The Cloud is Powered by People w/ Jeff DeVerter - P3 Adaptive

The Cloud is Powered by People w/ Jeff DeVerter

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Have you ever been curious about what moving to the cloud really means? Is it a one-and-done move or is it more? Today’s guest, Jeff DeVerter, Chief Technology Evangelist of RackSpace, breaks down the cloud, cloud-based services, and how it can impact your business. From an engineering point of view to the creation of a supply chain for data, Jeff describes the trends and implications facing ingress, egress, and utilization of the ever-growing volume of data that companies curate. He even shines a light on the often hidden or disguised cost of doing business in the cloud, the dreaded egress fees, and shares tips for lowering your cost of data utilization. After all, Jeff considers moving to the cloud as a change of business, not a change of processes.

Don’t worry, this episode isn’t just about the cloud. Rob and Jeff share a backstory of server farms and negative scaling that is sure to entertain. Since cloud services didn’t always exist, the original stop-gap method to run models for Power Pivot was on a SharePoint server. We learn from their experience that when you have an issue, it can’t always be solved by throwing hardware at it. While the additional hardware was ineffective, this method did lead to discoveries that were eventually shared through the user experience and directly led to a more robust Power BI Cloud Service.

Finally, Jeff, Rob, and Tom discuss the successful evolution of a company’s data strategy and the 4 phases: Data Aware, Data Literate, Data Fluent, and Data Affluent. Discover where your company falls and how to move to the next phase of development.

Don’t forget, if you enjoyed this episode, be sure to help others find our show by leaving us a review on your favorite Podcast Platform.


Also in this episode:

Rackspace Acquires SharePoint911

ML Ops

ML & Algorithms Hit the Bigtime, w/DataRobot’s Diego Oppenheimer

Data Robot


Seinfeld: Jimmy’s Jumps High

Silver Fox Advisors

Parenthood – TV series

Keebler Tato Skins

Facts of Life Theme Song

Different Strokes Theme

Barney Miller Theme

A Most Generous Mentor, w/ Microsoft’s Dany Hoter

Raiders of the Lost Ark – warehouse

Crossing the Chasm – book

Speak Softly but Pack a Mean Elbow, w/ Jen Stirrup

City Slickers – One Thing

Rob Collie (00:00:00): Hello, friends. Today we welcome Jeff DeVerter, chief technology evangelist at Rackspace. Jeff and I collaborated in a former life, in a former era, where the cloud was something that you basically made for yourself. If you wanted to run a cloud-based service business, if you wanted to run a cloud-based application, and in particular, if you wanted to base that on something like, let's say, SharePoint, you quickly came to the conclusion in the early 2010s that the most effective way to do that was through something called co-location, AKA buy some servers, send them to someone else's data center, have them install them in the data center and they take care of all those things, power and cooling and all that stuff.

Rob Collie (00:00:46): As an aside, on an upcoming show, we talk to someone who is not doing that and is running all of the servers out of his office, and it got so hot it kept melting his laptop. So there's a reason why co-location was such a big thing, and this was essentially the Rackspace business model. Fast-forward a decade or so, and this question just popped into my head. What is Rackspace up to now, today, unlike the early 2010s? If you want to set up some cloud-based infrastructure, that does not involve the selection of hardware. You are not going to be buying hardware. You're not even going to be renting it, and this whole industry known as co-location has basically evaporated. So is Rackspace still in business? Are they growing? What are they up to?

Rob Collie (00:01:35): Turns out they are alive and well, and it comes back to that thing that we use as the tagline for this podcast, the human element. Even though in the early 2010s Rackspace was positioned as a co-location provider, their business model, their value proposition, was always their people, the quality of their service, not cloud service but actual customer service, support, real human beings that help you solve problems. I think it is both fascinating and very cool that they have pivoted on that anchor and halfway transformed into a completely new sort of operation, 100% relevant in a world where basically the cloud providers have been chosen, just all in all a very impressive evolution.

Rob Collie (00:02:25): It also marks the first time in the history of this podcast where our guest joined us from a roving portable live streaming/podcasting desk. I mean, this is a rig. Puts my little basement studio to shame. But, hey, really, I'd expect nothing less from someone as energetic as Jeff. And hey, his job title is chief technology evangelist at Rackspace. Of course he's going to have a podcast rig. I mean, this thing practically had sleeping bunks. Okay, okay, enough podcast gear envy. Let's just get into it.

Speaker 2 (00:02:59): Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?

Speaker 3 (00:03:03): This is the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive Podcast, with your host Rob Collie and your co-host Thomas LaRock. Find out what the experts at P3 Adaptive can do for your business. Just go to Raw Data by P3 Adaptive is data with the human element.

Rob Collie (00:03:28): Welcome to the show, Jeff DeVerter. It has been at least a decade. I did run into you at some conference somewhere and said, "Hi," but even that was just like a brief, "Hello," and then off we went, so I don't even really count that. But unlike normally on this show, I actually have a very specific idea of where I'd like to start. Before we do that, let's get your current job title or job titles. What does LinkedIn say, your job title, what does it say about you?

Jeff DeVerter (00:03:53): The job title, the one that it says on my business card, LinkedIn is fluff.

Rob Collie (00:03:57): Right.

Jeff DeVerter (00:03:58): But my job title is... are you ready for this? ... chief technology evangelist for Rackspace Technology.

Rob Collie (00:04:05): CTE, chief technology-

Jeff DeVerter (00:04:08): Evangelist.

Rob Collie (00:04:08): ... evangelist for Rackspace.

Jeff DeVerter (00:04:11): Yes, in the office of the CTO. So I get to help with strategy and direction, and I get to tell the story. That's the day in the life of Jeff DeVerter.

Rob Collie (00:04:19): So here's the semi-provocative way to start the show. When you and I were working together professionally eons and eons ago, you were working at the intersection of two big, big, big trends, SharePoint and self-hosting, or, no, co-location.

