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91. What are the top 3 ways to help your customer modernize in the cloud? With Aaron Bock

October 18, 2023

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Join in as we have Aaron Bock on from Opkalla as we discuss something that’s a hot topic on everyone’s mind. We dive into AWS, Azure, and private Cloud modernization. We cover technique after technique that works and helps you not only assist in these discussions but how to help IT and other decision-makers move the conversation forward. We even get into Azure, AI, CoPilot, and more! There are so many golden nuggets dropped here, you won’t want to miss a minute!

Hey, everybody. Welcome back. We are diving down on the cloud track. It’s a reminder we’re talking about the top three ways to help your customer modernize in cloud. Azure, Private Cloud, AWS, whatever it is. Today, we’ve got on Aaron Bock from Opkalla Aaron, welcome on, my man.

Thanks for having me, Josh. Excited to be here again.

Yes. Return. You look younger than the last time I talked to you, actually.

If you stay until the end, everybody, I will reveal my secret at the end, not clickbait.

Please do share. Hey, so I want to start with just a little bit of a refresher on, for anybody that hasn’t seen the previous episode, your roles, your responsibilities, and introduce us to Opkalla.

Yeah, absolutely. And thanks for having me again on the show. Opkalla I’m a managing partner here. We’re based in Charlotte, North Carolina. We are about four and a half years old, growing like crazy, happy to share that we were number 52 on the Inc. 5000 recently, number three fastest IT service company in the country. So lots of growth, and I think it’s really because of what we do. We’re trying to change the way the traditional VAR worked, where you pick a technology and that’s your horse. We were very agnostic. We help customers advise them on solutions, advise them on the roadmap, help make their technology decision making better, more efficient, easy, and serve as a resource for lean IT teams, teams that know they need external help. And I think the market craves it, wants it, and it’s a perfect time to be in the space because there’s just so many different technologies. We’ll talk about a lot of them today, and we’ve been having a lot of success. So it’s just excited to be where we’re at, excited to be in the market we’re in, economy good or bad. It really doesn’t matter because of how we approach the customer situation. I love it, and congrats. Those are not easy to achieve awards. So great stuff to hear. Congrats on the growth and keeping it going. Yeah, thank you. When we started in 2019, it was actually one of our goals. We would love to be on the Inc. 5000 one day. I’ve seen other successful companies do it, great people who have done it before me. Last year was actually the first year, or this past year was the first year we qualified from a financial perspective in the number of years we could give them. And when we got the reveal, it was super exciting. I actually was expecting way lower. So when I saw it, I was like, there must be a mistake here. But now, I mean, we’ve just had a lot of success, and our team is great here at Alcala. Everyone’s bought in, and we’ve really never had anyone leave, and it’s just been an awesome journey. Yeah, such a validation to the quality of the work that you do. Good stuff.

So, all right, I want to kick this off with, if you had a chance to engage anyone alive, deceased, past, present, whatever, any pivotal tech leader, who would it be, and what is the question that you’re going to ask them?

That’s a good question. I think this is probably a cliche answer, but Steve Jobs, I would probably ask him, like as a managing partner, and I guess functionally the CEO here, I would ask Steve Jobs about what was going through his mind when Apple, before Apple actually was good, or became what they are today.

Because a lot of people maybe don’t know, but Apple was not good when they started. They were actually kind of a laughingstock, and my mom was an elementary school librarian, where they had all those goofy colored Apple computers that didn’t work in their library, and they were like hand-me-downs. So, I would ask him what was going through his mind, and how did he change the way he thought about tech to be such a visionary that we know today, where Apple is, and what did he do personally, or what did he gain from that insight? I think we would all learn a lot more about it, and I’m sure that there’s probably books about it, but I would love to have had a conversation with him about it.

No, it’s a good one. There’s so many great Steve Jobs-isms out there that are not, I don’t think it’s cliche at all. I think there’s so much to learn.

We’re both proponents of figuring out ways to learn and get better, and get better, and get better. One of my favorite ones that I read about Steve Jobs was when they were getting ready to release, I don’t remember if it was the iMac, or one of the new computers. It was early on, and he would challenge the developers, and he would challenge the engineers, and the boot time was roughly, it was a couple minutes, it was something crazy.

