Spark Chicago: A Place for Peer-Driven Problem Solving

Posted by George Elgin on Nov 27, 2019 9:45:00 AM

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

By George Elgin, Fuel User Group Member and Spark User Summit Presenter 

Spark Chicago-1George Elgin is a principal engineer at Nexum Inc., in Chicago, and a Fuel User Group member. He recently attended and spoke at the Spark User Summit in Chicago. Read on for Elgin’s review of Spark Chicago and learn about the benefits of attending a Spark User Summit event.


I have had the great opportunity to speak at several Spark User Summits over the last couple of years.  Most recently, I presented a talk, "MineMeld Basic Deployment," at Spark Chicago in October. Being in my hometown for the summit makes it that much more rewarding as I get an opportunity to catch up with the community outside of the regular sales or professional services engagement process.

Like last year, the good folks at Fuel put together a great set of speakers sourced from Palo Alto Networks, its technology partners and, in Nexum's case, an authorized training partner, authorized support center and professional services provider. 

Beyond the great talks provided, the one activity I most enjoyed is the "Fast and Furious" activity. The main room breaks up into three groups; each group has an expert from the community or speakers present. The whole room picks a target subject — this year it was alert fatigue — and the individual groups discuss how to address the issue. There is no wrong answer. In the group I was helping, we covered several topical solutions: from basic strategies like leveraging central logging and tuning to help differentiate noise from actionable alerts, to how to use the built-in options to fully or partially automate the response to those alerts.

The principal value here is each group had 15-20 people from all walks of the customer and partner community actively discussing how they address the issue and how different solutions worked to help complement the investment they have in the Palo Alto Networks solutions. As the participants are customers, it’s a decidedly vendor-agnostic discussion around the real pain points and how to approach solving them within the context of the Fuel community.

For me, this exercise captures the heart of the Spark event: getting to hear new approaches to the problems you are struggling with every day. It brings insights on how to better serve my customers, and novel ideas to aid in making their Palo Alto Networks journey successful in protecting their environments and, hopefully, reducing the day-to-day stress.

With such a diversity of experience and expertise, these discussions provide a rich environment to explore what you are doing to solve these problems with others who have taken other approaches to the same challenges. It’s a frenetic and engaging experience. Every participant I spoke with during the closing hours of the event felt the learning and networking experience was on point and rewarding.  They left with new ideas and new perspectives on how to solve the problems they face every day in their environments.

It is hard to break away for a full day, and possibly more if you have to travel, but in terms of value for time spent, the Spark User Summits can't be beaten.


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