Miles Ward (00:19):
Hi, everybody. Welcome to Cloud and Clear! I’m Miles Ward, I’m CTO at SADA. This is our podcast for bringing business and digital leaders, innovators in the cloud technology space together to think through what’s next. How do we help everybody take advantage of the superpower that is Google cloud and the broader innovation in this digital native ecosystem? I’m just really excited for this one. This is going to be a lot of fun. I want to introduce you to a colleague, employee, coworker, collaborator, partner, innovator, buddy of mine. Dan Isla. Dan say howdy to everybody.
Dan Isla (00:55):
Hello, I’m Dan Isla VP of product at itopia
Miles Ward (01:00):
Itopia. Tell me more.
Dan Isla (01:02):
Itopia. So, itopia is it startup based out of Miami. It’s a google cloud exclusive partner and we build solutions built on GCP to help people be more productive using cloud infrastructure, specifically with automating windows deployments. And I joined itopia almost a year ago, coming from Google.
Miles Ward (01:28):
Dan Isla (01:28):
Your team, the solution architects.
Miles Ward (01:29):
Hey, wait a minute. I was at Google too. How does that work? So, we’ve been at this a long time. This cloud computing thing is an awful lot of fun. Dan and I have been trying to punch our way into customers big and small, help them take advantage of all the platform tools that are there. And I think it was fairly early on in your journey, and us working together, kind of post your years at NASA, where VDI and sort of helping customers get access to a tool system that was consistent, seemed like a repeating problem. It Happened at big companies, small companies, all over the place. Is that what the focus is right now? Is that where you’re headed?
Dan Isla (02:13):
Yeah. Coming from cloud in the very early days, working at the jet propulsion lab, I spent almost eight years there. Having access to cloud resources was pretty difficult. And so we’re trying to leverage this compute power that you have outside of your local data centers and trying make it accessible and useful to people. Not only was it a natural transition to Google, but to Google cloud in general. We’re trying to make, build products that make it easier to consume cloud, to be more productive in a work from home environment. It’s been pretty popular lately to say the least.
Miles Ward (02:50):
Dan Isla (02:51):
Miles Ward (02:52):
Well, you said magic words there, like trying to make it so the cloud is easier to consume. I’ve never heard anybody put easy and Kubernetes into the same sentence before. And yet there we are. Like, how does Kubernetes tie into what you’re doing at itopia?
Dan Isla (03:12):
At itopia, I started a project, actually at Google, as a solution architect called Selkies. And Selkies is an open source platform for orchestrating workloads on Kubernetes. So Kubernetes is typically a platform for running microservices in a distributed fashion, make it reliable and easy to operate. Kubernetes itself is not easy to operate, but that’s why Google has GKE the Google Kubernetes engine to take away that pain, but it’s still a large complex project that you need to wrap into larger abstractions. And so Selkies does that in a way that makes it possible to run stateful workloads for users in Kubernetes. In particular, where we’re delivering the entire developer environment through containers. Selkies orchestrates that and makes it possible to make sure the storage follows the user, sets up the entire IDE, delivers it to a browser in a secure way, and connects with all the services using Google’s networking services, like VPC peering, cloud VPN, to make it accessible to your on-prem or private resources.
Miles Ward (04:17):
I mean, I watch a lot, where companies that are coming from either office or going further back Lotus notes or having to pull together the tool system for a class of their workers, right? For office kind of products, that’s knowledge workers. But I think it’s never been more complex to assemble the tool system for developer workers. That class of folks needs a zillion tools. They all have to work together in a way that’s coherent and every step in that, you’re trying to figure out, okay, what complexity can I walk away from? Like, okay, we’re going to do all of this on their laptop, no place, but that laptop, this is the only laptop where everything is. You don’t change anything about that.
Miles Ward (05:02):
With spaces, you store all of that configuration, consistency of experience, make it programmatic, deployable, easy to get to compliance and consistency, but do all of that in the cloud. So that now you don’t have all this physical dependency on components. Has that been the core value proposition for customers? That they want to hear that now that somebody loses a laptop and they’re not toast, or they can help people work across diverse devices, or is there another big value prop that’s the critical piece?
