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9 Posts authored by: denny.lecompte

In case you missed it, SolarWinds spilled the beans when we exposed the American, UK, and Australian system administrators in November. We revealed the SysAdmins’ likes and dislikes at work and at play, their favorite entertainment, and their choice beverages, among other things. What we didn’t tell you is that we conducted the same survey with a bunch of network engineers… (we are working towards an advanced degree in IT anthropology).


You didn’t think that we could resist the ultimate comparison, did you? Surely not. And, don’t call me Shirley.


We surveyed over 1,100 network engineers and network admins  in the U.S. (400), U.K. (400), and Australia (312) and found a few things that they had in common with each other and with their close cousins, the sysadmins. We also learned a few ways in which the network and systems folks just don’t see eye to eye.  (it really is just like any other family)


So who are these netadmins? They’re job lovers!


Across the board, netadmins responded that they were happy at work, reporting enjoyable or highly enjoyable jobs (U.S. – 79%, U.K. – 72%, Australia – 72% ahead of sysadmins (U.S. – 68%, U.K. – 67%, Australia – 61%).


Perhaps they’re so gleeful because:

  1. They make more money as netadmins (U.S. – $87K, U.K. – £50.3K, Australia – $89K AUS) than as sysadmins (U.S. – $78K, U.K. – £47.4K, Australia – $82K AUS), or
  2. They get to call the shots. More netadmins make final IT decisions (U.S. – 54%, U.K. – 54%, Australia – 49%) than sysadmins do (U.S. – 6%, U.K. – 9%, Australia – 9%).


Good thing they’re so darn cheerful, because netadmins continue to see increased responsibility and demands on their time (U.S. – 90%, U.K. – 89%, Australia – 85%) and feel increased pressure at work (U.S. – 79%, U.K. – 84%, Australia – 78%).


The regions differ, however, in feelings toward their companies and employers. American netadmins strongly agree that their systems are more reliable and efficient than ever (45%), their IT department leadership is trustworthy (44%), and that 2013 will bring growth for their companies (38%). Aussies feel less strongly, citing 29 percent, 35 percent, and 22 percent in respective categories, and the Brits are even less optimistic, offering 24 percent, 24 percent, and 18 percent respectively.


And then there is your free time, we know that you don’t just lock yourselves in the closet at the end of the day…  But who hangs together best?  The Yanks and Brits!

  • Aussies claim not to be big gamers – only 68 percent play while 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of Brits do.
  • Star Trek is the best on the telly for Brits at 21 percent. American netadmins like it too (22%), but Australians favor The Big Bang Theory (23%).
  • Who’s got the best cape? Batman, say UK (19%) and U.S. (22%) netadmins. The folks down under prefer Wolverine (14%). (Yes, we know that Wolverine does not have a cape. But if he wanted one, he’d produce one. And it would be made of adamantium and would be sharp… and useful… and cool...)


So, check out the infographics below.


Full survey results can be found here for the US (Netadmin and Sysadmin Survey Results - US)
here for the UK (Netadmin and Sysadmin Survey Results - UK)

and here for Australia (Netadmin and Sysadmin Survey Results - AUS).



And, of course, join the discussion in the The SolarWinds NetAdmin/SysAdmin Survey -- Which are you? space… we promise to give proper credit in the footnotes of our final dissertation.

We SolarWindians love IT management software.  We like building it.  We like selling it.  We like supporting it.  However, we are not single-threaded.  We do think about other things.  Like video games. As with any self-respecting gaggle of geeks (herd of nerds?), a lot of us like to play games.


One day a while back, as a meeting about IT Management software wrapped up, the conversation evolved into one about video games, and one engineer opined that it would be cool if we could build a game.  There was general agreement on the coolness of such an enterprise.  Then one clever engineer noted that if they could fool the marketing folks into believing that it would do something ridiculous like "brand building," they might actually be able to do it.  One thing led to another, and the marketing folks figured, heck, the engineers might be on to something.  In the end, we figured the worst case scenario was that we'd create a fun game, give it to our loyal customers, and everyone would be happier for it. 


