Don’t miss this episode with Chaz Chalkey, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Dataprise as we talk about three key ways to help your customers modernize in Azure. Azure is a complex beast, but Dataprise can simplify the experience, help manage, help migrate, and all things in between. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about infrastructure and database, or MDR and Security. Chaz has an answer. Listen in to how they help your customers. You might also hear how Chaz started his career as a Fish Monger! Yes, that’s a thing!
Welcome to the podcast that’s 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. We’re talking cloud today, but more importantly, we’re talking about modernizing and some of the top three ways to help your customers do that in Azure. Today we’re joined by Chaz Chalkley VP of Channel and Strategic Partnerships at Dataprise Chaz, welcome on man.
Thank you. So to be here.
So Chaz, we’d like to kick this off with some good ammo we could maybe use against you later. But now, look, I like to hear how people get started in this. Some people have had a very linear path, they knew what they wanted to do, and they set out and they did it. And other people in this industry just kind of sucked them in. So just tell us about you first. How did you get here? Where did you start and lay it out for us? Well, a bit of a windy path. You know, at the heart of it, I think I just like to fix things. And it was always just me and my mom growing up. So, you know, I wanted to make sure that I could help her and be self sufficient in my own life. So that was really important to me. So, you know, I started working my way through high school and college with general contractors. So, you know, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, all that sort of stuff, which has saved me a lot of dollars later in life, being a homeowner.
And then, you know, over winter breaks, I would be a fishmonger. I don’t know how that ties into fixing things, but it certainly paid well. So I was a fishmonger. What’s a fishmonger? What does that mean? So like a retail seafood store. So all the all the wealthy people in Georgetown in DC would come to this particular shop to buy their fresh fish. So, you know, think big chunks of tuna and salmon and crab and lobster. So yeah, that was it was a fun experience. So that was more through high school. And then, you know, I went to college at James Madison University and studied integrated science and technology. So I figured it was probably time to start focusing on some technical stuff and things to do some career development. So I got an internship doing quality assurance work for an e commerce business management platform type of organization. And, you know, I remember being there and my laptop blue screen, and it started making this loud beeping noise. And the whole office is just staring at me. And finally, I, you know, turn the laptop over, pulled out the battery and it stopped obviously. But I got to watch the IT guys fix the computer turned out to be a hardware issue. But then I watched them kind of reload the OS and configure Active Directory. Well, I don’t know if it was Active Directory back then maybe NT back office. So, you know, we’re I got to see that and that really is what got me hooked in into technology. After college and after that, that that kind of quality assurance gig, me and another gentleman had a two person MSP slash ISP, based out of Northern Virginia and did that for about four years, paid myself a whopping 18 grand a year for those four years and turns out you can’t live in Northern Virginia with an 18 grand salary. So I started looking around and found Dataprise in 2005, and came on board as a network engineer and a consultant and sys admin and been loving life ever since the Dataprise So, you know, did all the technical stuff moved up in throughout the management around there, helped start a few departments and then ultimately led me here to working with the channel and partnerships.
Love it. Awesome. All right, that’s a good windy story. So tell tell us about before we kind of get in to really expand on who data prizes and your Azure practice and all that good stuff. Where in that journey did you first learn about Azure? Where did it click? What did it make sense? Where did you realize, okay, we got to pay a lot of attention to this. This is a big thing.
So I first learned about Azure probably back in the B pause days, if you remember that before the precursor to Oh, 365 business productivity, productivity online suite, I think. Yeah.
So that was that that was around 2007 or 2009. And, you know, I remember all of the MSPs or vars freaking out because Microsoft was taking away a product sale with, you know, exchange and SharePoint and kind of potentially the management of those things. So we were all concerned about that. And then, you know, it turns out it just helped us grow it added to our own internal offerings and maybe even shapes what data prizes and as an MSP, right, because you could do so much more remotely than staff, all type of work. So we went from that network consultant staff, all to being a more nimble managed services org. So, you know, moving people hours to kind of support and business outcomes being done remotely.