Dan Isla (05:33):
That is a major component of what spaces is and spaces is the productization of the open source Selkies project, making it a fully managed service that you can consume as pay as you go. And yeah, basically we’re codifying and making the developer environment consistent, installing all the dependencies. That’s usually the worst thing, clone some GitHub repo. And they’re like, oh, I need like node 12 or something and some random version of Redis, you’re like this doesn’t exist on my computer. But if you run a space that has all that pre-installed and pre-configured, you can very quickly jump into an entire complete environment and it just works. And your enterprise admins can pre-configure these environments with everything a developer needs on day one, or even hour one, to start being productive immediately. Because they can onboard a team, that may be offshore, give them a login just from an email, and as long as they have a web browser, they can securely connect and have their entire environment ready to go.
Miles Ward (06:33):
I remember reading sort of VC pitch deck materials and content about how to tell what one of those digital natives was, what that felt like and one of the core indicators is that software developers are able to get in and be productive on the first day. And I remember reading really earlier stuff from Facebook talking about the critical thing is that you’ve got to get developer’s able to be able to push right away.
Miles Ward (07:01):
But if you start to translate into, not the most bleeding edge, the brand new startups that don’t have any of this legacy, don’t have any dependencies, don’t have any offices, don’t have employees in a bunch of different places, getting to that same promise. How do I get to an environment immediately, in a way of that’s reliable? That is probably a lot harder for them to achieve. So having something like spaces, closes that gap for, what are the different kinds of customers that you’re seeing adopt the product? Is it shops trying to catch up or is it an even mix across digital natives and enterprises? What’s the balance look like?
Dan Isla (07:40):
We’ve even seen a lot of folks come in with interest in trying to create a secure and accessible way for their employees to be productive, either when they’re in the office or remote. With spaces, you can seamlessly close your browser on your office computer and open it up on your laptop and it’s the exact same environment. Also the code doesn’t leave the environment, so you don’t have to worry about, okay, if the employee takes this IP home, where does it go from there? Now it’s all self-contained and streamed to your browsers, so you don’t have to worry about exfiltration concerns there.
Dan Isla (08:13):
But folks trying to transform into a more digital, consistent environment, is pretty popular. Enterprises want more controls over what’s being installed, what versions of things are installed, and how you do that. That and just setting up in a developer environment is so difficult.
Miles Ward (08:30):
Dan Isla (08:30):
Sometimes I don’t even know what the developers need. And so they’re trying to not only gain that understanding, but make it very seamless to enable people to be more productive.
Miles Ward (08:39):
Yeah. I remember we had a whole set of new developers come into our team and days in, were very happily producing new content, new code, making their poll requests, all this absolutely into a now totally deprecated set of source control that no one else had permissions to anymore. And they’re kind of like, this is really a quiet place. They don’t dev that much, I guess. And then we had to grab all of their work and pull it across into the new environment. There’s all this tidy up, like that kind of logistics. Each one of those steps is a productivity risk, but also of course, a security risk and IP risk. I know in the work that we’ve done together, with some joint customers, so a great customer of ours, NewStar, is super, super focused on making sure that we were keeping security at a very top bar.
Miles Ward (09:35):
Initially in the project with us, they absolutely demanded that we run on AWS workspaces and it took us days and days and days of sort of working through, because they had multiple, different teams inside one company. They have multiple, different dev standards, dev environments, IDs, they expect source control tools that they’re using. So it wasn’t just one space that they would’ve needed. They need multiple spaces to accommodate a business built by acquisition and M&A. So those kinds of complexities are a place where, especially for shops like us, consultancies, it’s such a huge benefit to have this self-contained, hermetically sealed, little environment, where that developer experience lives.
Dan Isla (10:19):
Yeah and you can take those developer environments and move them per project. So, as a consultancy company, you can have an entire space that’s just for one customer and then create a whole new one or clone that one and iterate on that. And so these are lightweight environments they’re built with containers, which have a principle of being very lightweight, flexible, starting up fast, shutting down fast, so it becomes very powerful. And it’s very simple to configure the environments. Folks typically don’t want that burden of infrastructure.
