SERVAAS VERBIEST (SV): Welcome to IT Availability Now, the show that tells stories of business resilience from the people who keep the digital world available.
I’m your host Servaas Verbiest and today I’m joined by Erik Krogstad, Senior National Cloud Architect at Sungard Availability Services, and we’re going to be discussing the most common questions customers ask about cloud.
Erik, thank you for joining us today.
ERIK KROGSTAD (EK): Thank you for having me back.
(SV): Awesome, yeah, it’s always a pleasure to have you because I know you provide a lot of great insights. This is a topic I know you and I both hold near and dear because in dealing with organizations, I know I’m seeing a lot more organizations progressing their cloud journeys.
And, you know, most organizations are running around 25% of their workloads in the cloud. And if you look at Flexera State of the Cloud Report, which I love to review with clients on a regular basis - it’s a great piece of material; if you haven't read it I recommend you do - this is up from last year. The percentage of light cloud users has also decreased from 19 to 14% year over year according to that report, and that’s because with so many offerings and so much innovation that’s out there, a lot of companies are looking to deploy either a multi-cloud strategy or taking a hybrid approach, right? Yet, as businesses become further immersed in the cloud, they naturally still have questions.
So, Erik, I know you get to work on the frontlines with a lot of clients that are navigating through their cloud journey. What questions typically come up the most?
(EK): Part of your last statement there about the innovations always happening, the question that always comes up around that is, how do we develop a successful or build a successful cloud culture?
(SV): Well, let’s start there because that's important, right? Everybody typically focuses on the technology, but they often overlook that critical component of driving cloud adoption which is culture.
What can a business do to develop a successful cloud culture, in your opinion?
(EK): So when we say cloud culture, you know it's really being adaptive and receptive to change and understanding that there needs to be guardrails put in place. There needs to be certain delineations put down within the organization on who has the right to set certain things into production, who has the right to go to development, and then how a real DevOps program, or how a real new application would be deployed into an environment.
So with the cloud culture aspect you really want to step back and say “OK, now let's start something with an agile methodology because all of this new information comes in so fast. Let’s have a daily stand-up with the team, talk about what the innovations are, talk about how that can affect our company, our applications and the IT ecosystem as a whole.”
And when we do that you really embrace the cloud culture, you know? Everybody’s on the same page. You have the same alignment throughout all the businesses or even your verticals if you’re doing it for customers. And, you really get to embrace new technology, have buy-in immediately and most times - I mean you have a set budget, but with the cloud, you can shift spend around. So that can be part of your stand-ups, but it's really about embracing that change and having a structure available that supports that.
(SV): So you know just to kind of summarize it: we’re looking at kind of a blend of process collaboration, but not in a way that inhibits innovation, right?
(SV): Yeah and when you’re establishing a cloud practice or a cloud journey initially, because you can greenfield, that’s usually the easiest part because you don’t have to deal with any previous decisions, or deal with any political components, or siloed opinions or operations methodologies, but at least I noticed from time to time those are things you have to contend with.
So, if you got a circumstance where maybe you’ve got a group that’s operating to the beat of their own drum, or they’ve got processes that are really outside of the norm as they’ve started leveraging cloud for a project that was like a hobby that turns into a critical business system, how would you say businesses navigate around dealing with those components if they’ve got to try to bring that back in to establish a successful cloud culture?
(EK): That’s a really good question, and I’ve seen it done many different ways. Some good. Some horrible. And it almost sometimes creates a faction, right? But when you look to people who were traditionally in charge of a server room or they're in charge of an application, they want that application where they can see it, go downstairs, turn a server off with their finger. There’s a real control aspect to that. When you introduce a cloud culture, that server’s been turned off, turned on, you can redeploy that app at will. You don’t get that person's buy-in as you’ve probably seen as well.
So, what I like to do is approach it from more of a neutral standpoint where everybody gets to win in a way because I like to explain to the person that’s in charge of the application that you can still have all the power of that application that you want, we’re just moving the location of that server somewhere. Because people really want ownership of stuff, especially if you’re in charge of it. Or if something’s not working, the new DevOps guy is gonna say “my code’s fine, it’s running in the cloud, you know, not my problem.” The application guy doesn’t get off that easy sometimes, so creating a mutual buy-in where they’re part of the stand-up where they still maintain ownership of that is important. And a lot of times when I go into businesses you pick up on the culture really quick, what’s going on, what people are looking at, how people are looking at you.
I like to really start with why I’m here. I even ask myself that every time I walk into a business, you know, “why am I here? What value can I provide today?” And I let everybody else know that I’m not here for your job, I’m just here to make life easier for everybody involved. If you own an application, I want you to own that application, but let’s start doing something that’s more culturally beneficial to your organization and business. Let’s set up an agile methodology, let’s set up a workflow. Who’s going to be the scrum master? For some people, it creates a new opportunity because they want to be in charge in a way, but never had the opportunity, you know? Well, why don’t you just run the daily stand-up meeting then? You find out a lot of people really enjoy stepping up in a certain role of volunteering that may have even been cut off to them in the past. You get the corporate buy-in, you get the culture buy-in from everybody, and that’s where the inter roads begin to really create that culture.
