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43. So you're in Azure, what's next? With guest Koby Phillips

November 16, 2022

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Buckle up as we talk Microsoft Azure and cloud strategy with Koby Phillips, leader for the Telarus Cloud Practice. If you have customer moving or considering a move to Azure, you’ll want to listen in. We dissect trends around key business drivers along with when a technical conversation works and when a business outcomes conversation makes more sense!

Transcript of episode can be found below.

Josh Lupresto (00:01):

Welcome to the podcast that is designed to fuel your success in selling technology solutions. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering, at Telarus, and this is Next Level BizTech. Hey everybody, welcome back. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering, at Telarus, and this is Next Level BizTech. Today we’re here in studio with Koby Phillips, VP of the Cloud Practice. We’re back on season two and we’re talking about Azure. So we’re, we’re moving to Azure. We’ve made the move. Where do we go from there? Koby, welcome. Thanks for agreeing to come on and do this again with me again.

Koby Phillips (00:39):

Yeah, man, I appreciate you having me. It’s always great to be your 19th guest of the year,

Josh Lupresto (00:43):

. So more about you. I want to hear a little bit about your background. Refresh us, how did you get here? Your path?

Koby Phillips (00:52):

Yes so VP of cloud now, right? So super, super straightforward path to get here. Started off in Telco worked at Telarus, and then a data center, and then now VP at Cloud. So, totally makes sense, but no, in all reality, what, what’s happened is I started off at a little clec Integra left there, went to TW, got gobbled at by level three moved over started as an spdm here at Telarus a few years back. Moved into an RVP role for exiting the company for a bit and went to work at Equinex data center provider. That really opened in my eyes to a lot of things. It set at a lot of the center of a lot of technology. You see a lot of you know, the on ramps to get to Azure, to get to aws, all reside within there.

Koby Phillips (01:41):

And so there’s a lot of communication, a lot of ecosystem discussions, and it made a lot of sense to come back knowing the channel community and then knowing, you know, where we wanted to go to come back and really help build out this cloud practice. It was real interesting when we started it, right? 2020 January. So that was a really good time to build something out. Why not? The, the original strategy was really to go out and meet with a bunch of partners, do a bunch of, you know, academies and shows, and we all know how that turned out. Mm-Hmm. . So we, we pivoted, we did a lot of digital education and have we worked through it. What we really started to build is an impressive entire practice, right? It was kind of, you know, utilizing a couple of the engineers at, at the beginning going out and doing a bunch of deals. Then we have architects, we have engineers that are certified across the board. I would, you know, put up that team against anybody in the industry. And what we’ve been able to focus on is extending out, you know, where we’re going, what products are available, and really start to work on the business, not just in the business as much. And we’ve seen a tremendous growth in partner participation as well as the RC component, which are both, you know, tremendous successes so far.

Josh Lupresto (03:02):

All important for sure. Give us maybe an example. Hit us with something here. I mean, you see a lot of things. We see a lot of deals, we have a lot of conversations. I’d like to hear something from you. I mean, we’re talking about Azure people that have already made a little bit of a move, but gimme something that you’ve seen a mistake that people have made something out there where, you know, whether that was a business decision, a technical decision, just what are you seeing?

Koby Phillips (03:26):

I can give you a combination of both. You know, there’s, there’s kind of a phrase that the CEO said, So is not a cloud strategy, right? And as you’re in particular is leads a league in this, you get companies and executives say, We need to move to the cloud, need a cloud first approach. They’re familiar with Microsoft products services in other areas, so we’ll move to Azure. What they don’t generally have is the, the right skill set, the right resources, the right strategy, or the right timeline of expectation to migrate. So this one particular case hit all of those, right? We’re gonna move, we’re gonna move in 18 months, we’re gonna be completely cloud based. We’d look at, you know, when we got involved, the customer had an application that was latency dependence, 20 something years old. It wouldn’t have gone into Azure without having to go through a refactor.

Koby Phillips (04:21):

You have no skill set on that team that was able to, to make this migration. It was, you know, a lot of good help desk guys, but not anyone that was really DevOps, sys admins, infrastructure, even legacy, really, that could handle this type of migration. Which ultimately created a great opportunity, right? The partner was able to go in, educate the customer along with our resources and ultimately the suppliers, and we put ’em into a hybrid environment that did utilize Azure for a lot of, a lot of the infrastructure, but also used private cloud as well. So it opened up more of an opportunity. It really put the partner in the driver’s seat at the end of the day when they brought in the resources because they go, Hey, you know, they got the customer basically to the point where the customer’s like, We don’t know exactly how to do this. And so we want to be able to go in and make the right recommendations and tell them, you know, this is the best path forward. Well,

Josh Lupresto (05:16):

Yeah, I wanna dive into that a little bit. I mean, we, we just got done filming one of our academy alumni networks and we talked about trends, you know, talking to partners that had previously been to an event, what they’ve seen over the last six months. But, but I wanna hear from your perspective, you know, those customers that did sort of make that move, what are they, what are they struggling with now? I know we hit on some of them. Maybe you could bring that back up. What are you seeing them struggle with right now?

