Dan Houdek, Product Marketing Manager of Private Clouds at Rackspace, on Organizations Migrating to Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Environments

In this episode, Dan Houdek (Product Marketing Manager of Private Clouds at Rackspace) highlights how organizations make the migration into hybrid and multi-cloud environments, and how Rackspace supports their entire journey.


INTRO: [00.00] Welcome to the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast, where you’ll meet new tech vendors, and learn how they can help your business. At ITBroker.com, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before.

Max: [00.18] Hi I’m Max Clark and I’m talking with Dan Houdek, who is the Product Marketing Manager of Private Clouds for Rackspace, and Rackspace just changed its name now to Rackspace Technologies, I think it’s official now, right?

Dan: [00.28] That is correct, we’re Rackspace Technology. 

Max: [00.31] So, I mean, specific to this idea of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud, I mean… You’re in charge of marketing for private clouds, what is it that Racksapce does and is focused on today?

Dan: [00.42] Well, Rackspace originally started out as kind of a managed hosting company and we’ve evolved over time, to the point where we are actually a multi-cloud solutions company, right? Our focus is on helping customers kind of in their journey to the cloud, and that’s across both public clouds, private clouds and even looking into applications and data. That’s why, when we think multi-cloud, we don’t consider it just hypervisors and the depths of private clouds, you also need to look at SaaS – these are now considered cloud-based services, and we have expertise across all those areas, right? So, we say we are a multi-cloud solution as opposed to just a managed services provider.

Max: [01.23] Cloud journey is a relatively frequently used term. You know, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud and private cloud: these have all become marketing terminologies. Within that space though, why wouldn’t a company do this themselves? They’ve got equipment on site and they say, “Hey, let’s just take this and go put it in cloud vendor X or cloud vendor Y,” so what is the gap that Rackspace is filling there, and what problem are you solving for these companies?

Dan: [01.48] Cloud was great, right, for initially driving innovation, and I think what companies have found is there isn’t one cloud that it’s all, right? There’s not one location that kind of fits all and is the best silver bullet, and what a lot of companies are looking at is, they’re not sure where to run those workloads, right? Where to put their apps: should they put them in public, should they put them in private? They may have expertise in a particular cloud, I’m just going to say enterprises… Or they may have expertise in say, you know, their particular verticals. What they don’t have expertise in is across clouds, or really identifying the right places to run apps, run data, where it makes sense for their business, and that’s really where Rackspace comes in. We can provide the, kind of like the unbiased, but opinionated — and we say that right, because we’re not just coming in and going, “Hey, we’re unbiased, and you can go to any cloud,” we’re saying, “Hey, we’re unbiased because we’re not going to focus you on AWS or on VMware, or try to put you into Dell or HP,” we’re going to say, “Hey, let’s look at what your problem is. Let’s ID where your apps and your data and what you’re trying to do with security, and let’s really look at what your plans are for the next three to five years, and then go from there and put you into the right cloud structure, right?” If that makes sense… Or, sometimes it… You know, you may have legacy apps that it makes sense, it’s only going to be around for a couple of years, keep it on premise. We can help customers identify the best places to run those workloads, the best places to run those apps, and then put them into the right cloud.

Max: [03.21] This isn’t about like, you know, if a company decides to go to cloud X, the cloud X wouldn’t necessarily work for them, but maybe cloud Y would have been better for them, and cost less money, or perform better, or fit a security model that’s better, I mean, is that what we’re talking about here?

Dan: [03.37] Yeah, that’s correct. You kind of look at the best of breed – certain clouds are maybe better for running analytics, certain clouds may be better for putting your data or storing your customer information – that is what you want to do, right? You want to look at innovation and not the infrastructure, and keep your focus in that realm. That’s where Rackspace comes in – we can help you determine the best place to put that, and really make it an ecosystem of ecosystems, right? It should just be cloud to you, there is no public, there is no private, that debate should finally go away, particularly when you come to a company like Rackspace, it should just be cloud, and you know you’re going to get the best of breed technology for what you’re trying to solve and the workloads you’re trying to put in the market.

