Day 1 Keynote: State of SolarWinds
2016 was a watershed year for SolarWinds. A wave of innovation produced new UIs and a long list of new tools like NetPath™, PerfStack™, Network Automation Manager, and Pingdom Server Manager. More importantly, SolarWinds customers began facing challenges with hybrid IT and the adoption of cloud.
Join SolarWinds Chief Technology Officer Joe Kim and Head Geek™ Patrick Hubbard as they kick off THWACKcamp 2017 and lay out the company’s vision for SolarWinds in 2018 and beyond. Whether it’s supporting IT professionals with the powerful core IT products they’ve always relied on, developers baking monitoring into their cloud apps through DevOps approaches, or managed service providers (MSPs) managing other people’s IT, more than ever, SolarWinds offers a complete spectrum of products that manages IT of any size.
Hello, and welcome to THWACKcamp 2017. It's funny saying the words, "Welcome to THWACKcamp," because it really has become something that I look forward to every year. Maybe it's meeting so many of you in person at SolarWinds user groups; or when you stop by to say ‘hi’ at shows like Cisco Live or DevOpsDays; or maybe it's just how familiar your THWACK handles have become after six years hosting this virtual community event. But I speak for all of us here at SolarWinds when I say that we're truly honored to have you with us again this year, and I'm particularly excited about our two keynote speakers, who I'll introduce in just a moment.
And while the broader theme of every THWACKcamp has always been helping IT professionals find new ways to solve big problems, in 2015 and 2016, we concentrated on specific challenges that were the top of the THWACK thread list. For 2015, we asked the question, "What will you solve next?" And that year, most sessions included discussion, best practice, thought leadership, and how-tos geared toward complex troubleshooting and permanently fixing problems. We focused on how admins could make short-term investments with long-term payoffs, both in reliability but also for their careers.
Last year's theme was "challenge accepted," concentrating on the increased demands placed on IT as a result of hybrid IT adoption, the headaches of bolting multiple clouds onto our infrastructure, relocating workloads, and increased expectations from users. We focused on security, performance, and reliability tips applicable to any monitoring tool, and for SolarWinds customers, included tutorials on how to use cloud monitoring features of the Orion Platform that, as it turns out, many of you didn't know that you already had.
But this year, we're trying something a little different. Now while last year we talked about integrating cloud environments into your IT operations, your THWACK conversations this year reveal something new: that enterprises of all sizes, one to two person teams to the largest organizations in the Global 2000, aren't just expanding to new infrastructure. You're actively moving— in fact, accelerating to cloud and cloud-native technology. You confirmed a trend that we've been watching develop for the 2015, 2016, and now the 2017 SolarWinds IT Trends Report. Customers who have been using SolarWinds for decades suddenly now find themselves being asked to implement new approaches like distributed tracing, to manage not just Syslog, but aggregate logging for hundreds or even thousands of ephemeral containers popping in and out of existence every day like quarks. You're now monitoring not just more Linux, but layers of multi-container, Linux-based services. You're doing all of that on an array of open source technologies that might be new to your team. And of course, you're doing all of that while you still maintain your on-premises data center and deal with new technology there like reorganizing your storage to take advantage of Flash.
So you'll notice some new sessions in this year's catalog. For instance, there's a DevOps session, "When DevOps Says Monitor." There's one on scale out, that's "Monitoring Challenges with Distributed Environments." And there's even one on best practices from service providers, "Understanding Backup Technologies and What They Can Do for MSPs." And this expanded variety is no accident. I suppose the underlying theme of THWACKcamp 2017 is: SolarWinds is way more technically diverse than you might think. But, I think more accurately it's: SolarWinds is always there for our customers when and where they need us, and often in ways that you might not expect. And by that, we mean that the cloud-native tools made for developers aren't fundamentally different than infrastructure monitoring tools that you run on-premises.
