A pot of gold at the intersection of DevOps and generative AI?

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Generative AI isn’t just about creative endeavors and parlor tricks. Investors and Big Tech alike are betting that it will also affect enterprise infrastructure and cybersecurity, and they are putting money where their mouth is. — Anna

Dev tools plus generative AI

Y Combinator Demo Days are a strong indicator of the trends investors might be interested in — and that’s one of the main reasons why TechCrunch always watches them pretty closely. In its Winter 2023 batch, three areas stood out, the accelerator said: “open source, dev tools and AI.”

Dev tools startups in that batch drew particularly strong interest among investors, with four of them raising additional funding just weeks after Demo Day, Insider reported. AI-related startups, on the other hand, were very popular with founders, representing 34% of the winter cohort.

While these areas can be looked at separately, I’m more interested in how they might overlap, so I called up Israeli VC Rona Segev to see what she had to say — not only because Israel has positioned itself as a hotspot for dev tools, but also because almost half of her portfolio involves AI in some form.

Segev, the co-founder and managing partner of VC firm TLV Partners, thinks that generative AI could lead to innovative ways for companies to explore and manage their infrastructure.

Segev predicts that the first wave of generative AI applied to improving DevOps would have to do with search. “You have tons of configurations and different assets, and you want to understand the connections, what they’re doing and what they are.… It’s hard, [so] an interface to search your infrastructure and get better visibility is a natural kind of extension to what we’re seeing,” she told me.

While she described better visibility as very important, she expects a lot more to follow. “The next phase is going to be really managing the infrastructure in a much more intelligent way, which I think is the holy grail of the combination of DevOps and AI.”

Addressing complexity

Segev said that AI might address infrastructure’s complexity, an issue that she thinks is here to stay. “The complexity of cloud native applications is enormous and exponentially growing.” With huge, complex systems, it becomes almost impossible for the human brain to anticipate what impact a change might have — and that’s where artificial intelligence might be able to help.

This still sounded a bit abstract to my only-human brain, so Segev gave me an example: configuration conflicts.

“I think that the next really interesting phase is going to let those very, very strong AI engines help us manage the infrastructure correctly and manage the configuration,” she said. “We will basically let them know what we want to achieve, and they’ll know how to run all over the infrastructure and modifying chain configuration, and change settings or whatever [is needed] to make it actually workable; something which is becoming harder and harder for us humans to do.”

As to when this might start to happen, Segev ventured that it might still be three years away. “This is really delicate, and we need to really trust the AI not to make mistakes.” The overconfidence of a ChatGPT is not what infrastructure management might require, but Segev is hopeful. “It’s going to take a while, but I think this is going to be a real breakthrough in the future.”

$4.5 billion for generative AI

If you are curious to know how workers feel about the threats and promises of AI, Kyle Wiggers wrote about two very recent surveys on the topic. The gist is that staffers aren’t necessarily opposed to AI, but they’re still wondering what it might mean for them. Meanwhile, money keeps flowing into the sector:

“According to a PitchBook report released this month, VCs have steadily increased their positions in generative AI, from $408 million in 2018 to $4.8 billion in 2021 to $4.5 billion in 2022. Big Tech has an appetite for the tech, too, with companies like Salesforce pledging hundreds of millions of dollars toward generative AI startups.”

Trend alert?

“There’s a new trend emerging in the generative AI space — generative AI for cybersecurity — and Google is among those looking to get in on the ground floor,” Kyle also wrote this week.

Says Google: “We have only just begun to realize the power of applying generative AI to security, and we look forward to continuing to leverage this expertise for our customers and drive advancements across the security community.” It’s still early to tell what that might look like beyond Big Tech — or what the risk-reward balance might look like — but these developments will definitely be worth watching.