Back in my StillSecure days, building purpose-built appliances for security was all the rage. Over time, though, security-as-a-service captured much of the market (although security appliances are still a big seller). For containerized applications, you may think cloud is the way to go. But the folks at Diamanti say that purpose-built appliances for containerized applications are a superior option.
I spoke with Mark Balch, their VP of product and marketing about this, and he gives us Diamanti’s views here and, frankly, makes a good case. It is early in the containerized application market and the winners are yet to be crowned. Mark tells it better than I can. Have a listen and let us know what you think.
As usual, the streaming audio of our conversation is below and the transcript of our conversation is below that.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone. Alan Shimel, DevOps.com here for another episode of DevOps Chat. Very happy to be joined today on DevOps Chat with Mark Balch, VP of products and marketing at Diamanti. Mark, welcome to DevOps Chat.
Balch: Hey, Alan. Thanks for having me. It’s great to talk to you.
Shimel: Thank you, Mark. So, Mark, let us first start off with Diamanti. I think that’s a fairly new company to our audience or at least to us here at DevOps.com, although the company itself is not new, but, for those of our listeners who may not be familiar, why don’t you give us a little background?
Balch: Yeah, definitely. We’ve been around since 2013, and Diamanti spent the first couple of years in stealth mode, as you may say, building our product. And we launched the company last year. We just launched our GA product this past week, in February.
And just a very quick background or why are we here. Well, we saw the container revolution occurring. We believe that containers are the next mainstream application platform for new cloud-native applications, moving forward. And we’ve seen that users are spending a tremendous amount of time and money trying to custom-engineer their own infrastructure and figure out how to make cloud-native applications operate at scale, with reliability and performance. And we said that, “You know, we wanna make sure that users can do this out of the box, very simply, get control of their costs and be able to focus their time, instead of reinventing the wheel and infrastructure, on building the unique business applications that they’re being measured on.” So that’s why we’re here.
Shimel: Excellent. And, you know, Mark, what was interesting is, at a time when we’re seeing software-defined everything, right, Diamanti’s out here with a purpose-built appliance for containerized applications. And I would imagine there are many people who say, “Oh, no, we don’t wanna sell hardware.” But, really, if you want control over your environment, you don’t have much of a choice.
Balch: It’s a real tricky situation for a lot of users, right, because just go out there and spend a little bit of time searching on the web and going to meetups and looking at user testimonials about the challenge of being able to get reliable performance at a reasonable cost point in the traditional model. It’s really very difficult. People spend a lot of time custom-engineering, and that’s time that they can’t spend building their unique services. So, for us, really, it’s a very simple value proposition.
We’re not saying that you have to customize your application or do anything proprietary; what we’re saying is that, “Continue to go with your open-source approach—standard Docker images, standard Kubernetes orchestration, standard Linux—but operate on a platform that is going to give you the automation of getting that entire application deployed properly, that’s gonna give you predictable performance and outcomes and that’s gonna let you run at a reasonable cost point.” I mean, people have massive bills, whether it’s public cloud, whether it’s looking at virtualized traditional infrastructure that was built for a different type of application. People spend a tremendous amount of time and money trying to get cloud-native applications working, and our goal is to make sure that people can get those applications working within minutes, not within weeks or months.
Shimel: Sure. And that is the advantage of having that sort of purpose-built platform. Mark, I wanted to, first of all—you know what? Shame on me. I didn’t even ask. Can you give our audience a little bit of the background of who you are, though? And I’ve said your title, but who’s Mark Balch and how did you come to Diamanti?
Balch: Yeah. That’s a good question. So I’ve been in the IT and application industry for 20 years. I started off my career as an engineer. I love doing development work. I love to build things. I love to deliver great products that have an impact. And then, somewhere along the way, I got into product management because I wanted to figure out whose job was it to make sure that we’re building the right products at the right time, that it could solve real needs. And so, for the last more than 10 years, I’ve been focused on product management and product marketing, doing everything from data center automation and application provisioning software to cloud automation software, and, now here at Diamanti, focused on the open-source side of application development and, again, focusing more on the outcome. Whether we’re talking about an appliance, whether we’re talking about software you can deploy, at the end of the day what I care about, as a product manager, is making sure that there’s a value at the end that’s gonna make someone’s life better, that’s going to give them a greater experience in being able to be personally successful in getting their applications into people’s hands. So that’s what motivates me.
Shimel: Great. Appreciate that. Mark, if I may, I wanted to take a moment and talk a little bit about Kubernetes. There are obviously choices for container orchestration and container management out there, and it seems like Diamanti has clearly put their chips in the Kubernetes market. As I said, there are other choices. Can you give us a little bit of the background on why Kubernetes and—or maybe I’m wrong. Can Diamanti customers choose other container orchestration options as well?