It was probably about the time of those same computers that you mentioned.

He said, “No, that’s not good enough. Make it better.” So they’d go, “Oh my gosh, we can’t.” They would find a way to increase the RAM, or get this thing out of boot, or whatever it was, and they would just get it up by 100, 150 percent. He would come back and say, “Nope, not good enough. You can do better.” So this cycle happened until they eventually dramatically got the boot time. What Steve Jobs said, his prediction was, because you have gotten this down to under a minute, we plan on selling X amount of these in the first year, the second year, the third year. We’ve now quantified that you have saved X amount of lives because of the time people are going to spend less doing this, of all the time that you’ve given back to people. So just his way of looking at things was so eye-opening.

Yeah. If I had to pick a second option, it would be, I’m mixing up two people, but the guy who started Netflix, Reed Hastings, I knew I was going to mix it up. Reed Hastings, I think he’s an interesting person because of that story with Blockbuster. Sorry, my iPad’s going off. With that story with Blockbuster and then his culture, I think so many people could learn from the culture that they built at Netflix, empowering their people, empowering their team, trusting them with big decisions. That book that he wrote about the no rules, no limits is just incredible. I think he’d be a great person to interview about how you lead a tech company, but with culture. I think we miss that a lot of times when we look at great tech companies. Yeah, great point. Let’s talk about strategies.

So before we dive too deep into that, maybe just flashback for us on the past year, some creative methods that you’ve seen people do with regard to initial migrations to cloud, public, private, whatever it might be. Yeah, I think if we think about the last year compared to the years before, it was when you heard cloud, I think everyone jumped to the public cloud. Microsoft, Azure, GCP, IBM, some of those in there, but before that was just we’re going to the cloud and that was the story. And it was how fast, don’t lift and shift. Those were the things I would say pre the last year or two.

Now I think people understand the cloud more. And when I say now people, I’m talking about a very general audience on both ends of the spectrum because some people would listen to this and say, we’ve known this for years. But I don’t think people do really understand what a cloud journey looks like. I think before it was always how am I getting to the public cloud. But over the last two years, I’ve seen way smarter conversations around SaaS’s cloud, Platform as a Services cloud, using hybrid cloud, using the public cloud mixed with your traditional infrastructure. And so it’s not like we’re going to go 100% all cloud. It’s how are we doing it? Why are we doing it? And then like, where is the end state? So seeing a lot of better future looking conversations about where we’re going to be and decision making in that space.

I think it’s gotten better, but I think it’s gotten better because we’ve had 10 years of education on it now. And so we’re finally starting to understand, well, this is what goes in public cloud. This is going to be a challenge in public cloud. This makes perfect sense to go SaaS. And then I think you kind of have to understand the cloud now because of like this, this, this just huge amount of AI and data that’s being processed right now. It’s all interacting with the cloud. And so now I think you’re forced as an IT leader to know what’s going on and it’s making you smarter when you make a cloud decision. Yeah. Yeah. Great point. You bring up a thought. I was doing an interview recently interviewing a candidate. And I said, could you rate yourself on your knowledge of, you know, using the tools within AWS or Azure and gave himself a seven. And I said, now I want to be clear. If you’re giving yourself a seven, I’m going to grill you on your knowledge on that. Are you sure? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m a seven. Okay. So let me ask you this. Now, if you’ve been in the AWS portal, have you spun up infrastructure, done auto scaling, created an EKS for elastic containers, lifecycle management storage? Oh, I mean, I’ve seen the interface. I haven’t done it. Okay, then you’re not a seven. Can we be real and say you’re closer to two? Yes. That’s okay. That’s not a wrong answer. That’s just the answer. And so there is a misconception, I think of the knowledge that people think they need or think they have versus what they really have. So thus in lies all the opportunity, right? Yeah. Well, it’s funny. So talk about AWS or Microsoft. I think one of the things people are realizing now is if you’re going to go, you’re going to go to the cloud.

There is potentially an ROI, but you have to really know why you’re going and you have to be in it for the long game.