Jeff DeVerter (00:04:38): You could call it that, but there was definitely more to it, but yes.

Rob Collie (00:04:41): Okay. That's my view of it. That's why we knew each other is because I needed to run a SharePoint farm, and there wasn't a cloud. That wasn't a thing. I needed to run a SharePoint farm, and I needed some place to run the servers, right? That's how Jeff and I met. All these years later this is what happened, I started wondering, "Hey, I wonder what Jeff is up to these days. He was a cool person. What's he up to?" And my mind goes, "Well, he's surely not doing SharePoint anymore. And he's surely not working at Rackspace anymore. There's no way that he could be doing those things."

Jeff DeVerter (00:05:15): You got one out of two correct.

Rob Collie (00:05:16): All these years later. But as soon as you got on camera today, I'm like, "Aha, there he is. That's The Castle in San Antone."

Jeff DeVerter (00:05:26): Good old San Antonio, Texas, The Castle, named after the mall that we redid called Windsor Park Mall. So we renamed the thing The Castle.

Rob Collie (00:05:35): Tom, this place is amazing. It was just a mall, and now it's Rackspace headquarters, the catwalk, the escalators and stuff.

Thomas LaRock (00:05:42): That's a great reuse of space, to be honest. I mean, it's brilliant.

Rob Collie (00:05:45): Yeah. All we need now is another, what, 300 Rackspace operations, and we can make use of all of those malls lying around.

Jeff DeVerter (00:05:54): There you go. Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:05:55): [inaudible 00:05:55]-

Jeff DeVerter (00:05:55): As if anybody needs office space anymore.

Rob Collie (00:05:57): Right.

Thomas LaRock (00:05:58): Does somebody there, is their office the old Victoria's Secret, something like that? Do you still have the signage from when it was a mall? Because that would be awesome.

Jeff DeVerter (00:06:08): The short answer is it's a 1.2 million square foot mall. And so the first thing that happened when we took possession of it is they gutted the thing. And so they made big piles of the stuff. All the metal goes here, all the usable stuff. The wood goes over here, the cabinets go over there. And then they opened the doors and they said, "Anybody who wants some stuff, come and get it before it goes to landfill." So, recycled all the stuff, but in the process grabbed some of the old signage and put it away.

Jeff DeVerter (00:06:35): So we didn't inhabit the entire 1.2 million square foot all at once. It started in sections and we would build it out in phases, but it was all gutted so we could just move as we needed to. Now, each phase, each area took on its own persona. You would recognize that in the conference room names, but it was '80s movies. And so all of the conference rooms were named after '80s movies. Upstairs, video games. A lot of '80s fans around here. But out here where I am is part of what we called phase three. And in the section just upstairs there, all of the conference rooms are named after old mall stores. So, Ralph Lauren is up there.

Thomas LaRock (00:07:08): Chess King. You got to have Chess King.

Rob Collie (00:07:10): Chess King.

Thomas LaRock (00:07:11): If you don't have Chess King-

Jeff DeVerter (00:07:12): Yes, there's a Chess King.

Thomas LaRock (00:07:13): It's got to be, otherwise you're not legit. You got to have a Chess king.

Rob Collie (00:07:16): Yeah. No Chess King, you're not even trying.

Thomas LaRock (00:07:18): Yeah, exactly. Orange Julius better be there, too.

Jeff DeVerter (00:07:21): So we do have some of the old signage, and a lot of the conference rooms are named after old mall stores.

Thomas LaRock (00:07:26): That's awesome.

Rob Collie (00:07:27): Okay. So-

Jeff DeVerter (00:07:27): I wanted to work in Orange Julius, but Victoria's Secret would be great.

Rob Collie (00:07:29): Yeah. Orange Julius would be pretty solid. Mrs. Fields' Cookies. There's a diet for you.

Jeff DeVerter (00:07:35): Exactly.

Rob Collie (00:07:36): So co-location, the idea that I would buy or lease my own hardware and then put it in a shared data center, because I didn't want to run my own data center-

Jeff DeVerter (00:07:48): Why would you?

Rob Collie (00:07:50): Seriously. Is that still a thing now? What is Rackspace's business model? Is it still co-location?

Jeff DeVerter (00:07:54): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:07:54): Has it evolved? How does that work?

Jeff DeVerter (00:07:56): Quick redefinition on the core business of Rackspace. So co-location is exactly as you named it, and that is somebody owns a data center, and you're going to lease a little section of that and put some servers in it. Now, what made Rackspace different is two components. The first component is that we would also provide the hardware, the routing, the servers and the storage. And then we would also, as a what we would call managed hoster, then manage the infrastructure of the operating system layer. And if there's databases, we'd do the SQL or MySQL or whatever it would be. And then whatever app would run on, and this is pure play managed hosting, then it was up to the customer to run their thing. We didn't necessarily know what the thing was, but we made sure that the operating system and south of that ran better at Rackspace than it could run anywhere else in the world.

Jeff DeVerter (00:08:42): To answer then your question, "Is that still a business?" it is still a business. Rackspace has 40 data centers around the world, if you can believe that. I forget the number of petabytes that we manage from a storage point of view, but private cloud, and because that's where that stuff goes, and single-tenant hosting, it still has a use case. Not everything fits the cloud, strangely enough, but we have absolutely transformed the business, and that started back in the mid to late teens. We were one of the founders of public cloud, even. We had, and still have, our own public cloud. You go look at any of our earnings reports. It is in decline and it's in decline by design because who wants to compete with AWS, Azure, or Google? Not it.