Balch: Yeah, you know, I think, when it comes to talking about container formats and orchestration, I think we all have to be a little humble, in that the market is still very early and very dynamic. There’ve been so many changes. Kubernetes is doing a great job. Mesos is doing a great job. Docker’s doing a great job. You’ve got now standardization happening in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation for the Open Container Initiative. So I think, honestly, it is too early to call a winner, and I think all of us have to make sure that we’re giving users choice in working with an open ecosystem. It’s not about forcing people down a particular path; it’s about giving people options. Right? So we can work with a variety of different options, but let me tell you why we have been doing a lot of work with Kubernetes. And we’ve been doing this work with Kubernetes for the last couple of years.
Kubernetes, from a governance perspective, has been a great ecosystem to work with. Obviously, Google contributed that code to The Linux Foundation last year, and you’ve got large and small contributors from all over the ecosystem, including Diamanti, contributing to make Kubernetes bigger and better and more extensible. So what attracted us to work with Kubernetes early on was that governance, where, really, anyone could come to the table. Everyone has been welcome to pitch in and to take leadership roles, frankly. For example, Diamanti contributed something called “FlexVolume” into Kubernetes. It was upstream; it was a year ago. And we were welcomed with open arms, and now there are, literally, more than two dozen members in the storage SIG who we work with. Same thing around scheduling for Kubernetes—we upstream contributions there. Working with CNI, container network interfaces, is another example.
So we’ve just seen a lot of great governance and a lot of extensibility, where the Kubernetes community seems very focused on this concept of extensibility, where it’s not that my solution is better than yours; it’s that we have APIs that we can use to extend different options and then users can pick and choose what’s gonna work for them, but it’s supported with a common framework. So that’s what we love about Kubernetes.
Shimel: Got it. Interestingly, Mark, in our several studies, surveys on this with our audience, overwhelmingly—well, not overwhelmingly ’cause, actually, Mesio was pretty close, but Kubernetes clearly was the choice among our audience for container management and orchestration, so probably not a bad move there. Mark, what about people who have invested in public cloud infrastructure for containers? What’s the Diamanti value proposition to them?
Balch: That’s a really good question, Alan, and people ask us that a lot. And, by the way, I’ll say that Diamanti is gonna be at the Google Cloud Next Conference next week, so we—
Balch: Yeah, so we actually do a lot in terms of public cloud, okay? So I think the first thing is that it’s back to that concept of choice and no vendor lock-in. We need to make sure that we’re all offering users capability—we’re not trying to force them down a path with something that is proprietary—so everything we do at Diamanti is standard Docker runtime, and, as that evolves and maybe we have more standardization around runtime, that’s gonna evolve into making sure that everyone participates in the standard format. So, if you develop an application and you’re using Google Cloud or using Amazon or Azure or someone else, one of your goals, probably, should be to do it in a way where you can be portable, where you’re not locked in, where you can bring it to another provider if that provider offers you better economics, better performance, better reliability, data governance, things like that.
And that’s where we come in. You could think of Diamanti as a provider, but we are an on-premises provider. We allow users, like MEMSQL or NBCUniversal, to be able to build an on-premises private cloud that is fully open source and you can take your existing containers, you can move them onto Diamanti, you can get all the great performance and automation benefits that we talk about. If, for some reason, you wanna go elsewhere, you wanna go to Google, to Amazon, somewhere else, we don’t stop you. You can do that. You can go back and forth, right? So we wanna make sure it’s very easy to go back and forth so that the user is in control of deciding what’s more important to them, in terms of all those things like governance, data sovereignty, performance, and economics.
Shimel: Sure. Do you envision a time when people sort of have hybrid Diamanti-public-cloud containerized applications?
Balch: Yeah, that’s a good question and actually brings up a really—another good wrinkle around Kubernetes. Kubernetes has an emerging project called “Ubernetes,” or its formal name, “cross-cluster federated services.” Now one thing I will say—I love the Kubernetes community, but sometimes, from a marketing perspective, we could do a little better. “Cross-cluster federated services” doesn’t really roll off the tongue very quickly, but what it means is, essentially, it can mean hybrid cloud or multiple availability zones.