We’re so as humans, we’re so about the short immediate ROI that sometimes we miss the long, long term plan. So what you just mentioned, you know, have you seen these tools? Have you spun this up? When you look at what’s happening to me where the cloud could be a good fit for people is if they’re really willing to replace all of their traditional licensing and the way they’ve done your three tier, two tier architecture for years and go to the cloud. So like, do I think VMware is in trouble? They could be. I mean, if people are going to go all in on AWS and Microsoft and can just use their hypervisors, maybe they are. But you have to factor in all those costs. And before that was the thing people missed is it was how we’re going to lift and shift this to the cloud without being those people that got these massive cloud bills. And over the last couple of years, I think people have understood, okay, there’s so many ways to do this. I have to have a strategy. And I’m just speaking very generally because everyone has a different journey. It’s funny. A cloud conversation never goes the same way. You can relate them to others, but everyone has their own proprietary. They do DevOps a certain way. They have security a certain way. They have their locations in different places. Cloud change, all that changes the cloud conversation. Whereas when I talk about like, Hey, I want to monitor stuff in security, different tools, but the monitoring is the same thing. I’ve seen it a hundred times if I’ve seen it once. So it’s just a different conversation. So let’s start that conversation out. Let’s say you’re with a prospect and you want to expand their mind a little bit on thoughts of modernization. How do you assist those current customers prospects in visualizing that kind of the realm possibility? What’s your strategy there?

Great question. I think the first thing you can do, I mean, I’ll use a customer of mine that we’re talking to right now. I think the first thing you can do is start with like, do they, if they’re truly nothing, if they say they have nothing in the cloud, that like trust but verify. Help them understand like, do they truly have nothing in the cloud? And what I mean by that is so you’re running a fully on-prem email. Oh no, we use O365. Okay. Write it down. Or for CRM, are you guys doing a homegrown CRM? Oh no, we’re using Salesforce. Write it down. And help them not in a dumb way, but like help them realize, Hey, you know, you’re already using cloud by the way, right? Like you just told me you’re using two different apps that are 100% cloud. Are you aware of that? Well, and I think if you can start to have people understand that they’re most of the time already using cloud, it’s, why did you choose that solution over doing it yourself? Because you could still do it yourself. I think if you can get to that part of the conversation and have someone realistically explain their rationale, that’s when you can tell, if they are good fit to even have a cloud conversation, or if this is a total waste of time and they’re just, you know, antenna on their head or tinfoil on their head and they’re scared of the cloud because of whatever reason. Like there are customers like that and it’s not stupid. It’s not wrong. It’s just their opinion and that’s the right. And you can do non-cloud and do have a very successful business.

It’s just, it’s a different way of doing it. It’s old school in this now, this day and age, but I think if you can have that conversation, that’s a first part. For the folks that are a little bit past that who they’ve already admitted that they’re going to the cloud in some form or fashion, I think it’s important that you have, you can’t look at it in the first like one year, two years. You have to look at it as where do you envision this? And if they don’t have a clear vision, that’s where I think our job is to help them build a vision and say, well, let’s look at certain things that you might want to consider as you go to the cloud. So whether it’s a Microsoft or whether it’s an AWS or whether it’s a private cloud or whether it’s SaaS, each one of those has a different consideration you need to think about. The other thing that I think is important at that stage is in an organization, this is where I’ve seen the cloud conversation stall out or really not go anywhere specific is when someone who’s higher up at the company is not involved or there’s no board buy-in. If it’s a public company or if it’s a private company like the CEO or CFO buy-in, if there’s no buy-in on why we’re doing this, that will stall conversation out very quick. So I think understanding the why are you considering this?

And the why could be, it could be so many different reasons. Hey, our CEO went to a conference and they were talking about cloud. Okay, well, that’s a start. Or hey, we run SAP and SAP is telling people they have to be on HANA for cloud by 2027. That’s another reason. They’re all different. If there’s no reason, though, that cloud conversation will likely stall unless there’s a good reason. So those two things at that stage to me are really important. And I hope I answered your question, but there’s just so many different questions at that stage. But one, validate, do they understand the cloud? And two, make sure they have a plan for it. Those are like the first two things I would advise slash talk to my customer about how to do it. Yeah, yeah. I think the thing that I see that gets missed a lot, right, taking from my seat where we see a lot of these conversations, I don’t see enough of the why are we doing this. I hear a lot of the what’s the end goal? Where do we want to be? What’s the business drivers kind of that but but but sometimes we don’t step back deep enough into the why and the why, to your point, I’m okay with the no in the sales process because the more the quicker I get to the no, the more yeses I’m going to find that’s just it’s just the math on it, right? And you don’t want to drag down the road too far on somebody that just has a pipe dream and no executive support. So great call out on that. I think too. So good stuff there.