Jeff DeVerter (00:09:19): And in the early days I thought, "I can do this cloud thing. We can run one. We can compete," but the benefit to Rackspace isn't necessarily the fact that we've got better servers. I mean, they're Dell servers. The fact is that you apply a Racker, that's what we call ourselves here, Racker, to the environment, and that's the secret sauce, creating business outcomes from the technology. And that, in the early days, defined as managed hosting. We made a beautiful little business about that starting in '98, that's when the company was founded, and built the first billion business on the fact that, wait for it, we could turn a server on for a customer in as little as 14 days. Now, 2005 that was an impressive number, because remember 2005, you're waiting 14 weeks to get through procurement and all of the things. You hit the mid teens and the special sauce is Rackers, not necessarily the infrastructure. So we pivoted to continue to build our private cloud business but also to help customers adopt public cloud, Azure, AWS, Google, and we have an extraordinarily substantial business around doing that today.

Rob Collie (00:10:23): Interesting. Okay. So co-location, physical servers, still a thing.

Jeff DeVerter (00:10:30): Smaller than it was. Still a thing.

Rob Collie (00:10:31): Okay, okay. And then on top of that, there are Rackers who are day-to-day helping people with their AWS or Azure footprints?

Jeff DeVerter (00:10:44): Exactly. In some cases it's managing them. You might think of how we would look after servers in the old days. Now we're looking after their DevOpsy, cloudy environment. Some cases it's starting with advisory services, professional services type work, "Hey, what are you trying to accomplish?" whether it's an opportunity or a challenge, and we help them figure out what the right tech is to plug into that at the right time and develop that for them. Some cases it's writing apps from scratch, extraordinarily deep data practice and data visualization practice, something you know a little something about.

Rob Collie (00:11:15): Mm-hmm. So I didn't realize that I was bringing a competitor onto the show. I had no idea.

Jeff DeVerter (00:11:19): I was looking at you as, "Here comes a nice partner we could get plugged into this."

Rob Collie (00:11:24): Hey, look, the amount of opportunity in this space is just like, if you view it looking over your shoulders at your peers, that's the wrong way, right? You've got to be out there-

Jeff DeVerter (00:11:35): No. You should be looking at each other chuckling, going, "We get to do this?"

Rob Collie (00:11:37): Yeah, exactly. You mentioned that I was right about half of it. So SharePoint not really so much of a thing for you anymore?

Jeff DeVerter (00:11:43): So, that was the whole reason I came to Rackspace back in 2005. I'd been working in, as enterprise architect, a large financial services firm, and found myself in the seat that so many other SharePoint smart people were in or organizations were in. SharePoint, I call it the blessing and the curse. When you set it up and it's configured correctly, it just runs until it doesn't. And there's usually a pretty good span of time in there between when it works well and it doesn't. You might patch a thing. You might add a something, a web part, a thing, and it all goes south. And those skills you had, the people who were trained, it's not as crisp as it was.

Jeff DeVerter (00:12:21): The experience I draw from in that is over at this place we deployed a pretty substantial farm environment, and along six months later, it's time to patch, it's time to add a thing. And down I go. I'm in enterprise architecture, I'm not allowed to touch the server. Although I was the most talented person to do it, I wasn't allowed to because that's what the systems people did. Remember those days when we had those big lines between who could do what?

Rob Collie (00:12:41): Stay in your lane, bro.

Jeff DeVerter (00:12:42): Stay in your lane. So I go down there and say, "Here's what we need to do. Here's your ticket." And he's flipping through books going, "How do I do this again?" It was about that time I was talking to my friend who worked up here at Rackspace, and he was running a business unit. And he said, "You guys, you're smart with SharePoint. Come have lunch with us. I think we want to start an offering." And what they wanted to do was a multi-tenant SharePoint thing. Now, this is 2008. Remember how well SharePoint did, multi-tenant in 2008? It didn't.

Rob Collie (00:13:07): Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:13:08): It was a bad deck.

Rob Collie (00:13:09): I know. I know well.

Jeff DeVerter (00:13:11): Well, and at that point you're selling, "Here's a five, or 10, or 50, or $100 drink site collection, and have fun." And I really didn't know a lot about Rackspace at this point. So I had this lunch. The lunch went two and a half hours. And I'd go home for that weekend. It was a Friday. And I spent time looking up, what is a Rackspace? And I've realized Rackspace has got all these data centers. It's got all these smart people. They got more Windows people and Active Directory people and SQL people than most organizations have. And if you know anything about SharePoint, especially in those days, that's the recipe of SharePoint.

Jeff DeVerter (00:13:42): So I came back to them and I said, "You're doing it wrong. Don't do this. What you should do is go find a group of folks. Let's make it 10. Put 10 people in a room, teach them SharePoint, and only give them the hardest SharePoint problems from sun up to sun up. And if they're doing that, then that will create incredible value." And that's exactly what ended up happening. They said, "Jeff, you should come do this." And I said, "I don't want to do that. I like where I am." Then I came over, and that was really what we went as a business model. And that was, if you think through the example I gave before about what is managed hosting, we'll make it happy up until the operating system and then it's yours, but in a SharePoint context, we would get to the operating system, then in goes SQL. And of course, you've got an Active Directory thing happening, and then in goes SharePoint.

Jeff DeVerter (00:14:22): We would manage up to the site collection. Not in the site collection, but up to it, and all of the other things. And every ticket that came across, I mean, these guys and girls just became the best at SharePoint that there were. We built an incredible business on that. I mean, that sucker grew. We had some of the largest farms in the world running here. But of course, we know, you fast-forward through the years and SharePoint became Office 365 and is the underpinning to most everything that happens inside of there. And last year, it was last year or the year before, the end of sale, that original offering that I had put out and we called it dedicated or single-tenant SharePoint support, because people went into the cloud. And they should.

Rob Collie (00:14:58): I remember that. I was a dedicated SharePoint client-

Jeff DeVerter (00:15:01): You were. You absolutely were.