Koby Phillips (05:38):

So imagine you moved in your personal life from a small apartment, right, to a bigger house, and he did it for all the reasons he needed more space, and you needed to take advantage of all the things that this neighborhood had to offer parks closer to a gym, better grocery store, better schools, whatever. And then you move, and you don’t do any of that. You don’t use the rooms you don’t go to the stores, you go back to the old stores, right? You don’t utilize any of those resources that you moved into that new house to be able to get to. A lot of customers are doing the same thing. They move their infrastructure, they move their application, their data, they then set it there and they do not modernize it, right? And unlike the analogy I used, what you’re also seeing is a lot of times it’s more reducing the footprint versus extending it.

Koby Phillips (06:28):

It’s taking advantage of newer technologies, kind of that modular approach to plug and play to give me the best of what I want out my environment at any given time. And still running it like a legacy infrastructure, right? And not really taking full advantage of what’s at their fingertips literally at their fingertips. So that’s where I see a lot of the biggest errors. And then keeping the staff resourced to maintain it and either, you know, take you to those places for lack of skill or just job openings that are coming up and not taking, again, full advantage. It’s really just that is kind of the, the biggest thing I’m seeing. Yeah, it’s a bit, it’s a huge mess in my opinion for

Josh Lupresto (07:12):

Sure. For sure. Now, I’m, I’m, I’m kind of curious, as you’re out there, you’re training, you’re teaching, you’re building strategy, you’re helping partners build cloud practices, you’re helping them figure out how to uncover these opportunities as you continue to evolve that, right? Versus what we were talking about in 2020 to what we’re talking about now. What, what is that talk track now, maybe how has that changed or what are, what are you saying differently? Or is there still a lot of the same things that we’re making sure people hit

Koby Phillips (07:38):

On? Yeah, sure. I don’t think anybody’s missed the bus, right? So some of those key, you know, points that we made in 2020 cost optimization of the cloud, right? Not cost reduction, cost optimization, mm-hmm. you know, moving more workloads to the cloud, finding out the right approach, whether that be Azure, AWS, hybrid, et cetera. Those are all still really relevant conversations past that though, it’s what we just touched on in the example is you got a customer who’s already in that environment and then you start to talk about the resources they have to support it and to move them forward. And you really wanna start focusing again on those business thriving conversations. And you don’t really get into the weeds of all things Azure, in my opinion, right? You have Azure experts that work at Microsoft that don’t know all the different components to what Azure can do or, or does.

Koby Phillips (08:26):

And the same thing with AWS and Google and any of these big public hyperscaler public clouds. And so what you really wanna focus on is what exactly the customer needs out of that environment, what they’re missing, and then how do you, how to fill, fill that with the suppliers and the services that we can bring to the table in our partnerships. And I think that that’s been really more the mind shift as we, you know, when we first came out, we’re like, we’re going to level set with everyone, everyone, we’re gonna teach ’em the basics. And of course, we want our partners to be technically confident. No one’s gonna go have a conversation with stuff that they’re completely Yeah. You know, oblivious to. But we also don’t, in my opinion, don’t need everyone to go be an AWS solutions architect to go talk about public cloud and Azure expert. And so it’s really more of being that facilitator and guiding the conversations, then get the resources where we have a staff full of those guys on our engineering team to go help with the technical conversation. And that opens up a ton more opportunity as well.

Josh Lupresto (09:29):

Good point. You know, you, you, you brought up something there where it’s, it’s not too late that, that call that I mentioned earlier that I was on we talked about it on the last video where was on with managed solution and on with Microsoft. I thought it was interesting to hear from their security engineering team that 25% of the office, 365 customers, Microsoft has even have implemented MFA multifactor authentication. I thought for sure that number would’ve been huge and much higher. So to your point, I think you’re dead on with it’s not too late, right? People are there, people move there and you know, this is the trend and we’re talking trends of they just don’t have the people to help them modernize, right?