Now, at the first glance, they may seem wildly different. One you install in your environment that discovers, interrogates hundreds of different monitoring and management interfaces. And I mean, those tools watch from the outside in everything in the network and applications stack. But the other species is a set of hosted services that are integrated with the standard tools of cloud and Linux, requiring a little dev, or at least an understanding of how those technologies work and how they're configured. But what you're telling us, and as usual, is so great to hear from the THWACK community, is that you don't really see it that way. You don't see them as different. You're telling us that over time the tools of IT always evolve, and what both of these approaches share is a need to work the way you do, and you expect to change the way you work over time. I don't remember back in the day dreaming about how was I going to manage applications without setting up new racks of servers, yet today, I can't imagine life without vSphere or the EC2 management API. I mean, even down to layer zero, the way that we work today is very different than it was 10 or even five years ago. And we're IT; we can project. We know that change is not just coming but that change is here, and we're ready to adapt with a little timely and salient information just as we always do.
We hope you find this year's content valuable regardless of where your organization is on the journey to cloud, automation, and the other new technologies that you're having to digest. Our businesses are banging on the drums of go faster, go faster, work smarter, fail fast, transform, but SolarWinds' mission, as always, remains the same: to help IT professionals address the problems that they have today quickly to make time to get ahead of the challenges of tomorrow.
Over the next two days, you'll find nearly 20 sessions split into two tracks. As always, we'll cover a variety of topics from performance, to scalability, to DevOps, to backup, to cloud, and more. Some of the sessions will be focused on best practices, while others will be in product how-tos. Guests will include industry experts, SolarWinds product managers, strategy leaders, and of course, all the Head Geeks. And as always, remember that THWACKcamp is THWACKcamp. These topics come directly from the challenges and opportunities that you're discussing in the THWACK community, at SWUGs, and all the other ways that we get to hear from you.
All right, let's go ahead and meet our featured speakers. I'll be back at the end to wrap up with a little housekeeping. We'll make sure you have a chance to win some swag over the next couple of days, and of course, tell you how to pick up some THWACK points.
I'd like to introduce today's speakers, Joe Kim and Rani Johnson. Joe Kim is the Executive Vice President of Engineering and the Global CTO of SolarWinds. He'll speak about continuing investments in SolarWinds' core products, but also outline the company's vision for the future of IT, and how vendors will support business demands for transformation. Rani Johnson is the Chief Information Officer of SolarWinds, and as the person responsible for keeping all of our IT processes running, will talk about best approaches to keep your career nimble and adapt to accelerating change.
First, to discuss the present and future of SolarWinds products in a rapidly evolving landscape, please welcome SolarWinds Chief Technology Officer Joe Kim.
Well thanks, Patrick. And so for those of you guys attending THWACKcamp '17, we have a packed agenda for you over the next couple days. We're going to be sharing a lot of best practices and some of the features that we have in our products, and so hopefully you're going to have a lot of fun with us over the next couple days. Now before we get started, what I wanted to help do was to provide a little bit of context in terms of why we made certain technology decisions, why we made certain decisions around feature functions across our products. And I kind of wanted to share and develop that context for you, by sharing with you what's been happening in the IT organizations that I've been speaking to--either talking with analysts, or the press, or a large, large, large customer base including many of you guys. And also share with you a little bit in terms of from a procedural perspective some of the technical components that have been evolving and getting adopted across the various technology organizations.
Now what's interesting is that when I go out and talk to a lot of our customers and ask them about, "Well, how many products do you think SolarWinds sells?" "How many do you think that we provide?" And usually the number that I get back, which is surprising to me, is somewhere in the four, maybe five range. And many of you guys will find out, hopefully through the next couple days, because we're going to be sharing a lot about our products, we have over 40 different products across the different business units in cloud or our core IT components. Many of you guys know that as our Orion Platform based products, as well as our MSP products, okay? And so, again, the context that I want to set is really around why are we now starting to expand out, and looking at all of these product sets, and why that is really helpful for you.