I remember getting my actually my VCP back in 2007. And, you know, kind of putting all my chips in the VMware basket, and then seeing this Azure product come about. And, you know, realizing that Microsoft is probably going to dominate this eventually. So went ahead and got the MCSE in kind of the Microsoft stacks, and been able to work with Azure ever since then. But yeah, I would say the first time I heard about it was back in 2009, when it was kind of the dotnet ASP worlds and providing that platform there. Got it. Good stuff. All right. So then tell us about, for anybody that has never worked with Dataprise kind of fill us in a little bit, you know, what, what is Dataprise what kind of stuff you cover? And then once you lay that out, walk us into kind of what you guys are doing in Azure. Perfect. Yeah. So Dataprise we’re a nationwide cyber led MSP and MSSP. We provide managed cybersecurity, managed infrastructure and disaster recovery as a service, managed end user and service desk and managed cloud. Obviously, we’ll be talking some of that today. And those services are rounded out by a nice project management office with project engineers, project managers, and VCIOs and VCSO teams.
We hold a few strategic partnerships with companies like Veeam and Microsoft that help us focus on what we like to call a battle tested reference technology stack, something that we can focus on and really be experts in supporting that environment. We’re a Microsoft managed partner, which is an exclusive group of partners, right? I think it’s 1% of partners are managed partners with Microsoft. And that gives us a high level of engagement with them. We’re also in the process of finalizing our Azure expert MSP status. I think the last step to that is getting your ISO certification. So we already had our SOC 2s and now we’re going through the ISO. But that’ll put us in even rare group of Microsoft partners with that Azure expert MSP status. So we’re really proud of that. Obviously, with that, with those designations, we’re pretty tightly focused on the
Microsoft stack. And our Azure services range from obviously the migration, right? Getting people into Azure from on-prem or a data center or another cloud-based solution. And then the optimization of their cloud-based environment, right? How can we make them run more efficient? How can we optimize their billing? And that pretty much rounds out the stack there. So you bring up a good point, right? I mean, the title of this track is three ways that we can help them modernize. So maybe walk me through one or two of these key ways. I think sometimes it’s the art of the possible. I think what we realize in these discoveries is that people don’t know what they don’t know. So walk me through how you help them understand what’s possible from a modernization perspective. So one thing that we talk to partners about and customers about is that with going into a cloud-based environment like Azure, your back-end technology is going to be far more capable than anything most customers can afford themselves internally, right? So you get this robustness, this redundant environment that you’re more often than not going to be able to put in place internally or even at many data centers. So some capabilities with the local hypervisors like VMware or Hyper-V back in the day, you can get all of that without the investment in hardware and software, right? So you’re kind of built to scale and grow as your company needs it, right? So you have this easy migration path into Azure, be it a forklift or a lifted shift, right? Where you’re kind of optimizing the technologies. And then you can grow from an SMV to mid-market, right? With the click of a button or maybe some changing and licensing. So the ability to scale, the ability to grow is a big thing that we like to highlight for our customers and for the partners.
You know, in the COVID era, right, you have people working remotely or back in the day, a lot of people traveling, right? Still we’re doing that now, Lord knows in this job, we’re all traveling. So that roaming staff, right? You don’t need expensive end-user compute devices. You can have a lightweight device that will connect to Azure virtual desktop and the O365 services. So you don’t need that heavy investment in end-user technology like you used to have.
And then a common conversation that we used to have with customers and now with partners was kind of was overcoming that security concern, right? So, you know, I don’t want to go to the cloud. I can’t touch it and feel it and see it. I want to see the blinky lights. And the conversation we have with them is, you know, imagine your budget for security and now envision Microsoft’s budget for security. Which one do you think is higher? Who has a greater investment in protecting your devices, your information? It’s probably going to be Microsoft. So those are some of the ways that we help explain what’s possible, right? You are given the opportunity to take advantage of far more advanced technology than what you could do internally with your own resources. So walk me through then, I think you’ve had a good picture of the why and how you help customers through that. But maybe take us back to one of your first cloud deals there where you really got to see, okay, these are the customer needs. And this is what we did, because we’re going to look at the far spectrum of this of a more recent deal here as we move on. But let’s walk us through maybe one of these first ones where your eyes were really opened up to all the possibilities.