Miles Ward (10:48):
Dan Isla (10:48):
That’s the reason why Amazon workspaces, while it may solve part of the problem, it doesn’t have that orchestration element to it, where it’s okay and it’s not developer focused. You can’t just click and say, I’m developer, where’s my IDE, launch. That’s the experience we’re trying to get towards spaces.
Miles Ward (11:04):
Yeah. There Warner put up a big slide at reinvent last week that said, we make primitives, not foundations, or primitives, not frameworks. Right? I was like, I don’t know. I think most of my customers want products, not primitives. They want the batteries included. Right? So you had talked to me about one of the technical features for… the business folks in the room, this is the time to sort of check your coffee, make sure everything’s working, we’re going to go off into the nerd corner here for a second… But storage, I’ve talked for a long time about how I think managing and sorting out storage as kind of a core challenge in the Kubernetes ecosystem. How did you solve storage for spaces?
Dan Isla (11:52):
Yeah. Storage is where all your data lives. It needs to be persistent, it has to work, it has to be backed up. We’re leveraging a lot of the Kubernetes ecosystem to solve for storage. Kubernetes has many deep integrations, not only with Google cloud, but with other on-prem solutions and Ice Guzzy and I think NFS even, for shared file systems. So, by the principles of Kubernetes with orchestrating, not only containers, the data will follow that container. So you can shut down your session on one cluster, or one node in that cluster, and bring it up on a completely different node and the storage will just follow it around.
Dan Isla (12:29):
For customers that may not want their data held in itopia Google project, we have an option for hosting the data itself, in your project. We use Google’s high speed network to mount it over ice Guzzy through the network and into the container environments. That way the data stays in your project. Just the environment is run and managed by itopia.
Miles Ward (12:52):
We’ve been working on some sort of increasingly exotic Kubernetes and anthos demonstrations. And I’m challenging the dev team with ever more complicated storage requirements. And one of them popped up to go, why don’t we just run this in a space and forget it and make Dan sort it out. Right? So I think that no stronger recommendation than that.
Miles Ward (13:19):
You’re less than a year in, right? You’re building fast, you’ve gotten a product out of market, you’ve taken on, as a group of partnership with us at SADA, so how is that working? What effects are you seeing in that partnership?
Dan Isla (13:34):
Yeah. So one of the greatest things about partner with SADA is not only do I get to work with you again, having a great relationship there, but also some of my former colleagues at Google, and now at SADA, so we get to collaborate once again with a great team of individuals. And the Alliance that we’ve formed, it is an extension, a natural extension, of our sales team.
Miles Ward (13:58):
Dan Isla (13:58):
You know we’d be able to bring in expertise in a larger market that we would not normally have access to, and that you guys are already experts in. They’re one of the leading Google partners. So it was a very exciting and natural fit for itopia to reach out and partner with SADA.
Miles Ward (14:16):
Yeah, when we started to lay out, because there’s a hundred different ways we could go to market to try and connect with businesses that were building software as a service, and so many different options for program constraints and incentives and what kind of structure to build. And I had itopia in the back of my head the whole time, that we if we build this program right, it’s going to make it so that Dan and Lee Reman and the whole crew, that they’ll have a great time. So I’m super excited that we were able to get it to work and, for you to sign on, so we can keep working together and make customers happy.
Dan Isla (14:58):
Yeah. It’s been really exciting and very fruitful so far and our products just now coming to market in a market aggressive marketplace. [crosstalk 00:15:07]
Miles Ward (15:06):
…And marketplace, right?
Dan Isla (15:06):
And we just launched onto Google cloud marketplace, itopia spaces, and we’re really looking to ramp that up and, not only get more customers, but also we’re going to be growing the team and finding people not only support the product, but also the open source projects. So…
Miles Ward (15:22):
Right. How has that crossover point… I mean a couple different analysts talk a lot out about this, commercializing open source, and the sort of complexities around keeping promises in the development of open source and… Any practices that you follow or leaders that you’re trying to sort of model after in building that project up?
Dan Isla (15:47):
We spent a lot of time thinking about this when we were trying to take it to market and a lot of open source is being open and transparent about what is running under the hood. And for some people that’s good enough. Hey, you know what? This is what’s powering it. I can look at the code. This is a problem. I can kind of figure it out myself.