And so, just like Diamanti has made upstream contributions to the community around scheduling, we can now extend those scheduling capabilities, using Ubernetes, so we can move that across the availability zones and into hybrid cloud scenario. Right? So I definitely envision a scenario like you’re talking about, where you can have multiple Diamanti clusters in different data centers, you can have availability zones up in Google or Amazon or Azure, and you can, basically, allow the cross-cluster federated services to figure out where to deploy that application based on your performance requirements, on your sovereignty requirements, on your compliance requirements, or you can say, “Hey, I wanna make sure this thing goes into public cloud,” or, “I wanna make sure it goes into my Los Angeles data center with Diamanti.” You’re in control of that, from a policy perspective, and that’s, I think, what’s really interesting about the cross-cluster federated services road map, moving forward.
Shimel: Absolutely. And you’re right; that does just roll right off the tongue. But, look, they’re engineers; they’re not marketing people. Mark, let me ask another question, and, not to hold your feet to the fire, but, for people who may be interested at home, can you give us sort of a ballpark pricing on Diamanti?
Balch: Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve announced our pricing. Each Diamanti appliance has a list price of about $40,000, slightly under that, in fact. Obviously, discounts apply. So we are highly competitive with all alternatives, whether you look at commodity, whether you look at converged infrastructure, hyper-converged infrastructure. We are highly competitive from a price perspective. And then, when you look at the consolidation and the time savings, frankly, there is no competition there. So, certainly, love to chat with any of your listeners who are interested, and I pretty much guarantee, from an economic perspective, it’s gonna work out great.
Shimel: So that brings up—you opened that box, Mark. For any of our listeners who may be interested in finding out more about Diamanti or speaking to someone, is there an e-mail address or a web address where they can check it out or contact someone?
Balch: Yeah, definitely. So please check out our website, it’s www.diamanti.com, or just send us an e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. We can get you set up really quickly.
Shimel: Okay. Mark, we’re running low on time, but I did want to just mention that Diamanti is sort of riding the wave, if you will, of this tremendous momentum building up behind containers and micro-services and Docker, Kubernetes, etc. Where in the adoption cycle do you think all of this is? Has it really gone mainstream yet or are we still at the early-adopter stage?
Balch: That’s the multibillion-dollar question, so we are seeing adoption all over in different kinda fits and starts, to be honest with you. So the industries we see the most adoption, Alan—we see media moving quickly. We actually do see financial services moving quickly. We see web infrastructure. We even see service methods moving ahead, wanting to offer containerized services and competing with the large public-cloud vendors. So where we see containers happening is developers are downloading Docker on their laptop; they’re able to accelerate their application lifecycle and development processes. Operations is a little slower. To be honest with you, it is lagging a little bit behind. That’s where we come in—we’re working with ops teams to help them get off the ground—and, just like always, developers ultimately have the influence where they’re defining application architecture, and then they work with their ops teams to figure out how to get those architectures deployed successfully into production.
So there are lots of different numbers out there—451 Group had some good numbers; I’ve seen numbers from Forrester and from Gartner. The industry’s still early, maybe at only about 10 percent of adoption, and that’s a very anecdotal number, but it’s growing really quickly and we’re seeing a lot more inbound requests now because everyone’s trying to learn about it. The cat’s out of the bag; it’s not a secret anymore. And I think either people are doing it today or they see it coming quickly and they wanna figure out, when it comes down the pipe from their development team, how do they be successful with containers and actually make it work for their business.
Shimel: Got it. Got it. Sounds great. Mark, we’re actually way over time. I apologize to our listeners and to you, but I thought we had some good information here and I didn’t wanna cut it off, but we need to wrap up. Mark Balch, thanks so much for being our guest today. Continued success with Diamanti. It sounds great. And, obviously, through Container Journal and DevOps.com, this is a space we watch pretty closely, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from Diamanti soon.
Balch: Thank you so much, Alan. This has been a great conversation. I appreciate it.
Shimel: You know, one last thing. Mark, I forgot to mention. You mentioned you were going to be at the Google Cloud conference, which is the week of March 9th, something like that, right?
Shimel: In March 8th and 9th?
Shimel: And then –
Balch: March 8th through 9th.
Shimel: – DockerCon is next month in August – in Austin.
Shimel: In April.
Balch: Yes. We will _____.
Shimel: You’ll be there as well.
Balch: Yep. Definitely gonna be there, yep, and we’ll also see you at OpenStack Summit, so we’ll be at Google Cloud Next in March, DockerCon in April, and Open Stack Summit in May.
Shimel: And I think that one was in Boston?
Balch: It is in Boston this year. That’s right.
Shimel: Yes. Okay. Hey, we actually have some DevOps Connect events going on in Boston, Austin, and Chicago, but for another day. Mark Balch, Diamanti, thanks for being this episode’s guest on DevOps Chat and we’ll speak to you soon.
Balch: Thanks a lot, Alan.
Shimel: Thank you. This is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com and we hope to see you soon on another DevOps Chats.