Moving to the cloud is becoming a must for many companies if they want to grow beyond their current footprint and be more innovative. But for many companies—especially those in the SMB space—their transition to the cloud is hindered by a lack of knowledge and experience, which often results in difficult migrations that sometimes just aren’t successful.
Since its inception, nClouds has helped organizations of all sizes move to the cloud successfully. Its experience as an AWS Premier consulting partner and its well-architected approach to cloud migration helps companies get the most from their infrastructure by engaging with the cloud, whether they’re adopting a hybrid environment or going all in on cloud.
In this DevOps Chat, JT Giri, nClouds founder and CEO, and I speak about the triggers that push companies to adopt cloud, some issues companies face in their decision-making and infrastructure’s role in an increasingly cloud-based IT world.
As usual, the video is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, it’s Alan Shimel, and you’re listening to another DevOps Chat, or in this case, perhaps, watching a DevOps video. Happy to be joined here by my friend J.T. Giri, who is the CEO and founder of nClouds. J.T., welcome.
J.T. Giri: Hey—good morning, Alan. Thanks for having me.
Shimel: My pleasure, nice to have you here. J.T., let’s first of all say Merry Christmas, happy new year.
Giri: Thank you, and you.
Shimel: Yeah, it’s been an exciting—we were talking off camera, off mic—it’s been an exciting quarter for you. You’re a new time dad and moving homes and at the same time, nClouds’ business seems to be just booming along with everything else associated with Amazon Web Services and the cloud. So, congratulations.
Giri: Thank you. Exciting times.
Shimel: Yeah, it is. So, J.T., I wanted to talk a little bit about—you know, there’s people listening to this or watching this who are saying, “You know, I wanna be like Google,” or, “I wanna be Facebook” or, “I wanna be one of these unicorns in that I wanna harness the cloud. You know, we have our servers in a closet here or a data center or a third-party data center, but we’re not really cloud. And everything seems to be in the cloud. We wanna move to the cloud, but you know, we’re only maybe 250, 500 employees. How do we do that, right? Do we need a helper, like an nClouds. Do we need to update everything? Do we throw out the baby with the bath water and start new?”
I want you to tell us a little bit, sort of, what’s the typical sort of customer journeys that you see when you guys engage?
Giri: Yeah, absolutely. So, Alan, you know, we’ve talked in the past. I’ve been migrating companies to AWS ever since EC2 was in beta. And, as I would migrate these companies, people would realize that they need someone to manage it, right? So, that’s how, sort of, nClouds came to be. And as you mentioned, this has been an incredible year for us. We doubled the size and revenue and the number of people.
What we were seeing in an SMB type of market, when companies migrate or when they try to migrate to AWS, they still need to follow—obviously, they need to follow best practices because cloud or AWS is constantly changing, and the skill set is just not there. So, that’s where we come in play. We can make sure that your infrastructure is well-architected. We take an approach of migrating in a way where you’re really taking advantage of the cloud—so, for example, using containers, things that are really gonna help you to harness the power of cloud. And then, for most of our customers, you know, we’re providing 24/7 support. And when we see people try to do this themselves, they get a bad taste of cloud. They’re like, “Oh, this is not for us. We’re not really innovating fast.”
So, that’s why, Alan, we’ve been very successful, because there is a huge gap in SMB type of companies. There is a skill gap and just experience. We bring that to the table, and it’s been incredible. We’re able to add a lot of value.
Shimel: Sure. So, J.T., early on there, you said something about when an organization needs someone to help them manage their cloud migration—when does an organization recognize that they need someone to help them? What’s sort of a trigger point? You know, as, again, we spoke off camera a little bit—is it when someone dives in the pool and says, “Oh, my God, I can’t swim, it’s too deep?” Or is it, before you dive in the pool, a prudent person hires a swim coach, you know what I mean?
What are sort of the trigger things that people should see as a red flag or as a trigger event that says, “Hey, man, I should be getting some help, here”?
Giri: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, basically, it depends when the companies come to that realization that we need some outside help, right? Sometimes, it is that they will try to do the project themselves, or in other cases, they realize that they really want to just focus on delivering value to their customer, right? They really wanna just innovate fast.
So—and they see how they can just stay focused on that, and that’s something we do incredibly well. We have a build—we build systems and processes together where our key focus is to make sure the customer can deliver value to their customers fast and we want to make sure the infrastructure is not getting in their way.
So, you know, it’s just, this is becoming more and more popular, like, DevOps as a service, where companies are reaching out to partners like nClouds to help them with DevOps related tasks, like, with the migration, setting up CI/CD pipeline, becoming an extension to their team, so they can focus on their core business, right? And, you know, it really depends when they—sometimes, they come to that realization pretty fast, or sometimes they try to do things themselves, and when things don’t work out, they try to use someone like nClouds.