And so no matter who you talk to--and I'm sure you're reading up on a lot of articles around technology, as well--there's a lot of words that are being thrown around out there--be it cloud native applications or things that are related to big data--be it Hadoop, or HTFS, or machine learning, or deep learning, those type of concepts. And although a lot of these disruptions are happening, from an IT organization and really for our customer base, the IT practitioner and the professional, the biggest change that it's really coming down to is really one single thing. And that one single is that because of these disruptions and the importance of technology, the fundamental relationship between the business and their internal IT departments have changed.
And the reason why a lot of these things are happening is because the way that businesses make money and how they transact with their customers are no longer just face-to-face. A lot of this stuff is now happening over either your mobile phone, right, or your tablet, or maybe on a laptop, because now it's much, much more digitized. And having capabilities around technology is now becoming not only a technical differentiation, but really, a core business differentiation. So unless you're in a software company like SolarWinds or some technology-based company, typically within that business, the most technical people are really going to be in the IT department. And so this, although there's a lot of change going on, is a humongous opportunity for IT to be able to start becoming a little bit more interactive with the business.
For a long time, a lot of IT executives have wanted that seat at the table with the business, and this is a huge opportunity for them to be able to do that. Now, as I work through our customer base, what's interesting is this has changed the IT organization quite a bit. And so, what are the two kind of types of evolutions that I've seen of this relationship is maybe sometimes what happens is--the IT department starts to see this as an opportunity, and they go out and they actually very proactively start reaching out from IT to the business and start asking them what are the type of services that we can really help provide for you to make our business really grow and thrive? And so, in a lot of those cases, what ends up happening is they start looking at how do I move away from some of the traditional stuff that I've done, which is still important, those are things that I have to be able to do, but also being able to provide some additional services out there? Maybe bursting out into the cloud or some of those kinds of activities, for the sake of the business. And so they're naturally starting to progress from just doing traditional on-premises IT activities to doing more hybrid type of activities, looking to things that are on-premise as well as the things that are out in the cloud, and really making that shift from just, "Here's what we provide to you." "I don't care if it has a 400-page manual that you have to read through. This is what you're going to have to use," to really becoming a partner and trying to create applications that are differentiated and things that are really easy to use for the business counterparts.
And for those cases when, I don't know, maybe the specific capability isn't so differentiating, what these departments will do is they would actually selectively source--maybe getting some compute resource somewhere, for example, and they would find specific providers, services providers out there, that might be able to take that work on because their scale is so much bigger that they might be able to provide that service cheaper to the business. And then the IT department really becomes almost like a service broker of the services that they provide internally that are differentiating and then services that they've outsourced to other service providers. Now there are situations, as well, when businesses would actually take the proactive approach, not from IT, but from the business, to go out and start decentralizing IT capabilities. And it's because a lot of times, the IT department hasn't taken that initial step to become that partner. And because it's such an integral part— the technology differentiation, the digitization— that the business has no choice if they want to be able to survive, to go out and actually make this change. So a lot of times, they will go out and take non-differentiated capabilities and maybe outsource that to a service provider, and then look to decentralize a lot of the IT functions to where they believe that it should go.
And so if there's IT components, let's say, where its primary function was really to help the finance department, instead of having a central IT department, that specific function would move over and report into finance. And you can see this happening within finance, but also in other departments like marketing, as well. So if you're doing some web dev work and you were previously with a central IT department, a lot of times that would get realigned back into the marketing department. Now, if I rewind all the way back about why this is needed to do this in the first place, it was really to be able to now create digital applications and services. That's going to help them make money, right? And so kind of throughout this entire process, they still haven't been able to solve that issue. So a lot of times, they will actually go out and hire developers and DevOps-type of capabilities to be able to rapidly produce this moneymaking application for their departments. But this is what the opportunity is for the IT department. And so before, you're with central IT, and kind of moving forward, because there's so much lack of resources that are out there that understand what and how technology works, it's a humongous opportunity for IT practitioners to be able to go out there and be able to fit the mold in any of these areas.