So, you know, I’m trying to think of a specific instance. And I don’t know if I can nail one down, but I can remember the the general feeling, right? And one of the big things was the ease of getting people back up and running when there was an issue, right? And that issue could be at the system level, right? With an OS failure, or some hardware failure in their back office servers, or with connectivity, right? If your internet goes out, go work from a coffee shop, right? Go work from home. If there’s a system failure, we’ll just spin up another virtual machine or spin up your backup online in the Azure environment, in a cloud-based environment. So, you know what, I can’t recall that first, you know, taste of what cloud was, but I can remember the feeling of kind of being an advocate for the customer and saying, you know, this is what allows you to sleep at night, right? When you go into the cloud, you have this quick turn up if something happens, right? If something, if some catastrophic event happens at your office, go home and work from there. Go to a coffee shop, work from there. When my kids are home, I can’t work from home. So, I’m sure a lot of people had to go to the coffee shop. Right, right. So, that’s kind of the first impression that I have of the cloud. Fair. All right. So, let’s talk about CFO’s three favorite letters, ROI. So, how, you know, that, I think that was some of the initial problems that we had with cloud was getting people to realize, no, this isn’t, it’s not, I get it, you could pay for it, you know, if you buy this box, right? But here we are again in 24 months and we’re not modernized. And now you’re, you’re a major airline that had a big debacle when two storms hit back to back and they couldn’t handle it because they never invested in the infrastructure. How do you help in these conversations when you’re talking about modernization, what are, what’s something that you do to help them understand ROI and how they’re going to see return on something like this? So, you know, I previously mentioned that ability to scale. I think that’s one of the big selling points for the CFO is, you know, if you’re going through an acquisition, do you have to spin up a brand new environment to support that acquisition? Or can you just leverage your cloud-based technologies that are already in place, right? You have a branch office through an M&A activity, or you’re just, you know, growing organically. You may not need that local Active Directory server, right? You may not need that local file server. Take advantage of what you can do with Azure AD or SharePoint combined with the Office 365 tool sets, right? So, being able to scale quickly is a big one. Another conversation with the CFO, depending on the business model that they have, is do you want to go to OpEx from CapEx, right? Get out of the recurring hardware game. Do you want to spend thousands of dollars every three to five years trying to spin up a new environment or keep up with the latest technologies that your critical business apps require to run? Or just want to throw all that stuff up in Azure and turn up the resources as needed, right? So, getting out of the CapEx to OpEx and not being reliant on hardware is a big one as well. That’s good. All right, so, if I flashback, you know, some of my personal first four days into cloud, AWS or Azure, it was when there was very limited amount of services. It was some VMs and then maybe some some VNets or VPCs, right? The virtual networking stuff comes along and then some storage, whether that be a blob or whatever it is. So, I think it feels like if you look at the features and functionality that these cloud environments have now, this tech stack has evolved a ton from traditional virtualization. How do you see that, you know, from your perspective with what you’ve seen in Azure, seeing that tech stack evolved and really, how are you bringing that to market? How are you helping customers understand that? Because maybe they only know it as what they see it when they first saw it. Right. So, you know, a lot of it has to do with not just the infrastructure as a service, but utilizing the platform as a service, right? Where you’re taking advantage of applications that may already be published within the Azure marketplace. So, you don’t have to spin up a server and manage that OS. You’re now just optimizing your environment to run a particular application. So, while there are a ton of benefits to IaaS infrastructure as a service, and it’s still the right fit for many, I think the evolution, I don’t want to say recent evolution, but you know, where it’s going right now is more of that platform as a service. You know, you’re seeing virtual firewalls up there. You mentioned the various connectivity applications up there. You’re seeing financial applications that are just built to run as resources within the Azure environment, right? You don’t have to spin up 25 servers to manage each custom business application. So, I think it’s really