Video with Josh Stephens, VP of Technology and Head Geek at SolarWinds
In the past we have posted about the different network monitoring tools that SolarWinds has to offer. You have probably seen the popular guide on how to track IP addresses, or read about simple monitoring for any SNMP device with Network Device Monitor. We have even covered SolarWinds’ SCP Network Management certification which was released earlier this year.
Earlier this year I got a chance to sit down with Josh Stephens, VP of Technology and Head Geek at SolarWinds, to learn more about the company, the products and the fun side of SolarWinds. In this video interview you’ll hear Josh explain why this year has been monumental for SolarWinds, how the company is helping the community and what fun projects are in the works. Josh also shared some of his latest projects, including his ComputerWorld column and SolarWinds Films.
Watch the interview with Josh Stephens below, or see full transcript following the video.
Following is a full transcript of the interview.
Josh Stephens: Hello, I’m Josh Stevens, VP of Technology and Head Geek at SolarWinds. This year at VMworld is very different for SolarWinds from a year ago, because a year ago SolarWinds really focused primarily on network management. Since then, we’ve transitioned, and we are now an IT management company, meaning, we have solutions to manage all of your IT infrastructure, be it networking, systems and applications, a virtualization infrastructure, storage area networks or even log and event management. That transition for us is really key.
I’m excited to be at VMworld this year to talk about that transition and to discover how our customers are reacting, and how the community at large for VMware is reacting, to some of our new products that focus specifically on this space.
Three key new products, especially for this show, from SolarWinds are the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, the SolarWinds Storage Manager and the brand new SolarWinds Log & Event Manager.
Now, Virtualization Manager really focuses on managing all of your virtualization infrastructure, all the way through capacity planning, capacity optimization and even being able to do chargeback for your private Cloud.
Storage Manager really ties in, in addition to virtualization infrastructure managing, all of your storage area networks, or your SANs. The most common question I’ve gotten so far at the show this year has been, “Can you manage all the way down to the SAN?” They’re used to finding solutions that manage the virtual infrastructure, but typically they stop there.
Being able to provide performance metrics all the way down to the disc, through the LUN, through the array, to really understand where you’re having capacity issues in that virtual infrastructure, all the way down through the SAN is something that we’re able to do that not a lot of other people do.
Last but not least, the Log & Event Manager is really important when you’re starting to think about security and compliance. Compliance is a big focus this year at VMworld, so we’re happy to be able to talk about that solution and how it can help our customers.
When it comes to choosing SolarWinds, the first thing I tell all customers is that they really need to go out and try the solutions they’re evaluating. I would never expect someone to buy SolarWinds without trying it out. What’s cool about SolarWinds is you can download the solutions for free to try them out at SolarWinds.com.
Now, once you’ve done that, you can have them up and running in under an hour. Usually, that same day you’ll start to see some real return on investment of your time. Even though you haven’t bought the products yet, you’ll start to see how it will be helping you over time.
One of the most common issues I face in sales is that it’s a 30-day cycle for the evaluation. But a lot of people download it, evaluate it and start using it. They’re worried that the evaluation might run out before they can actually buy it, because they start to see so much value from the product. That’s a good problem to have.
One of the things that really distinguishes SolarWinds from other companies in this space is we have a large focus on community. Our community is really what makes us successful. All of our road map direction, our acquisition strategy, every feature we add in the product is driven by the community.
It’s really important for people to understand that that community is how we go about doing business. We provide a lot of solutions for the community. We provide a website called Thwack.com for the community to meet and collaborate around best practices in managing their IT infrastructure and, of course, in using our solutions.
Now as a part of that strategy we provide them with free video education both around our products and general education around IT management. We also provide a lot of documentation. Most importantly, we provide that platform so they can collaborate with other experts in the industry.
As our industry expands we find that more and more junior engineers are doing senior level tasks. providing a platform where a junior level person can have access to someone who’s been there and done that before and share and get value from their experience is really a key part of what this platform and our community provides.
One of the cool things we’re able to show people this year at VMworld is we’ve taken several movies that are well known to geeks like me and you out in the industry, like “The Matrix” or “The Blues Brothers,” and we’ve actually converted those to be DTIT themes. We have “The Virtual Matrix”, for instance, that we’re running with or “Bandwidth Brothers” or “Wan’s World.”
We’ve actually done some movie spoofs there. We’ve got free movie posters people are already taking from us and hanging up back in their cubes at home. We’re giving out some free t-shirts that have the same theme as the movies. It’s been a lot of fun, and we’ve had a great reaction from the community so far at the show.
In terms of what’s next for SolarWinds, you can expect us to continue to expand our footprint in terms of other areas of IT management and to continue to offer more integration of the products we already have. We want to be sure that all of our customers can get all the value from those products within their dashboards and their operation centers and to really make it clear that there’s a simple integration for all of the products that pull together to solve those needs.
You’ll also see us focusing a little bit more on some how-to videos because we have found our community is really hungry for educational content around IT management best practices. Look for that from SolarWinds as well.
So I’m staying pretty busy these days. A lot of people at the show have come up and said they recognize me from our videos, which is pretty cool. I also have a blog at SolarWinds.com and also on Thwack, our community site. This year I’m blogging at ComputerWorld; I have a weekly blog there that we talk about IT management best practices and network fundamentals.
I’m also spending a lot of time with our Department of Defense here in the U. S. these days. As a veteran myself, I’m an expert in that space, providing them with some best practices and helping them really rewrite the ways that IT management is done within the DOD. I’m having a lot of fun with that as well.
In terms of what’s next for me I’m spending a lot of time these days with customers, and I want to continue to do more and more of that over the next few months.
While it’s certainly great to be able to collaborate with customers via the community and over the phone or via a WebEx session, there’s nothing like seeing it in person, watching a customer use your product to do their daily job, and getting from that experience ideas on how you might improve it and how you might improve their quality of life there in using their product and really doing their IT management functions. I love to go out and visit with the customers and see them use the products and get ideas. I’ll be doing a little bit more of that coming forward.
In terms of what I do with my free time and also about living in Austin, Texas, I’m big time into dogs. I’m a dog trainer on the side. I really enjoy spending time with those guys and teaching them new things. I do that quite a bit, but Austin, Texas is a great place to live. It’s exceptionally hot and dry this year, more so than usual, but it’s a great town. If you love live music, if you love barbeque, if you love to just be outside and enjoy nature, Austin, Texas is a cool place to be.