Let’s talk about, you know, I’m going down the road hyperscalers, maybe I want private cloud, either way, I need to modernize. What do you what have you seen that starts to sway that customers choices, right? We knew there were the original value props of hyperscaler over private cloud.

From scalability and things like that. But what are you seeing this really starting to sway people one direction or the other?

It’s kind of funny, I think one of the biggest drivers right now is Microsoft as a company with what they’re doing with the productivity suite. And what I’m talking about is they call it modern work, but your your O 365 licensing in your email.

Honestly, where we’re at in the country, maybe we’re a little further behind Silicon Valley and some of the bigger tech cities. That to me is the is the biggest driver for the cloud right now because of how much is coming with that package. People are starting to say, well, like, I already kind of pay for it. Should we just use this? It makes sense. And so, you know, maybe a customer that was anti cloud or really didn’t want to go down that journey.

They’re now in an office three, maybe let’s just say they’re smaller than 300 employees. They’re using business premium. All of a sudden, you get all these tools, you get cloud storage, you can place file servers. And it’s like, wow, this kind of makes sense. Like, why do we have all this stuff? Let’s just use the cloud.

Is that like a super cool reason to go? I mean, not really, it’s not super innovative, but it makes sense. And so I think a lot of cloud conversations are starting there.

So I think Microsoft is well positioned. The whole Azure story has become a lot stronger in the last few years. And I think you’re going to continue to see Azure compete with AWS more.

Their profitability, I think, is showing like Azure is doing better than AWS at this point. GCP will see what happens with them. They’re a little bit behind the other two. But they have some unique capabilities if they ever did decide to truly invest. I don’t know. Their AI investment seems to be where they want to put all their money right now.

So Microsoft, the O365 suite, I think is driving a lot of businesses to the cloud. I think the other thing that’s driving it is, in our part of the country, we have a lot of manufacturers, a lot of long standing employees at companies who have been doing things the same way for a long time.

Future retirements, system sun setting, forced path to the cloud. So I mentioned SAP earlier, a lot of manufacturing in our space runs SAP. SAP’s got a big push to go to the cloud.

Those types of things are also driving cloud adoption. And so you can fight it for so long, but at some point you don’t want to be the last one on a system. And so companies that have traditionally not gone to the cloud are now saying, well, let’s have a strategy. Let’s start to go there. And I think what they’re finding is when they start to do, you know, maybe they spin up an application in AWS to start. It’s a non-critical. They start to see, well, there’s a lot of cool things I could do here with my data. There’s a lot of cool ways of cutting this up, connecting to it that, you know, we can’t do with our traditional infrastructure.

There’s probably other reasons. I mean, DevOps, you know, there’s a huge push in DevOps. I don’t want to get too technical there, but DevOps is driving a lot of like where you build your apps out. And there’s other reasons. But I do think the majority of the things that I do think are going to be the majority of them are from Microsoft. Two thoughts there. One, you bring up, I want to call out a little bit that I don’t think a lot of people understand, but it’s super valuable once you know that they exist. And Azure and AWS have their own program. Each has a slightly different naming convention, but I’ll pick on AWS because I was just looking at one this morning. The the map program migration assistance program, I think a lot of customers don’t yet know that this exists to the fact that they’re both getting very aggressive, right? Here’s Azure and here’s AWS. If one of them hears that the customer is on each other, or it’s on GCP, they will go incredibly aggressive at offering these map credits saying, we’ll give you a bunch of money, that’ll help the front end of the build. And then likely you’re going to need an MSP CSP to help support that manage that modernize that this is just getting you there. It’s the really hard and scary part. And they likely didn’t have the skill sets to get there. So they’re going to need skill sets to help maintain that. Thus is where we all come in. And I think that’s such a missed opportunity. I don’t hear enough people talking about that and embracing that.

