To Sungard AS Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Josh Crowe, these are exciting times both in the lab and in the market. In this Q&A session with AVAIL, he pulls back the curtain to give readers a peek into what they can expect from the technologists in the Sungard AS research lab.
Q: Josh, what trends or disruptive technologies do you see shaping the market today?
Josh: There's no question the largest innovation right now is the emergence of public cloud and dominant public cloud providers, like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google. It's a fast-moving, fast-growing space that we need to keep our eyes on because these are not commodity IT platforms. These are differentiated infrastructure platforms with tremendous capabilities that we can leverage to build managed services that add value for our customers. It's a very disruptive time in our space, but a very exciting time, too.
There are also changes in the technologies that connect infrastructures. There are new solutions coming out that provide more dynamic interconnection services between those different platforms. And, there are new methodologies emerging for how customers develop and deploy their applications in the public cloud, on our hosted private cloud or elsewhere.
Q: How are customers changing the way they build applications?
Josh: Some of our customers are taking a more modern, hybrid IT-based approach to architecting their applications. They are using micro services as a way of breaking large software projects into loosely coupled modules that communicate with each other through simple APIs. So, the way applications are being built and deployed today is significantly different than how we did it 10 years ago.
How employees access those applications changed, too. The days of everybody clocking in 9:00-5:00 and sitting behind a desk are gone. Now, employees are much more virtual and mobile and customers want to take advantage of emerging technologies to make applications more available and accessible from anywhere.
Q: What technologies are you currently evaluating or developing in the lab to respond to these trends?
Josh: Recent advances in technology, tools and security within the public cloud have us focusing on offering Sungard AS' services on top of third-party infrastructures. Because of our experience managing all types of infrastructures, we're also focused on advancing our existing hybrid capabilities.
As customers move applications to public or private clouds from legacy data centres, they deal with a lot of technical complexity. To address this, we're helping our product and operations people leverage emerging interconnection tools for managing and monitoring the multiple pockets of IT our customers have.
We spent a large part of last year incubating several technologies and innovations to take the solutions we offer and evolve them to work on public cloud platforms. This came to fruition towards the end of 2015, when we released our very first third-party public cloud offering, Recovery to Cloud on Amazon Web Services. We recently released version 2.0, with the best SLA available across any of our cloud recovery solutions.
So, today, we can recover a customer's applications in the cloud or inside our datacentre. And, we can do that in a heavily automated fashion. I'm really excited about the concept of one-click recovery, which allows customers to execute a disaster recovery test of an actual invocation during a disaster to ensure they are highly recoverable.
Q: What are you doing in the area of micro services?
Josh: From a micro services perspective, we're working to help customers understand how sharding up their applications into piece parts and making them more service-based allows them to best leverage the capabilities of the public cloud. There are lots of opportunities for us to evolve how we offer and support this new methodology in both production and recovery environments.
Q: How do you move developments from the lab to our customers?
Josh: We work with our product teams on a daily basis. That includes evaluating a technology that might make it onto their roadmap or providing them with a prototype to take into production.
A perfect example of this is our cloud-based recovery solution for AWS. We built a working prototype that was heavily automated. We documented it, created an architecture guide and transitioned it to the product teams to take it from prototype to product. It was a very graceful transition and shows how we take advantage of the new technologies in ways that best help our customers.
Q: As CTO, how do you challenge your team to stay ahead of the curve?
As we build our CTO team, we focus on hiring people who, first and foremost, are curious. They don't look at a problem and say, "That looks unsolvable." They say, "I think there's a way to solve that."
We also hire people with an innate passion for technology and encourage independent research and experimentation to feed that passion. To go build a proof of concept, test it out and come back to the team to explain how it might work with our offerings. That's been really critical to inspiring innovation.
It's also important to foster and expect industry awareness when it comes to technology. To have a good perspective on who the competitors are, whether what they offer is valid or not, and how we can leverage it.
In my role, I visit a lot of our offices around the world. It's interesting to meet folks who aren't necessarily on the CTO team coming up with a new idea. Because innovation doesn't just happen in a confined space on one team. It's got to happen organically across the company.
Q: So, what keeps CTOs up at night now? And how can Sungard AS help them?
Like me, they face a challenge that presents itself on a daily basis: Balancing the need to innovate with the practical realities of running the everyday business. When new technology is introduced, it not only brings new capabilities to the business, it also brings new risks. It's our mission to help CTOs by delivering services with the availability, security and recoverability they need, so they can worry less and focus more on innovation that will differentiate their businesses.
Q: What's next on your technology radar?
To find out what we're up to, I recommend visiting our blog, where we cover things like tips and tricks on using AWS, how hybrid IT is reshaping technology roadmaps, or our thoughts on new technologies and how they might impact customers. Customers can also check out our open source projects on our GitHub page. I encourage people to keep an eye on what we're doing and to continue to ask questions, because these are very exciting times and things are always changing.
To learn more, visit our CTO Labs blog.