And just like that, we are launching a new game.  We think it's awesome, but just like our regular software, try it and judge for yourself.  If you're wondering what kind of game, it's in a classic arcade style.  Think Space Invaders meets Asteroids.  Except it's completely browser based, and when you play it, you'll find your Sysman Hero's ship defending the current website from web-page-eating space bugs. 


Hint: Because it's just a bookmark on your browser, you can quickly fire it up for some quick distraction when you find yourself trapped in some interminable meeting (not that such things happen at SolarWinds, but we hear about such things from from our friends).  Also, because it's us and we do love IT management so much, we've inserted little IT in-jokes that anyone who has ever administered a server should find amusing.

sysman hero screenshot.PNG


Check out SysMan Hero.  Share it with your friends.  Please spread it widely.  Seriously, please share it. 


If this thing catches on a little, our CEO just might let us build another one. 

Earlier this month, SolarWinds released survey results debunking the lives of American sysadmins. We then followed up with info on UK sysadmins. Now, we must know – who is the Aussie sysadmin?


More than 400 Australian sysadmins weighed in, and here’s how they compared with their northern hemisphere counterparts…



  • In Australia, 71 percent of sysadmins feel that your company’s employees have little understanding or appreciation for what they do, which is the same as your American counterparts and just two percent different from your peers in the UK (69%).
  • Australian sysadmins also seem to enjoy the same everyday tasks as Americans and Brits. You get the most enjoyment out of solving problems (72% compared to 71% in UK and 75% in US), helping users (58% compared to 55% in UK and 62% in US) and thinking on their feet (49%, same as UK and close to the 52% in US).
  • What frustrates you the most? Too little pay, say 20 percent, followed by too much to do (15%) and limited budget (13%). Sysadmins in the US and UK agree for the most part. Both Americans (22%) and Brits (27%) site being underpaid as their biggest woe. Next, Americans find their increasing workloads tiresome (16%) and struggle with insufficient budget (13%). UK sysadmins say increasing workloads suck (13%) and they just have too much to do (12%).


So, while you all share similar opinions on work life. It’s how you live and play outside the office that varies:

  • Further unmasking our sysadmins down undah (okay, we’re done), Wolverine slashes the superhero competition (could it be the Hugh Jackman, homeboy-does-good connection?) – 15 percent chose the Marvel mutant over the UK and US pick Batman (18% and 20%, respectively). Aussies also stand alone in your music choice, opting for pop (17%) over rock, which 22 percent of UK sysadmins and 21 percent of US sysadmins favored.
  • What can no one agree on? Favorite beverages and entertainment. Aussies enjoy coffee (21%) and settling in with the Big Bang Theory (26%). Yanks are all about soda (19%) while enjoying Star Trek (23%). And, the Brits prefer The X-Files (17%) while sipping wine (19%). Guess it’s good we’re all on separate continents.


You can check out the whole survey,

Systems Administrators AUS Survey Results from SolarWinds.


We also have another infographic below that highlights some of the best of the data. Compare to the US and UK versions and join the discussion here on thwack… Which geek are you most like?


Download a copy of the infographic here.

Last week, we released survey results that highlighted the work and play life of the American sysadmin.  You may recall that we were pleasantly surprised at what a generally optimistic group they are (71% of indicated some level of satisfaction with their work) and pleased to see that they share our love of gaming platforms, and “Star” franchises (both the Wars and Trek varieties).


All this led us to wonder… how do US-based sysadmins compare with their counterparts across the pond? Are they as optimistic?  Do they prefer Android over iPhone? Have they been burning the midnight oil with their new copy of Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2? So, we did ANOTHER survey, this time to 450 UK-based sysadmins and Bob’s your uncle!


69% of you think that most of your company’s employees have very little idea or appreciation for what you do, which is only slightly better than sysadmins in the US (71%).