Yeah, you’re right. And there’s a lot of funding out there. I think something, maybe this is for a future question, but like vision casting, I think that both like AWS and Azure, Microsoft, their marketplaces are going to be things that we start to see more and more relevant in this space of how do you procure off market space to start consolidating billing into these marketplaces. And so, you know, what’s your strategy around an AWS marketplace or an Azure marketplace? The other thing I failed to mention, I probably should have mentioned this, that happened over the last three years is obviously COVID.

I think we’ve talked about this before, actually on this podcast, but I’m sure you’ve talked to others like COVID drove a ton of changes in infrastructure because people were everywhere, people still are everywhere. There’s hybrid commuting now, there’s employees in way more states, countries, etc.

The cloud becomes a better fit for so many reasons there. So like, that’s another thing that’s driven cloud adoption over the last few years.

And then the last thing that I probably should have mentioned was, you know, in this day and age, there’s more people starting companies than ever before, or maybe not ever, but there’s a very high entrepreneur rate right now. And most entrepreneurs, like if you’re starting a business now, if you’re not in the cloud, like I don’t know where, why you’re starting a business because the cloud makes total sense. And any of those businesses that become successful and grow, you’re really growing in the cloud. So you’re a cloud company from the start. It’s hard to go back from being a cloud company to traditional. So, you know, over the last few years of all these businesses starting cloud has just been where they end up. Yeah, you bring up a really great point that makes me want to go on a little bit of a tangent. But I think it’s so important that we have to talk about it. I think we’re on the cusp with co-pilot coming out that the game just gets completely changed. And I know AI and conversational AI and all of these things are huge right in front of us right now. Talk about a changing landscape. The amount of money that’s about to get poured into this space as if it’s cloud and it’s UC all over again from the cloud.

From the beginning, building these from scratch, I think presents a couple things. One, it’s going to flood us with products that customers are going to need help going, is this real? Is this vaporware?

But two, I think to your point, you bring up the entrepreneur angle, I think this is going to help people effectively start and build and scale a business in a way that cost five times what it did before. So again, the amount of businesses, the amount of tech, it creates all that is opportunity for everybody. Everybody wins in that. But in the end, customers, everybody, businesses still need help because everybody is going to want these. But if they can’t figure out how to leverage co-pilot, how to modernize, how to shift out of their infrastructure, how to put their data into a vector database and analyze it and tune it, then they’re not going to be able to take advantage. But Microsoft, to your point, very well positioned here. I think. You’ll be on an E9 licensing before you do it. Have you played with co-pilot at all? Have you done any testing? I’ve played with flavors of it, but it’s very pre-beta to a select amount of Microsoft MSPs. And so we’re all just, I’m waiting for that text of, “It’s GA. We’re ready. We can sell it.”

I mean, it could be any day. It could be six months. It’s hard to really say. But I think if we understand really what OpenAI is and the foundational framework behind that and how to work with that, you understand what’s likely going to come into conversational AI and to talk to PowerPoint as to how you want your PowerPoint built.

Talk to Word about what you want it to write for you. I just, I think that’s when it becomes real, when tech becomes democratized into a way that the consumer can use and businesses are forced to go, “We got to do that. We got to build it. We got to do it now.”

I really do. I forget this. I think it was the CEO of, it was one of the data companies. I don’t want to butcher it. But he said, for companies that don’t use AI in 10 years, those companies will not be in existence. That might be a very bold statement. But I do think that if you are not using some flavor of AI in the next five years, you are going to fall significantly behind.

I think we’re in one of the betas for CoPilot. And so we’ve seen some of the features. I mean, just like, I’m on a nonprofit board. And just yesterday, we were talking about traditional note taking. There’s no reason to take notes anymore. You can record a conversation and then it literally will take parts of the conversation and say, “Hey, who spoke? I just want to see all the times Josh spoke.” Okay. It was two times. I could just go listen to snippets and be done.

So, you know, just that whole, we’ve been taking notes forever. We’ve been writing in all these different, like, it’s going to change so many things. And yes, it’s a tangent, but it relates back to the cloud because a lot of this tech is being developed in cloud, around cloud, in tandem with cloud. And so like, I do think it does relate in a tangential way. Yeah, people are going to have to get their structured and unstructured data in step one. They’re going to have to analyze it and put us some sort of, I keep saying vector database, whatever the equivalent is. I think that there’s a new, new flavor of databases coming, whether it’s vector or something else. But again, how many experts on vector databases can we say that we know? And we’ve seen them do implementations, right? That’s a growing, a growing thing. But it’s only as good as it is tuned. So those types of things. And then you can crunch.

