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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Cloud Sandboxes and Their Many Benefits

October 17, 2016 No Comments

Featured article by Shashi Kiran is the Chief Marketing Officer at Quali

Sandboxes provide environments for developers and testers to reproduce even the most complex infrastructures, from datacenters to public and hybrid clouds. Sandboxes allow ITOps and Dev/test teams to create personalized replicas of production environments with self-service, on-demand environments that can quickly allow even the most complex environments to be created, modeled, orchestrated and deployed – from physical patch panels to distributed applications. This can rapidly speed up release cycles while drastically lowering cost and reducing risk.

IT Briefcase conducted the following Q&A with Quali Chief Marketing Officer Shashi Kiran to get a better understanding about the beneficial uses of cloud sandboxes as the DevOps trend continues to take hold and gain industry momentum.

  • Q. What is the major cultural shift you see in technology today?

A. Technology has become central to most businesses regardless of the industry they are operating in. Non-technologists from different professions including construction, manufacturing, healthcare or government use software and technology to increase their productivity, sometimes without a conscious effort. Drones are being deployed to survey remote sites and map data. Self-driving cars are ready to become a reality. Financial services institutions are at the leading edge of technology adoption to differentiate their offerings in a digital world.

The pace at which technology has changed has impacted popular culture and practices in waves across different industry verticals and geographies. We also see technology allowing humans to automate a lot of the mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on higher value activities. This will cause a greater shift as the industry matures in bringing together automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. It should create newer opportunities for learning and skill augmentation.

  • Q. What is DevOps and how does it affect the workplace?

A. In layman’s terms, DevOps is about engineering organizations being able to move fast with the right controls in place. Practically, DevOps is a new cultural, process and organizational shift we’re seeing in agile IT organizations that allows them to bring together the best of faster innovation cycles with the ability to have operational process, governance and analytics tied around it. It would bring agility with control, especially as many IT organizations are being challenged by their business leaders to move faster and to do more with less. Done right, it should help bring together organizational silos to produce innovations at a faster pace with lower risk and higher quality. It is most pertinent to development processes now, but could very easily be applied to non-IT domains.

  • Q. What are the benefits of employing DevOps within an organization?

A. DevOps done right provides a platform for fast IT without it becoming reckless IT. Organizations flex their innovation muscles better with a disciplined approach to DevOps. With infrastructure being treated as code, it is easy to choose open source toolsets and customize, or be able to allow open interfaces to established commercial tools and start the DevOps journey. With some training, the DevOps talent can drive rapid releases with continuous integration, testing and delivery (CI/CT/CD) with structured baton passing across the development, test, and operations teams. Since “automate-first” is the bedrock of DevOps, it can accelerate time to market and provide a competitive advantage in business situations while lowering both risk and cost.

  • Q. What are the costs of employing DevOps within an organization?

A. The costs can vary but roughly map to the “four Ts” – tools, talent, training and time. Embracing DevOps concepts requires time investment, the ability to have a top-down and bottom-up structure across the organization to support it, and the willingness to automate what is possible to free up human resources to be more productive. DevOps resources can be expensive and more so if they’re not efficiently utilized. The costs in tools and training are higher at first, but gradually taper off as the ROI is realized. Tool choices are important to avoid a tool sprawl that can drive operational complexity. Leveraging sandboxes to replicate production environments can be a great cost-saver in the context of DevOps and BizOps processes. That said, no tool can offset costs if the culture is not set in place to foster it.

  • Q. What considerations does DevOps require in terms of financial, legal and security concerns?

A. As with any process, there are financial, legal and security concerns with DevOps processes as well. It should be no different from anything else. I’ve seen some interesting nuances around DevOps and open source. There’s a perception that open source is free. However, working with different open source tools on a project basis at times can increase the operational cost and complexity at times, especially given that DevOps resources are expensive and some are brought in on a per-project basis and don’t have the proper context or continuity. Legally, working with open source means adhering to the proper community laws and respecting IP where required. Security can sometimes be an afterthought, especially in DevOps environments, so there needs to be specialized oversight to ensure that nothing’s slipping between the cracks.

  • Q. How do you lead in a DevOps environment?

A. A lot of success in a DevOps environment is a derivative of how much effort goes in and to what degree automation can be baked in. Knowledge and best-practice sharing is quite vital to avoid complexity later on. It is important to try new things and set up a culture where it is okay for some things to fail. The willingness to experiment is a necessity. “Fail fast” is a key tenet of this culture, where the onus is on trying something new to raise the bar, recognizing failure quickly, and applying the learnings from the failure to a new effort to maximize the chance of success.

Overall, embracing the philosophy of DevOps internally and externally in an authentic manner is a good measure of demonstrating leadership. It helps to have an executive sponsor and a DevOps champion work in tandem. This will in turn translate into business success and operational excellence. Finally, trust is an important aspect. Teams need to trust one another and not think in terms of silos and be supportive of each other.

  • Q. What has been your organizations firsthand experience with DevOps and what have you learned from it?

A. There are two aspects. First, from an engineering perspective, we’ve undertaken the DevOps journey ourselves starting about three years ago and we’ve had some good learnings from it which helped refine the product that we build. In fact, we did a webinar on this topic called “Demystifying DevOps – a Practitioner’s Perspective” where we shared our journey and garnered a lot of questions and good discussion. Second, our mission is to foster an agile development and test environment that can move fast without increasing risk or cost. Our CloudShell product offers cloud sandboxes that can replicate entire production environments and offer it up in an elegant manner, factoring in both the Developer and the IT Ops requirements. We’re offering this to enterprises worldwide as they modernize their IT processes or accelerate hybrid cloud deployments. We’ve also open sourced several aspects to foster a community-driven approach and the learning from it is tremendous as we balance the commercial and the open-source aspects while maintaining the purity of each. Perhaps we’ll make this into a separate discussion. Eventually DevOps is a means to an end – the imperative is always upon the organization to clearly align DevOps with the end-goals envisioned.

It’s clear that developers and testers are only beginning to harness the power of full-stack application blueprinting as an innovative way to identify problems with application setups and configurations that can cause app deliveries to slow down or break. Going forward, it will be interesting to see the different ways that cloud sandboxes are adopted to speed the DevOps cycles for continuous development and continuous integration.

Shashi Kiran hi res 214x300 IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Cloud Sandboxes and Their Many Benefits

Author Bio

Shashi Kiran is the Chief Marketing Officer at Quali, the leader in cloud sandboxes for DevOps and BizOps automation. He has 20-plus years of experience in global marketing, sales engineering and business development teams in the areas of internetworking, cloud computing, high performance computing solutions and security. He has held executive leadership positions in large multinational corporations and well as in venture-backed startups, including a nine-year stint at Cisco where he was most recently head of worldwide marketing for data center and cloud networking. Shashi also advises emerging startups in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in India on messaging and go-to-market strategies. He is an avid blogger and frequently blogs on technology topics, leadership and life in general.




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