And this is why it's important for us to be able to expand here in SolarWinds. Because our promise really to you, our brand promise and our mandate really is to be able to provide you, the IT practitioner or the IT professional, the ability for you to be able to solve everyday issues and innovate around to make your life easier. And that's why this kind of— what's happening in IT organization is important for us, is because not only do we want to give you the capabilities for the stuff that you're really familiar with us, the four to five products that customers call back to me when I say, "What are the types of products that SolarWinds offers?" But also provide capabilities and products and services in areas that are kind of in these other spaces, as well, either the WebDev world and the WebOps world and the DevOps world.
So I don't know how many people know this, even actually within SolarWinds, but I originally started my career actually as a developer, and then at some point, also running operations within an IT department. And what's always been frustrating for me has been working with vendors and different technologies as business is changing, because it's always changing, has been this constant frustration as things change. A specific vendor trying to tell me where things need to get modified for me to continue on with that specific vendor, even if they don't have my best interest at heart. And what's really exciting for me within SolarWinds is that we're not necessarily starting from a place where we're doing quote unquote traditional IT, or hybrid IT, or something that's happening in the cloud space. We're always looking for the problem that the customer has, the IT practitioner has, every single day. And a lot of those things happen on-premise and a lot of those things happen on cloud-native, and in a lot of cases, it's like maybe I have on-premise stuff but I want to be able to now monitor stuff that's actually out in the cloud, right? Maybe the problem isn't I'm using both type of capabilities, but where I want to be able to consume that is maybe sometimes on-premise and sometimes out in the cloud. And so, all of these kind of innovations that we have to be able to introduce to our customer bases, a lot of times depending on the strength of the specific company, they end up gravitating naturally to that because they want to be able to make money.
But for us, what's been really cool and interesting is that we can both innovate on some of the issues that you might be having when you're managing things from on-premise, and a great example of that is stuff that we've done with NetPath and PerfStack. These are innovative things that we're doing with on-premise products. But also innovating with what's happening on cloud- native space, right? If you go to a lot of cloud type of conferences right now, some of the biggest and brightest buzzwords that are floating out there is around distributed tracing. And guess what? We have some of the best-distributed tracing capabilities on the market today. And we're going to be able to share a lot of that with you, obviously, in the sessions that we're going to be sharing.
And so if you really think about some of the organization evolutions that are happening, or some of the technology changes that are occurring across the globe, how does that really impact me on a day-to-day basis? Well, at the end of the day, all it's really meaning is, as businesses move towards a digital transformation and a digital business, all they're really wanting to do is to be able to use technology, again, be it a mobile phone or a tablet or whatnot, and be able to service any customer anywhere as fast as possible. And you simply can't do that by looking at a single technology stack. You have to look across the board if you want to be able to service that business to be able to make it move faster, be able to deliver better no matter where their customers are across the globe.
And so in essence, that's basically why I'm really, really excited about the next two days at THWACKcamp, because I think we have a lot of those technologies and best practices that we're going to be sharing with you. It won't be just cloud stuff on cloud. You're going to learn about how to use some of our Orion stuff on the cloud. There's some best practice sessions around that, and that's what I'm really, really interested in and excited about, is to be able to give you a solution that you can use today no matter where you are falling in the spectrum. The other thing that I wanted to touch a little bit on as we move forward was, what's happening from a procedural and a systems perspective? Now what I listed here is sort of the development processes going from waterfall to DevOps--and what's happening with the packaging going from physical servers all the way to using things like containers and microservices.
What I really don't think is really debatable when I talk to customers, press, analysts, is that there is sort of a transition going on from what we see on the traditional IT side to things that are a little bit more hybrid and cloud native. But what's important as part of this adoption is that no matter what customers I talk to and the specific departments, it's not like this is an evolutionary thing that's happening across the board. Your organization might be doing traditional IT stuff using waterfall and then actually doing, at the same time, activities around cloud- native workloads. So it's not like all of a sudden you're going from sort of the left-hand part to the right-hand part of this specific presentation, but you might be poking around in all the different areas.