Conversational AI against it and API that into anything and everything. But that’s, I say it like it’s so easy. It’s not, it’s incredibly complex. But once you get it, you are never going to go back. So yeah, we could boy, and you bring up something. So you know, you start doing all this, and that’s your cloud, and you start to look at vector databases. All the other things matter. And that’s where the cloud conversation is interesting, because you really can’t have a cloud conversation without talking about your, your licensing. You can’t talk about it without your security, your network, like all of that changes. And so where I go back to the very first thing I said, Microsoft has done a really good job. I’ve got a customer going through this right now. They’re using certain security tools, they’re still on prem for a lot of things, but they’re, they’re hybrid, they use some SaaS apps, a little bit of Azure. They are looking at replacing some of their security tools with an E5. And all of a sudden, now the conversation is changing because cloud phone is in E5. So like, why wouldn’t we use cloud phone? There’s entre being included, which is a new license from Microsoft. There’s all the purview, there’s the data, where you keep data and analyze data. So all of a sudden, this one license that you can jump to for a couple different reasons, gives you all the functionality in the cloud. And you start looking at it and saying, well, you know, our traditional vulnerability scanning is not good enough. Our traditional networking is not good enough. And so not to say that like the cloud conversation is too broad, but you really have to, that’s why I go back to you have to have a strategy around it. And you have to know why you’re going there. So one of my customers, I won’t say the name, one of the things they did, they’ve been kind of anti cloud or traditional on prem. We’ve been talking recently and they say, all right, I think we know why we need to go to the cloud now. And I’m like, I’m perking up because I’m like, all right, please do share. They’re saying like, we want to start building our net, our data lake out in Azure. We have this specific reason, we want to have, we want to use Microsoft Fabric. And we know we need to connect to it securely. And we don’t have that today. So that’s going to be our first thing in prep for four years from now when we take SAP to the cloud. So like, we’re talking about 2027. We’re talking about what they need to do now to get there. That’s smart. And that’s what companies need to do if they don’t have tons of people to take you there. But that’s a very, I think intelligent cloud conversation. They’re like, hey, let’s just refactor this and put it in Azure or AWS. Sure, you could like why, how, like, that’s not as intelligent or that’s not as, I’d say fun as a conversation because it’s just too random. Yeah, yeah, fair. I want to wrap up the thought on the tips to accelerate and modernize into Azure or into cloud or into AWS and Gen, you know, any of those. Can you we talked about this a little bit and I want to pull it back up. Can you give me some basic ROI indicators that that you want if you’re going into this conversation that you want the customers to be thinking of to help them envision. Okay, I’ve got buy in, but I don’t know how to sell this. I don’t know how to explain how this is going to help us. How do you help people through that ROI conversation and not just cost versus cost?

Yeah, I think the ROI conversation is one of the reasons this is complicated because if you don’t know why you’re going there and you don’t have like the long term buy in revision, it’s going to be hard to show ROI.

Because what will tend to happen is you’ll look at it in too short of increments and I think that conversation is significantly harder to have an ROI conversation than if you look at it over like a five year increment.

So, I mean, to answer your question specifically, everyone’s different, but like

time, you know, let’s take the easiest ones like the move just moving off traditional, you’ve got your data center space, your cooling, your heating, your maintenance, your licensing, you’ve got a lot of costs there that people just forget about or don’t really think about. Probably one of the most common recently is like

VMware licensing, I mentioned earlier, like you got to, it’s still going to be there in the cloud unless you actually make a change to go to like, you know, native AWS or Azure tools, right?

If I do that, then that licensing cost goes away. Well, if that’s a big cost, then there’s a big ROI there, but you have to be willing to commit to that. So you can’t just say, well, if I move it here, like the infrastructure here versus you’re talking about two layers of things. So, like Microsoft licensing, like, you know, MPSA, MPSA, SQL, Windows licensing, you’ve got your, your VMware licensing, you’ve got your data center space, your cooling, you’ve got your, your, your time you wait on ordering servers and implementing the the actual system and the cost of having people go out, there’s all that there’s the hard costs and you can do that. I still think that if you just compare straight infrastructure to cloud infrastructure, depending on what you do, it, you’re not going to have some crazy ROI.

