tech Budget Policies

Once you have collected data and set thresholds based on current understanding of user expectations, Hydrogen automates workflows based on policies for expected quality and engineering decisions. When a particular service shows at risk, meaning that its indicators are trending toward violating established goals, the team can be notified via multiple channels and new technical debt related work items are filed on the Jira backlog.

Bringing visibility to technical debt in the tool where feature planning is already happening breaks the cycle of ignoring systemic risks in favor of shipping features.

Finally, a Way to Counterbalance Features With Reliability

Hydrogen gives engineering teams confidence by inserting accurate context into the tech debt planning cycle — no more sweeping tech debt under the rug, nor exaggerating the risks in the service without business impact. Now developers can measure the thing that was killing on-call teams, hurting user happiness, and frustrating management.

Consolidated Service Health View

Hydrogen has a new Service Health Dashboard that organizes SLOs into logical groups that are mapped to features via labels. This allows technical debt risks to be seen at a glance at any level of the organization.

Auto-created Jira Tickets for Services with Rising Tech Debt

When technical debt is creeping up, Hydrogen takes automated action on your behalf to ensure sprint planners and scrum masters see the manifestation of risks in the system. In addition to technical debt remittance planning, Hydrogen can trigger a variety of automated workflows to escalate worsening services that may require deeper investigation outside of a full-blown incident.

A Pulse for the Right Speed to Keep Delivery Optimized

Engineering teams need to find a sustainable pace of innovation to keep delivering value to customers. Over time and across multiple teams, Hydrogen can enforce code release policies based on technical debt budgets. This means adding continuous integration and delivery (CICD) automation based on whether a code change is marked as feature or tech debt improvement. Over time, this data provides a clear picture of where the investment is going and the right velocity to ensure stability, customer

satisfaction, and engineering productivity.

What Customers Are Saying

“There has always been a disconnect between businesses’ need to satisfy customers, and balancing that against prioritizing tech debt,” said Kristian Dell’Orso, Vice President, Site Reliability Engineering at Flexera. “Nobl9 has given us a pulse on balancing these two very difficult concerns, and the net of it is that we now have a very clear understanding of when it is time to favor software reliability over features, and vice-versa. It’s translating to a happier, more productive engineering team that is always confident about the meaningful impact their work is having.”

“No engineering team wants to cry wolf about potentially very serious tech debt, but they also don’t want to ignore it,” said Zachary Nickens, SRE Team Captain at OutSystems. “When we set out to build our own platform for managing tech debt using SLOs, we estimated it would take two years and $3 million in engineering hours. Hydrogen is the first platform we’ve seen that makes it possible to find the sweet spot – to draw a straight line from technical debt to customer impact, and costs a fraction of what we would have spent building this ourselves.”

“I see Hydrogen being to technical debt what Atlassian is to feature development,” said Thad West, CEO at Isos Technology, a Nobl9 reseller that specializes in Agile methodology and that is also one of Atlassian’s largest resellers. “Hydrogen brings new visibility into the underlying risks that are buried in backlogs of technical debt issues, and is the first practical solution that gives teams a language to talk about and mitigate those risks.”

Getting Started with Nobl9 Hydrogen
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About Nobl9

Nobl9, the software reliability platform company, is in the noble pursuit of reliable software. Founded by Marcin Kurc and Brian Singer, who joined Google via acquisition of Orbitera, Nobl9 helps software developers, DevOps practitioners, and reliability engineers deliver reliable features faster through software-defined service level objectives that link monitoring and other logging and tracing data to user happiness and business KPIs. The company is backed by Battery Ventures, CRV, Bonfire, Harmony, Resolute, and Sorenson and is headquartered in Boston with a distributed team. More at and at the Nobl9 free resource library.


Heather Fitzsimmons
Mindshare PR


Heather Fitzsimmons
Mindshare PR