And again, from SolarWinds, what we want to be able to make sure is not only provide you capabilities where you can evolve, but if you needed to do some pieces that are related to your physical data center but also need to find services and products that are much more in tune with cloud-native workloads. We want to make sure that we provide you capabilities on both of those fronts. And that's why, from our side, not only do we want to just create simple and powerful and affordable products on core IT, but also be able to provide that either—maybe you're in a service- provider world or in the cloud-native space— to be able to tune those products for your specific need and make sure that even if you're starting from a two-person shop, working on some low-level infrastructure stuff, to all the way doing 15,000-person IT departments doing DevOps type of workload. We want to make sure that not only can you evolve, but depending on what role that you're getting, that SolarWinds is always going to be there for you.
And with that, I wanted to welcome you to THWACKcamp 2017. Patrick.
Awesome, thanks. Thanks, Joe. You know, the thing I like most maybe is that Joe started his career in technology as a developer and he came to IT to help it become more effective. His conversations with customers, but especially analysts, are really interesting, and they remind us that many of the challenges in providing advanced services are actually opportunities for IT to have a seat at the table with the business.
As for IT decentralization, I don't know if anyone has figured out how to unpack what happens when the traditional roles that we manage move out into the business units. Our surveys suggest from IT pros that like you that it smacks of rogue IT and operations definitely needs to be a part of that conversation. I think my takeaway is that as an enterprise moves to a digital business model serving customers anywhere, as fast as possible, is going to require thinking and monitoring in new ways.
Our final speaker is Rani Johnson, Chief Information Officer of SolarWinds. Rani has developed a specialty of helping IT organizations adapt to change not just to survive a new era in IT, but to emerge as a trusted voice that drives the business forward.
To share some helpful advice on surviving the new age of IT, please welcome Rani Johnson.
The IT landscape has changed. The proliferation of cloud offerings, changing stakeholder expectations, increasing cyberthreats, and data privacy requirements present a significant challenge to traditional IT. As IT pros, we are uniquely positioned to help our stakeholders and business partners navigate this new landscape. So how do we set ourselves up to be successful leaders in this new environment? Well, I offer this CIO's humble advice on how to survive the new age of IT. I found that surviving IT is kind of like being in a relationship, so I structured my guidance more like a simple relationship guide.
If you'll indulge me, I'll talk you through about four components of being in a successful relationship or surviving new IT. The first is communication, second is putting your business partner's needs first, third it's being passionate, and four, you've got to date a lot of technology. Let's dig into some of these a bit.
The first one I mentioned was communication. It is key. We have to speak the language of our business stakeholders. We can't talk in IT unless we're talking to IT. There's no need to tell finance that you're using the time series, database-compression method when basically you're saying, "I'm reducing the cost of infrastructure." We also have to be transparent about how we're spending our time and resources. I like to publish our stack ranked project portfolio to ensure business alignment. I like to create communication vehicles, quarterly or monthly business reviews, retrospectives, sprint reviews, or any type of cadence meeting that creates an open dialogue around priority, expectations, and overall status progress. It's also important to have passive communication vehicles. I like to publish status and performance metrics on dashboards and make them visible to our stakeholders. It helps hold us accountable, but kind of like on Facebook, it's reaffirming when your business partners post your relationship status. It's also important to listen and make sure your partner feels understood. Also, like in relationships, sometimes your partners need to vent and even ramble on. But our stakeholders expect us to solve their problems, and they won't trust us to implement a solution until they fully understand and believe that we heard their pain. So we must take time, listen patiently, and especially if we're trying to influence someone to change their mind. Remember, communication is what builds trust, so we have to take time to make our communication effective.
