Cheetah Cloud Strategy w/ Justin Brodley
Patrick Tripp: Welcome to PULSE, the Cheetah Product Podcast. I'm Patrick Tripp, SVP of product marketing. Excited to be joined today by our SVP of cloud and support, Justin Brodley. A lot to talk about today. Justin's background, his remit at Cheetah. We'll talk a little bit about cloud and cloud strategy, and where Cheetah's headed in the future. And talk about his Cloud Pod Podcast. Justin, it's great to have you.
Justin Brodley: Yeah. Excited to be here. Thanks.
Patrick Tripp: Welcome back to PULSE, the Cheetah Product Podcast. I'm here with Justin Brodley, our newest member of the product leadership team at Cheetah Digital. Justin, how you doing today?
Justin Brodley: It's a fantastic Friday, and so I'm super happy to get into the weekend, and all the great weekend activities planned.
Patrick Tripp: That's good. Yeah, same here. We're getting ready for little league in my town with my kids and stuff. So good weather and looking forward to the weekend. But it's great to have you on Justin. I know you recently joined Cheetah Digital as senior vice president of cloud and support. And that does include a lot more. But before we get into that, PULSE, we talk about what's resonating out there in the industry, but we also love to talk about music. Justin, what's pumping through your speakers these days in your home?
Justin Brodley: Yeah. I have a very eclectic music taste. So I listen a to little bit of everything all the time. Being a child or teenager really in the 90s, I was really into alternative rock having lived in Seattle, and being in the birthplace of Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. So a lot of my musical tastes kind of leans more towards that alternative punk rock side. And so whatever is kind of in that vein is what is on old Spotify playlist. I'm pretty flexible. Hit the top 50 as well from time to time. But again, it's eclectic. Sometimes I listen to classical music, sometimes I listen to jazz, sometimes I was listening to country. I'd not picky when it comes to the music scene.
Patrick Tripp: Definitely. And I love what Spotify does. It really kind of weaves together things that you forgot that you loved and it brings in things, and probably creates quite an exotic mix of music then for all your different tastes together on the playlist that it generates.
Justin Brodley: Yeah. It's funny. I was with my kids this weekend, we were in the car, and they were looking at my playlist. And I have a playlist for every year since I've had Spotify where I put my favorite songs of the year kind of into that. And so they were going back into 2012, I think, is when I first got Spotify. And so they were quizzing me on names of songs over the weekend, which was pretty funny.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah. I love it.
Justin Brodley: I'm no good at song names, that's for sure.
Patrick Tripp: Definitely. Well Justin, we're excited to have you at Cheetah Digital, a real expert in the cloud space. And love for you to talk about your background a little bit. I know you've been at a number of different firms, and really helped orchestrate a lot of their cloud strategies. Maybe you can take us through a little bit of your history in the last few companies, and what you've been able to achieve.
Justin Brodley: Yeah. So I joined Cheetah Digital in January from a company called Ellie Mae, which is one of biggest mortgage technology companies in the United States that no one's ever heard of. And so they power all of the mortgages in the United States. We pretty much touch about 55% of the market. So if you've ever gone through the process of buying a house, going through the closing process, signing a mountain of paperwork, our technology is most likely behind it. Really driving closing of your house, your credit checks, all the things may be required to make sure that's a legal contract between you and your banker. And so I was there for about five years driving their cloud migration journey. They were a traditional on- premise company thinking fintech legacy, fintech in some ways. And really wanted to kind of embrace the cloud journey, and really what the cloud could do for Ellie Mae. And then that actually eventually led to them getting acquired by Intercontinental Exchange, which is another company no one ever knows about. But actually owns the New York Stock Exchange, and is a pretty big deal, as well as a lot of the large commodity businesses. They have exchanges for those businesses as well. So really quite exciting journey. Did that for about five years, really helping drive that cloud strategy and really building out the foundations of what makes a good cloud strategy for a company in fintech. Which is a much more secure environment, much more sensitive to certain data. I could recreate someone financially with the data that we would protect. Which is a pretty impressive amount of stewardship you kind of end up in a situation like that. Then before that I was actually at an Amazon partner. I was at a company called Mobiquity. They made mobile applications for companies that maybe don't specialize in that. So think your Panera Breads of the world, your other retailers, et cetera, that maybe are really good at selling something, but you're not so great at making mobile apps. They would go to Mobiquity. We built that app for them. And I actually ran support and dev ops for them really where we had hosted all that business on the cloud, either on Azure or Google or AWS, where we were a premier partner there. And then before that, many, many other companies, including BMC with the Remedy product and Remedy on demand. And then just really transitioned several different companies, not only from traditional hosted software, but to SaaS. And that was kind my big play in the late mid 2020s, 2012, 2013, that timeframe. And then really pivoted to the cloud probably around 2015, 2016.