Job likes were remarkably similar between the two groups:

  • In the US, they get the most enjoyment out of solving problems (75 percent), helping users (62 percent) and thinking on their feet (52 percent). The top three job frustrations included too little pay (22 percent), increasing workloads and responsibilities (16 percent) and not enough budget (13 percent).
  • Meanwhile in the UK, while solving problems (71 percent) and thinking on your feet (49 percent) ran fairly close, helping users slipped by 7 points (55 percent) versus the US. The top three issues that keep you up at night included too little pay (27 percent), increasing workloads and responsibilities (13 percent) and too much to do (12 percent).


Scully and Mulder (17%) reign over Kirk OR Picard (16%) on the telly and you prefer the Fellowship of the Ring (22%) over the Rebel Alliance (19%) at the theaters.


You can check out the whole survey:  Systems Administrators UK Survey Results from SolarWinds

We also have another infographic below that highlights some of the best of the data. Compare to the US version and join the discussion here on thwack…  Are geeks really the same in every culture? You can also check out our latest foray into the Australian outback here.


Download a pdf copy of the infographic here.


Up next... we went down under!

Ed Notes: Looking for the UK survey? SolarWinds SysAdmin Survey -- UK   

Looking for the Australia survey? SolarWinds SysAdmin Survey -- AUS


Here at SolarWinds, we pride ourselves on our knowledge of and connections with our users. You may have heard us talk about being “Built by IT pros, for IT Pros…” and that we work to solve real-world IT Management problems, not the problems dreamed up in some corner office.


When we launched into the Systems Management space earlier this year, things were no different.  We focused on expanding the number of problems our systems management portfolio can solve for sysadmins.  We started with SolarWinds Systems and Application Manager (SAM) and our web performance monitoring product, SolarWinds Synthetic End User Monitor.  We then added DameWare Remote IT Management, SolarWinds Patch Manager, SolarWinds WebHelpDesk and SolarWinds Mobile Admin.  And, of course… there is our award-winning SolarWinds Virtualization Manager.


Through the ongoing expansion and updates to our portfolio we are working to make sure that no matter what problem a sysadmin might face…  we can offer a powerful, easy to use, and, most importantly, AFFORDABLE solution.


Part of the secret of our success (at least IMHO), is that we don’t just try to understand how you, our users, work… we get to know how you play.  We try to immerse ourselves in the pastimes and hobbies you guys enjoy.

So, last month, we ran a survey to get to the heart of the American sysadmin… and, we learned a LOT.  Some of it surprising…  some of it, well, let’s just say that we’re pretty pumped that we pre-ordered Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (t-minus 8 days and counting…).


Generally, you all are a pretty optimistic bunch (71% of you indicated some level of satisfaction with your work), and see good things happening for your companies in 2013 (76 percent).


You prefer the Star Wars movies.  We assume you meant Episodes 4-6 in their original format, and may be sweating the Disney acquisition as much as our Head Geek, Patrick Hubbard.  That said, you clearly view the Star Trek series as the best geek fare on TV, followed closely by everyone’s favorite Physics PhDs (and one engineer).


Our question re: Star Trek… does Kirk reign supreme or are you more of a Picard crew? And, does Spock qualify as a superhero?


You can check out the whole survey, Systems Administrators Survey Results from SolarWinds


Download a pdf copy of the infographic here.


In the coming weeks, we will also release our results on sysadmins in the UK and Australia.


But, rest assured, Sysadmins…  while you may believe at some level that your company’s employees don’t understand what you do or what your value is (71 percent), we here at SolarWinds are doing our best to make your day a little bit easier and a little bit more fun.


Stay tuned for more…  And, we raise a Beer to you!

A popular trope in science fiction involves an individual who’s been time-shifted into a future culture (frozen in ice, cryogenic sleep, time machine, what have you), and the reader or viewer then learns about the new culture by what the protagonist experiences or reads.  I’ve been thinking that if our time traveler arrived were a sysadmin who arrived in 2012 from a 5 or 10 years in the past, he or she would initially read the tech blogs and online press and think that cloud was the reigning technology and that servers in data centers and with actually applications running on them disappeared like so many 8-track tape players.