Shimel: So, J.T., generally, one of the hardest things in life is learning when to ask for help.
Shimel: And that includes cloud migrations and everything else. At the SMB level, mid-enterprise level, you don’t have an elaborate or as big a structure as, let’s say, you do with a large enterprise where you have layers and layers of management and hierarchy—a lot of the organizations you deal with are rather flat in their management structure.
So, who is it in the organization who finally kinda raises his hand and says, “Wait a second, I think we should engage in some professional help, right? I think we should being in some experts to help us.” Is it the CEO, CIO, someone lower than that? What’s your experience?
Shimel: Yes, normally, CTO, VP of Engineering type of person. And also, you know, as you know, we became a premier partner with AWS last year. So, AWS is—Amazon, it’s no secret that they’re very customer obsessed. So, they will—Amazon, when they’re speaking to a customer and if they see the customer is struggling, they will introduce someone like nClouds to help them out with the migration or just modernize their infrastructure. And sometimes, you know—actually, many times, they can come in with funding where they will offset some of the costs.
So, for a customer, it’s just like a no-brainer to see if we can have some external experts come in and fix up the infrastructure or streamline the infrastructure. So, you know, the conversation, normally, we do get a lot of business directly from people reaching out, like, “Hey, we need DevOps help,” but we also get a lot of business directly from AWS where they identify this customer needs help, and we get involved that way.
Shimel: So, I’m just gonna bring up two questions. The first one is on track with what we’re talking about. So, now the CTO or CIO or an executive says, “Yeah, we’re gonna bring in nClouds,” whether AWS referred it or is partially subsidizing it or what have you, but, “We’re gonna bring in nClouds or some other type of help”—is there any sort of pushback or resistance normally with, you know, when you’re dealing with people? The—not first responders, but the individual contributors who feel like, “Hey, man, I don’t wanna be replaced. I don’t wanna be outsourced. I don’t want to give up my cheese to some outside company who’s helping us” or, if so, how do you overcome that? How do you work with an organization like that?
Giri: Yeah, so, normally, there’s not a pushback, Alan. So, I was actually re-reading “The Venus Project” yesterday, and I was just reading the story of Brent, right?
Giri: So, when you’re talking to these customers, some of these guys are on their honeymoon with their pager with them, right? And then, when you’re coming in and you’re saying, “Hey, we’re gonna help you out with 24/7 support so you can get your life back” or, you know, “We’re gonna help you to streamline this DevOps work which you never really got the opportunity or time to work on, we’re gonna help you out with that,” right? And it’s incredible.
Sometimes, maybe the initial impression might be the same as you describe, like, “Hey, are you gonna take my job?” But as they understand the value, they normally are super happy. And another thing we do, Alan, in most of our engagements, we do this assessment called architected assessment where we’re coming in and we’re just reviewing your infrastructure to see how well you’re architected, and after that assessment, we give you, like, a roadmap, like, what are some things you should focus on the first month, and what are some things you should focus on short term and long term? And the assessment goes over cost, security, reliability, performance, and operation excellence.
So, you know, we can get, in the short-term road map, we can show some quick wins where the customer sees the value and they also get confident in our ability, so that’s sort of the path that works really well for us right now.
Shimel: Got it. J.T., another thing you mentioned is that nClouds is a premier Amazon partner. And, you know, in today’s world, we throw out platinum and gold and these sort of levels all the time—but really, within the Amazon hierarchy, a premier partner has sort of, they don’t hand that out like candy. Talk to us a little bit about what’s entailed in being an Amazon premier partner.
Giri: Yes. It’s a top tier status with AWS and in order to get there, like you said, there is only 25 premier partners in North America, and you have to show case studies, you have to show the training path of your employees, and you also have to have multiple competencies, like, we have DevOps competency, we have migration competency, and we’re also the well-architected partner.
And it’s just very subjective. You know, if you work closely with Amazon, even if you hit all the check boxes, they want to make sure that quality is there for premier partners. So, they look how you work well with your customer, what does your customer experience looks like, because that’s what Amazon cares about that as well.
So, you know, it’s just very hard to get to this status, and we’re honored to be at this level right now. This is great.
Shimel: Yep. So, J.T., let me go next kind of where I want to take this, and that’s—you know, two or three years ago, migrating a company onto an AWS, or it doesn’t have to be AWS, migrating a company onto the cloud, you know, you set up some virtual instances, maybe they had some separate storage, stuff like that, EC2 kinda stuff. But, you know, I just got back from Seattle a couple weeks ago from KubeCon and CloudNativeCon—Reinvent was the week before that. And certainly, Kubernetes and containers are kind of really quickly, quickly, quickly changing the landscape, here.