Dan Isla (16:05):
The other part is adding value and that value is usually in the packaging of the open source project. So Selkies is a fairly generic platform, it can do a lot of different things, from high performance video streaming, game streaming, developer environment. I mean we got a lot of different things.
Miles Ward (16:23):
Right? When we first got Selkies, it was immediately like, can we get Counterstrike on this? How fast can we get Counterstrike on this? Right? Like everybody’s firing up quake servers and going nuts with each other. So games and one other type of media tend to drive a lot of creativity in this space.
Dan Isla (16:41):
Right! Yeah. There’s a lot of different options, but you know, when it comes down to where do you focus? We decide to focus on the developer vertical right now. We may productize other aspects of the project, but it’s really about how you package it all together. Put a very simple way to consume it. Very simple pricing model, automate the storage stuff, automate the creation of a cluster. Google, like what you said, cloud usually has made up a bunch of little components and there’s usually not a whole lot of very complete products, but we’re wrapping that in a way that it is very easy to consume and it feels like a product that you don’t have to do as much work, but you always have that open source thing backing it and the community making it better.
Miles Ward (17:21):
A lot of our developer customers, they’re probably the best equipped to realize how much of what you have done is saving them real time. Right? Like they know how long it takes to set up those in environments. They know what kind of management headache they’re signing up for when they take on a project across borders or across multiple different customers. So, I think it’s a real superpower you’re bringing to the community and I appreciate the stuff that it’s doing in our customers, but I’m looking forward to your broader growth. I think it’s going to be great.
Dan Isla (17:52):
Yeah. Thanks! It’s great working with you and seeing the customers you bring to itopia and the partnerships there.
Miles Ward (17:58):
Miles Ward (18:00):
So one last bit, right? I mean we’re on this journey together. Right? And I want to be as direct as I can, SADA is on the tagline, we’re not making it up. Right? We’re all in. What else can I do to make sure that our partnership is great? I want to make as much of a technical and marketing and sales investment, as we can, out of the stuff that the Alliance program has already provided. What do you want more of? What’s been most valuable? What can we do to help?
Dan Isla (18:31):
Well, yeah, in addition to getting our product in front of your customers and doing these complex migrations from other clouds, and those are critical opportunities to modernize someone’s infrastructure, and the way they work in general. Move them to the future, not just an incremental change, but a major change. We’re really revolutionizing the way developers work…
Miles Ward (18:52):
Dan Isla (18:53):
…in the cloud and another way to do that is to use spaces.
Miles Ward (18:57):
Dan Isla (18:58):
Spaces is for developers, it’s for DevOps folks, it’s for some consulting shops, and so it’s just a way to make your daily driver, your daily workspace, ultra-portable and very consistent and so the more folks we have using and giving us feedback. It’s another key thing of the partnership, is that we get very close and trusted feedback. Could be some of our best users. You know, I take a…
Miles Ward (19:25):
I will give you as positive of a feedback, and I think you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from. You know your product actually works and the docs are pretty great, we’re in so many alphas, so many betas really, really early on in this large technology company’s product portfolio. And let’s just say, when they get started with a product you’re a little further along, so we try to help with feedback, but…
Dan Isla (19:53):
You’ve been very helpful so far. Yeah, for sure.
Miles Ward (19:55):
Well, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. It is a labor of love for certain and it’s a great… I think it’s one of the powerful things about companies that come from an open source origin, is that they’re already used to this collaborative approach to development and design. It sets them up to be open to feedback and open to constructive input from customers, from partners, from everybody, as opposed to feeling like they have this secret proprietary thing and they can’t let out the secret sauce. You guys are helping all of us make great sauce.
Dan Isla (20:30):
Yeah, everything’s already out there and you can see how the community can comment and contribute as much or as little as they want.
Miles Ward (20:38):
Dan Isla (20:39):
So yeah, open source is an interesting space to be productizing. That is a challenge.
Miles Ward (20:44):
Dan Isla (20:45):
But we’re making headway. I am the creator and the prime maintainer of the project.