Of course, if the story were allowed to continue, at some point our time-traveler would get a job, maybe as a sysadmin, and then shock would set in when the cloud-enabled world was hardly to be found.  The server room would still be full of racks of physical servers.  Sure, lots of them would be running a hypervisor with virtual machines, but it’s still a far cry from the cloud-filled IT world that the hype seems to imply.


Am I saying the cloud is all hype?  Definitely not.  But like most technologies, there’s what some have termed macro-myopia, which is the tendency to overestimate the short-term impact of a technology and dramatically underestimate its long-term impact.  It’s clear that cloud will impact IT in a huge and probably deeply transformational way.  Eventually.   But today, most computing resources are still on solid ground.


How do we know?  First off, SolarWinds sells enterprise software at a really low price, which results in literally thousands of transactions every quarter.  On top of that, our product management team is reaching out to customers and non-customers alike on a daily basis, asking for what they need.  In all of these conversations, we’re focused on current pain points.  We discuss the problems that need immediate attention.  While we now have a large portfolio that can solve a lot of pains, we still get asked for things we don’t do (yet).  So how often do we get asked for help with managing cloud infrastructure?  I won’t say never, but if I did, it wouldn’t be far off.


We’ve also done more formal data collection.  When we surveyed 90 customers, we found that 56% of customers said they weren’t running anything in public or private clouds.  About 29% said they aren’t even thinking about cloud.   Only about 5% were running critical applications in a public cloud.  That goes up to 9% if you throw in non-critical apps.  Private clouds are more in use, with over 40% of users running something in a private cloud, but when we’ve drilled in with end users, private cloud is often just virtualized environment that’s been “rounded up” to a cloud:  There’s no self-service, no abstraction of the server from the end user.


We did a separate survey about cloud plans, and with 88 respondents, it told a similar story.  Roughly 70% of respondents had no plans to do anything with cloud in the next year.  Only 16% were planning a cloud initiative in the next 6 months.


BTW, if you’re tempted to dismiss these results because SolarWinds is “an SMB player”, let me set the record straight:  Just because we’ve figured out how to sell to customers with only a few hundred employees does not mean that we only sell to that segment.  Our customers—including those in this survey—range in size from hundreds to tens of thousands of customers.  We cover a huge swath of the market.  We just do it without talking to CxOs, who are, perhaps, more susceptible to vendors who “cloudwash” their solutions, given that the CxO can’t easily drill down further than what’s presented in a slide show.


Why am I throwing a cold, wet blanket on the cloud party?  Again, we believe cloud is coming, but it’s not here yet, and it probably won’t be here for a while yet, maybe closer to 2020, if IDC is to be believed  (see Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud Adoption – Competing for 2020; IDC). In the meantime, real IT professionals have real problems with their non-cloud environments right now.  And when I look around at the big IT management vendors like VMware, Microsoft, CA, and BMC, they are pushing cloud this and cloud that 7/24/365.  The cloud focus is just as true of startups (although that make sense because startups are all about the future).    Who’s left to look after the problems of today?  That would be us.   SolarWinds continues to focus on delivering powerful, low-cost software that are truly easy to use.


We aren’t ignoring cloud.  When it becomes a need for mainstream IT people, we’ll have products that address their pain point.  Count on it.  Until then, if any of our competition wants to pull their heads out of the clouds, we wouldn’t mind a little company in the here and now...

So what have we done?  For those of you more inclined to watch than read, we have a great little video here... 

SolarWinds has expanded our footprint in the SysMan market - driving our model of easy to use, powerful and affordable software products even deeper into the IT management space.  Sysadmins...  this one is for you. 