You know, are you seeing that as well? And what does that mean for—typically, SMB businesses are not leading edge or bleeding edge, right in [Cross talk] option?
Shimel: What are you guys seeing?
Giri: Yeah. You know, it’s very interesting. Who would’ve thought that the infrastructure we built a couple years ago would be considered a legacy infrastructure, you know? People using EC2 instances and an auto scaling group in Amazon’s world will kinda be called outdated right now.
So, we’re seeing incredible push and a lot of sort of initiatives on our customer side where they wanna go containers, pretty much like 90 percent of our engagements are around containers. Because it’s a no brainer, right? It makes the CI/CD pipeline much easier. You know, most of the time, containers are automatically integrated with scaling, so you can really binpack your resources, it has impact on your cost. So, you know, this is just—it just makes the infrastructure far more streamlined and far more easier to manage.
And as I mentioned, Alan, I’ve been migrating companies to Amazon and EC2 from the last 10 years, and I’ve been managing infrastructure as long as I’ve been migrating. So, it’s just, when I’m building infrastructure right now, it’s a no-brainer to build something using Kubernetes or on AWS we use EKS or—you know, depending on what the customer wants to do, and we had a customer the other day where they were saying, “I just wanna focus on delivering product to our customers, so what is the easiest way?” We use Fargate for them. Depending on the customer requirement, we’ll go Kubernetes, but long story short, it just makes a lot of sense these days to build infrastructure on containers, because they really streamline how you manage it in the long run. It just makes life easier.
Shimel: And that’s even at the SMB level?
Giri: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I mean, because the needs are the same. You need CI/CD pipeline, you need a way for you to scale infrastructure, you need a way for you to run batch or cron job type of jobs. And when you go with something like containers, you get there—like, you know, you don’t have to build home grown tools to facilitate these things. You know, containers or EKS or Kubernetes, they allow versioning when you’re deployed or auto scaling is sort of built in, you know, you can schedule batch jobs.
Just, it’s a no-brainer, you know? If you’re building out infrastructure, you should definitely explore containers each time, and that’s what we try to do every time. And it’s just incredible, the amount of success we’ve had before and after.
Shimel: Sure. So, as we sit here at the dawn of a new year, if I would’ve asked you in early 2018, do you think Kubernetes and containers would be one of the major stories of the year, I don’t know if you would’ve said yes or no. But as we sit here in the dawn of 2019 and we project ahead—let’s say I interview you and everything’s all well and at the end of next year, the end of this coming year, 2019, we sit down and talk about, “Well, what’s 2019 really show?”—what do you think are the big stories this year, J.T.? What do you think, coming down the pike, especially—I’m not talking about the world view. For nClouds and for your customer base, what do you think is really big for you in the coming year?
Giri: Yeah, so, I think in general, the application modernization will continue. We continue to see that trend, and this is also going to be big in SMB. So, we will continue to double down on AWS. It’s been an amazing partner. Our core values, our partnership is based on shared goals, so we’ll continue to kinda double down on that relationship.
And we’ll continue to utilize this well-architected framework. It helps us to assess the customers when we’re onboarding and it helps us to manage the customer, like, every time the customers were managing, we continued to run a well-architected assessment to make sure they’re well-architected, and they continue to stay well-architected.
And, yeah, I mean, just continue to focus on SMB, AWS, continue to align with well-architected framework. We also just spun off another company, it’s called nOps, and basically, it just helps to make sure the customers are well aligned with well architected framework, and it’s available on AWS Marketplace. So, we’ll continue to invest in that, because that solution has been incredible, nOps. A lot of our customers are seeing value in that, so, we are actually working with Amazon to give that solution to other partners like nClouds who can use it to manage their infrastructure to make sure the infrastructure is well architected, and we are also offering it to end customers who can use that tool to assess their infrastructure and continuously stay in compliance with well-architected framework.
Shimel: Excellent. You know, nOps, that’s something we’ll have to discuss on our next chat, J.T.
Giri: Yeah, absolutely.
Shimel: Well, you know what? We’ve been on almost a half hour here, so, unfortunately we’re about out of time for this one. J.T. Giri, CEO and founder of nClouds, thanks for being our guest on DevOps Chat.
Giri: Thank you so much for having me.
Shimel: My pleasure. Best of luck to nClouds this year, best of luck to you personally with your family and everything else, you know, it’s gonna be a busy year for you, my friend.
Giri: Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you.
Shimel: Alright. Hey, J.T. Giri, nClouds—you’re here with Alan Shimel on DevOps Chat. You’ve just listened to another chat. Bye bye, everyone.