Miles Ward (20:50):
Dan Isla (20:50):
And so there’s a lot of control and I make it… As itopia finds things and ways to make it more extensible, we can just put that in there and then not only do we benefit from those plugin abilities, but also the entire community does. So it’s a very interesting journey, for sure. Especially coming from Google, where we had a lot of different products and most of them worked pretty well. But I learned a lot, especially from the way developers worked at Google, and the approach that Google took to security, to zero trust, and how the code base functioned. I took a lot of those lessons learned and brought them right into spaces. And then of course the dogfooding aspect that Google does constantly.
Miles Ward (21:35):
Dan Isla (21:36):
Yeah, I make my entire team dogfood the product and use it all the time.
Miles Ward (21:41):
[crosstalk 00:21:41] Perfect. That’s perfect.
Dan Isla (21:41):
So we’re our best user.
Miles Ward (21:43):
Miles Ward (21:45):
For a product that, as a developer, you can literally use 9, 10, 12, however many hours, I don’t know how much red bull goes around in the office, but I’m sure there’s some, and that that ability to really serve your own needs first as a developer and I think a very high performance developer, I think that sets up customers to in inherit all of those little micro optimizations and improvements and sharpen it, shaving off the rough edges that make it so that it’s a great experience for them.
Dan Isla (22:18):
Miles Ward (22:18):
In a way that a lot of the products, in other places, it’s very difficult to dogfood in that directive of a way. Right? I mean, that’s maybe one of the reasons why develop developer tools are so fantastic, it’s because they’re made by developers.
Dan Isla (22:32):
Yeah. I totally agree. Some of the companies I really admire that focus on developers are HashiCorp.
Miles Ward (22:37):
Dan Isla (22:38):
And even Elastic.
Miles Ward (22:39):
Dan Isla (22:40):
They have a very deep developer community and they build tools for developers and by developers themselves. And so, those are some of the company I try to model, when it comes to building great tools.
Miles Ward (22:53):
This may be way off, we may end up cutting this in post, but there was a great Google cloud blog post that came out now a couple of days ago, that was talking about a pattern where you’re using Terraform, you’re writing Terraform code, but don’t just execute those directly. That’s nuts. Like bury them into a cloud run deployer and make it deploy Terraform for you so that you get all the telemetry, you can do rollbacks, you can stage all of it. You’ve got markers on all of it. I thought that was a pretty fascinating model. I hadn’t thought about doing it that way.
Dan Isla (23:29):
Yeah. The initial Selkies project always ran Terraform from cloud build. The entire setup is run with cloud build. Right now, the project only runs on GCP.
Miles Ward (23:39):
Dan Isla (23:39):
Uses GCP, not only Kubernetes engine, but cloud build to do all the deployments, and IEP to do identity.
Miles Ward (23:47):
Dan Isla (23:47):
So it’s very baked to GCP right now, someday we might port it to other clouds. But Terraform and Google cloud build are like a match made in heaven.
Miles Ward (23:58):
Dan Isla (23:58):
It’s great, because Terraform may well be a super nerdy dev tool, where you run on your command line. What happens if you go on vacation?
Miles Ward (24:06):
Dan Isla (24:06):
Who’s going to run that command line for you?
Miles Ward (24:08):
Dan Isla (24:08):
Where cloud build makes it possible for anyone to run that and everyone to see what happened [crosstalk 00:24:14] and what broke. Cause you know, it will break.
Miles Ward (24:17):
That’s a given, that is a given!
Dan Isla (24:19):
Miles Ward (24:20):
Well look, I really appreciate you taking a block of time with us and our audience! I think what you’re building is really going to be a great product and we’re excited to be partnered with you on it. 2022 is going to be absolutely firm and nuclear. So looking forward to working together and getting a bunch of stuff done. Thanks so much.
Dan Isla (24:39):
Thank you very much, Miles. Thanks for having me!
Miles Ward (24:39):
Miles Ward (24:43):
Thank you for listening to Cloud and Clear! Check the show notes for links to this week’s topics. And don’t forget to connect with us on Twitter: @cloudandclear and our website: SADA.com. Be sure to rate and review this show on your favorite podcast app.