Director of DevOps, a YCombinator finance company
“Before we engaged Aster Labs, we had a baseline level of monitoring set up, but we kept seeing edge cases where something would go down or break that we hadn’t seen coming. Every time there was an outage, we would be scrambling to figure out what had happened, why things had happened that way, and what it was going to take to get diagnostics to avoid it for the next time. The holes we had in our monitoring and our lack of holistic strategy led to an outage that upset and enraged our non-technical business partners and eroded their trust in us.
In the San Francisco engineering culture, bringing in an outside expert to solve a strategy-level problem is difficult to justify when you have talented people working for you and when you consider technology strategy a core competency. But monitoring is a niche. You want to hire an expert when it comes to something that is as easy to get wrong as monitoring, and it’s the explicit area of expertise for Aster Labs. Mike Julian has a reputation in the monitoring space of being very effective in solving these problems in a short period of time. It really was a no-brainer to hire Mike.
Mike developed a strategy to help us approach monitoring less from the technical side and more from the perspective of the business metrics that mattered. With the strategy, when something went down that could affect the business, we had a detailed run book for how to deal with it and the potential causes for certain alert triggers. It gave us insight and visibility so we could then apply ourselves to problems that came up. We could identify problems before they caused user-facing problems.
From an external perspective, we went down less. Internally, it helped rebuild some of the eroded trust between engineering and the business. I could sleep better at night knowing that there wasn’t going to be something simple that would cause an outage. On the flip side, I also wouldn’t get woken up by the monitoring system at 3 a.m. for an alert that wasn’t really a problem. Having an intelligent approach to these things is important and that’s what Aster Labs provided us.
Everyone else I know who does monitoring for a living works for a vendor and the problem with that is that they will tell you why the tool they sell is the answer. Mike’s not wedded to a particular tool or implementation. He is focused on solving the problem and that solution will vary depending on who you are and what your constraints are.”
“Mike Julian has worked on a wide range of problems for us and has delivered fantastic value for our investment with improvements in our database performance and website availability. He has helped our business mitigate risk and be more resilient to unexpected events by advising us on the migration back-end infrastructure from a physical datacenter into Amazon Web Services. When we had an outage at our main office that lasted nearly 24 hours, our website and ticketing system remained unaffected thanks to Mike’s work, allowing our normal business operations to continue unimpeded and saving us hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential lost revenue. Without his insight and foresight, several revenue and non-revenue-generating websites would have gone down and we would have lost the ability to sell tickets and properly account for customer purchases.
In San Francisco, there are plenty of options to go with for the expertise I need at a range of prices. But you’re going to be hard-pressed to find another company that takes the same strategic approach to fixing problems that Aster Labs does. When we present a problem to Aster Labs, Mike asks us the right questions to uncover what we’re looking to achieve for our business so he can present the right solutions. Instead of proposals full of line items and hourly estimations, Aster Labs presents us with proposals that outline the why behind the project and the outcome that will be achieved at a fixed price. That’s the price I pay, no matter what it takes to get it done.
With Aster Labs, I get white-glove service and engineering excellence. Mike is there every step of the way. During a particularly large and involved project, we had weekly meetings to discuss project progress and the impact each step would have on our business. All my questions were answered. It’s clear Mike takes so much pride in his work and the excellence is abundant. I would highly recommend Aster Labs.”
“As one of the largest ICT service providers in Switzerland, accurate monitoring is very important to our business to meet our SLA requirements and the needs of our customers.
It was clear from Mike’s newsletter, Monitoring Weekly, and book, Practical Monitoring, that he was the monitoring expert and could provide a neutral, professional opinion, that would help us optimize our monitoring.
Aster Labs assessed our monitoring platform for strengths, weaknesses, and overall effectiveness. Following the assessment, we received a report that included an action plan with clear recommendations and timelines.
Engaging Aster Labs also helped unify the affected internal stakeholders, who were all very happy we got an expert to do the audit and that we have a now have an action plan. As a result of the project, our company better understands the value monitoring brings to our business.
Even though we have a lot of technical expertise, we benefited from Mike’s extensive experience. As a bonus, the fact that we had done this independent report of our systems was very well-received by an ISO 27001 auditor, who specifically mentioned the value of what we did with Aster Labs.
I enjoyed every conversation we had with Mike. It’s great to be able to talk to an expert who very clearly articulates solutions and ideas. We also appreciated that he didn’t simply deliver the report but gave us the opportunity to give feedback and took our suggestions into account. I highly recommend him.”
“Mike Julian is a deep technologist with a ton of expertise in operations, DevOps, monitoring and metrics. Anything to do with setting up, improving, enhancing, maintaining or monitoring infrastructure is totally in his wheelhouse.
We have a hosted monitoring service and we provide software agents that customers can install on their infrastructure that can collect data and send it back to us. Mike helped us with improving and enhancing our capabilities for that software and better serve our customer’s needs. He designed and implemented support for four popular configuration management systems that our customers use so they could install our software through their existing systems instead of having them use our custom installer. Because of Mike’s work, we increased our ability to convert new users by reducing friction in that part of our onboarding process.
Mike makes working with him super easy by providing clear supporting documentation and regular updates. He anticipates all the needs I have as a project owner and he’s always one step ahead. He also surfaces early any unforeseen challenges encountered and provides alternatives and trade-offs, making it easy for me to make a choice. There’s minimal amount of time required on my part to make sure the project is successful.
What sets Mike apart is his valuable combination of skills. He’s deeply technical, understands what the users’ needs are, and communicates clearly. He’ll critically evaluate your particular needs – which vary greatly from organization to organization – and curate a tailored solution. He has a high level of integrity, which is crucial. I’d absolutely recommend him.”
“I had a superb experience working with Mike to implement a customer-facing feature of our service (a log analysis SaaS). This component had unusual UX requirements because, for some users, it would be their first experience with our product. Instead of implementing something blindly, Mike took the time to learn about our users and their knowledge when they encountered this feature. I’ll gladly work with Mike again.”
“Mike adds tremendous value because of his unique combination of skills, monitoring experience, and business savvy. His expertise in the monitoring arena helped shape our messaging and understand both our prospects and customers to a degree I previously thought impossible. Mike’s expertise fills that precarious gap between product and marketing that many monitoring companies experience — to their great peril. Don’t hesitate to AMA (ask Mike anything). He’ll give you a helpful answer 100% of the time.”