Max: [04.21] A few years ago, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud and private cloud, I mean these are really marketing terms I feel like, being thrown out by lots of companies and weren’t really prevalent in the market. But nowadays, we really do see a lot of enterprises that are multi-cloud, and that are running hybrid clouds and are running private clouds, so… How do these terms, I mean… Not the multi-cloud, but let’s say hybrid cloud and private cloud. As it relates today, what is the difference between hybrid cloud and private cloud for somebody thinking about doing this or trying to figure out if they should do this or what is this for you?

Dan: [04.52] Yeah, it’s a good question and it’s still a confusing one, you can still look across the industry and somehow they define multi and private and hybrid as different… We define private clouds as kind of a single tenant instance, right? It can be located in your datacenter or data centers, colocation facilities… When you start to integrate your private cloud, that single tenant with a public cloud, that becomes then hybrid, right? You’re using both multi-tenant infrastructure with the public cloud in a single tenant infrastructure with the hybrid cloud. And honestly, when we talk to customers… Private cloud should be synonymous with hybrid. There are not many people that are not using a public cloud provider,  but in that same realm, we’re also seeing customers kind of repatriate some of their public cloud workloads back into private, and simply that’s because they’ve realized, “Hey, this wasn’t a cloud native app in the first place,” moved it out to public cloud and are going, “I’m not getting the cost efficiencies and the performance I thought I was going to get, let’s move part of that back to private, and run part of it in public,” and now you have a hybrid cloud model until they determine that, “Hey, let’s develop a cloud native type of infrastructure and move it all to public.” But really, private and hybrid, they should be synonymous. There aren’t many companies that would just have a private cloud, it just… It wouldn’t make sense, right, because you really need to be looking at where you’re running workloads and apps. You should always start the conversation with that, you should always start thinking about, what cloud should I go to? What do you do with apps and data? Where do you want to do your work? And that’s what drives which cloud you go with.

Max: [06.28] Private cloud has, I mean you said single instance tenant or single tenant instance, and really people also talk about this in terms of bare metal, you go back in terminology and talk about dedicated servers, I mean this is really the business that Rackspace started in and got very large in, and now has evolved into this new thing, which is… “Okay, we have a lot of expertise running lots and lots and lots of server equipment in data centers across the world,” now you can do these other things with it, which is… You’re not buying one or two servers, you’re buying some unit of computer or some unit of storage. That leads me to, you know, a really big question here, which is… As all of these cloud ecosystem partners are evolving and more and more companies are getting into the spaces, the CSBs and whatnot… Why Rackspace as a service provider, versus somebody else? What does Rackspace bring to the table that differentiates you, that makes you the best in the space?

Dan: [07.26] I think it’s a few vectors – one I think is our breadth and depth of our portfolio, and globally, right? Our reach globally, we’ve got over forty data centers around the world, and the fact that we offer solutions on VMware, which includes their SDDC, which includes VMC, AWS it includes, you know… Even like server virtualization. We have offerings on Microsoft with HyperV and Azure Stack, we have OpenStack – we’re the creators of OpenStack, right? We do that both Ansible and with RedHat, and we offer bare metal, right? We can even offer customized solutions within that, so… Just the breadth within that private cloud portfolio, and then you extend that to the hypervisors across AWS, Google, and Azure – our expertise right, again, is focused on putting you into the best cloud and the best platform that you need, in our reach. Outside of that, you know again, we take this unbiased view of providing that information to you, right? And I think then to what we have done recently, is we’ve come out with something called service blocks, and industry analysts are already saying this is kind of revolutionizing a great new way to look at it. The idea behind service blocks is, you don’t need to buy the whole basket of eggs, right? You can buy certain components within cloud and the services you need for the time and where you are in that journey, and only pay for those types of services, right? So that’s really a differentiator for us too – we’re trying to charge our customers only for what they’re using at that time, and give them the opportunity to move to a new block, right? Like, they may not need architecture and consulting midway through the project, they got that at the beginning, we can come in and we can help them optimize, right? So, what we do is we break up our services into what we call these service blocks, kind of like Lego fitting pieces, that customers can use and it cuts down cost, right? It helps them optimize their infrastructure, it helps them optimize the service overall.

