[Podcast Transcript] Is Cloud Serverless?
Land of Digital Opportunities is a podcast series for business leaders driven by innovation and productivity, and keen on growing an idea, team, or a company! Every week, MediaAgility sits down with someone with strong innovation acumen and who has achieved a remarkable business presence in the digital industry, and together we unfold ‘Why’.
Goldy Arora: Welcome to the first episode of Land of digital opportunities podcast by MediaAgility, a global digital consulting company. When it comes to businesses to move to cloud or the cloud computing the question is not if but whether when and how. Cloud has evolved so much where we really don’t know if there’s a startup somewhere in the basement working to disrupt 100 yrs old business model. So today in studio we have rajesh co-founder and CEO of MediaAgility from our Princeton office and Nilesh, cloud expert from our London office. And we are going to talk about – Is cloud serverless?
Nilesh and Rajesh, welcome to the land of digital opportunities podcast, great to have you here. Sometimes we are really curious to see the way cloud has evolved. So why don’t you talk to us a bit about evolution of this cloud.
Rajesh Abhyankar: When we talk about evolution it takes me back 15 yrs…or may be 20 yrs. When we started thinking about building scalable applications. Back then I still remember I was working with a company where we had a bunch of servers running inside our office in Manhattan, we ran our own rack we had our own servers we had DMZ architecture that was pretty popular then, web server / app server the database, and we ran our own networking, cooling, backup, power and then came the co-location where we took all those physical servers and went into one of the colocation services that we had and put those servers in a car and we took them and put them in a rack .. locked the cage and pretty much what that company gave us was a secure cage in which we ran our servers and air conditioning, power and internet and that was the next step and if we fast forward it to another few years and whole concept of virtualized environment came in . It was pretty much similar concept – you still had to worry about your servers, upgrading them, managing them, worrying about load balancers and backups and all that. so Nilesh, what do you think have you experienced any similar evolution in your line of work?
Nilesh Chavda: Yes. Going back to the server days when applications were built in that paradigm, it was great for that age!. Things have moved on and right now business is all shifting to the cloud and journey for each and every business is very individual specific. The way that web services have evolved, the way that cloud as a service has evolved, it’s really groundbreaking and It’s going to future of businesses all around.
Rajesh Abhyankar: That’s true in a sense, it’s a big leap but at some levels isn’t it just shift from writing a purchase order to buying a new server back then in a colocated environment to now an API call to get the same servers – this isn’t really a big paradigm shift to me other than moving from PO to API.
Nilesh Chavda: Yeah.. I see what you mean. It’s on the evolutionary path and I think that’s the most interesting aspect of it.
Rajesh Abhyankar: Yes, and Goldy we have come a long way since those days where we had to manage our own servers and worry about all aspects of running that infrastructure in our premise or a co-located environment, and now in today’s age with virtualized machines, where there’s more flexibility on ramping up and down pretty fast. It has been a slow, incremental evolution over the last 10 -15 years and I think time has come to take the leap of faith into the next level of architecture.
Goldy Arora: Welcome back to Land of digital opportunities podcast by MediaAgility and now back to the conversation with Rajesh and Nilesh about – Is cloud serverless?
Well, that’s a good way to summarize it, that brings me to the question what did you do with rack of servers do you have still those server lying somewhere in your basement where you show it your kids sometime?
Rajesh Abhyankar: It’s funny, well I did keep one of the servers. It was a very heavy Dell servers.. I kept it as souvenir of those days in my basement, but eventually had to recycle it.
Goldy Arora: I can see days when museums should be the right place to bring those racks.
Rajesh Abhyankar: In fact I was at the computer history museum in San Francisco, where they have still preserved the original rack that ran the first version of Google search engine and the way they have evolved their own infrastructure and now making it available to all of us.
Goldy Arora: Rajesh and Nilesh, now since we have so much computing power with economies of scale how does it impact innovation at work places?
Nilesh Chavda: If we look at the way cloud technology and cloud computing has an impact on business. Businesses need data to work.. thrive..and to grow.. Historically the cost for storing data, processing data and running analytics on data, that has been on top of mind of businesses. The cloud paradigm now allows businesses to do much more at significantly lower costs. This is where benefits really come into action.
Rajesh Abhyankar: That’s right. Storage is one cent for one GB per month that’s almost free. VMs now…if you still are in that paradigm today of what cloud means to you, about a thousand VMs can be brought up in 5 mins, and that’s crazy fast – Like 43 seconds per VM! So if you’re still thinking in terms of servers and storage , I still think that’s an old architecture and there’s a new architecture that’s emerging. And Goldy to your question – that goes hand in hand with the question of innovation. You cannot innovate and your mind cannot be clear in terms of thinking about next business model or idea, when half of your mind is occupied with thinking about servers and scale.. And VMs and storage and so on…that’s why I think it is so important to let go of that paradigm. It’s not going to be easy to take that leap of faith we really need to start thinking in no operations model, no operations to think about or worry about. The next stage is going forward serverless. What I mean by serverless is – If you are not ready to take whole platform as a service approach yet, the things like Google App engine or it was recently announced at Google I/O that there were significant new enhancements done to Firebase, which is yet another example of serverless. If you still want to be little close to the infrastructure layer, then whole concept of containers is the next step, rather than taking a whole leap into platform as a service paradigm. Think of containers as a self contained unit of your application with all dependencies packaged into container, same container runs on your laptop, premises, on one cloud provider and another. Kubernetes is that open standard that all the vendors are collaborating on. I’m super excited about where the container movement is going and how fast companies are adopting it and the Google container engine which is an implementation of Kubernetes that Google did as a service, that’s another step that one can take, I really see that as a whole spectrum, it’s not binary that you have servers, then you don’t. It depends on your comfort level, what’s important though is to start getting away from thinking about servers. It’s pretty much like…I don’t know if you guys are old enough to remember the cars that had manual choke. It used to be all about worrying about carburetor and choke, and starting the car and that to me is what VM world is today. If you want to start your journey, container is next step . Think about how you can containerize your application that can run on any cloud and how can that step take you away from the server. This is very much like a zen moment to me where the abundance of compute power, access to machine learning, almost unlimited storage, when you are in that mode you are not worried about anything else. Then you can start thinking that what is that next business model, what is that next idea that I can convert and build on top of it. To me it is so closely tied up with innovation, it’s where new ideas come to life, that’s where you bring more value to customers, if that’s your top priority than you shouldn’t be worried about servers. New architecture is what you have to embrace if you are serious about innovation.
