TechStringy Podcast Part 3: NetApp’s Phoebe Goh on Tactical Use of the Cloud

Tactical Use of the CloudFresh thinking about use for cloud from a cloud architect at NetApp.

Paul Stringfellow closes out his podcast series with a conversation about the tactical use of cloud.

The series started with Paul conversing with Eric Kraieski at TDS about best practices for a successful cloud migration. The next session continued that focus with a conversation with Sarah Lean from Microsoft.

In this latest session, the conversation shifts the importance of taking the time to consider how we can use cloud in specific parts of an organization to deliver better outcomes, improve our technology or serve our customers better.

In the course of her work, Phoebe, a self-described “cloud cheerleader,” explores with her customers how they plan to use the cloud. She feels this is an important step because the right technology decision can inform how they can move efficiently and effectively.

She advocates that it’s important for organizations to take a step back and consider how they can leverage the cloud to be more effective as a company, to make their products better, and make their team more productive. Rather than assuming that public cloud is the answer for every organization and every use, she advises using a tactical approach. Take the time to choose the right cloud, or data center, rather than assuming everything is destined for cloud and one size fits all.

Listen now!

Listen to Cloud Series Podcast Part 1: Secrets to Driving a Successful Cloud Migration

Listen to Cloud Series Podcast Part 2Microsoft’s Sarah Lean on Migrating to Azure 


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Hi and welcome to this week’s Tech Interviews. I’m your host Paul Stringfellow.  This is the third part of our short series looking at the move to the public cloud. In the first couple of parts we’ve looked at how we transition to cloud when we spoke to Eric Kraieski at TDS. And in the second part we spoke to Microsoft Cloud architect Sarah Lean to look into how we architect and build solutions and get ready for moving into a public cloud provider service such as Microsoft Azure.

But what I wanted to do as part of the third part of the show was to look at companies who are not necessarily public cloud companies but using public cloud to help them to do things differently, to deliver better outcomes, and to deliver solutions. So tell me how to do that, I’m joined today by Phoebe Goh from NetApp.  Hello, how are you?

I’m great. I’m really excited to be on the show.

Great to have you on. And, you know, thanks for joining us late evening, from your accent we know you’re from Australia, so welcome for the southern hemisphere. Thanks for doing this.

Before we get started, tell us a little bit about who you are, and what is it is you do?

So yes, my name is Phoebe Goh, I am a cloud architect at NetApp Australia. I have been working now for about 13 years, so I’ve kind of seen a lot of change in the last decade, and I currently work in a kind of an overlay role where I help our sales teams understand our products and how to help their customers use these products, the best ways of creating solutions and architecting solutions that are mostly cloud focused, but we do talk about other things as well. I mean cloud means a lot of things a lot of people, and that’s kind of my role right now.

What’s really interesting and it’s the reason I kind of wanted to get somebody on who wasn’t necessarily whose ultimate focus is cloud. So you kind of talked in there about this role as a cloud architect. So, you know, what does a company that’s not a cloud company, what does the cloud architect do?

Well I think I think the first thing is that cloud is relatively new to a lot of people. I mean it’s been around for quite a number of years but when you think about how long technology and how quickly technologies change, I feel like the number one thing that I feel is really important is that I know what’s going on in the world outside of NetApp, and what cloud means to our customers and other people who aren’t necessarily kind of living and breathing,  in particular, cloud every day.

And so it’s interesting you know you’ve spoken to people who get public cloud vendors and I think there’s a different perspective on what cloud is to some people, cloud is the future and it’s also the here and now. But I also talk to a lot of customers who know it’s coming but it might be coming for them years into the future and so I think it’s really important to kind of have that broad perspective of what cloud means to people and, and why you know it’s not just a fad but how they can actually leverage it in the future as well as now.

Yeah, so before we were recording you talked a little bit as well about one of your roles is kind of this idea of almost being the “cloud cheerleader.” No doubt pom poms and high kicks will pop up but when you talk about being kind of the cheerleader for public cloud, when you’re talking to an end user, businesses may be exploring how they might use cloud? What did you mean?