Rob Collie (00:15:02): ... of Rackspace when we were running our Power Pivot for SharePoint farms, which, by the way, if you want to talk about hardest SharePoint problems, we contributed greatly to your knowledge bank.

Jeff DeVerter (00:15:17): You certainly did. But peak behind the curtain with a fun fact is in the early days when I came over to do it, I was the boss of the team. I was also one of the techs and solving problems. And so every ticket that came across, and I would go out and struggle and figure out what the answer was, well, then I'd read a blog article about it, or then I would answer a few things over on the forums. And I realized at one point that I had, in my SharePoint world, you can't see this at home, but I just did air quotes, "arrived." Somebody put a ticket in, and they said, "My SharePoint's having problems, and I think here's the blog article to fix it." And it was my blog article.

Rob Collie (00:15:49): That was the recipe, right?

Jeff DeVerter (00:15:50): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:15:51): Most of my blog posts were discovering interesting challenges that I was having to solve by day in Power Pivot, like with DAX, and then going, "Oh man, that was fun or hard, one or the other, maybe both." And I'd write an article about it. That, boy, there was no end of fodder for that.

Jeff DeVerter (00:16:11): No kidding. It did great things and it did very bad things.

Rob Collie (00:16:15): Yeah. So is fanatical support still a rallying cry there? Wasn't that even like the tagline?

Jeff DeVerter (00:16:22): Yeah. Yeah. Home of fanatical support. It's evolved. It's a fanatical experience here, because if you think about what would that look like in a Racker going out and writing a new application and developing a CI/CD pipeline for an organization and helping them establish the DevOps practice and then manage their stuff over time? It doesn't look like a support model, but that's why it evolved to fanatical experience. So, yes, you go to, I encourage you to do so, you'll find that all over the place.

Rob Collie (00:16:48): That's so cool. I guess on one hand, and that would be the smarter of the hands, right, it makes total sense.

Jeff DeVerter (00:16:55): You have a smart hand and a dumb hand. That's awesome.

Rob Collie (00:16:57): Yeah, that's right. Yeah. You can't trust that one. It makes total sense that if you stood back in 2012 and evaluated Rackspace's assets, the fact that you had data centers and the fact that you had a bunch of hardware and everything, okay, fine, that would make the balance sheet, whatever, but your real asset was the people.

Jeff DeVerter (00:17:20): Exactly.

Rob Collie (00:17:20): It always was the people.

Jeff DeVerter (00:17:21): The real asset was the people. Yeah, because you look at what was the recipe back then? The recipe was people plus what? Plus infrastructure. And the infrastructure was, well, our buildings weren't special. We hired the best people to build them, but not that anybody else couldn't. Dell servers, anybody could go buy a Dell server. Cisco equipment-

Rob Collie (00:17:36): It's not like you'd cornered the market on abandoned malls. There's a endless well of those.

Jeff DeVerter (00:17:41): Yeah. There's no data centers here, too. This is just the place where the people come.

Rob Collie (00:17:43): Yeah. It's just the people. Yep.

Jeff DeVerter (00:17:45): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:17:45): So to pivot like that, is Rackspace publicly traded?

Jeff DeVerter (00:17:50): Yes, we are. When you were hanging around here, we were public. Then in 2015, I think, we went private, into private equity. Then in 2018 we went public again. So we're back at it, RXT.

Rob Collie (00:18:03): So then I can ask you questions, because they're public knowledge, even though I haven't looked at the earning reports, is it broken out by co-lo revenue versus public cloud revenue?

Jeff DeVerter (00:18:14): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:18:14): Okay.

Jeff DeVerter (00:18:14): We don't break that out.

Rob Collie (00:18:15): So, that's the secretive. Okay. If you don't put it in the public reports, well, there's no way you're going to tell me.

Jeff DeVerter (00:18:21): Well, but I will tell you is this, it's become a little confusing to the world of, "Who is a Rackspace?" when it's a company that is doing this incredible stuff in public cloud but also still has data centers. How do you measure that? How do you gauge that? And you'll find this in all the publicy stuff, but we are actually bifurcating the company. Still one company, but two major business units where one focuses in the private cloud space and one focuses on the public cloud space, which is a brilliant move.

Thomas LaRock (00:18:45): I remember back when you bought SharePoint 911, 911.

Jeff DeVerter (00:18:50): Yes.

Thomas LaRock (00:18:50): However you want to say it. We'll say SharePoint 911. I remember that, Shane and Todd.

Jeff DeVerter (00:18:56): Shane and Todd. That's exactly right. Yeah. So at that point there was about 17, 18 people came across. I mean, a lot of the classic MVP names of Shane and Todd, Laura Rogers, Randy Driscoll and John as well. There's a couple other folks in there.

Thomas LaRock (00:19:10): I remember Rackspace buying the company and I was thinking to myself how it was this professional services model. I think that was my first indication that Rackspace had an idea of what to do next as opposed to trying to compete as, like you said, against Azure, AWS, and Google. It's like, we can do some of that, but we can also do these other things and remain competitive and viable.

Jeff DeVerter (00:19:34): That's right. So when I came in and I built the business for managing the infrastructure, it went really well. And so they gave me more things. "Here, manage dedicated exchange, manage..." At this point it was Skype for Business and other things. And so then they started to knock on my door, going, "Okay, what should we do now?" I said, "You know how I told you the most important thing is to just stop at the site collection layer and make SharePoint run better? That's our whole ethos, make SharePoint run better." I said, "There's actually something else we could do, and that is we can help people be more productive with the tool itself." And that's really then when we went down the SharePoint 911 road.