Koby Phillips (10:07):

Well, first of all, I was told there would be no talk of cybersecurity when I agreed. Come on. So good to know that you’re keeping that into the bargain up. Joking, of course, contract modific, they, all these things overlap so much, right? But I went to AWS reinvent last year, right? One of the most cutting edge tech shows there is they, AWS is unveiling ton of new features and services and their go-to market strategy heading back there at the end of this month. And what really shocked me, there’s two really cool things that came out of it. What really shocked me is like, nobody’s missed the bus. You know, what the number one topic of conversation was? Why haven’t more people migrated the cloud? That was still by far the most discuss topic. Not only in the trainings and all that, like how do we get ’em to, but also just an open discussion.

Koby Phillips (10:55):

The other thing that was really cool though is I walked the expo floor and I looked at all the different vendors and suppliers, and we have access to everybody that’s in that room, right? Either directly or via a relationship through a supplier. And I thought that was a really cool, you know, feeling given to where the channels evolved from in the last 24 months. We continue to, to do that, but ultimately that, you know, nobody’s missed the boat here, right? Unless you’re sitting right in the middle of Silicon Valley and you’re dealing with startup after startup, then maybe you got a little bit of concern there. But if you’re in that environment, you probably already have a lot of this talk track account

Josh Lupresto (11:34):

Anyway. Yeah, I’ll be that. You go in and go, Hey, everything that you have right now, is it working? Are you maximizing it? Is it efficient? Right? Do you have the people, All, all of those things, right? Yeah. To your point, for sure,

Koby Phillips (11:43):

Where are you at now and where you wanna go? Exactly right? What’s the 18 month roadmap for your business? What are the technology gaps that you need to fill to figure out, to get you there? I mean, those are really good questions to ask. Of course those are, you know, more c level driving questions. You know, VP director level questions are gonna get a little bit more into that. What, what do they focus on, right? You know, that’s a staffing question a lot of times. Are you having trouble staffing? Are you, do you continually have a rotating door of people coming in and out? Are you utilizing a third party approach where you can manage at an orchestration level hold companies to SLAs? Like there’s some benefits here that you no longer have to like carry that burden. Have you started to go down that road? If not, would you consider it?

Josh Lupresto (12:27):

Yeah, you know, you bring up a good point too. Part of this is that we need our partners to help recognize and help us figure out where is the customer right now? Are they in, you know, rural America and they’re still on Prem and they’ve not thought about virtualizing and they’re not thought about, you know, this cloud idea because maybe it doesn’t make sense for them. Or to your point, are they in the middle of Silicon Valley? Are they already virtualized and you know, Azure specifically, are they already in Azure and they want to go from traditional virtualization to containers or to Azure functions and go serverless? And so I think that’s the good point, is that let’s figure out where they are. There’s a, to your point, the channel, there’s options. There’s so many options that we didn’t have years

Koby Phillips (13:08):

Ago, and there’s gonna be a mix of customers geographically and all different points and directions of where they’re at in their architecture and their technology approach, right? And I think that’s the exciting part. Like our partners can get into this like mode of bringing insight to some of their customers, changes their perception a lot of the times on who they look at how they, how they’re viewed by their customers, and allows them to really expand those conversations as well. So you see a ton of different components here. And again, you know, we’re talking about cloud in particular Azure today, but by the time we’re, by the time you go through like this type of process with your customers, there’s no telling what opportunities could, could be on earth in this type of discussion.

Josh Lupresto (13:50):

Yeah, good point. If we pick on some of the more successful partners that you’ve seen within the cloud practice, is there anything different that those partners are doing that you’re seeing that they’re putting on repeat, right? Or is it really just underscoring all the things that we’ve talked about already? Is there anything unique? They’re

Koby Phillips (14:10):

Actually asking the right, they’re asking the questions, right? I still think that if you look at like where we’re at, a lot of our partners are servicing their customers when the cloud needs or asked of them. And that’s happening a lot more too, right? Our partners are getting asked for a lot more things than they ever have because of the lack of resources. Like, Hey, do you know anyone that can do this? Because I’m kind of sol if you don’t, Yeah. And then what you end up having is the co the partners that are, you know, we say more successful are the ones that are just getting more comfortable with driving that methodology of being a facilitator and aligning the right resources either, you know, from us or as from a supplier, but getting the right people involved, but kicking off the conversation. And it’s not some magic formula. They’re not going in with like a tool set that reads and scans. I mean, those are available through our suppliers, but they’re really just more comfortable having the business driving conversations.

Josh Lupresto (15:05):

Good. as we get kind of towards the back half of this, walk me through an example of, you know, maybe a situation that you’ve, that we’ve all been pulled into. What did the, you know, I always like hearing what were you told was the situation and then what was the actual customer problem, and then what was the solution that was put in place?

