What I learned at Splunk Conf

This one is a bit on delay. I wrote up something for our internal teams… and now a blog!

The TL;DR:

  • Splunk enables all kinds of cool solutions
  • Randomly approaching strangers and talking to them about the cool things they do can be very rewarding
  • The Splunk Ninjas are building a very nice community of people

I asked to go to Splunk conf early this year. Many of our customers were looking at it or starting to deploy it and I thought knowing more would be valuable. I joined the Data Fabrics minors and got authorization to attend the conf. I thought it would be a low-key event at the time.

The conference itself was great! Technical and small, but with the keynote polish of a bigger conference. I had gone to the OpenStack conference earlier in the year and their keynotes felt like one big, shameless commercial. Splunk, by contrast had quite a bit of technical meat and their customer/partner highlights were more about telling the story and less about cramming a product or vendor down my throat. I loved it!

Splunk enables all kinds of cool solutions.

Many think of Splunk as a security tool. While that is one of its more popular uses for it, there are many more exciting applications. Here are some of the things people are doing with Splunk: User analysis, Customer Relationship Management, Environmental anomaly detection to enable early warning for disasters, machine learning and to a degree, building self-healing environments. I like the steps they are taking to improve user experience. I love their new search functionality. Multiple sites? Data in the cloud? I can search all of the above at once? SIGN ME UP. I loved the session on sizing. The DR session was a bit of a disappointment because it was basically “We are going to back up Splunk and call it disaster recovery” — Seriously, gain some efficiency in node utilization and put that data on a shared platform so you can enable some real DR. No one wants to hear that their mission-critical app is in a restore process that could take days. As my son’s grade school teacher reminds him, “Make good choices.” My favorite session of the week was one about deploying Splunk to the cloud using devops tools. I am a huge fan of standardization, automation and configuration management, so showing people how to deploy apps by using tools that make your environment run more elegantly excites me. I’ve seen too much of the other side of that coin. The Splunk with Spark session was awesome too, but a little too deep for me given my lack of Spark experience. Kaiser did a great presentation on security in the healthcare space. I recommend taking a look at the slides from that session, they were great!

Randomly approaching strangers and talking to them about the cool things they do can be very rewarding.

The first day of the conference, I was on my own. By then, I knew that the Splunk ninja team was at the conference, but did not have a way to get in touch with them to coordinate lunch. Instead of playing a loner, I found a friendly group of strangers and sat down. I lost geography roulette, but met a retail customer local to Seattle -a contact I didn’t have. We spoke about their Splunk solution. They started by requesting storage from their storage team, but the storage they were using didn’t meet their performance needs after they added Solr. Splunk suggested switching to Isilon for warm and cold buckets and now it works great. Their new issue is memory efficiency on the hosts. They want to be able to use more of the memory. We have a solution for that!

The next morning, I caught a woman from the Kaiser security team and she shared some information on how Kaiser uses Splunk. She suggested attending the session I mentioned above, which was extremely helpful from both a learning about Splunk and a business use case perspective.

The Splunk Ninjas are building a very nice community of people.

As a relative newbie to the technology, the conference was extremely welcoming. People would come up and engage me and ask how they could help me learn when I told them I was new. I had so many helpful conversations. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. There seemed to be more women at this conference than most of the ones I have attended. Getting that sense of community at a conference is rare for me outside of EMC World. If you have room for a conference next year and an interest in big data, check it out!

I spent a fair bit of time with our EMC Splunk Ninjas and the experience was the same. They were so humble, fun and eager to help. Hanging with them, I felt like I was part of their team -I still do. It’s tough to build a tiger team of technical specialists and come out with a group of people that aren’t exclusive. I cannot wait to learn more about how to do this!

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