But that’s like, level one. Level two, I think you start to look at like the future, like speed of the organization, like how fast do you want to innovate? How fast do you want to, like, how much do you want to connect to your customers? How open do you want to be with other technologies that you support or could support you in certain ways? And that’s where like the DevOps conversation comes in and like what’s in the DevOps pipeline? What are you developing? Is it proprietary? Is it custom? Is it a lot of off the shelf stuff?

Okay, well, how quickly are you developing? Like in the old days, we would develop, you know, it would take years to develop an app that you put out there on your own infrastructure.

You can develop, push code out like real time, have code security reviews. So the DevOps pipeline, I think is driving and you can really have a huge ROI conversation about how quickly do you want to get this to your customers? If that customer is that important to you, then like there’s a lot of ROI. So I’ll give you an example. We have a customer who works with a large tire manufacturer.

And their big problem is they don’t have a way to show inventory in like the process throughout. And it’s because each step of the way has old school systems that don’t talk to each other that are all like manually uploaded in feeds that summer nightly, summer hourly, summer could be once a week. For this company who works with them to see the progress of their tire order. It’s not really that possible. So how valuable is that contract to you as a company?

If that’s a, if that’s a $10 million contract, right? If you could show them that and that’s going to keep them around for five more years. What is the ROI of that? It’s it’s infinite. Like if you lose that customer, that could be like your main customer. That could be what keeps you in business. So that is a, and I’m not saying like that has to be in the cloud, right? But that conversation is driving like, well, let’s build this in the cloud. Let’s show real time. Let’s create data warehouses. Let’s show the data that back to our customers. That’s, that’s an ROI conversation you can have is like, what’s the value of customers seeing the things more real time. And then the other ones are like, you know, just with we talked about COVID, where are people connecting? How much time is it taking to connect to the cloud? How much can they interact with each other if it’s in the cloud?

Those are kind of intangibles. But if you are a big organization and you look at some of those things times 1000, 2000, 3000 employees, there starts to be ROI conversations you need to factor in. And so if you don’t get anything else from all the different random numbers I just threw out, it’s tiered. It’s like you have to look at the ROI in so many buckets for you to really have a full grasp of the cloud. That I think the thing that gets missed is just looking at infrastructure to infrastructure. Well, we paid a million dollars to Dell and we get this equipment for five years, we’re going to pay 1.7 million to Amazon. Well, let’s go Dell. Well, wait a second. Look at the licensing. Just keep going up. Look at the cost. And like, I, it’s a lot closer now than it’s ever been. And I think the one the thing that’s pushing it over the edge for a lot is that last thing I said it’s how fast you want to innovate, how much are you integrating? What SaaS are you using? That’s where it starts to be very impactful. Yeah, and I think people are forced now to to maybe those that didn’t want to modernize now are seeing what their competitors are doing to your point of if that if you’re if it’s a tire manufacturer, that’s your upstream vendor. And that’s a big source of your revenue. If the competing tire manufacturer has a as a comparable product, and their ability is that you can API in and help people make purchases on the second based on accurate inventory. That’s, you’re done. I mean, you’re absolutely done. So people, people look at it differently. It’s the same way as as security, right? People come to you and people want to breach you through your upstream vendors. And so you think about these upstream vendors in a way that we never had to before. I think you draw some really valuable points there. One other thing I would add, that’s kind of interesting is like the the traditional buyer, or the buyer of technology, I think over the next 10 years, you’re going to see a change in in buying habits. And so, you know, I don’t know what generation I’m not gonna I’m not gonna call anyone out for for where their ages, but I do think that the younger buyers who start to get into management roles. They want things at their fingertips, we all are on our phones all the time. So the more that I can, like, for example, like ecommerce, if a company has never done ecommerce.