Patrick Tripp: And we'll talk about this in a bit, but I know you have a great cloud podcast called The Cloud Pod, thecloudpod. net. And I just listened to a few episodes. And I think you talked about some of the materials management you worked in, in the past. It was cardboard or something. Way back in the day. And you were wishing machine learning could have helped you back then.
Justin Brodley: Yeah, yeah. It's a very exciting world of corrugated sheets, one of my very first IT jobs out of school. I worked at this company where they took three pieces of paper and put a crinkle in the middle of it, and glued that together and made a cardboard sheet of that. Then got pressed into boxes and all kinds of things. And that was back in 2003, 2002 timeframe. Back then, they had a lot of technology they'd put on those systems too. We have these six ton rolls of paper we put onto the machine, and we actually would analyze how many linear feet of paper we were consuming. inaudible it, put it into the process, so we could do quality assurance on the cardboard sheets. And that was all driven by technology. But yeah, that was back in 2002 and 2001. It was cutting edge then. Now you would take all this stuff we do in machine learning and AI and all these things. I'm sure it's completely a different world in the last 20 years, even in that space. And across all manufacturing really. Technology has really changed manufacturing in a big way in this country.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah. Love it. Yeah. Great background. And maybe you can talk about your remit at Cheetah Digital. I know you're focused on cloud, you're focused on site reliability, support, a number of these functions all coming together.
Justin Brodley: Yeah. So at Cheetah, I run our cloud organization, which is really our SRE team, and it really delivering the SaaS business of our Cheetah products, as well as customer support, and really enabling our customers to be successful using those products. And if they run into trouble or they need some help, they have some questions, they come into my support organization, and we can help point them in the right direction to get them working on their Cheetah journey. And that's really a big deal for any software company is to have a great customer support team that delivers world- class service. As well as my SRE team is really going to be driven towards delivering higher levels of availability, higher levels of enablement, and faster technology for all of our customers. Getting messages out, getting their communications out to customers is the number one priority for many of them.
Patrick Tripp: Definitely. Yeah. A lot of work to be done there. A fantastic platform we're working on across the number of applications we'll get into. And cloud is obviously a big focus for us, a big part of our strategy. Maybe you could talk a little bit about how you define cloud. How do you define companies that are trying to be cloud first? I mean, there's private cloud, there's public cloud, there's hybrid. There's all these different types of approaches. And maybe you can ground us in some of the foundations.
