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October 24th, 2018

Here I Go Again!

This is not my first, or one might argue, my second run at “the cloud”.  So why get back in?  In short, to tackle the massive opportunity around putting lots of different things in lots of places.

This is my first blog since joining Packet as COO. So, why the title of the post? I’m sure some will see the reference to a popular 80s hard rock band song. It really doesn’t make sense for a “first blog”… and yet, it also makes a lot of sense to me.

This is not my first, or one might argue, my second run at “the cloud”. I spent the better part a decade helping to build one of the first IaaS companies (SoftLayer) into what became the core of IBM’s cloud offering. But, the world of technology and the cloud has changed dramatically since that time (I left IBM in 2015). New challenges now exist, and new answers must be offered. 

What did technology and “cloud” look like when I joined SoftLayer?

  • Social media was in its infancy (Facebook and Twitter had just started)
  • A Blackberry was cool! RIMM hit $124.51 in 2007, and with market cap of $67 billion RIM became Canada’s most valuable company.
  • Gaming? Looking back at the “Most Innovative” mobile games of 2006 stirs up memories of the Atari 2600 in the console gaming world. 
  • Deploying compute was simple – you went to a website, configured a tower, ordered it, waited for it to show up, and then put it on a bread rack (aka “hosting”).
  • Defining SaaS was still the basis of a major IT publication media article.
  • Automation = Wizard of Oz! Someone was behind the curtain…

You get the idea.

Back to the Future

So where are we now? Okay, we don’t have flying cars yet (and there’s still a ton to work out with autonomous cars on the ground before we even think about taking to the sky), but we are on the edge of all kinds of innovation.

  • The rise of IoT – everything is “smart” from phones, homes, cars, fridges, you name it. Every device (even my friend’s Instapot) has a sensor, WiFi, Bluetooth, or someway to be “aware”. Even my hotel towels on a recent stay in London had RFID tags - that’s slightly different definition for IoT.
  • AI/Cognitive – for a machine to learn it must process data (quickly) and turn it into actionable information (typically locally)
  • Robotics – once we teach sensors (IoT) to think (AI), they need to act (robotics)
  • Deploying compute often requires information processing and decision-making closer to the source of the data and “edge computing” is becoming a serious part of the conversation
  • High-growth SaaS companies are scaling their businesses faster than ever (but scaling infrastructure is more complex and expensive than ever)
  • Automated infrastructure and smart software continue to transform how we consume infrastructure, and the future is about making it easy for anyone to quickly deploy and scale hundreds of locations with diverse hardware

So what does all this mean for today and the near-term future where real time applications are becoming a part of every facet of our lives? We need compute everywhere!

Some applications will be able to centralize data to make it meaningful, but much of our next generation data will have to be processed in real time where it is generated (and communicated between other devices operating in the same locale).

Why Packet, and Why Now?

One might wonder why I’d join a small NYC-based infrastructure startup at this point in my life. Hasn’t the cloud been settled? The hyperscalers continue to aggressively grow their share of the cloud infrastructure services market and dominate the IT landscape in many ways. 

Well, everything I laid out above captures why Packet and why now. As new applications and workloads push the proximity of data closer to the end user, I see a huge opportunity for an infrastructure platform that is focused on the opposite challenge of the current hyperscalers. In short, how do you put lots of different things in lots of places, instead of a zillion of a few things in a few places.

This need is being driven by a new breed of enterprises that are increasingly using infrastructure as a competitive advantage and driver of innovation. Companies that are infrastructure dependent and are trying to scale run into problems, and I was particularly drawn to Packet’s understanding of who that next customer is and the vision to build a channel around these next "new enterprises."

To quote another song from my younger days: “the future’s so bright, I’ve got to wear shades!” The road over the last 10+ years is just the beginning. I can honestly say that I am as excited today about joining Packet as I was in taking part in the growth of another awesome company a decade ago.

I can’t wait to experience the journey that lies ahead! 

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