Koby Phillips (15:28):

Yeah, so we, you know, we’ve got a number of different examples here, but one that sticks out. We, it was a, well, you kind of keep it on the theme of Azure, right? It’s like, Hey, customer needs to move to Azure. It’s not far off from the example of something that really bad that happened than turned in good. It’s a different customer though. And ultimately it was a similar story in the fact that once we dug into it they weren’t, they didn’t need to go to Azure. They didn’t want to, You had a, a buying personality, right? A buyer personality of someone that was almost anti cloud, but he had two, you know, two data centers at old school. Like, you know, I call it 1995 architecture with a rack ands stack in one data center, geographically, different data center somewhere else as a fell over, and that’s their DR plan, right?

Koby Phillips (16:20):

He realized that was even archaic and it became a disaster recovery conversation. So we ended up with a really nice disaster recovery as a service opportunity. So we talked through it he thought he was gonna build it out in naar as we talked through it, we went with one of our suppliers in a private environment, just made more sense utilizing like a Zerto technology. Believe it was 11-11 formerly iLand that came in support of that opportunity from a supplier standpoint and ultimately won the customer over since they’ve also deployed some hybrid environment, meaning they’re utilizing some of the infrastructure as they kind of wind down their on-prem stuff. And it happened like a lot of times set up a disaster recovery. They start kind of playing around with it. There’s a huge supply chain issue right now. They realize they could go live in that environment and they just started to build there and moved around the geo of where they’re gonna be originating from. So pretty simple, straightforward, but when we went into it, we thought we were having a migration Azure conversation. So once the customer laid out, and we always, you know, say, Hey, you know, let us know what you’re, what the real, you know, what you’re up to and you know, all that. And we started to go down that road versus assuming Azure. Yeah. And I think that approach helps open up a lot more conversation.

Josh Lupresto (17:37):

Well, and, and you know, I, to, to kind of put a bow on that, you, you bring this up a lot and I think it’s a really good point of, it just needs to be a business conversation. Like, you know, yes, we’re gonna get to the technology side of it, we’ll get there, but let’s just understand what the business needs to do, not worrying about how they think it’s gonna happen, we’ll solve for how it’s gonna happen with the technical side, but really maybe put a bow on this for us, of how do partners as they go into these conversations, how do they really dial that back to a business conversation?

Koby Phillips (18:08):

Yeah, I mean, it’s gonna, you know, the tough part about doing this honestly, is these conversations can start in a number of different places, but ultimately it’s kind of taking a step back and go, you know, having that, that visibility go, what are the biggest challenges you’re having right now? Where are you trying to do in the next year maybe 18 months? And how are you approaching it, right? What’s your strategy and do you have all the resources you need aligned to execute on this? As you kind of dig deeper, maybe ask a question around what’s the track history as as you’ve lined these up? Are you hitting on your project timelines? Are you executing on your strategy? If not, what was a failure point? And you’re gonna often find that it’s a resource issue. Again, from an expertise level or just a pure, you know, body in a seat.

Koby Phillips (19:01):

They might have the right expertise, but they’re getting swallowed up by trouble tickets and other mundane tasks that somebody else could do at a way cheaper rate. And it’s costing the business the progression they’re looking for. So taking it back to that, it’s gonna usually go towards a sourcing, you know, covering the, the, the resources and sourcing type of approach. And then it’ll really start to unravel the opportunities that are there, right? Well, what are your projects? Who’s helping you on that? Why are you doing that? Have you looked at this? Have you looked at that? Would you be open to a conversation? All these, all of these types of, you know, kind of probing questions that come off of that, but you’re not sitting there and you’re not talking about are you using backup as a service? Yeah. Are you, did you start to containerizing, you know, you’re not getting yourself into a technical corner because you start to go down the sign of questioning and maybe it ends up not being a cloud opportunity, Maybe it’s security, maybe it’s i t or, you know, just a network optimization play. But it’s something that all of our partners can be involved in. And so I love this methodology as far as the approach of how to target customers.

Josh Lupresto (20:04):

Love it. Okay. Koby, that wraps us up, man. I appreciate you coming back here and we’ll have to have you back again.

Koby Phillips (20:11):

Yeah, man, I look forward to it. 300 people from now.

Josh Lupresto (20:14):

. All right, everybody. That wraps us up. We’re talking Azure, we’re finishing that up. Stay tuned on some of the next episodes as we talk to some of our suppliers and as we get into here the partner experience. But that wraps us up for today. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus. And this is Next Level BizTech.