Now that I’m finally recovered from Microsoft Convergence in Barcelona, I’ve had a chance to compare my expectations going into the event with the actual experience of attending. And as always for SolarWinds staff especially as Head Geek, that experience is all about speaking with customers. What was different about Convergence, aside from Barcelona always being it’s wonderful self, is that the mix of conversations tended more toward IT managers and less with hands-on admins. And lately I’m finding more and more managers who actually understand the importance of taking a disciplined approach to monitoring.
MS Convergence is focused on MS Dynamics, specifically Dynamics AX CRM. Generally when you look at the front page for a software product and the first button is “Find a partner” rather than “Live Demo”, or “Download”, it lets you know it’s a complex platform. But in the case of Dynamics AX, there’s a reason- a surprising number of integrations for the platform. There’s no way Microsoft can be expert in SAP, TPF, Informix, Salesforce and 496 other large platforms, so they rely on partners. For us in the SolarWinds booth of course, it meant we had lots of familiar conversations about complex infrastructure and the challenges of managing everything from networking to apps to storage and more.
One thing was clear, at least with the European audience- cloud for Dynamics customers seems to be driving more discipline not less. As admins cloud too often means shadow IT- even more junk that we need to monitor but with less control. With Dynamics the challenge isn’t remaining calm when your NetFlow reports show dozens of standalone Azure or AWS instances, it’s the reverse.
With a single Azure service endpoint for the platform, firewall and router traffic analysis uncovers dozens of niche domain publishers across the organization, each pushing critical business data to Dynamics in the cloud. Some integrations are well behaved, running by ops and monitored, but others are hiding under the desk of a particular clever analyst. These developers have credentials to extend the CRM data picture, but no budget to assure operations. Managers I spoke with were of course nervous about that, plus regulatory compliance and of course evolving EU data privacy laws- not a trivial CRM endeavor. (Makes me actually grateful for U.S. PCI, HIPA, SOX and GLBA, which though headaches are reasonably stable.)
It was interesting to look at the expo hall, filled with dozens of booths of boutique partners, each specializing in a particular CRM integration nuance and to remember the fundamental concerns of everyone in IT. We’re on the hook for availability, security, cost management and end user quality of experience and we share the same challenges. Establishing and maintaining broad insight into all elements of production infrastructure is not a first step, and certainly mustn’t be the last step. Monitoring is a critical service admins provide to management and teammates that makes everything else work. In hybrid IT, with on premises, cloud, SaaS and everything else in between, there are more not fewer dependences, more to configure and more to break. It always feels good to be needed just as much by the Big Systems owners and IT managers as it is to be the favorite tool of admins working helpdesk tickets.
Of course it was also nice to see that Microsoft finally streamlined the doc for Surface Pro 4.