We’ve just acquired great new products from other like-minded vendors.  First, we're really excited that EminentWare's patch management products are now part of our systems management portfolio.  We've combined these EminentWare's offerings into SolarWinds Patch Manager.  Although we didn't build it originally, Patch Manager is a product built after our own heart.  Users can download it, install it, and begin pushing out patches in minutes not hours.  Patch Manager embraces and extends customers' investment in existing technology such as Microsoft WSUS or System Center Configuration Manager.  As part of the product, customers continually receive updates for third-party patches for vendors like Adobe, Google, and Mozilla.  Deploying patches becomes a simple, predictable, satisfying task instead of the head-banging exercise in frustration that it represents for too many system administrators.  EminentWare was offering their product set for much less than the competition.  Even so, we've lowered the price even more.  Customers can now solve their patch management problems for just a few dollars per node and we are very happy to put our pricing and functionality up against the old players such as Shavlik/VMware and IBM BigFix.  

We’ve also recently acquired DameWare, which offers Mini Remote Control and DameWare NT Utilities, both of which are extremely well-known tools among sysadmins.  For tens of thousands of sysadmins, when they want to remotely access or troubleshoot a server or desktop, DameWare is the tool of choice.  For tens of dollars, a sysadmin can manage hundreds or thousands of computers.  SolarWinds joined with DameWare because we recognized that low-cost tools are critical for sysadmins, just as they are for network engineers, which is why we've been providing our Engineer's Toolset for more than a decade.  DameWare demonstrates that we're committed to every aspect of the sysadmin market.  

In addition to these two acquisitions, we are introducing new versions of existing products.

First, we've got a major new release of our oldest systems management product.   With this new version--v5.0, we've renamed the product to Server & Application Monitor to more accurately reflect the focus of product. It was introduced as Application Performance Monitor back in 2008, and it was really just an add-on to our Network Performance Monitor--a bit of server monitoring for the network guy.  Over the last four years, however, we've poured a lot of effort into the product and transformed it from and add-on to a full-fledged systems management product that has no dependency on our networking products.  It offers the same simple LUCID interface as our mature network management products, but it's new a feature-rich monitoring tool that can stand toe-to-toe with competitors like Quest Foglight and NetIQ AppManager.  All that, and it's not uncommon for a customer to pay less for a new SolarWinds product than they were paying just to maintain their old systems management product.  SAM 5.0 will be released later this quarter.

We are also launching the second version of Synthetic End-User Monitor (SeUM).  Version 1.5 of SeUM is a major step forward for our web application monitor.  SeUM allows users to monitor both web applications inside the firewall and internet-facing websites by continually playing back pre-recorded multi-step transactions.  SeUM will detect poor performance at any granular step of the process and alert the IT team of a problem.  Using its new XY Capture Mode, SeUM 1.5 can record virtually any type of web page, including rich internet content such as Flash or Silverlight.  The recorder is just as easy as pressing record and walking through the desired transaction.  The new version also introduces the Cloud Player Portal that allows users to deploy transaction players to play back recordings from any one of Amazon EC2's locations in the cloud with just a few clicks, so there's no need to pay for an overpriced SaaS service to do something that's simple to do yourself.  Unlike competitors such as Keynote, Gomez, or HP SiteScope, SeUM offers a powerful web monitoring product that's both easy and inexpensive. 

Our mission is to fix the systems management market as you know it today.  We've seen what's out there, and we think Sysadmins deserve better, cheaper, more usable alternatives.  We're sure the old guard will try to compete, and we welcome it because we know them well, and we're confident that their expensive sales force and professional services will force them to maintain inflated prices.  And if they had any idea of how to make usable software, they'd have done it a long time ago.  We also expect that they'll compete by adding yet more features that appeal to ever fewer customers, all while exacerbating the price and usability problems.  

In any case, we're here to stay, and these new products are just the beginning.  

As long as IT professionals have been monitoring their servers, the systems management market has been plagued with products that are overpriced and incredibly hard to use.  The big IT management vendors sell to executives who will never actually use the products, but they’ve become out of touch with how IT departments purchase and consume software.  Gone are the days of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into a complicated platform and months of professional services in hopes that, at some point in the future, it will finally meet all the sysadmin needs.  These days, IT professionals across organization of all sizes demand want powerful, usable products that can deliver immediate value a price that does not require executive approvals.