that evolution towards the, you know, less as an infrastructure as a service and more towards that just running the application without the back end infrastructure. So, that way, you don’t have to manage it. You don’t have to have the staff there to manage all that infrastructure. So, let’s talk about all the offerings or situations of where Dataprise can help, right? So, all right, if I’m a partner, and I’m listening to this point, I’m understanding what some of your offerings are, but maybe I’m thinking in my mind, okay, does the customer have to spin up a net new Azure tenant with Dataprise Can they take over a customer’s existing Azure tenant? Because all of the stuff is already there, and nobody wants to move it out, and they just manage it, and I can get paid on the management of, or you know what, lay that out for us. What can I do? What can’t we do? So, you left A and B, I’ll just see all of the above. So, Dataprise you know, we can do that assessment, right? We can find out how to optimize a migration into Azure, right? That’s where the benefit of a supplier like Dataprise and many others in your portfolio that can really bring their expertise and make the migration more efficient, and then the ongoing management that much simpler, right? Because we really optimize that migration in there. So, we help you determine what should go into the cloud. Maybe sometimes things need to stay on-prem, right? And we’ll keep it there. We’ll certainly optimize an existing cloud environment, right? We’ll log into Azure and make sure that everything is configured appropriately. Are you using the right platform to deliver the service to your end user base, right? Going back to that IaaS versus kind of a platform, do you need a server running there, or can we just spin up one of these applications in there? And then, obviously, we’ll do that management and kind of billing optimization. One thing that is great about what we’ve done here recently is we provide a billing tool that really gives transparency and clarity into the Azure billing environment. One thing that I’m sure you’ll hear from partners who are familiar with the Azure world and even Microsoft staff themselves is trying to understand the Azure billing practice takes an advanced degree. We have simplified that in a reporting fashion, and we’ve done that through a recent acquisition that Dataprise made with AirNet. Gosh, that’s about a year ago now. So we already had a pretty stacked group of Azure expertise, but when we acquired AirNet, it took us to a whole other level. And they’ve brought this custom development that allows for better reporting, better optimization within the Azure world, so much so that myself and some of the team went out speaking to Microsoft account executives, and we’re strategizing with them. How do we sell Azure managed services and Azure migration services to the world? How do we go about getting everyone into Azure? So Dataprise really likes to cover that whole suite from training the partners on how to identify Azure opportunities and, in many cases, how to sell Azure opportunities if they’re interested in going that far. And the migration to and the optimization or management of. We’re also a CSP, so we can provide the licensing to the customer. So we like to be that kind of warm blanket to help with all the Azure needs.
Love it. All right, good. I always loved, by the way, in school, all of the above. That was a good safe test question. That’s right. All right, so walk us through an example. Give me an example, something recent. In this question, I always like to hear, are you seeing a lot of things that start off exactly like the partner brought them to you? Are you finding there’s more? Are you finding they don’t look exactly like they did? So maybe walk us through that. What did the transformation look like? So I’ll actually give a specific example that we worked with Microsoft on, and Microsoft actually created a video of our work themselves, right, and put it out there on their YouTube channel. Happy to send it out there for anybody that needs it. But when Microsoft puts a video out about your services, yeah, I feel a little proud of that one, right? So we worked with Microsoft on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Department. And the Florida Fish and Wildlife, as with all the departments within the state, have a mandate through the cloud bill, if the governor put out to move all of their infrastructure from on-prem or in the state data center into the cloud and into Azure. So not necessarily into Azure, but Microsoft and Dataprise kind of won this opportunity to put them into Azure. So they were in the state data center, and that cloud bill is obviously helping to reduce costs for the state, right? So you have labor that’s running the data center, you have the utilities like electricity, which is a crazy expense for the state to manage that data center, and then the real estate costs, right? So they were incented to move into the cloud.