Jeff DeVerter (00:20:08): Actually, Shane had been pretty involved in the process from the beginning. Because when I came over, I said, "Now, we need to train a bunch of Rackers who are smart in Windows and SQL and whatever. They need to learn SharePoint. Bring Shane in. Shane can teach that stuff." And Shane got visibly angry with me when he came in for that stuff. I would hire him and come back and just consult from time to time, because here he was, he was SharePoint number one, and he was making beaucoup bucks doing the SharePoint consulting. And he just got so mad. He said, "You've got this captive audience who wants to be successful, but you won't do it. Why not, you idiot?" Because Shane would speak very frankly with you. Then at one point I said, "You remember how you said I should do that?" And he goes, "Yes." And I said, "Want to do it together?" And so, yeah, fast-forward a little-

Thomas LaRock (00:20:47): Wow.

Jeff DeVerter (00:20:47): ... and it's game over.

Thomas LaRock (00:20:47): That's awesome.

Rob Collie (00:20:49): So cool.

Jeff DeVerter (00:20:49): So, that's how that happened

Rob Collie (00:20:50): With regard to public cloud, in the O365 space, is Rackspace still supporting customers if they want it, like with their SharePoint Online?

Jeff DeVerter (00:21:01): Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So we will manage their SharePoint Online. We actually have a full service offering in and around the whole 365 suite, which you get into all kinds of stuff, identity and the SharePoint stuff, migrating the email, managing security. Ultimately, as more and more items end up in the different 365 SKUs, there's huge business force just helping people understand what's in their SKU and which pieces they need to pick off the pile that will help benefit their organization. Because there isn't a playbook. Every organization, especially in that collaborative space, is in a different place as an organization. So we consult with them and then help them adopt it and then help them drive adoption of it and be successful there.

Rob Collie (00:21:43): So let's take a quick trip in the Wayback Machine. Let's talk about-

Jeff DeVerter (00:21:47): Ooh, I thought we were, but let's go farther.

Rob Collie (00:21:48): Let's revisit the era of our collaboration. We were blazing some trails there that ended up, in hindsight, not really needing to be blazed. It'd have been better just to wait a couple years, but-

Jeff DeVerter (00:22:02): You didn't know any better.

Rob Collie (00:22:03): No. Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:22:03): None of us knew any better.

Rob Collie (00:22:03): Yeah. So before there was Power BI, before there was a Power BI cloud service for Microsoft, the only server for running DAX models was a Power Pivot for SharePoint Server. The company that I was with, that nominally I was CTO of this company, I was like employee number four from 2010 to 2013, in hindsight, Jeff, I really just think of these people, that company, now as my first client. That's probably the best way to understand it.

Jeff DeVerter (00:22:34): It's a good way to view it. Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:22:35): The best way to understand it. Basically, the two of us, the trade that I had with that company called Pivotstream, which has now been twice acquired via the Russian doll acquisition mergers and acquisition space-

Jeff DeVerter (00:22:47): Nice.

Rob Collie (00:22:47): ... I helped them incubate and launch their business model, and they helped incubate and launch mine.

Jeff DeVerter (00:22:52): Beautiful. Very symbiotic.

Rob Collie (00:22:53): We had creative differences near the end there, like the Eagles.

Jeff DeVerter (00:22:57): Yeah, exactly. Have you done the Hell Freezes Over tour with them yet?

Rob Collie (00:23:01): Not yet. Not yet. So we came to Rackspace to run our private cloud that we were going to then lease space to others on. So it was like private/public. And so we were Rackspace and Pivotstream. We were the Power BI cloud service-

Jeff DeVerter (00:23:19): Power BI cloud.

Rob Collie (00:23:19): ... before there was one. And, man, was that hard.

Jeff DeVerter (00:23:22): Yeah. Taking a couple of products never designed to do what we wanted them to do, but we made it happen.

Rob Collie (00:23:29): Yeah. And pretty clunky. Tom, we had all kinds of fun, fun, fun little discoveries like... I don't know, Jeff, if you were part of this one, but you were part of the aftermath, which was, we had a report that was running very slowly, but we were like, "Hey, no worries. It runs slow, but that's because we don't have enough CPU horsepower in it yet. And there's this other server that we're going to bring online. It's not going to have one CPU in. It's going to have four CPUs in it. And if this thing gets to one quarter of its current execution time, that'll be acceptable. That's going to save us." And so we had this big, gargantuan four CPU Dell server on the way. Rackspace was plugging it in for us. We waited a few days for it. Then it comes online, and then we had to install all the stuff, right?

Jeff DeVerter (00:24:20): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:24:21): You plugged it in. It still took a while to get... Oh, not just SharePoint, but also-

Jeff DeVerter (00:24:26): All the things.

Rob Collie (00:24:26): ... all the Power Pivot services running. It was just the hardest server to install maybe in the history of on-premises software. It's certainly a contender. We run the performance test, and it's slower. And we go, "That's not right."

Jeff DeVerter (00:24:40): "That's the opposite." Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:24:42): "It must need to warm up." So we run it again, and it's still slower. I don't know if you remember this, Jeff, one of your Rackers had this brilliant idea, "Hey, let's pull three of the four CPUs out." We pull three of the four CPUs out and now it's back to what it originally was. It's still slow, but it's not slower.

Jeff DeVerter (00:25:02): Still slow. Guess what's not a multi-threaded application?

Rob Collie (00:25:05): Well, the DAX engine is multi-threaded in some places, but in a lot of places it goes into a single-threaded formula engine mode, and I didn't really know all of that yet. We couldn't really avoid it.

Jeff DeVerter (00:25:16): Now, who would've known at that point?

Rob Collie (00:25:18): But then they also had negative scaling. That's where I encountered the phrase negative scaling for the first time. And I was like, "What?" And that was coming from Microsoft, "Well, you will occasionally run into negative..." I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no, no. Negative scaling. That is the worst euphemism ever for, 'Oh my God, are you shitting me?'"

Thomas LaRock (00:25:38): I've definitely seen what you're talking about, Rob. But what I think is most amazing is that you had already decided that more CPUs was going to solve this problem without understanding what the problem even was. You just threw hardware at it.