At SolarWinds, we've looked at the systems management market, and came to the conclusion that it strongly resembles the network management market in that the big IT management vendors offer vastly overpriced systems management products that are so hard to use that they require "professional services" to get them up and running.  In other words, deploying their products requires so much expertise that it constitutes a profession unto itself.  

We fundamentally believe that we can bring to systems management the same combination of simplicity, power, scalability and affordability that we bring to network management.  To that end, we're announcing a suite of products that deliver all of the features that customers need in an easy-to-use package at a small fraction of what the other vendors are charging.  The prices are intended to be disruptive, and they're all posted plain-as-day on our website.  

Systems management does not have to be difficult and expensive, and we plan to fix that. I know, you are intrigued, so stay tuned for the details.  

Something BIG is coming...

You know a truly geeky topic has broken through when The New York Times decides to write about it. Big Data is the latest topic to start to emerge into the larger consciousness, and it’s very geeky indeed—not gadget-level geeky, like phones or video game consoles, but enterprise-level geeky. Big data, for folks who haven’t already stumbled across the phrase, refers to the fact that many enterprises are now collecting so much data (about their customers, about their own business, about what-have-you) that the data set has eclipsed the scope of the usual tools to handle the volume. We’re talking single datasets in the terabytes at the very least, ranging upwards into petabytes.

The focus of the article in the Timesis on the uses of Big Data, which are generally around  analyzing these large data sets to produce new insights. Companies like Facebook use the mountains of social and behavioral data about their users to figure out how to target ads, or Amazon might use its customer data to make recommendations for new purchases. In a sense, it’s just data mining, but when both the scale of data to analyze and the available process power to apply to the problem are enormous, the potential results are something altogether new.

Now Big Data is pretty cutting edge stuff, and we at SolarWinds focus on practical, everyday problems faced by nearly all IT professionals. Still, when I read a story like this, what comes to mind is the storage problem behind Big Data. If you’ve got a petabyte of data, you’ve got to store it somewhere. And if you actually want use that data, possibly to serve real-time requests, your storage problem is actually a pretty challenging one, although not all that different from the more prosaic problems of any admin who owns a lot of storage, which is almost any admin.

Storing data can be relatively simple: Buy arrays, carve up the storage into disks that can be accessed by various applications. Storage happens. Managing that storage, on the other hand, is not so easy. Regardless of if you’ve got a true Big Data problem or your own version, writ smaller, you have the same problems.

  • You probably need to put your data into tiers, with the      frequently-accessed data in high-performance storage and other data in      slower, cheaper storage. Some Big Data proponents would say that all data      needs to be highly-accessible, but that can be cost-prohibitive. Identifying      any places were data can be tiered becomes crucial.
  • Storage performance optimization is critical to any      project relying on Big Data. If you can’t get data in and out quickly,      answers can’t be derived in anything like real time.
  • You must be able to identify data contention issues. When      where multiple sources try to access data—even different data—that resides      on the same physical disk, performance can suffer, and the cause can be      hard to find.
  • Finally, if you’ve got big data, it’s reasonable to      expect that you’re going to get even bigger data. Planning for upcoming      capacity needs is critical to long-term success.

How do you tackle these storage problems? The best solution is a dedicated storage management tool such as SolarWinds Storage  Manager. Its purpose in life is to track your data for setting up tiers, monitor your I/O performance, identify bottlenecks like data contention, and provide future visibility for capacity planning.

While Big Data is currently the province of very large companies, this technology—like most technologies—will trickle down and become mainstream soon enough. Data is plentiful and ever more accessible, so before long, more IT professionals will be faced with the challenges of Big Data.

And to paraphrase Biggie Smalls, “Mo’ data, Mo’ problems.” But they’re fundamentally the same problems, which makes it a bit easier.

Denny LeCompte is the VP of Product Management at SolarWinds. Despite having a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and spending some time as a psychology professor, he’s spent the last decade building IT management software, first as a usability engineer and then as a technical product manager. Denny believes that if a company understands its customers and the problems that they face every day, creating products that they can enjoy using becomes simple. Denny is a voracious reader and avid music fan.

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