This department was in a race with another department to see who went lights out first, lights out meaning lights out of the data center, right? So we, and they won, by the way, by working with Dataprise and the internet team. So we took advantage of the AMP program, which is Azure Migration and Modernization Program. And for those that don’t know, that’s a potential funding source for projects to move customers into the Azure space environment, something that we’re happy to help with. Not a guarantee, the limited budget, but we’re happy to investigate for that, for customers. They’re in VMware in the data center. And again, they moved to Azure. And the thing that they got to really experience the benefit of was what we mentioned before, right? The lack of the hardware renewal process, and being able to take advantage of the latest and greatest back end infrastructure within Azure, right? So they didn’t have that three to five year cost, they didn’t have to hire VCPs or VMware certified individuals, you got to take advantage of everything that comes in Azure just as a service, right? So there were some platform as a service opportunities there. So they moved from SQL to an Azure based SQL resource. So you’re not spinning up a SQL server and a Windows OS to manage the SQL, you’re just taking advantage of the native SQL processing, which is actually for customers that have databases. That’s a huge cost saving activity there, because the cost to run databases locally is pretty expensive. So Azure can really provide some benefits there. And then, you know, that the CFO of the state saw the ROI there. And now you see more departments in the state moving into Azure specifically. So we like to think it was a great win with Microsoft and Florida Fish and Wildlife again, they won that they won the competition to get in there first. Love it. And can you give us name that program again, I want to call this out because I don’t think a lot of people understand this. The go over that for just a second if you can. So it’s called the AMP program, AMMP, Azure Migration and Modernization Program. So it’s Microsoft’s source of potential funding for customers to migrate into the Azure ecosystem. And in some cases, broader than that, right, there are other funding sources to get into Office 365, Power BI teams, you know, etc. But this one specifically was the AMMP, Azure Migration and Modernization Program. Got it. So if I’m in, yeah, I want to put the precursor out there, right? It’s not guaranteed money. But what you have to realize is that Microsoft wants to get specific accounts migrated over to Azure. And if you have those accounts and you have great relationships, right, you got to come and you got to float it by Chaz and say, Hey, is this one of those accounts? What if I have a relationship in here? What if we can target it? Can we go leverage that bucket of funds? Because there’s nothing better to help a deal than the customer hearing, oh, and somebody else will pay for some of that. Wait a minute. Okay, I don’t have to go for that big non recurring charge and part of the migration. Good stuff. Absolutely. Any any help certainly increases the wheels for the video. Cool. Alright, so final couple thoughts here. If maybe I’m excited about Azure now, I didn’t totally understand everything of how data price could help me modernize or how I’m going to go talk to my customers about modernizing in Azure. But I got a little more comfortable with it now that I’ve heard this. What do you what would you tell a partner that, again, maybe they’re selling it in an adjacent area or just not touching this area? Is there questions that you want to give out? Is there a strategy idea that you want to give out? What are your thoughts there?
So there’s a lot of thoughts here. And this is really why Telarus has put together this portfolio of suppliers, right, just to help partners kind of navigate this, navigate these waters.
So first, I’ll say with any technology, right, if you’re not comfortable selling,
just get your foot in the door, right, and the partners will help you identify, which I’ll get into, obviously, to answer your question, but bring us a part of like data present into the conversation, right, and we’ll work with the partners in any way you need from being just the SME in the conversation or to owning the entire sales process. But just get that foot in the door so that we can have a broader conversation. Really, and bring in your team, right, Josh, bring in the sales engineers and help them pick the right supplier for the opportunity.
Second, for those that have sold data center solutions, right, there’s a lot of similarity in the sale. We’re talking about the difference between a private cloud and a public cloud. So if you’ve gotten them in the cloud already, and they’re looking to take advantage of a bigger name like Azure and Microsoft, then it’s a pretty similar sale there. A potential differentiator between the two models is that Azure can be a try before you buy, right. So oftentimes you have 30 to 60 days to dip your toe in the water, right. Do you want to spin up O365? Do you want to spin up a resource? Do you want to spin up a virtual firewall to see what the connectivity looks like into the Azure ecosystem? Do it. You got 30 days to try it. So there’s a low to no risk try before you buy scenario there. But partners should listen for a few keywords, right. Office 365. If they’re already in the Microsoft ecosystem, most of the time, Azure makes a ton of sense, right. And Josh, I think I heard you say it in another episode, which I’m absolutely going to steal from you, which is second money is easier than first money. Yes. So you know, now that you’re in Office 365, and you’re in Azure, sell them EDR with Defender, sell them MDR and SIM with Azure Sentinel, right? Data price can do both, by the way. So, you know, help them, help them take advantage of the full Microsoft ecosystem. Other things to listen for, right? Staff layoffs or resignations were coming out of the big quit. And the great resignation, I don’t know if we’ll ever come out of it. But those are things that you need to be aware of and keep your ear out for. So, you know, it’s hard for a company to keep internal staff happy. Right? If you’re internal staff, you’re going to be managing the same environment, day in, day out. And us IT folks, I don’t know if I can say us anymore, but the IT folks love to have a challenge, love to see and learn new things, right? That’s where the benefit of an MSP is we have thousands of customers that we can see a ton of different environments. And so our knock is never bored. They’re always looking at new stuff.
