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SLOconf 2023 QA: Kit Merker of Nobl9 Sums Up the Successful Year Three Event


SLOconf, the only event dedicated to the practice and application of Service Level Objectives (SLOs), took place this week and had a record turnout. Now in its third year, the conference featured more than 70 speakers with presentations laser-focused on all aspects of SLOs. All sessions can be seen on this YouTube playlist, and to help attendees decide on the best sessions for them, Nobl9 published a blog on how to Choose Your Own SLOconf Adventure.

To hear more about the week, we caught up with Kit Merker, Chief Growth Officer at Nobl9, the host of the conference. Nobl9 introduced results from The State of SLOs survey, new product updates, and the Nobl9 Delivery Network.

VMblog: This was the third year for SLOconf. How has the event and session topics changed or evolved?

Kit Merker:  SLOconf started back in 2021 from a joke in a tweet. And then the SLO enthusiasts out there wouldn't let me off the hook so I had to create the event. This was during COVID, and I had a pretty negative experience at an online event so I didn't want to replicate that. We decided as a community to do something different - lots of practitioner-led talks, only 30 minutes per day of interactive sessions, attend-while-you-work, asynchronous, maximally inclusive, and importantly, no sales pitch. This year we added in-person local events all over the world, led by local community organizers in cities like Tokyo, New York, Sydney, London, Chennai, Zurich, and more. The session topics are also moving into discussions around broader deployments and new use cases.

VMblog: Did the level of attendance and interactions give you any indication or insight into where the market is now and/or where it's headed?

Merker:  With over 2,000 registrations it is clear that SLOs are a hot topic. According to our survey, 80% of companies increased focus on reliability due to the pandemic. I think the biggest shift we're seeing in conversations with attendees is a move from "what are SLOs?" in years past to "how can I scale SLOs?" as the market has matured and gone mainstream. 

There were speakers who are not just considering SLOs or trying to build an internal platform, but that have adopted tools, open source standards, and industry best practices, and are now seeing the significant business benefits of SLOs. For example, we spoke to Paul Nashawaty from Enterprise Strategy Group who recently found a 92% reduction of noisy alerts at OutSystems from the adoption of SLOs. His full whitepaper, Ensuring Business Reliability and Reputation through SLOs details how SLOs can help impact business decisions, not just technology teams.

VMblog: How does this compare to the results from the recent survey on SLOs that Nobl9 conducted?

Merker:  For The State of Service Level Objectives (SLOs) 2023, survey, we received responses from more than 300 IT professionals and executives who were verified by the third-party market research firm Dimensional Research. This was our second survey around the State of SLOs and usage. It found that SLOs are growing in popularity and their usage is becoming more mature and more broadly distributed for a number of reasons. The main one is business results - whether it be ensuring reliability, creating clear, measurable relationships between business goals and their outcomes or saving money. For example, 82 percent of respondents intend to increase their use of SLOs, and 96 percent have mapped SLOs directly to their business operations or already have a plan to. Results are also becoming quantitative with 95 percent of respondents indicating that SLOs help them make better business decisions with 27 percent of companies stating that SLOs have saved them $500,000 or more.

VMblog: What new product features were announced this week?

Merker:  During the last several years of delivering SLOs to our customers, we've learned a lot about making SLO calculations resilient, and the new features are focused on reliability and resiliency. A few key ones are:

  • Improved calculation precision - which addresses technical debt that can lead to irregularities, such as occasional spikes in reliability charts in Nobl9 to show over 100% or under 0%.
  • Query Checker - a capability that temporarily puts newly created SLOs in a "testing" state and automatically checks the query used in the SLO to make sure that it's correct and supported. Currently Query Tester is available for New Relic, Datadog, and Dynatrace, but we'll be expanding the list of supported data sources soon.
  • Metrics Health Notifier, a tool that detects anomalies in SLI data, proactively notifies customers about issues, and provides information about how to address them. The first version of Metrics Health Notifier will inform users about missing data, and in the future it will be expanded with more anomaly categories.

We also announced this week the availability of Nobl9 on Google Cloud Platform in addition to AWS, giving enterprise customers choice in how they run and scale their SLO Platform. 

VMblog: Nobl9 is collaborating more with other vendors to simplify the deployment of SLOs. How are you doing this and with which companies?

Merker:  We introduced the Nobl9 Delivery Network (N9DN) this week to help organizations accelerate software development and improve measured reliability. The N9DN brings together leading professional services companies, open standards, industry best practices, and pre-defined service offerings. Members of the N9DN include Cognizant Consulting, Coravant, DoIt, Ergonautic, F33, NearForm, Teleion, and VSceptre.

VMblog: There's a lot of talk about GPT these days, and there is a SLOgpt. What does it do?

Merker:  This week we introduced a beta version at that allows users to generate a Service Level Objective from a prompt image which can be as easy as taking a screenshot of your monitoring system and uploading it. We also have a number of options already in the system that people can try, if they don't use their own data. is powered by Google Vertex AI and PaLM 2, the new large language model (LLM) developed by Google and announced at its 2023 Google I/O conference, as well as Nobl9 SLI Analyzer.

VMblog: What's next for SLOconf?

Merker:  We are expecting next year's SLOconf to be even bigger. Due to the huge success of the in-person local events at SLOconf this year including London, Tokyo, New York, Santa Clara, Sydney, Zurich, Chennai, Dublin, Madrid and Poznan - we are asking our community where and how they'd like it to run in the future. Although SLOconf was started online, we are constantly evolving to meet the needs of our community and ensure learning, safety, and inclusion for these fun and educational events. The in-person conversations, topics and networking were incredibly active and helpful in initiating new discussions around SLOs and helping support our strong ecosystem. We appreciate people coming out to talk SLOs and thank all of our 2023 speakers, sponsors and event hosts.


Published Thursday, May 18, 2023 2:01 PM by David Marshall
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