This year's Monitorama is quickly approaching. This year, the event is hosted in Portland, Oregon, from June 27 to 29th. It features talks from industry experts and community leaders on all things monitoring, observability, SLI/SLO, and most importantly, what practitioners are doing (not vendors and providers).
Q&A: Monitorama 2022
In preparation, we've asked our CEO and possible #1 Monitorama fan, Mehdi Daoudi, to answer a few questions on the event and his perception of changes in monitoring and observability over the past few years.
Q: As we go into Monitorama, what would you like to say to the attendees?
A: Be sure to maintain an open mind. I think that open-mindedness and the willingness to learn, not criticize or judge, has always been the beauty of Monitorama. Come open-minded and challenging. I literally can't wait to hear what people have done to improve their monitoring and observability tooling and support their teams. How did they bring more resiliency and reliability to the businesses they are in charge of protecting and running?
I love the themes of Monitorama, the single-threaded, hyper-focused methodology that Jason has put together. As ever, I'm really looking forward to learning new things. The first time I heard about observability, for example, was in 2017 at Monitorama. That's when people started talking about it, and look how much it has changed, and evolved since. I can't wait to hear about the latest techniques, processes, methodologies, and tools. I want to simply put my feet under the table and learn for three days.
I would also like to thank everyone attending Monitorama because most of the guys and gals that will be there are with some of the companies that kept us sane during the pandemic. So, thank you for all your hard work. I literally cannot imagine what our grandparents went through in 1918 when the pandemic happened and the war was going on at the same time. The fact that we had Zoom, Netflix and Amazon Prime to keep the kids entertained while never stopping learning, thanks to the internet, is amazing. So, a huge thanks to all these people, the people I call the Internet builders and operators, for your amazing job.
Q: You've always looked with fondness on the Monitorama event. What is It you love about Monitorama?
A: I love Monitorama first because it has always been a monitoring-focused event and has brought people together from small to large companies who monitor for a living. It's driven by practitioners, so I like it so much partly because of jealousy — I wish I had had something like this to go to when I was a practitioner.
I also like the single-track focus. It's an unique event since there aren't 20 rooms you go to, it's just one room where you all listen to the same speaker presenting at the same time.
It's also amazing because you hear a lot of "This is how we've done it," "This is how company ABC did it," and "These are the challenges we went through." It's very hands-on. And the host, Jason Dixon, is amazing, of course.
Q: How do you feel about this one as the first in-person event for the last two years?
A: Returning to Monitorama in-person for the first time in two years makes me feel excited. Like a little kid who's been deprived of visiting an ice cream shop—or, because it's Portland, a donut shop—for the past two plus years, and so we get to be unleashed on this event. So, really looking forward to it.
I'm interested to see what people have done around observability and monitoring over the past two plus years, how they've adapted to this distributed work/work remotely/work-from-home environment, and how it is impacting them.
Q: What do you feel has been Catchpoint's role leading up to this event? What has our role been since the start of COVID?
A: Our mission at Catchpoint is to give tools, insight, visibility, and data telemetry sprinkled with some magic pixie dust to companies to make sure that their online services work. During COVID, we have taken on a whole different role, a more important role in fact, because we are the watchers.
When most monitoring tools were looking inwards, we were the ones looking outwards. With everybody working from home, shopping from home, doing everything from home from the last mile of the internet... that has made our capabilities more important than ever before. Now people realize why, having a synthetic agent on New York RCN versus New York ATT, is important. The need for that level of end-user visibility and observability came to light during COVID more than ever before.
It also allowed us to talk and work with new industries that, prior to COVID, didn't see the internet as a viable medium for their businesses. Like the luxury market, for example, that relies mostly on brick-and-mortar stores or auction houses like Sotheby's. Basically, COVID turned their business models upside down. Nobody's going to a super spreader event to bid on a Picasso, right, these must be online. And so, these companies had to shift to digital, and now there is no going back.
Q: We recently launched our annual site reliability survey and asked, "How have work conditions impacted things like morale, knowledge retention, productivity, hiring, and collaboration?" Any predictions or thoughts?
A: I think not being in an office for SREs is like not being inside the hospital for doctors. You learn in the trenches. You learn by seeing people showing up at the emergency room. That's how you practice, how you pick somebody's brain—no pun intended—but where you collaborate and you learn. Now we're going to have to adapt. From an SRE/monitoring/observability perspective, working from home is potentially challenging in terms of retention, knowledge transfer, how we collaborate, how we whiteboard, and how we solve problems.
I also believe, from an anxiety perspective, it's always better to feel like you're part of a team dealing with the problem. Being alone at home, dealing with a crisis, it's stressful. It's even more stressful than if you were in person with a team. This may be me talking from past experiences, but I'm predicting that we will have to address these issues going forward.
It's very hard to deal with complex things remotely, whether that's doctors in a hospital, mechanics fixing a plane, or SREs working on complex systems. The in-person method is still the best way, in my opinion. I'm not advocating one thing versus another. I'm just saying this is a fact. I am interested to see how we solve this going forward.
Q: For these services, talking from the perspective of massive providers, did they successfully keep customer experience intact while also fulfilling their duties to their employees?
A: I think it's too early to tell. What I tell folks at Catchpoint is, this is an experiment. What we think is right Monday might be completely wrong by Friday because we are literally learning on the job, all of us. Whether it's Catchpoint, Apple, Boeing, or whoever. We're learning on the go what the right thing to do is vis-à-vis our employees, their happiness and mental health, along with the success of the companies they work in. There is no silver bullet. I mean look at the biggest company on the planet, Apple, and how many times they've changed their mind about going back to the office, not going back to the office, people don't want to go back to the office… We are dealing with a very fluid situation.
Now, what can we do? What I care about is the productivity of our employees. Productivity doesn't mean, "Hey, you have to do 100 widgets," "Did you do 100 widgets?", or "You're a bad employee because you did 99 widgets." That's not the point. Productivity to me is collaboration. Are you collaborating well with the rest of your team? Because we're all part of a chain. Are we communicating effectively? Are we brainstorming in the right way?
Sometimes I scratch my head and say, my God, we got it all wrong. Then there are days like when we launched WebPageTest Pro recently that was completely designed and built during the pandemic, completely virtual, completely remote, and we see creativity and innovation happening. You look at Apple, they launched an M1 processor entirely virtually.
The question is, how can we sustain these things, how can we do them at scale, and how do companies focus on what we need to do to make the work environment—that is at home now—as comfortable as possible from a technology perspective? Meaning that everybody must have a first-class experience working remotely as if they were in an office. And that starts with chairs, desks, laptops, monitors, keyboards - I mean the usual stuff, done right.
But then it extends to other things, like something as small as sending snacks. We did that at Catchpoint a few months ago, and it was a huge success. It's that sense of belonging and I think that's what's missing the most because, as human beings, we like to belong to tribes. How we deal with that in the future is going to be very important, because we like to belong to a team. For innovation to happen, we need to preserve that feeling, that ability to work as a team.