The first rule of Splunk .Conf is you don’t talk about Splunk.Conf. Well luckily, I’m not Brad Pitt and this isn’t Fight Club, so wheels up and here we go.
Day 0 – Sunday
Landing early evening in Orlando, I jump straight into an Uber and head to my hotel. While on the road, I drop a message out on the UK partner WhatsApp group, kindly set up by Emanuele Pasqualucci from Splunk to coordinate us Brits abroad. The event doesn’t formally start with registration until tomorrow, but I knew a few other partners were arriving early for Splunk University to recertify before the main event, so took the opportunity for introductions.
Emanuele replies on WhatsApp inviting me down to the resort with the rest of the UK partner team. I arrive to find him in deep conversation with the others. “John!!! Lovely to meet you, get a margarita down you.” Well… Start as you mean to continue… The second rule of .Conf is you never turn down a drink from a Splunk host. A large part of the Splunk ethos is to engineer the amazing while having fun. After a couple more margaritas, we all head back to our rooms to get some rest before registration.
Day 1 – Monday
The following morning at the Dolphin Hotel, there’s no denying the presence of the conference. 10,000 people in total attended during the course of the week and every square inch of the resort is branded. Weaving through the vast corridors, I’m directed down to the registration hall where hundreds of other attendees stand in queue. Splunk are on fire though, and their efficiency of handling registration is as fluid as data manipulation and I’m registered, badged up and ready to .Conf18 in just 15 minutes.
Monday evening played host to Boss of the NOC and SOC events. These are hands on exercises where teams battle it out with Splunk as their weapon to defend against threats. Using a realistic but fictitious enterprise environment, teams race to answer questions based on scenarios in the fastest time possible. This was a five-hour hackathon, and other than the relentless rattle of over a thousand keyboards, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Live results were displayed on vast projection screens, showing the top ten teams as everybody battled it out for the top spot.
Slightly weary from the long-haul flight the day before, I retire to my hotel room at midnight to rest before the first official day starting with Doug Merritt’s Keynote.
Day 2 – Tuesday
The Keynote talks present Splunk with somewhat of a logistical challenge – trying to fit between 9000 – 10,000 attendees in one space is no easy task. But they somehow managed it.
As well as introducing a ton of new Splunk features, Doug’s key messages were “Make things happen with data” and “People who can make things happen with data are the most valuable players on the field”.
Next came the much-anticipated launch of Splunk>Next new features and Enterprise 7.2 Data Stream Processor, Data Fabric Search increasing search times by 1400% and Splunk Mobile allowing full access to dashboards and resolutions from your mobile and even Apple watch.
Only two years ago. .Conf had less than 4000 attendees, seeing that double in such a small space of time shows the momentum that Splunk has worldwide. You can find the full key note presentations here to get the full insight https://conf.splunk.com/learn/keynotes.html
As soon as the Keynote was over I was fired up, ready for the day ahead. I’d scheduled all of my sessions on the Splunk app before leaving for Orlando. A little too eager to see key topics, I’d booked five before I realised I’d fallen victim to the rookie error of not leaving time free for lunch.
By 5pm, I’d taken onboard about as much Splunk as my mind could handle and was on my way to meet up with the Partner group for the evenings networking events. First off was to the aptly named “Pub Crawl” around the main Pavilion Area that hosted both the Splunk product and partner stalls. Having completed a swift tour of the stands and a three-lap race circuit with a Splunk Dashboard powered racing simulator, kindly arranged by Siyka Andreeva from the Partner Management team, it was time to move on.
Next up was the EMEA Partner networking social where we once again gathered with the other UK teams in a picturesque inner courtyard within the resort. It was here that I finally met up with Chris Pickerill, a long-term friend of Q Associates. The crazy thing about such large-scale conferences is that you can literally try and find other attendees for days and still not see them. The night of networking was not yet over as we headed straight onto the Sales and Engineering gathering overlooking the Yacht Club Marina. What started to occur to me was how much emphasis Splunk placed on making attendees feel welcome. From regular employees right up to Vice Presidents, all in attendance made sure everyone felt welcome. Past 10pm, the Disney firework spectacle erupted, bars shut down and .Conf day two drew to a close.
To find out how I ended up at Universal’s Island of Adventure and what practical jokes Steve Wozniak used to play on his school friends, make sure you tune back in for Thursday’s blog post.