Justin Brodley: Yeah. So typically if you've had a data center, either in a closet at your building, or you had servers, or you've had a co- location facility, which is typically a third party that you pay for, for cooling, power, and internet service, that's typically what we consider to be private cloud. And that's really the infrastructure is typically owned or leased by the company. It's managed by its team of system engineers, and they have to care and feed for that. And then you run your products on top of that. And that's really what we call private cloud. Public cloud is we don't own the servers. We don't own the infrastructure. We don't own the buildings. We don't co- locate it. We are literally paying for the compute that we need to run our SaaS services as a consumption basis, by the hour, or to the minute in some cases, to actually provide the right amount of capacity. And that's what we call the public cloud. And then the hybrid is where you have something in between those where we run this part on premise, and then we run this part on the cloud. And there might be different reasons why you want to do that. Maybe legacy data set, or it doesn't make sense financially to move it to the cloud and pay per minute. You would be in that hybrid model. And so a lot of companies, when they get on this cloud journey, they start at the hybrid level. And even Cheetah at this point, I'd say we're very hybrid in our approach. We have some products born in cloud, we have some products that have migrated, we have some that are on premise. And everything kind of in between those two places, which is really great.
Patrick Tripp: Definitely. Yeah. What are some of the key tenants or the key pillars that you see around cloud enablement, cloud strategies? Is it uptime, security? Maybe we can talk about some of the key areas.
Justin Brodley: Well, I think that anytime you're looking at a cloud first strategy, it starts with people, process, and technology first, right? That's where it always kind of begins. And what are the processes? What are the things you want to enable with the cloud journey? Improved uptime, improved security, lowered costs, increased innovation. Those are the side effects of the cloud. And they're benefits you can get in any business, right? And so if you look at Amazon Web Services, for example, which is the one I probably do the most with, they have probably 45 different security accreditations across the globe. Things like FedRAMP, FINRA support certifications, ISO 27001, SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3s. All of these amazing security things that as a private company with a data center in a closet or in a co- lo facility, you may be able to afford a couple of those. And you only really targeted these. But at Amazon, you get the benefit of all of that in the shared security model, which is really great. Uptime comes from different technologies like auto scaling, and being able to take a server that says... On- prem, we'd only able to build three of those, but because we're now tied to a consumption model, we can actually spin up 40 of them at any given time. Or this server is not actually responding the way we want it to. With the health check, we can actually replace it automatically. Those things improve uptime, they improve performance, and they produce a much better outcome for our customers at end of the day. And then really the innovation driver of, hey, I don't have to worry about buying servers rack and stacking them. I can actually go from idea to feature in probably a few weeks versus what used to be multiple years. Back in my career, many, many moons ago, I worked actually overseas in Iraq for KBR. And it was funny because we measured server deliverability in term of it has to get on a ship from Houston, and it has to be shipped to Iraq. And that's going to take six months just for the shipping. And so when you want to do a project, it was a nine month planning horizon you had to look at. And now we talked about planning, and it's literally an API call, and I have that capacity in seconds.
Patrick Tripp: Right, right. Yeah. So a lot of organizations are striving to be cloud- first. They're trying to be more enabled in the cloud. Maybe you can talk about some of the biggest struggles that you see out there with organizations that are trying to really get this right. Or conversely, what are the best practices? And you alluded to some of that, but what are some of the challenges that you're seeing?