Rob Collie (00:25:50): Well, I did know.

Thomas LaRock (00:25:51): This is a classic and I love this. You said, "Just throw more hardware at it."

Jeff DeVerter (00:25:55): You did know what the problem was. The CPU was constrained. What you didn't know was how the thing was written.

Rob Collie (00:26:01): Yeah, that's right. Yeah. I knew it was CPU bound, right?

Jeff DeVerter (00:26:04): Yeah. The answer was a better CPU, not more CPUs.

Rob Collie (00:26:07): Yeah. And then we ended up with a server that we codenamed this Racker's first name. Anyway, so he had this bright idea. I forget what it was, but we ended up with some sort of PC motherboard or CPU in a server. And that ran much faster because what it turned out was is that it was the speed of each individual core. That was where the bottleneck was. And so we had this proprietary secret. We had the fastest DAX servers on the planet, as a testament to what used to be called fanatical support and is now called fanatical experience. I found that to be very impressive.

Jeff DeVerter (00:26:43): And that's the kind of stuff that Rackers will get to solve for application after application every single day. And so many people just stuck around because they got to solve hard problems. Now, it wasn't fun in the middle of it, but to get to solve the problem is really what we get excited about.

Rob Collie (00:26:58): Yeah. So then our paths cross, and we parted ways because that company then hired a COO who decided that he really needed to take it over. So he brought in his minion, a DevOps guy. We went to a different data center. We had to reproduce that same kind of service. We had to go and have custom-made gaming PC rigs put into a server rack form factor. We over-clocked them.

Jeff DeVerter (00:27:30): All the safe things.

Rob Collie (00:27:32): All the safe things, but not to the point of liquid cooled, just the limits of air cooled.

Jeff DeVerter (00:27:38): Or liquid processor.

Rob Collie (00:27:39): Yeah. And then once all of that got in place, right, then he changed his sights to getting rid of me.

Jeff DeVerter (00:27:48): Replace, replace, replace.

Thomas LaRock (00:27:50): I'm sorry. I didn't mean to laugh.

Rob Collie (00:27:52): Or driving me out, right? I left. So I guess you got to call him successful.

Jeff DeVerter (00:27:58): I guess so. Yeah. He's two for two.

Rob Collie (00:28:01): I ended up doing something much more personally satisfying and I much prefer what I've been doing since then. I was already really chafing, and that had run its course for me. So it wasn't like he drove me out of my dream job, but there you go. That's why we said goodbye.

Jeff DeVerter (00:28:13): So, that's the story behind the departure. Very interesting.

Rob Collie (00:28:16): That's right. That's right. Yeah. Uh-huh.

Jeff DeVerter (00:28:17): Yeah. We had really some crazy problems that customers would bring to us. When you think about, I said very braggadocio sort of way in the beginning, "We would solve the hardest SharePoint problems from sun up to sun up," and I would say that all day long to customers and whatnot, but some of those problems with what we experienced with you, I mean, that just would go on for weeks and weeks as you debug and try to figure that stuff out.

Jeff DeVerter (00:28:40): And when you think about it, you go back to, "Well, why couldn't you solve it faster?" Well, these are things that no one had ever seen before. We would see problems. We were the contributor to a lot of things coming out in service packs because of the stuff that we would find and get reported back in. Because you'd just find stuff that wasn't documented. You'd find stuff that didn't work. You'd get to the end of the yellow brick road and it was a brick wall, and it was never easy.

Rob Collie (00:29:05): I had this vision in my head, this picture of you and some Rackspace people, me and some Pivotstream people, we're all standing on the edge of this field, and there's some Microsoft people standing with you. And the field is labeled, "Power Pivot for SharePoint. Danger. Landmines." Right?

Jeff DeVerter (00:29:20): Landmines everywhere.

Rob Collie (00:29:21): And the Microsoft people are looking at it saying, "Hey, go ahead."

Jeff DeVerter (00:29:24): "Knock yourself out." You could almost hear them reaching for the mute on the speakerphone, but missing it, going, "They want to do what with this?"

Rob Collie (00:29:33): Yeah. And it turned out all we wanted to do was really just run it. I mean, the multi-tendency thing that we were trying to do, that was okay. It was the fact that that thing wasn't really built to last. By the time it was over, we had given up on so many problems in terms of actual diagnostics. You eventually said, "Okay, forget prevention. We need custom processes, scripts that are just constantly running, checking to see if all these processes are still alive. And if one of them appears to be hung, restart it."

Jeff DeVerter (00:30:07): Yeah. Just restart the thing. Now we call that MLOps.

Rob Collie (00:30:12): Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (00:30:12): Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:30:15): And ML sits right over there. Mike Lindberg.

Thomas LaRock (00:30:16): Wow.

Jeff DeVerter (00:30:23): I'm just [inaudible 00:30:23] ML. Sorry. No. MLOps is really pretty, and AIOps is really a pretty cool thing. In fact, Rackspace, what's the number now? Well, it goes to a big part of the story of what we're doing here or have done back then, and that is you think about the stuff that we were solving for and on the phone with Microsoft, all of that is what fed into their ability to do what they're doing today. I don't think they would be where they are if they didn't have companies like ours trying to push what they had and, one, helping them solve how to scale it, and then, two, giving them a vision of what it could be if they were to take it and do it in a large way. And it is the evolution of things. How do you spend less time thinking about infrastructure, more time thinking about the desired business outcome that you're trying to create? In this case, how do I get visualizations, or reports, or something to tell me more about my business?

Rob Collie (00:31:09): We had Diego Oppenheimer of DataRobot on. I was introduced to the whole domain of MLOps on that on episode.

Jeff DeVerter (00:31:18): Great company, DataRobot, by the way.

Rob Collie (00:31:20): Great. Yeah. I mean, all I know of them really is Diego. He's a solid individual. So let's just give some characterization to, when would I decide to still go co-lo?