They’re kind of being forced to now because like, people aren’t walking in store the same way, your buyers buy in different ways, we all use Amazon. So like, okay, take ecommerce, well, Shopify is a very popular ecommerce platform, or AWS has theirs. And

it’s so much easier to build that in the cloud, because it’s already there. Why would you spend a ton of money in time trying to do something on your own, you don’t like, you’re forced to take a cloud offering. So then you start to say, well, like, should we just do this for everything? I mean, I think it’s things like that, that force people into thinking about the cloud for better for worse. Yeah, when precedent gets set, you know, perception is reality in that there are certain companies that set an NPS score of your expectation of purchases and returns. And when you don’t meet that bar, you suck. It’s not, it’s not that you sucked 10 years ago by by standards of comparison, I, you know, two weeks to get something a month to get something that was fine. Now, if it doesn’t show up, oh, my gosh, like, what’s wrong with this company, right? It’s not that that company is right or wrong. It’s the consumer’s perception. It’s the business’s perception. And that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

Yeah, absolutely. Agree 100%. Okay, so final couple thoughts here. If we button it up to who do you think from a contact perspective are the most effective folks within the business, we’re talking about cloud, we’re talking about modernization, it seems like that role and that responsibility has shifted a little bit. Is it still all within it? Or who would you say focus these outreach efforts on to?

I still think it is the one is the most important from like a how are we going to do cloud or like which platform and the tech, but I go back to I do think that someone in leadership at a company private or public board member C suite of ahead of product or someone really high up with customer service, there has to be a high level person in the organization driving the change. It can happen accidentally in certain cases. And I think Microsoft is getting a lot of accidental cloud because of it. But I do think that you need to have someone’s buy in from the top and not necessarily like as a as a technology advisor, like I don’t necessarily talk to the CEO of every one of our customers to validate that. But just asking the question, hey, why are you doing this? Is there like, is there some person that’s driving this? And if it’s our CEO wants to, you better figure out their cloud roadmap for them, because they’re going to do it. If it’s no, we think we should do this because we’ll figure out if there’s buy in and there’s actually a direction. And then like it is going to drive a lot of that with, you know, not just your traditional infrastructure and security folks, your DevOps team, we’ve talked about a lot your data teams are going to you’re going to talk about it, your app teams, your your ERP, whatever teams in it, but there’s a lot of people touching it. Final thought. Aaron’s crystal ball here is we look out over the next 12 months. What’s your forecast, your one year outlook for the cloud sector?

I think you’re going to see Microsoft continue to crush it. I think you’re going to see more Azure adoption than you did the last year into next year. I think you are going to continue to see AI based cloud products come to market very quickly. I get an example I give is I have a customer who’s looking for like a contract and AI contract review tool. So SaaS, I didn’t know this, but I started looking at online, there was 100 tools, and they all look brand new. And so I think you’re going to see that speed to market because of like you said, GitHub being easy to download, you know, write code and do AI. You see a lot of companies come to market, get bought up and consolidate.

I also think that CIOs, if you read SaaS magazine, one of the themes right now in 23 is consolidation because over the last few years, it’s just been like insecurity, like tool heavy, like buy everything separate, best of breed. Right now, the theme is consolidation. So like I go back to Microsoft, that’s an ecosystem play. If you can make an ecosystem play, I think you’re going to see more of that. So these other tangential companies like, you know, take like a CrowdStrike who’s a security company, they’re buying up different parts of security to be an ecosystem security play. I think you’re going to continue to see ecosystem purchasing increase.

And then I mentioned it earlier, but I do think that digital marketplaces, if you haven’t educated yourself on what that is, that’s going to be something we see a lot more of. And it doesn’t necessarily change a lot of the way people buy other than where the bill is coming from. But I think it’s going to make a bigger impact than we think because of how simple it’s going to be to say, oh, I want this. I’m going to put it here so that I don’t have to have you through procurement again.

Think that’s going to drive a lot of change. Love it. OK, Aaron, that wraps us up and lots of golden nuggets on here. Really appreciate you coming back. Yeah, thanks for having me, Josh, and continue crushing the podcast. And I hope you have a good rest of the week. Awesome. OK, thanks, everybody. Thanks for listening. AaronBock ofOpkalla We’re talking about Azure modernization and so many nuggets in here. You got to go listen to until next time. I’m JoshLupresto SVP of Sales and Security.