I was thinking more like a mascot consume like a giant fluffy cloud that runs around!

Cloud isn’t just a place, like we talk about cloud sometimes, you need to come from an infrastructure background like when I was a Cisco.

You know a customer doing managed services and, a lot of people who know cloud is another data center, it’s just somebody else’s computer, it’s kind of a physical thing, and I think really what I’m trying to tell my customers, my teams, and tell my friends, and my colleagues, my family who are listening is that cloud is not just a particular technology it’s really a way of thinking and a way of building technologies and building solutions that by helping us to do things—hopefully better and hopefully benefiting society—probably as part of that, it means making people rich as well.

But, but really, it’s about how can we do things a different way or better way than how we’ve been doing it previously. And so that might mean, you know, I’ll be having a conversation with somebody about why serverless is a thing and serverless is one of those funny terms that to me it kind of represents, it is very similar to the word “cloud,” it’s a new concept. A new way of looking at something that we’ve done for decades, we’ve been programming for a very long time, serverless is different, but it’s allowing us to do something in a faster way, or in a more productive way.

So that’s kind of how I like to look at Cloud and, and the whole spectrum of technologies that NetApp is providing in that area allows me to really have a really broad conversation with customers and friends and family about, what that might mean for them.

It was really interesting point actually, this idea that cloud is a way of thinking. And you told me about serverless that I feel is a really good example of this different way of thinking because something along the lines of re- architecting in the way that you do tasks that you may call it the way you do things on prem, this idea of maybe the best way to use public cloud is to re-architect and re-think about where you deliver some of the services is that kind of fair to say?

Yeah, I do think that thinking about things that we do today in a new way, is part of it. And also, I think, and this comes out more you know as I talked to some of our customers who’ve been around a long time like I think it’s different if you’re a cloud native customer, but if you’re somebody, a business or a person, who has kind of got a data center and you’ve got some applications that were not built with cloud in mind, it’s also about looking is it right to even re-architect, is it worth it to do that?

It’s a really interesting point, because the challenges I wanted to explore in the first couple shows in this series, was the idea that the things that will catch people, is not fully understanding, kind of how they operate on prem currently, you know we’re not fully understanding what the impact of moving to public cloud might be. I mean is that something that you see as well. Although your role may be slightly different in the way you use Cloud. Is that a fair point, that one of the challenges is really understanding what you have before you move it and not really understanding the impact of moving it?

Yeah, absolutely. And that is something that I’ve seen recently in the last 12 months, six months has been this realization that moving things as they are, is not always the most sensible decision, but it’s one that has implications. So, where we may have I might have moved things from my computer to your computer previously. There was a very static cost to doing that my time to do it and then, now it’s running on your system, and that was it. And now that we moved to a different consumption model in cloud, suddenly, the cost of moving it that way is not necessarily static anymore. It’s a recurring monthly cost and it might be going up and it might be, you know, and I think there’s the realization of that. I think there’s definitely some, some kind of concern that that’s going to impact you, everybody’s heard of that: “Oh, you know, I’ll move to the cloud and now I have a $500. million bill every month, what do I do,” I think there’s, there’s a lot of concern that that’s going to impact the way that people do that how they’re going to move to cloud. So I think that they definitely, that’s the really kind of key point is, how do we do it efficiently, how do we move efficiently and how do we do with the smart way rather than just a knee jerk reaction kind of way.

A couple interesting points again that you raised here.

One of the things we talked about, we kind of laughingly said what’s the cloud architect do, and how do we define that.  One of the things we talked about this idea that cloud architecture, the technical realm, being kind of the mascot, the person who helps people to understand the impact of moving to the cloud. You do that from a kind of a vendor point of view, you work for NetApp, and you know so your work with NetApp customers but you think having somebody in that moment, not in all cases, but if you’re an organization of a particular size, you know, relatively sizable. Is it important that you have somebody doing that role do you think, or is that just something that somebody who’d be external, a consultant an external cloud architect type expert, might be able to fulfill?