The second thing I'm going talk to you about is putting your business partner's needs first. It's a little bit non-intuitive. Sacrificing self-interest is just hard to do. It takes intention and practice. It would be awesome if everyone accepted my preferred choice of computers, or OS, or collaboration solutions, or billing systems, or even virtualization platforms, but this almost never happens. We have to get over it. We have to be adaptive. Just because we're more familiar with a certain technology doesn't mean it's right for our business partners. Business needs must be at the forefront or the center of standards setting and technology selection. Operational support is a factor, our work is a factor, but it should not be the predominant element. We have to put our partner's needs first. The golden rule also works for IT.
The third thing I want to talk to you about is being passionate about what you do. I'm a nerd, a geek, whatever else millennials call technology enthusiasts. I'm unapologetic about my love for IT. I encourage you to also love what you do; because sometimes that's the only reward we're going to get in IT. We're going to spend a lot of time solving business problems that no one is going to thank you for. You're going to have to celebrate yourself. You're going to have to celebrate your team. Don't get upset if an accomplishment goes unnoticed. Sometimes IT is a thankless job. When you love what you do, you'll also enjoy learning more about it: studying it, spending time doing it, getting really good at it, being proud of it, and I think that's really, really important as IT pros. Now some of us, we may have lost that loving feeling. Perhaps it's time for you to explore a new type of technology, learn a new coding language, study information security, or earn your CISSP. If you've lost that fire, I encourage you to rekindle your relationship with IT. I believe it's important to love what you do, because when you do it'll show in your work and your team and your career will benefit.
My final and most important relationship point is don't get married, that is don't get married to a single technology. In IT, we must keep dating. Technology evolves. It evolves, and that's the whole point of it. Change is our job, and we must stay current. It's our responsibility to enable business partners with new technology and to support their changing business objectives. To remain relevant, we have to accept change, embrace it, and lead it. We can't wed ourselves to our first programming language. If so, I would still be programming in Pascal. So, as business needs change and evolve, our profession requires that we basically date several technologies at the same time. Development languages will change. Project management methodologies will come and go. New standards, regulations, and frameworks will be introduced. But as IT pros, we are expected to facilitate digital transformation. To do so, we can't get ourselves super committed.
In conclusion, communication is key. Put your partners' needs first. Passion is important. And don't get married. So whether you've never been in a relationship or you're challenged with navigating the new IT landscape, either way, I hope these tips have helped you. Thank you.
That was great, and IT is a lot like being in a relationship, only hopefully not a codependent one. Learning to speak the language of your stakeholders, not just the help desk system, and a little bit of mindfulness about their needs goes a long way. And sometimes, I know that when I'm heads down and over committed, I forget how important communication is, especially to celebrate wins at the end of a long project. I think too often we jump right back into the next task and the backlog, but it's important to stop sometimes and recognize how much the team actually does. As for getting married to technology, a long time ago I was married to Pascal, but it broke my heart. But, I'm dating Node and Python now.
We have a huge lineup again this year and hope that you enjoy these sessions. All of our speakers will be on chat during each session, and we encourage your questions and comments. It's a great opportunity to interact live with SolarWinds experts of all types, and of course, each other. The community chatter is always great. It's like instant THWACK posts in an open congress. Geeky prizes and giveaways are back this year, which we'll be doing live between sessions. And for the first time, we're doing swag bags for everyone who attends. They'll be unlocked in the THWACK store after your second day. Check out the THWACKcamp page for all the details. You can also earn thousands of THWACK points attending sessions and for each survey you fill out, so let us know how we're doing. It's good for everybody.
For those of you who are new to the THWACK community, THWACK points are highly sought after and accumulated by engaging with other users. You can cash these points in our online store for cool physical swag that we ship to you for free. And of course, you will need to be logged into THWACK to participate in and stream the sessions, but this and tomorrow's keynote are open to all, but at the end of the keynotes, the stream will end unless you're signed in. Just click the button at the top of the screen or under the chat, and if you need an account, setup takes less than a minute.
Thank you again for attending THWACKcamp 2017. It's a pleasure to hang out with you all and we'll see you online in just a few minutes.