Nilesh Chavda: It seems like a trip down memory lane. I remember writing my first program and storing it in 5 1/4 inch floppy disk. That seems not so long ago and we are discussing business models driven by innovative new paradigm shifting technologies.
Rajesh Abhyankar: Google photos is a prime example of what I call a planet-scale app. It has unlimited storage for everyone. Just keep clicking and shooting pictures and videos to your heart’s content and it’s all being backed up. You can just search for what is inside your picture and the machine vision technology that application uses pretty much knows what’s in it and it’s getting pretty remarkable! Application like Google photos to me is a great example of what can be possible with unlimited storage, machine learning with crowdsourcing. It pretty much reminds me one of the keynotes that I was in earlier this year, Eric Schmidt was predicting what the next wave of IPO success kind of companies come from, what he predicted was – there’s going to be companies that understand this whole agile and rapid evaluation model – trying something, testing it out and improving it followed by using serverless architecture of the cloud, machine learning and more importantly human aspect of cloud sourcing, and that’s where next level of innovation is going to come from.
Goldy Arora: We’re a digital consulting company helping organizations understand the digital revolution and then respond to that and we do this with an integrated approach of strategy, design thinking, technology expertise, and agile implementation, so with that let’s go back to Rajesh and Nilesh and talk about is cloud serverless?
Now let’s change the gears a bit and talk about something practical so that our listeners will have some valuable takeaways from today’s podcast. Rajesh, Nilesh, when we started four years ago, we had this vision in mind, and we have been running like a serverless company where we have everything living on the cloud, where we can work from anywhere, anytime, which is really helping the whole organization in becoming so much productive. That’d be great if you put some light on this journey, on this vision, and moreover as company, what role are we playing in bridging this gap in helping other businesses in becoming serverless and taking advantage of the cloud.
Nilesh Chavda: Sure. It’s a really interesting area because we’ve been able to demonstrate how we can make work more productive and engaging and meaningful to our own staff using some of the technologies that are just at hand! And we choose the total dollar footprint per employee across the entire organization.
Rajesh Abhyankar: We had to prove ourselves, live that lifestyle ourselves before we start recommending it to our customers and we’re doing it at an incredible price point where everything is anchored in Google apps and all the other applications. Although, at our size and scale of the company we’ve been able to rely a lot on SaaS based applications to power some of our functions. But let’s take story of a mid tier or large organization, if you are designing something from scratch, it just doesn’t make sense to think about the old paradigm and start building something in serverless mindset and one of the recent engagement was for an automobile manufacturing company in Asia where we were working with their chief strategy officer and they were looking at what does surface transportation look like in era when car has become a service and from strategy perspective it was an important innovative project for them and we were able to get it up and running in three months.
Then the question is about hundreds or in some cases thousands of application that exist today in the enterprise, we have come up with a methodology to go about that, we will not go into details in this podcast but yes it’s a two pronged approach. If you are starting something new, it’s a pretty straightforward architecture now if you starting with migrating something you have and it will be the on-premise or cloud, or hybrid , it’s here to stay. We work with customers that still runs mainframes, it’s always going to be hybrid, heterogeneous environment but what’s clear is the serverless architecture is here. If we take example of BigQuery as an example, there is no non-cloud alternative to a technology like that! How do you store billions of rows of data and be able to query it in seconds and pay only for the columns of data that you accessed there is no non-cloud alternative for that. So, it’s not really a binary choice, there’s a whole spectrum that one can choose from, depends on where you are, and we can work with where you are. If you want to go the notch up and start doing some of the managed VM or even better with containers or then go into the backend or platform as a service and start using some of the technologies like cloud only which is big query and machine learning, etc….There’s a whole spectrum, it may sound daunting when we start with but that we think is our role in this ecosystem, is the platform vendor continue to innovate at a rapid scale. Our role is to make sure that all those technologies can be used in right way to solve real world problems working with our customers and help them understand this revolution and help them respond to it, help them with the strategy and take it all the way through to implementation. We are trying to do that in a very solution oriented approach by running workshops such as innovation, analytics followed by picking the right solutions and its time now to move to the next level of abstraction and industry has always moved in that direction. We started with writing something close to the CPU, the machine language then moved a step up by getting into object oriented programming, the client server world, the web development, now is the time to think of the serverless environment where I really need to focus on my business problem that I’m trying to solve and… yeah… seriously look at the example of Google photos as a prime example of what’s possible and the planet scale application that we could produce.
Goldy Arora: With that I’d like to thank you and I guess this podcast was valuable for our listeners not just in understanding the way cloud has evolved but also to see impact on the pace of innovation that you could bring at your workplace with cloud.