(SV): So then what that really does is shake up the paradigm of the existing organizational structure. But in doing so we obviously want to make sure that we’re balancing what works for all the stakeholders involved so that everybody kind of feels like they’re walking away or they actually are walking away with a win because it’s driving productivity in the business and it’s ensuring that operations can continue on while embracing these new and innovative technologies, right?
(EK): Absolutely. And I’ll step back again real quick because sometimes you’re not even talking to the IT guys in the room, it’s the corporation or business owners, and that’s a different discussion. But, in general, you still lay out that foundry of: this is what a cloud culture looks like, this is how it’s going to save you money and this is how operating this will make you more efficient. It really helps from the business owner down to the IT department to have everyone bought into this.
(SV): Excellent and let’s shift gears for a moment because I know we could talk volumes on culture, and there’s probably questions that come up outside of that.
So, what other types of questions do you typically experience when you’re working with an organization on their cloud journey?
(EK): You know, I think besides the money-saving questions and autoscaling - people just love to hear those words and it goes into deeper conversations - but at the end of the day the looming questions are always around networking.
(SV): Yeah, I can believe that. That’s one of the more complicated components of integrating these cloud components whether it's SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, you name it.
So how do you typically handle those kinds of questions?
(EK): I usually start off with lifting up into the air from where they’re at. So how many people connect into this office, where do your servers live? Really just take that 50,000 foot view just to see how many data centers they have, where the apps live, how many remote users, how many VPNs, and you start to add all that up. Sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes it’s none.
And then maybe you come down to 30,000 feet. What do you have as far as web servers, are they hosted by you? If they are, do you have load balancers in place, do you have reverse proxies, do you have different types of Kubernetes stacks running?
Then we come down to the ten-thousand foot view. So now we’re in the data center. How are things logically segmented? Do you have a three-tier architecture where apps live in a different VLAN and databases have their own VLAN, only allow certain port traffic, only allow certain users? Do you have jump servers? And then we get to landing on the runway and it becomes “OK how do we put this all together for a cloud? What’s going into the cloud from here? Are we starting off small or are we doing a full transformation? What do we do?” And then from there, that’s when you start to really figure out what the best ways to set up the networks are for them, how this will disrupt users in their day-to-day.
(SV): Yeah so really just to kind of refine the vast amount of great content you’ve given with that answer, it comes down to starting big and then working your way down small so that you can make sure you don’t lose the bigger picture of how everything needs to speak together on small minutia, but at the same time don’t lose those critical minutiae that are pivotal to operations.
(EK): That’s right and that’s why I like to do my little airplane summation going from 30,000 feet where I can see all data centers now down to 10,000 of what does each data center have? Because you can get inundated with “I have X amount of VPN users, we use this, we use that,” and you don’t really have a focus point. You know, start from the macro and then we’ll work your way down to the micro.
(SV): Now I know we’ve kind of covered a lot of material, but are there any other questions that come to mind? I know we’ve really traversed a lot of topics but I’m sure there’s at least one more that comes up frequently.
(EK): I mean there’s so many.
I guess a lot of times people want to know what’s the right cloud which I frequently get. Sometimes people have directives where they want to be AWS or their company needs to be Azure. It usually has to do with licensing and things like that or who’s giving the best deal to onboard or on ramp them and even mergers. If you’re being part of an acquisition, sometimes whoever’s acquiring you, you’re going to get their IT systems, and you’ve got to make yours fit into their environment. And, you know, there’s no difference in clouds in the modern world.
(SV): It’s good you bring that up too because I’m sure no matter how you design it, it’s always possible to go back and even second-guess your decisions because of the way and the rate at which innovation happens in these cloud platforms.
(EK): 100 percent. 100 percent.
And really it’s what’s best for what you do.
(SV): Yeah, because it really just comes down to use case.
I can see, even with the broad scope of topics that we’ve covered, it really just comes down to establishing a process, ensuring there’s collaboration, making sure you have the right stakeholders engaged and you really understand where they come from. Starting big and, like you said, skydiving out of the plane to get to that minutiae point so you can capture the details of the design and really focusing on that use case.
In doing that framework it really positions you in a way that, even with the broad questions we’ve covered, you can address the majority of them and even some of the ones we probably haven’t that come up from time to time.
So Erik, I really appreciate you giving us some of your time because I know how busy you are, to be on the show today.
(EK): No, I always love coming here. It’s good conversations, and I think the things we talk about are really useful to people.
(SV): I do agree.
Now that was Erik Krogstad who is the Senior National Cloud Architect at Sungard Availability Services.
You can find the show notes for this episode at SungardAS.com/ITAvailabilityNow.
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IT Availability Now is a production of Sungard Availability Services.
I’m your host Servaas Verbiest, and until next time, stay available.