Jeff DeVerter (00:31:32): What doesn't fit in the cloud?

Rob Collie (00:31:33): I believe that it's non-zero. Just, what are some of the usual suspects there?

Jeff DeVerter (00:31:38): That's a good question. So as especially a consulting company coming in going, "Hey, we're the best fill in the blank cloud company there is," we've made that boast and, "We can move all your things." Well, all the things shouldn't move. So think about, if nothing else, the inventory time. What's out there. What has to go? The second, you're going to discover things that's in every single data center and that's stuff like the Windows 2003 server that runs the one application that we don't have the source code to anymore that was written by Bob. But Bob died three years ago, retired, or now he rents jet skis down in Saint Lucius.

Jeff DeVerter (00:32:13): And so you think, "Yeah, it's a great idea to upgrade the thing," but you can't upgrade the thing. Or there's the app that runs the process that is on a larger roadmap that in three years you won't need anymore. So why would you modernize it? Why would you touch it? So there's a couple examples of things that don't fit. Other stuff that doesn't fit, those workloads that just are processor hogs or transaction hogs is another one, because a lot of that stuff, if we're going to say, "Hey, let's get off servers and go serverless," great idea, except for the thing that's a transaction hog, and then that's really expensive.

Rob Collie (00:32:47): Yeah, okay. Okay.

Jeff DeVerter (00:32:47): So you need to look at those technical use cases as well because some stuff just doesn't fit. And there's some workloads that, what am I going to do with my AS/400? There's some things for that, but it's not widely available yet. So you find these outliers, and the problem is how tentacley spidered are the outliers into the rest of the organization? In other words, if I can't lift this one service or server out, what is my downstream impact of being able to lift up those other things that do make sense to move but yet are connected to that boat anchor?

Rob Collie (00:33:16): Are there any differences to egress charges for data?

Jeff DeVerter (00:33:21): It's still a thing.

Rob Collie (00:33:22): Just as expensive in co-lo as it is in public cloud, or is there a difference?

Jeff DeVerter (00:33:26): No. Public cloud's much more expensive, disastrously more expensive, because think about the business model. So in a co-lo or main sourcing like here at Rackspace, you're bringing specific workloads over. I can't think of a salesperson who's ever gone out and said, "Get rid of your data center. Bring it all to Rackspace." They probably dream about that, but then not many would say it. And so it's not like we're trying to force a company to stay by penalizing them to leave, even if that means leaving incrementally with their bits of data. That is not true of the hyperscale cloud providers. They want you to move your data in and they want you to use everything natively.

Jeff DeVerter (00:34:03): So take the scenario, your AWS excited people, and they go off and they go, "Hey, we're all in on AWS," and they shove all their data and everything out into AWS, but then BigQuery comes along and they're like, "You know what? That actually scratches an itch I want to use. And so I want to actually start, because I got my main application running over here, but I want my intelligence coming out of BigQuery. And so look, let's create a pipe between the two. Let's shove all the data over. There's five petabytes. Cool. Move it all over." That's expensive. That is disastrously expensive, measuring in and around 12 cents a gig, 10 to 12 cents a gig as opposed to the ingress fee, which is free.

Jeff DeVerter (00:34:39): You can see what they're trying to do. They have stacked the deck. It's their deck to stack, they're allowed to, in and around, "I want you to live here and I want all of your stuff to come in here." It's actually a business model. You've teamed me up quite nicely to pitch a Rackspace offering as a thing we call data freedom. Because we have this amazing offering at Rackspace that we just use to connect all our data center. It's called RackConnect Global. It's how we connect all of our things together and connect to the hyperscalers through services like Megaport and others. Our data egress fees cost about 2 cents a gig as opposed to the 10 cents a gig. So we actually are encouraging companies, "Hey, bring your data here. Process it in the cloud, have your apps run in the cloud, but own your data in a location that you're not going to be penalized for doing what you want with your data. Ride our fiber."

Rob Collie (00:35:23): Awesome. So I was just kind of riffing on... The light bulb went off when you said, "Processor intensive." I'm like, "Oh, so what are the other things that are really expensive in the cloud that are surprising?" That's when I thought of egress. But if your answer had been, "No, we're just as expensive on egress as they are," then we would've just cut it from the show. No one would've ever known.

Jeff DeVerter (00:35:39): No one would ever. Nope, we're not. And actually, we published the numbers, so we're not making stuff up here. Egress is a real issue. And our guy who's over all this stuff tells stories of CIOs that he know who are actually let go from their job because, all of a sudden, income, and this is a larger problem, but income's a bill that is five times their cloud bill, just on the egress fee side. Now, that gets into a whole FinOps thing and people not managing the day-to-day of their stuff, but that's another soapbox I could jump on at a later date.

Thomas LaRock (00:36:06): The cloud, in a way, it's kind of like New Jersey. It's free to get in, but you have to pay to leave, and that's the egress fees, right?

Jeff DeVerter (00:36:16): Exactly.

Thomas LaRock (00:36:16): It's like, "Oh, yeah. No, it's so easy. Just bring everything here." And now, "Ooh. Oh, you wanted to access your data? That's going to cost you." Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:36:24): And we're in the Garden State. I mean, what could be nicer than the Garden State?

Jeff DeVerter (00:36:28): What could be nicer than the Garden State? Exactly.

Rob Collie (00:36:31): There's some sort of meme going around, I wish I could remember what it was, but it's like a before and after with AWS. The before is something like, you sign up, you join on and then immediately you get a bill for 20 times what you expected, right?

Jeff DeVerter (00:36:46): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:36:47): And then the after, you sign on and then a longer period of time passes. It's just a longer period of time. And then you get the bill for 20 times more than you expected. It's like, this is the improvement after you apply this new discipline. All it does is increase the lag time.