Justin Brodley: I think a lot of companies don't know why they're going to the cloud. And I think it's really important from an executive level all the way down to the lowest level engineers, that there's a very clear vision for the cloud journey. What are we trying to do? What's the outcome that we're looking for in a couple of years of this work? And sometimes those are misaligned as well. They go with cost savings is a very common one. Oh, we want to save money. Well, you can save money on Amazon. You can save money on Google. You can save money on Azure. I will tell you, you can do that as long as you're not lift and shifting. If you take 100 servers from on- premise and you move them to Amazon with 100 new servers there, that's going to cost you more money. And really, you got to kind of embrace that cloud native story. And how do I get to actually be cloud native so I can get advantage of the scale, the innovation. And that actually is where cost reductions come from. And so that's the pivot I see is people come into cloud with the wrong reason, the wrong business driver. Or not understanding what it really takes to do cloud native. And so you have to think about your migration as a factory and a transformation. And that transformation is going to take time. It's not a A to B in six months kind of thing. If you do that, it's going to cost you more. And that's maybe an okay trade off if your data center's going to shut down, or you have a need to do that. But if you really want to get the right business outcome, the right pieces of it, you need to think about how do I transform, and how do I potentially lift and shift part of it, but then I transformed these components to use serverless technology, or I use these things to use containers. I want to add auto scaling. So I'm only giving the right amount of capacity for the demand at any given time. And I can save a ton of money that way. And that's a bigger story. It's a bigger strategy. You have to sell it to your business. Which is beyond just, hey, we're going to cloud and it's going to be awesome. It's going to save us a ton of money. Because there's work to do to get there. And that's one of the big things I see people make mistakes on in this journey all the time. Or the other big mistake I see is they spend too much time on the tooling. And so they think about CI/ CD practices, which is huge in the cloud space right now, or dev ops as we call it. And they spend so much time re- engineering their CI/ CD pipeline, that they don't actually move anything into the cloud. And then eventually a CIO at some point, is like," Well, we've been working on this cloud journey for two or three years, and we haven't moved anything. We're failing at this strategy." You're on the right idea. Getting a good CI/ CD process, moving to infrastructure as code, doing these technologies that are really the buzzwords in our industry are great things to do, but you also have to show the business deliverables. And so you have to combine those two pieces. How do I enable new applications onto the cloud? How do I migrate something so that we're making the right progress, we're getting the right lessons learned, but we're also modernizing our cloud transformation processes and making sure we're driving CI/ CD and infrastructure as code?
Patrick Tripp: Yeah. Yeah. A lot of things to consider here. A lot of complexity, a lot of innovation. We're living in an AWS, GCP, and Azure world. And I know you do a lot of industry news on these providers, these giants, and what their innovations are on your Cloud Pod Podcast. Maybe you can talk about some of the biggest news you've seen across these these providers.
Justin Brodley: Well I mean, they're all in different levels of maturity. And they have different advantages and disadvantages. Amazon being the creator of the space, so the first mover. They've got the most experience. They've got the most infrastructure, they've got legacy, et cetera. That's really giving them an edge. And they were really ahead of the game for that. Azure, kind the number two into the space. They saw what Amazon did. And they were like, great, we're going to do the same thing. And they kind of repeated it with some improvements. And then Google being the third mover into the space has really kind of looked at what Azure did and AWS, and said, hey, we're going to take a different approach. And they've kind of come into a different model. Being the third mover, and the latest to the game, they've got a whole fresh look and they don't have the baggage that some of the AWS and Azure people do. So what we're seeing across all three of them is they're all racing to meet each other as much as they can in feature set and capabilities. But also at the same time, doing it in a way that is unique to each one of those clouds. And really they're taking that uniqueness, and then pivoting that into what I call verticalized cloud. And so they're doing financial services cloud, they're doing healthcare cloud, they're doing retail cloud, and they're really focusing those cloud technologies into packaged built solutions that customers can take advantage of right away. This week, actually on the show, we talked about Google Doc AI platform. And so they're generally available, their Doc AI platform, which is all around giving you the ability to do OCR type technology against documents that are physical objects in the real world, convert them into computer speak, and use them into your machine learning or AI capability. They built that in the last 12 months. Where Amazon built something similar three or four years ago. It's more data technology- wise, it's more focused. But because Google did it later, it's faster, it's more innovative, it's quicker. And they also are able then to target the lending space, and very heavily target the lending space and the healthcare space. And so verticalization of cloud is really the biggest thing we're seeing this year, as the clouds really start targeting their services to the specific needs of each individual industry versus trying to just kind of be the best of all to all companies and all industries.
Patrick Tripp: Right. And there's a lot of horizontal too around IoT, machine learning, microservices. How about these document databases? A lot of NoSQL document databases are emerging and there's a flavor there with Azure. There's obviously AWS has Aurora and these different types of solutions out there, but are you seeing a lot of that?