That’s really interesting point because we kind of talked about how there’s a bit of a disconnect between the vision of being in the cloud and being and moving to public cloud and, the guys and girls who are kind of trying to make it happen in the back end will try to run this thing.

The way I like to see it is you may not be an individual person, I think having somebody there as a figurehead for this movement is really important because it gives somebody to go talk to and to rally around, who can kind of translate that strategic point of view into actually not this how are we going to do it but you know what’s in it for me because I think everybody kind of wants to know that this is going to be better for me in the, in, in the long run in the medium run too.

And I think that having a person that feels like it almost should be a movement like it should be. When we talk about cloud, everybody’s kind of we got to get up there. And I’ve seen some customers where that’s worked really well they have kind of a cloud Center of Excellence when they build up this knowledge base and this is not just a knowledge base but also a, a comfort level with using new technology, she’s talking about things in a, in a new way, that I feel like it’s nice. It’s a really nice thing to have and like you said I don’t think every organization needs to have one.

But you have to kind of think about how are we going to get everybody on board.

And it’s really interesting point in the bullet points as well I think something that’s come across in some of the other shows we’ve done in this series, is actually the idea of having people on board with the idea of fully understanding what cloud is going to mean, a you know folks have benefits and potential impacts of doing that.

And the technologies we will often miss you know we get excited by the technology and the ability to, you know, do things differently or do things more quickly or do things in larger scale, but don’t necessarily think about what the impact of doing that might be like in the use of cloud.

Consumption model and how that might affect finances and how we deliver IT. So you know that and I think that that’s really interesting that you go back to talk about that we look at the overall impact and ensuring that all levels of the organization they kind of understand how our cloud might impact them.

And that leads to the next question I had for you. We touched on a couple of times you with NetApp, and that NetApp is not a traditional cloud company so how does a company like that look to utilize cloud to deliver beneficial things that I always remember that is kind of storage in the cloud started to become something that was something more usable something more realistic and tangible, that one of the things thrown at companies like NetApp was that cloud is going to kill your business. Pretty interesting NetApp seem to have really embraced what cloud can help them to deliver, not as a technology called as a business how as a company there’s not an end public cloud company, you know how would you say NetApp is kind of utilizing cloud and what are what are some of the benefits that they are extracting from it?

This kind of two parts to the answer for me I mean we are, and then the best part is kind of easy we are a company trying to innovate and trying to create new products, to develop new things and to really keep in front of our competition to create a better customer experience, a better a user experience for our customers. The part of that I find interesting is how we’re actually leverage cloud to make ourselves more effective as a company and make our products better and make people more productive and I think that’s really exciting. So, I mean, I know you’ve had conversations with the outlet IT team and then we have the idea of a NetApp on NetApp which is where we talk about how we use our products.

And I think it’s really interesting because we kind of look at the cloud, not as “Oh, they’re going to come in and steal our business or you know, food, or steal our pocket money. The cloud is part of our business as well using it is it makes our business more successful. So it’s not something to kind of shy away from.

And if we look at how we’re trying to do things we’re trying to be faster we’re trying to be more agile than we should be developing products that that make us faster and more agile and that means creating cloud services or products that run in the cloud that is able to create those outcomes for our own teams. I think that’s when I start to position things that way. It’s not about cloud being a competitor to us or to be something we should be sped up but it’s really something we should be open our arms to and saying how can we use more of it, because it’s really powerful and it’s able to able to do things that we couldn’t do before. And then I guess the other side of the equation that, you know, like how you said we’re not a traditional cloud company because I kind of thought for a moment on what is a traditional cloud company?

Is the content old enough to have traditional cloud? I’m sorry I mean we look at what we’re what our customers are trying to achieve. And, you know, creating things that we’ve done for the last 26 years, 27 years is not what customers are necessarily trying to achieve, 26, years later, so we’ve had that we’ve obviously adapted our products at the time anyway. But now we’re just adapting them into a new of way of thinking and the way that that comes out the most to me the most kind of striking way is just in consumption models. You know the way that products on, necessarily, people don’t necessarily want to buy things with an upfront: Three year, this is the cost for the next three years, and then I’m not going to see you for three years. They really want a model where they can adjust what their usages are just what they what features they are using my turning them on and off.