Max: [09.26] Going back to the dedicated server days, you know, it’s not unusual for a company or customer to say, “I need one, or two, or three, or four servers,” and when you look at the hyperscale, the public cloud today, it’s not unusual to see a company that’s spending millions or tens of millions of dollar a month with a public cloud vendor. I mean, this is a pretty big range now, of addressable market. So, who are your customers? I mean, what does your customer profile look like within that space? Are you still dealing with onesie, twosie dedicated server customers as well as multi-million dollar a month cloud spends, or have you started narrowing down on a more specific view within that?

Dan: [10.00] I would say that it is — we have expanded our view, right? Like you said, our bread and butter initially was helping out customers like feeling the SMB market. But we have expanded into enterprise, right, into the commercial market and mid-market. Those are the customers — and it varies, right? When you look at an SMB customer, they’re coming to use because they don’t have that full expertise or they don’t need — they don’t have an IT organization to actually help support them, so they’ll want a full, white glove managed service, right? We can provide that to them all the way up to the enterprise, where those customers really need to look at innovation and not infrastructure, that’s what they need to focus on, right? All companies, enterprise to mid-market, have expertise and they have knowledge in managing infrastructure, but that’s not valuable to driving their business forward, right? To me, those are the chores of IT, and what they really need to be focused on is kind of what is going to drive my business forward. So, from an enterprise standpoint, the value right there is they can offload those chores, in essence, of enterprise management to a company like Rackspace, and then focus their IT organizations on innovation and driving their business, their goals, right? What are the mission criticals that help to provide or may need to go down and focus on? So that really is kind of the gambit? It’s always better to say we sell to everybody, right? It varies, because our services can provide that, we provide the white glove, all the way to the, “Hey, what you need is for us to come in and manage your infrastructure, the patching, the type of maintenance, we can do that, whatever your business needs are.” 

Max: [11.41] What I’m hearing you say is this is more about, “I have an application, it’s running somewhere now, I want to run this application in a different place, what is the best place to run that application, I need help figuring that out, and then I need help optimizing it and I need help making sure that’s continuing to run, now and tomorrow and the next day and the next week and the next month, et cetera.” 

Dan: [12.01] That is exactly right, and I think that’s a differentiator for us as well, is unlike some typical system integrators and other types of service providers, we don’t just come in, help you determine and then implement the solution, we continue to work with you to optimize it over the lifetime of your lifecycle of the application and workload. So, what may work today for a company may not be the best place to locate the data and the apps six months, a year, two years from now. We have the ability, right, to move those workloads to the right platform when it’s needed, based on — you may go through an acquisition or a merger, and it may make sense to expand your footprint, and so now you need to possibly move it out of a private cloud into a more robust public cloud or something. And so, we’re able to do that, we’re able to help customers determine not only initially when we go in where they should be running their workloads, but continually optimize that over the life of their business. 

Max: [13.03] Something you touched on earlier Dan, was this single invoice regardless of where… You didn’t say cloud agnostic but you basically said what the customer cares about is being in the cloud, not which cloud, and Rackspace provides a single entity, a single invoice back to the customer, and when we look at the CSB market, we see lots of companies are focused — maybe they’re an AWS and VMware provider, or they’re an Azure specific provider, and maybe Azure plus VMware, or they’re focused on Google, and this is pretty unique for Rackspace in the fact that you do support such a wide variety, you know, beyond all the major public clouds, but also the VMware, and then as well as private cloud, and hybrid cloud, and your OpenStack cloud, et cetera. We should talk about this a little bit more, because that has a lot of interesting value as well for a company, of saying, “I don’t know really where I want to be, or if making the right choice, or if I want to be in this place a year from now or eighteen months from now,” but from a Rackspace perspective, you can move somebody and this isn’t like breaching a contract and establishing a new contract, you’re just saying, “We’re running you here and we want to run you here instead now, let’s just move you over to this other thing,” right?