Justin Brodley: Some. Really the big driver, MLAI, of course is leading the pack across the board and all these clouds. Everyone's, you've got an ML play, an AI play that they're trying to do, with SageMaker or Big Data or Bigtable on-
Patrick Tripp: Google.
Justin Brodley: ...GCP. Yeah. And there's a ton of innovation happening in that space, which was really great. I think we're seeing the cloud native paradigm shift in databases is actually sort of interesting. Because we very rapidly moved to microservices and containerization and Kubernetes. And so that really kind of took our very large monolithic applications, we broke them into smaller pieces, and we said, these smaller pieces are more scalable, more fault tolerant, but we didn't actually do that at the database side. So a lot of companies have this very monolithic database with thousands of microservices, talk to this monolithic Oracle or SQL server database. And so NoSQL was kind of the answer, I would say about 10 years ago. Really Mongo was on its heyday, and really driving what they were doing. And I think what they found was that there's pluses and minuses to something like a document database. But all these NoSQL solutions that were big 10 years ago, all built SQL interfaces, which is sort of hilarious. It's sort of a joke we talk about the Cloud Pod all the time. A NoSQL database hasn't truly arrived until it's built the SQL interface for NoSQL. And so we're actually seeing kind of this pivot into the database side now where they are starting to get microservices. they're are starting to understand more about how to get microdatabases. And so that's a bit of a trend we're starting to see kind of the beginning of. Which will probably be the next evolution of databases beyond the document database store. Processing time series databases are becoming a big deal. The ledger databases, like Bitcoin type technology inaudible databases are big now. And I think what we'll see, the right database technology for the right business use case for the right service tied to the right microservices. And that's probably kind of the holy grail, we're all kind of trying to get to in the next couple of years as technologists in the space.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah. Fantastic. So maybe you could talk a little bit about the Cheetah Cloud strategy. Kind of where we're headed moving forward. We talked about hybrid and sort of a journey there, and I know we're a big AWS environment as well, but you can talk about that.
Justin Brodley: Yeah, of course. So yeah, we're definitely hybrid. We have some products that run fully on our private data centers. We have some products that run in AWS natively. A lot of our new customer experience suite is actually in AWS. Our personalization, our journey designer. Those were all born in cloud, and they take advantage of the cloud services that are native. As we get into looking at some of our private cloud use cases, we're starting to say, how do we start using some of those use cases now on cloud? And so in some cases we'll be building out new features or new microservices that'll take those on. And other cases, we'll do some type of lift and shift. And we'll say, we're going to take this application as is, we're going to move it to the cloud, or we're going to DR it to the cloud in some way. And basically then break that monolithic application into microservices, and transform it to cloud native as well. Because again, we're trying to strike that balance between lift and shift, and cost savings, and optimizations. And the result of all of that is we provide better uptime, better performance for our customers, which is really the end goal of what we're trying to do with our cloud journey is provide higher levels of service, the world- class service that we want to deliver, with the right amount of innovation to the business and to the customers at the end of the day. Because that's what they want, and that's what they expect from us. As they're transforming their businesses, they want their partners to be just as transformed as they and enabled to scale. And not worry about things like capacity planning, and is my SasS vendor ready to scale. The answer's yes, we're ready to scale. And we want to do that. And we're going to do that with Amazon and Google and Azure in the future as well.
Patrick Tripp: Yep. Definitely. And with the seasonality of our business as well with retail and these other industries we work in, there's just a huge tax on the system that you deliver at scale. And the holidays, whether it's Christmas or Thanksgiving and all that, there's a lot of activity that we have to deliver on, and time is key. So yeah, this has been fascinating.