And I think that, you know, in Australia we’ve kind of embraced that model for a really long time and understanding that moving to something like an op-ex model is a way to, to help customers be more successful in what they do. It’s got nothing to do with us– I mean it has something has to do with us, but changing the way that you sell something to somebody changing the consumption model. It may have no impact on the technology whatsoever. But it might be a huge thing for the customer and cloud to me as a lot of it is the way that it’s being able to turn it on its head, it’ll be able to burst into it and use it. And that flexibility is one of those things I think that NetApp has really embraced.

We want to make it possible for our customers to use the technology how they want and to pay for it how they want. Does that make sense?

It does now and really interesting about what NetApp are doing in this space was one of conversations I’ve had with our customers over, probably the last six months or so is this idea of cloud not having to be either all in or all out, and seeing a much more tactical usage of looking at where public cloud is strong and looking at how can it can help you to deliver you know get better outcomes for your own organization or you can deliver technology more effectively more efficiently there’s interesting when you talk about how NetApp used public cloud not as a technology company but as a business look at how cloud helps to innovate helps people be more effective and helps people to deliver things faster and feel to do things better to do things in different ways.

And I think this kind of idea of tactical use public clouds are finding places where you’ve, you’ve got a gap and actually public cloud is good fit. I think below kind of the data industries is probably lends itself really well to that know if you think about the things that are difficult on prem with data which is the amount we have to store the availability we have how we protect it how we move it around.

Actually, public cloud can plug into that and enable quite a lot of those features you know is that something I would have tried to put words in your mouth please It’s kind of the idea of using public cloud as a tactical thing are using public cloud, where it’s useful.

But if you’re a big public cloud vendor then potentially every answer is public cloud. Whereas if you’re a business every answer probably isn’t public cloud so does that kind of makes sense, this idea of tactical cloud usage as opposed to have to be all in or all out?

Yeah, it’s interesting you know when you were talking about I was thinking, well, if I look at sort of Google Cloud Platform and Azure and AWS, you know they’ve all in the last year or so released, or announced on premises versions of what they’re what they’re doing and I think it’s interesting because it kind of blends that line between I guess what is public, is it public cloud if it’s running in my data center has probably cloud services on it but it’s a box that’s how many and costing me power and cooling and, you know, people managing it and that sort of thing.

So I think definitely it’s, it’s about picking the right solution at the right time so I like to use a tactical approach to public cloud as opposed to, let’s just put it all in there because, you know, that’s where we’re going to go and, and I think the other side of that is that we’re seeing more, well I’m definitely chatting to more people about, well, I don’t just want a single public cloud. I want to use all of them in some way. And it may not be the same workload, it might be different workloads but it’s about picking the right public cloud maybe you know maybe one of the cloud providers as a better AIML solution or maybe one of them has a better Office Suite. One of them may have just this out of this world kind of service that I really want to start using.

And surely other the others will catch up that’s the nature of competition and technologies, we will kind of build and work out ways to build the same thing and call it different things and give it new skins but I think that’s customers are kind of going well I don’t, I don’t want to necessarily just use one I want to use all of them. I don’t necessarily just want to use it in the public cloud I want to use it in my data center and kind of adjusting the way that we used to think of cloud as you’re either in or you’re not now it’s parts of you are going to be out of your business and parts of your technology, your IT, is going to be in in cloud and then on and they may be actually be the same application that has the same workload that happens to be in both locations, and I, I really like a lot of the conversations that we have at NetApp, our data scientists talk a lot about it, and if you look at the workstream of AI so the actual outcome is more about the process that you know this piece of data all these pieces of data goes through so much transformation and they might be out at remote sites. They might be in the data center they might be in the cloud, but they all kind of have the outcome of creating a better customer experience or creating a, you know, a way to cure a particular disease or to be able to diagnose something. I think that’s, that’s kind of where I’m seeing things going.

Generally I think obviously different people at different stages and different applications fit in different ways but yeah it’s a really exciting time, I think, to be kind of talking about cloud as well.