Listen for aging or poor performance, right? On hardware. Is someone asking about a hardware refresh? Or are they saying that they’ve had a few companies look at this SQL server and it’s just still running slow, all the calls to action are just taking seconds to perform? That’s a big hint there that you may want to take advantage of some Azure resources. A catastrophic event, like a cyber incident, right? Our DRAS solution actually backs up to Azure. So we can spin up your services in Azure pretty quickly, right? Within minutes in many cases. So taking advantage of what is possible with Azure, you know, against an unfortunate event, like a catastrophic event or a cybersecurity event. Leadership changes is another one. We see that a lot. Previously, over the past year, money’s never been cheaper. So there was a ton of M&A activity.
And that can lead to a different technology strategy, which is applicable across all opportunities for partners, right? That could be a UCaaS UCaaS opportunity. That could be a connectivity opportunity, MSP and cloud migration. So those leadership changes and getting your foot in the door with a new leadership team is key. Good stuff. All right. There’s like 15 nuggets in there. Go find one, go pick it out. Good stuff. Okay, so Chaz, final thoughts here, in your humble opinion, let’s just look out. I know it’s hard in this space as it’s evolving so much to look out more than 12 months. But if we’re looking out and I’m setting, you know, the deals that I’m going to focus on, the customers that I’m going to work on in the next 12 months, do I double down on everything that you just mentioned and just go? Or is there anything that you think is going to be changing in the industry at all that you want partners to consider as they go out and talk to customers about this? You know, I would double down on the cloud and Azure specifically, just because Microsoft tends to dominate, you know, in the technology stack that they buy into and become best in class for those services. So bandwidth is only going to continue to get faster and cheaper, enabling, you know, better connectivity to the cloud. So that should ease any concerns about connectivity to the cloud, right? Both your local connectivity and then bandwidth and access within the Azure ecosystem. You’ll see more applications running natively in Azure, right? I mentioned some of the ones already, you’re just going to see more and more applications being developed to run in a cloud ecosystem rather than on a local hardware and operating system, right? So you’ll see more and more of those in the Azure marketplace that will allow you to spin up firewalls and storage solutions and really any other technology needs.
Hardware, we’re still in a supply chain, you know, era where there’s a ton of shortages, just, you know, try and buy some of the firewalls that you need or some of the servers that you want and you may be waiting six months, right? So, and they’re not cheap either. So you may want to take advantage of that Azure ecosystem and like I mentioned before, get out of the hardware game because there’s always going to be some sort of event that could impact the supply chain, that could impact the cost and the availability of hardware. So I see that trend continuing and just kind of lean in on the cloud-based environment and take advantage of that. And then the last aspect is obviously AI and automation, right? That’s impacting every aspect of our lives and chat GPT, writing love letters for people. I think I saw out there recently, you know, it’s included in the cloud and the migration and management of things like Azure and other cloud-based resources are going to be that much easier by taking advantage of some of those tools. So it’s up to the suppliers like Dataprise to keep ahead of the automation and AI and take advantage of it, which we are. So automation and AI are just going to enable you to do so much more in the cloud and not to have to have that on-premise equipment. And, you know, there’s going to be industries that most likely will need on-premise equipment, right? Those in the healthcare industry with local medical devices, machinery, machining plants, right? Where you have to have that millisecond connectivity for the machines to operate correctly. But I would say the vast majority of industries are going to be heavily utilizing, if not already, the Azure resources in the future. Love it. I was going to get worried if a call was going to go by or maybe like a three hour block of my day, and we didn’t talk about chat GPT. So I’m glad you brought it up. You get the shakes a little bit. I do. I get the more twitch than normal. And so yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see how that investment pans out. I think it’s going to be exciting. I love that stuff. So great, man. Look, we covered a lot of great stuff. Chaz, appreciate you coming on and doing this with me, man. Love being here, Josh. Thanks for having me. All right, everybody. That wraps us up for today. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus Chaz Chalkley VP of Channel and Strategic Partnership at Dataprise Until next time.