Dan: [14.06] Correct, and that is — you have to look at the back office and the simplification of just operations, of what we’re able to do, because we can provide that, not only the single invoice, but the single support number that you call, right? You’re not having to call AWS and Azure or VMware and Dell, right? You call Rackspace, and it’s because of our deep relationships – a big piece of our value too is just not the fact that we have… We offer expertise across these clouds, but it is also the deep integration and relationships that we’ve established with those partners, right, that benefit the customers. So, we kind of have that red phone, that bat phone that we can pick up, and we can call AWS or Dell or VMware and get the deep insights and support that we need, when a customer might not be able to have the access to. So, you know, it goes beyond the single source of bill or a single number to call, it also delves down kind of into the value we have, and the relationships that we’ve built across the board, like in the deep engineering, we’re often beta customers for a lot of these, the hyperscalers and private cloud providers. So, there’s a deep value in that relationship that a customer may not be able to get out on their own as well.

Max: [15.21] And there’s a lot of longevity here, we’re talking about your employee base, it’s not unusual to see people ten, fifteen, twenty years with Rackspace? 

Dan: [15.28] Oh, no. They’ve got flags that are hanging all over our corporate offices that say twenty year Racker. That’s what we call ourselves – Rackers. So no, the longevity, that’s a great value to that, glad you pointed that out, what we invest in our employees and what the company has invested in our employees… Not only from making it a great working environment, but the educational opportunities that we have our engineers and our support teams go through, is just… It’s unprecedented, honestly. I’ve been in the tech industry for over twenty years and I’ve never seen a company invest so much time in ensuring that their employees in the right areas were certified, in the right levels, and that they had — they continued multiple certifications, you know? It’s just a great area to look into, it’s the fact that when you talk to some of our engineers and support architects, they’re not just qualified in AWS, they have qualifications in AWS and in Azure, or in AWS and VMware, and why is that important? Well it’s because they understand the intricacies of how those multiple clouds work together, and so they’re able to kind of think outside of the box and go, “Well, that’s not the best way to do it.” because Rackspace is invested in getting these people educated and certified in the right means.

Max: [16.45] You know, there’s a difference between if a company has already migrated to cloud, or if they’re thinking about migrating to cloud at this point. Regardless of that, if a company has either made that change or is thinking about making a change and has come to that determination of… “We need some help here.” What should they expect engaging Rackspace, and what is that onboarding process or what does that initial evaluation process look like? What should they be prepared to do and walk through with you? 

Dan: [17.13] We’ll always start looking from a process standpoint, right? We’ll always being in our professional services organization to sit down with the customer and identify the problems and what they’re trying to solve, rather than looking at it from a technology, like what technology do you want to go to? Customers also have the opportunity, depending on where they’re at, to purchase our service blocks, right? So we have service blocks that start with something called platform essentials, right? Which is kind of the basics of, you get an enterprise, technical account manager who is available 24/7/365 to help troubleshoot and address questions, and that’ll come with cost optimization tooling, right? They’ll come in and they’ll do some initial analysis of where you can optimize your cost to, you know, if a customer has already passed that node, they might want something more like our complex operations, right? Where we can actually come in and start right there where it provides like a certified cloud engineer, and it’s  based on various hours that you would be with that engineer, all the way up to do you want a dedicated resource, 24/7/365? And that’s a great advantage that Rackspace has provided to our customers, is the fact that they don’t need to buy the essential — platform essentials, and the complex operations, right? They’re not going to need to have both of those at the same time, they can buy those in what we call service blocks, and we can start the conversation at, depending on where they are in their journey and what they need. But we’ll always start the conversation with, “What are you trying to solve?” Let’s not look at the technology, let’s put that aside, what’s the problem and then we can help you engineer the right solution.

Max: [18.51] What are you trying to solve, I love that. Dan, thank you so much for your time, I’m sure we can spend a lot more in the future, there’s too much here to cover, but I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Dan: [19.02] There is a lot. Take care. 

OUTRO: [19.04] Thanks for joining the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast. At ITBroker.com, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before. We can help you buy the right tech for your business, visit us at ITBroker.com to schedule an intro call.