What makes cloud an exciting topic and nothing makes technology a really interesting area to be in right now in a process. It’s interesting it’s never been, I’ve been doing this for 20 years now. And actually the technology industry is as exciting and innovative as ever. It’s some of that tactical use that is interesting. So, you told them about kind of AI and ML. You know, and kind of where we’re doing can be leading edge of where is that, well, we’ve coined the phrase “tactical use” now.

Hashtag tactical use!

I like the way NetApp is using public cloud across their cloud business unit that does things that are kind of cloud native, but it also using public cloud when smartly across a whole range of what would be looked at their most traditional solutions. So, do you have some examples of some of these kind of tactical use of cloud or where NetApp are can be using public cloud in, it may be something which is more traditional way just to give their, their customers more benefit that allow them to explain the benefits of public cloud in areas where maybe they don’t even recognize they’re doing it you know if that even makes any sense.

Yeah, I was telling somebody earlier today about how you know we were talking about how you could basically purchase or start using NetApp operating system on tap, and that up as always said you know for the last quarter century we said where software company we build a storage management system. And I think it’s really interesting that you know you can get that storage operating system on with spinning disks or SSD is like, actually, you know, in an engineered system or you can get them here running as a virtual appliance you can get it running in the cloud, it can get a running as a service. It’s not so much about the, what it’s running on but what it can do. And I think that, in terms of some ways I see customers see that right the advantages of having the same operating system is that you get a lot of the same features and benefits but it becomes kind of one thing that you had one thing that you can you can trust it to work the same way, no matter where we put it.

So, some of the features that NetApp has always talks about like our efficiencies in order to manage your storage footprint and to be able to take instances that those sorts of cool, cool storage features if you call in inverted commas if you’re a pure storage nerd like me. So cool. And if you’re not then you go, what, but it’s being able to take some of those features across, wherever you are, and so you never get you talk to NetApp and you’re not going to get that: if you put it over here you can do this over there, you know, it’s the same operating system.

And so customers are starting to really embrace the nature of Okay, that’s really cool, you have this great operating system and you can do all this cool stuff but I don’t want to have to manage that and so I can start to, to just consume the cool bits,  and not worry about having to look after a storage array or looking after discs. I think that’s kind of one of the elements of NetApp’s cloud story that I find really interesting because no longer are we talking about really a product but we’re just talking about what are you going to do with it, of the buttons that it’s got which ones are going to, you are going to work for you and are they going to work for you in the cloud, like, do you want to do that in the cloud, or do you want to do that on premises or do you want to do that in another location.

And that kind of makes it our story to me that that’s the NetApp value. And, and the fact that it’s really incredibly performance. It’s not the number one thing is other thing to lead a conversation, it’s, it’s a nice thing to talk about definitely we need to know what it can do. It really it’s about saying well you could do it anyway. And going back to your point about cloud early and how to that tactically using this.

You can, it means that you can and you’re not going to be restricted by what the data management, or the storage platform is capable of.

And I think what’s really important point about #tacticaluse, if my first step into public cloud is to use Office 365 for example. Well that’s that works really well because actually to the end user that experience doesn’t look any different. And even now from an administration point of view if you use Exchange on prem or use Exchange Online, the way you manage Exchange the exactly the same the location of it doesn’t really matter so that’s a nice straightforward transition for an organization to start to exploit with Cloud is really useful.

And I think some of the things you just talked about, this kind of tactical use of how you know maybe NetApp plugging public cloud storage into your kind of production storage array. But you as a storage admin not really have to worry about how it works. Again, that’s really nice introduction into the scale of flexibility to public cloud brings it in a way that you don’t have to relearn a whole bunch of things to take advantage of it. The way the way it’s done at the back end, fully exploits to a public cloud works it’s not just lifting and shifting the data and shooting in the cloud. It is utilizing properly architected back in cloud. But presenting that in a way as an end customer to say you can utilize this benefit, you don’t have to relearn a whole bunch of things you have to worry about your data management.

