Last week, I was fortunate to be invited and able to attend the return of Zenoss GalaxZ16, the company's annual User Conference which took place May 10-12, 2016. The conference had its home in Austin, TX, so the city went from being the "Live Music Capital of the World" to the "Live Monitoring Capital of the World"... for at least those three days anyway.
If you aren't yet familiar with Zenoss, they're an Austin-based software vendor that delivers a powerful yet easy-to-use monitoring solution. Zenoss helps IT operations transform from a break-fix, reactive mode to proactive, agile management.
We might not all agree on how to say the company name -- over the course of the event, I heard it pronounced at least three different ways: "ZEE+NO+SSS", "ZEN+OH+SSS" or "ZEN+AUS" (like sauce) -- but no matter how it rolls off your tongue, the same level of admiration and affection for the company, its employees and the solution was evident.
This was the second year for the Zenoss branded user conference, and as I said last year, the team had a difficult challenge of meeting and exceeding the very high bar set with the inaugural event launched in 2015. With its new VP of marketing at the helm and an additive mix of new cast members to the marketing team, this crew did a fantastic job of topping last year's event: they doubled attendance, increased the number of sponsors, introduced a scholarship program, added more breakout and training sessions, included a Zenius Bar staffed with Zenoss experts to answer those hard, technical questions, upgraded the free Wi-Fi throughout the conference and improved the seating arrangements by introducing more comfortable seats and tables. It was evident that they listened and responded to much of the attendee feedback made last year.
One other key addition to this year's conference was the introduction of an iOS/Android App that really helped keep attendees connected and informed. Registered attendees could download the GalaxZ16 event guide app from
their favorite app store and log in to build a personalized schedule,
receive important event notifications, network with other attendees and
provide feedback on sessions and the conference. Quite handy! It was also used for polling, contests, a final survey, social media and more.
Austin was the perfect place to host GalaxZ16. The venue moved to the brand new downtown JW Marriott building which did a great job of housing the conference. And as is our way in Austin, Zenoss kept everyone both highly entertained and well fed. I'm pretty cynical when it comes to free conference food, but Zenoss once again provided its members with one of the best breakfast and lunch offerings each day of the show!
At the conclusion of Day 2, Zenoss went from educator and instructor to entertainer, letting the crowd get loose with a bit of late night free entertainment, networking and fun at Trinity Hall. And to follow that up, Day 3 kicked off with what was dubbed a "Hair-of-the-Zebra" breakfast (in honor of the Zenoss mascot, Zenny). If you were up all night like the bat population of Austin, you could have stumbled into breakfast the next morning and capped things off with a Bloody Mary or Mimosa to get your day started. Me? My poison is bacon. :)
Zenoss CEO, Greg Stock, does a really great job at communicating what the company stands for and how it values its partners and customers. But during the opening keynote session this year, he one upped himself by showcasing his balancing skills on a hover board. Giving a keynote presentation on a hover board is one thing, but giving a keynote presentation on a hover board while also playing a ukulele and taking a couple of Zelfies (a Zenoss selfie) with the audience... well, that's mad skills.
Last year, I wrote about how the conference was very focused on how much Zenoss valued its customers. And that was still a core tenet of the company's message this year with Greg Stock reiterating: Zenoss believes they are "better together," driving IT innovation to support a unique ecosystem. GalaxZ16 was about bringing together Zenoss + Partners + Customers and community.
Joining Greg Stock with Keynote presentations were ServiceNow's Chris Pope ("The World of IT") and Rackspace's Brian Kelly ("Trust in the Cloud Enables its Power"), along with Zenoss executives Megan Lueders VP of Marketing, Brian Wilson SVP of Customer Success, and Marcus MacNeill VP of Product Management. It also included two panel discussions, one with partners and the other with customers. Highlights included:
- Zenoss customers make the world go 'round - financial services for
9.8 million brokerage accounts, half a million stock market trades per
day, $10 trillion in managed assets, 1 billion online prescription
transactions per year.
- It's not about vendor relationships. It's about partnerships.
- Complexity is the enemy of security.
- Viptela introduced the phrase: "Mean Time To Innocence." The average time it takes for a team to prove their innocence from the current outage.
- Audience Poll: Over the next two years, what will have the greatest impact on monitoring in your organization. 37% said new technologies and Hybrid IT delivery models; 20% said ITOM integration and process automation; 17% said DevOps.
- New trends: Death of the datacenter as we know it. And "Slow is the new down" - No longer about five 9s, but the user experience complaining of a 12 second delay instead of a 4 second delay.
- Top cloud challenges: 1) Lack of resources / expertise 2) Security 3) Compliance -- "Security is going to be the reason you move to the cloud."
- We no longer are forced to dig for data. Today, it is being pushed.
Breakout presentations throughout the event included those from Zenoss employees. You could:
- Dive deeper into Zenoss 5.0.
- Gain a better picture from a roadmap discussion.
- Find out what Cisco was doing with Zenoss and UCS.
- Better understand the Zenoss SaaS offering called ZaaS.
- Talk with MSPs and see how they are using the technology and find out about any "gotchas" they may have already encountered.
- Find out more about building, adding and using Zenoss ZenPacks to provide additional capabilities.
Customers and partners were also part of the sessions, offering valuable insight and best practices from personal experiences: GE, Skills 1st, Acxiom, LayerX, NWN Corporation, Rackspace, Nuance, MCNA, Grainger, Secure-24, SOPRIS Technologies, Datalink, University of Maryland, Conway Medical Center, Viptela, and PagerDuty. They discussed:
- Events transforms
- UC Insight with Log Analytics
- Integrating ServiceNow and Incident Management
- The link between monitoring and security
- Zenoss as a cloud offering
- and more.
After sitting through a number of great presentations and speaking with various experts in the vendor hall, I'll be digesting this information for weeks. So many good things came out of this conference.
If you weren't able to attend, you can check out some of my GalaxZ16 photos. And you can still watch the below highlight video to see what you may have missed.
Once again, a special thank you to Zenoss for the invite. The pressure is now on for year three! Bigger, better, stronger.