Justin Brodley: Yeah, it's funny, actually. I knew one of the senior technical executives at Best Buy. And he was telling me they basically buy all their capacity for peak. And peak is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And just the amount of money, the amount of data center capacity they're sitting on that's idle for most of the year is just absolutely astronomical. And so that's why cloud is a big deal to all of these retailers, and why most retailers now have a cloud strategy. Because being able to scale dynamically for that peak load is so much more cost- effective in November, and then shut that down for the rest of the year, and use those resources and money elsewhere in your product and in your retail business is the right strategy there. So we're seeing that a lot especially businesses that have this very high seasonality perspective. That's a super huge driver of the business. Even at Ellie Mae in the mortgage space, people buy houses in the summer. They don't buy houses in December. They don't want to move at Christmas time. People move and they move their families and all those things in the summertime before school starts. So they have the same seasonality. And every business has some type of seasonality. And are you designing for that seasonality or are you designing for the average, and then spiking up as you need to. That's another great hybrid strategy too is using hybrid to drive those peak loads, not necessarily your steady state load.
Patrick Tripp: Absolutely. That's great. This is great. I learned a ton. Justin, it's been great talking to you. But maybe you can talk a little bit about your Cloud Podcast. I know you guys have over 114, I think, episodes already on the Cloud Pod. Maybe you can talk about that.
Justin Brodley: Yeah. So if you're a technologist, or you you have people in your organization who are technologists, definitely send them to the Cloud Pod. But one of the things, as a cloud practitioner, you have to kind of stay on top of it. And each of the cloud providers is launching a ton of new technology, a ton of innovation in the space across IoT and ML. And there was really no good place to kind of get a summary of all of that data. So we created the podcast at a re: Invent a couple of years ago, which is Amazon's big annual conference. And we said, look, we're going to recap the news every week. It's changing enough that we think that there's enough topics here. So every week myself, Peter Roosakos, Ryan Lucas and Jonathan Baker, we sit down and we look at what got announced last week. We kind of give you a summary of what that issue is, or what they're releasing and why they're releasing it, and then how you might actually use it in the real world. Because there's where marketing is, and there's actually how you want to use the technology. Isn't always the same place. As well as some of the shortcomings of these technologies, what you may want to do. And so we give you kind of that one- stop shop. So ready for multi- cloud, and understand what's AWS doing, what's GCP doing, what's going on in Kubernetes land? All the different technology spaces that are really impacting our cloud native world, we're talking about every week on the Cloud Pod. So yeah. So now we're up to 114 episodes. We have a pretty solid listener base that's joining us every week to hear what we have to say. And it's a fun time. It's a good hobby on the side. But it's essentially what I did every day, which it makes it just fun. And the guys that we do it with, we're all friends outside of work, and we've had a good rapport for a long time. And so it's just a fun show. And it's about 45 minutes every week where we cover a lot of tech news. And we get sort of joked in the beginning, is there really enough news to cover every week for these cloud providers. And the answer is, yes, it's changing dramatically. And it's amazing the innovation these three providers are really pushing into the market. And occasionally we'll poke fun at Oracle or IBM, or somebody else too, just to kind of keep-
Patrick Tripp: Kind of on the fringes, right?
Justin Brodley: ...fresh. Because they're out there too. And there's a lot of people who are really interested in Oracle, and really interested in IBM Cloud. The four of us are really not, but that doesn't mean that other people aren't, and we want to kind of hit all our areas that people are thinking about cloud right now.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah. You guys don't pull-
Justin Brodley: Yeah, you can turn that up.
Patrick Tripp: ...any punches in that. You really tell it like it is. And it's great. You do reviews on events that are going on, and just the latest news that's happening. It's thecloudpod. net, check it out. And you get some great merch there as well. You guys are on iTunes and a lot of different places. So yeah, look forward to talking more with you, Justin. But thanks again for your time. And we'll talk to you soon.
Justin Brodley: Thanks, Patrick. I appreciate it.
Patrick Tripp: Thank you.
Today on PULSE, Patrick Tripp hosts Justin Brodley, SVP of SRE, Cloud Operations and Support to discuss his rich background in the Cloud, and what’s next for Cheetah Digital. Justin talks about some of the key components to cloud enablement, as well as best practices and challenges within cloud strategy. Tune in now!