That ability to have the same endpoint in multiple locations now that’s quite important, when you look at the data management in the enterprise data management tools I won’t be able to manage that data wherever it sits because it might not always sit in my data center, it might be about in a public cloud location, it might be fed to a machine learning algorithms somewhere. I need to still maintain my kind of enterprise controls and. So, as we kind of wrap up here is that simple introduction to public cloud you know is that is that an important part of that transition if we can make people, if we can get people to use public companies benefit, without huge expensive terms of retraining and rearchitecting, you know is that an important step in that journey, user as a cloud architect?

Yeah, I think the probably the last point I’d make and I’m glad you brought it up is, you know, I was a Sys Admin and I know what it’s like to try and learn new things. And I think that making things easy to learn if it’s not something that you’ve done before, so you may have never touched it storage array use another on that system ever, but you should still be able to pick up a NetApp cloud, you know cloud data service or cloud service and feel comfortable with it as though you know as if you had been managing that app storage for the last 20 years or something. And I think that moving into that making that transition from a, maybe an enterprise, Sys admin to a cloud and enterprise cloud Sys admin or a cloud SRE, and be able to not have to think about I’ve got to go and do lots of training and I’m going to read manuals and understand all these things.

The way to change the system. I think that is a really critical part of being successful in it in an enterprise business where you’re trying to straddle running multiple things at once and, you know, working for NetApp and where I got a management company we’d be proud of management storage is the most important thing in the universe. But I know that for a customer this there’s a lot of things that are going on. And so being able to make the storage and data management part stress free is actually really important as well so I think that’s kind of a little tangential I care that they can run it and not feel stressed when they’re running it, they should be able to focus on the new things and be able to adapt to using the cloud and maybe start to adopt cloud services and, and to start thinking about serverless.

I wanted to support other parts of the business that are that are cloud native and they’ve already started building those applications and not feel like you’re kind of being left behind because you also have to manage this legacy stuff.

I think that wraps it up really nicely we started off with asking the question What is the cloud architect do. I think we kind of wrapped up nicely on this idea of making that transition something that can actually be done, pick the right cloud technologies, part of your technology role, part of that is easing that transition as well so that is usable so that an organization can get the right outcome.

Can then focus on the right things like, it probably rounds out the architectural quite nicely. So we’ll look at this as kind of we wrap up here, you know couple things I was like why not you know talk about you work at NetApp so that up have lots of interesting approaches how they use public clouds if they want to find out more about that after the public cloud, and how they go about that, if people have enjoyed this as I have this kind of chat you know, what are some of the ways they can haunt you on the Internet?

All of NetApp’s cloud data services are on a very easy URL, it is cloud dot NetApp dot com. And if you go there you’ll find all the information you might even have a chat with me in the, in the little chat box. If you, if that’s not your thing and you’d like to contact me. I am pretty active on Twitter, my Twitter handle is @PhoebeGoh, go ahead and email me and I’m more than happy to have a conversation or where to get a giant fluffy clouds mascot costume!

Okay. Do you have a blog site as well Phoebe?

I do I’m currently redoing it, but I’m, which is something that I like is wearing hats. So, I’ve had that domain for very long time. So, trying to think of how I can incorporate more hats into my life.

And as all people who listen to the show and anyone in technology knows it’s important to wear many hats. Great way to end the show.

Phoebe thanks very much for your time, really appreciate that it’s late in Down Under. So, you know, really appreciate your time and doing this and that it has been a fascinating chat and I’m glad we ended this series looking at Cloud from the point of view of somebody who is in an organization whose day job is not just focused purely on how we use public cloud and how we transition to it, important topics and we got a slightly different take on that and we’ve coined the phrase “tactical cloud use”

Thanks very much and look forward to having you on the show again in the near future.

Thank you so much.

I hope you enjoyed the show. You can find parts one and two as well as all the episodes of the podcast on TechInterviews.

Next time out we look at how using voice is changing the way we interact with technology. So to make sure you catch our show subscribe, find us on Apple podcast SoundCloud Stitcher, as well as all the good homes of podcasts. If you enjoyed this podcast, leave a review. That will help other people to find the show. So until next time thanks for listening.[/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_accordion]

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