Jeff DeVerter (00:37:05): Well, and there's so many reasons for that. It's a great meme and it's so true. But you go into the whys and wherefores, I mean, think about buying a server for your data center or for your co-lo or buying one from a Rackspace. I mean, you have to plan for that expense. Procurements involve. Somebody important has to sign a piece of paper figuratively or literally and say, "Yes, you can now incur this $10,000 a month fee," making up a number, but is directionally accurate. But when you go into a true cloud environment and if you're going to exploit the cloud for what the cloud is, you're never 99% of the time not in the cloud's interface, you're in your IDE. Your code is what's deploying your environment, as it should be.

Jeff DeVerter (00:37:44): But what have you done? You've taken the buyer from having this governor that is the IT leadership and purchasing and finance, and now it's a developer down on aisle three. He pushes commit and off it goes and it builds and spins stuff up. And it could have been that well-meaning developer that said, "Look, we got this GCP account over there. I'm going to shove some data over and play BigQuery for a while." And he goes into the business and says, "Look what I can do right here." And they say, "Cool. Production. Tell me when." Off to production it goes, and nobody thinks through there's an egress fee. I was going to make a bad egress/egret joke, but I'm going to spare you, but nobody knows what it is.

Rob Collie (00:38:21): Let's do it. Let's do it.

Jeff DeVerter (00:38:21): Nah, it's my way of getting around it. But who thinks about that sort of thing? And that's why I'll go back to FinOps. Organizations have to, have to, have to have a good understanding of how they're going to manage their finance aspect of their cloud on a day-to-day basis. This isn't a wait to the end of the month and get your bill. This is, I need some AI that's paying attention to things and says, "This is different than it was yesterday and did you mean to do that?"

Rob Collie (00:38:45): So I'd never heard that phrase before, FinOps.

Thomas LaRock (00:38:48): FinOps. Oh, no?

Rob Collie (00:38:48): Is that like-

Jeff DeVerter (00:38:48): Financial operations. Yeah. Go to Educate yourself. Educate yourself.

Thomas LaRock (00:38:58): "Open a book, Rob!"

Jeff DeVerter (00:38:59): Please. That came off sort of harsh. I did not intend it to be harsh.

Rob Collie (00:39:04): It was really funny, though. So is FinOps basically like a fancy way of saying, "Hey, meter your spend in real time"?

Jeff DeVerter (00:39:12): It is a role that combines IT, finance and the business and puts them together, because what FinOps does is it observes what's happening with the ultimate goal is to make sure that every dollar spent in the cloud, not necessarily how do I lower the cost, but how do I make sure that every dollar spent in the cloud creates value?

Jeff DeVerter (00:39:32): And so when they observe what's happening, they may say, "Look, you're spending a ton on this specific type of compute. There are other compute options that are available." Now, somebody in the business should say, "Will that still meet the needs?" IT is the one who's going to ultimately then have to transfer workloads into a new type of server service to do the thing. Or they may say, "Hey, finance, there's a better way. All we're doing is running servers over here and they're always on and they're always busy. Let's change from this hourly buying or second per second buying to reserved instances." Somebody's got to make these choices and do the stuff and bring all these people together. And so FinOps is the one who observes, makes recommendations and acts as a catalyst to affect that change then.

Rob Collie (00:40:13): I bet there's a lot of BI that goes into that, even just analyzing where the spend occurs.

Jeff DeVerter (00:40:18): Mm-hmm. Because they also need to forecast. They also need to say, based on what you're doing, and, by the way, for your application, let's say it's even a process that is driven off of consumer data out of the shopping cart, I'm thinking Amazon here or some other thing like that, well, you know what? The processes probably aren't doing a whole lot in July, but come November, December, that data set's a lot bigger. We're going to compute a lot more. I need more cores. I need more threads. That's going to cost more, potentially. So when we think about forecasting that stuff based on trends, based on whatever the business inputs would be, yeah, ton of BI.

Rob Collie (00:40:51): Awesome. Well, that's something we should look into.

Jeff DeVerter (00:40:54): I think so.

Rob Collie (00:40:55): We should watch this very carefully. Shifting gears just a little bit, when I visited you a couple times back in the early 2010s, you were already keyed in on this notion of videos for social media.

Jeff DeVerter (00:41:09): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:41:09): You were pretty early in that. In fact, one time I couldn't find you when I was about to leave the offices. You'd said, "Hey, let's do a video today." And I said, "Oh, sure. Let's do a video." And then I couldn't find you. The other guys wanted to go to the bar, and I'm like, "Okay. Fine."

Jeff DeVerter (00:41:22): Off you go. Video Schmideo.

Rob Collie (00:41:24): And then you're texting with me like, "Hey, where'd you go?"

Jeff DeVerter (00:41:30): The bar.

Rob Collie (00:41:32): I thought you'd forgotten about me, Jeff. How much speaking at either physical or virtual conferences do you find yourself doing these days?

Jeff DeVerter (00:41:42): A bunch. That's just back in the 2010s. By 2018, I left Rackspace. I don't know if you knew that, but I left Rackspace and I went over to another cloud company, Cloudreach, now owned by Atos. I spent about a year and 10 months there and then got pulled back into Rackspace. And so I've been here since 2020. So I rejoined in January of 2020.

Rob Collie (00:42:01): Good timing. Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:42:02): Good timing, right? And so when I went to go work for Cloudreach, it was London headquarter. US headquarters was in New York. I was either working from home, or in one of those headquarters, or in front of a customer, or something like that. And so I'd built this relatively elaborate at-home workstation and I wanted to be comfortable if I'm going to sit there all day long. And so then I go back to Rackspace and it was like, "Ah, shutter this thing up. I'm going back to the office." Three months later, it's like dust it off, we're back again. So work from home.

Jeff DeVerter (00:42:29): The conferences adapted relatively quickly to, "Hey, let's go video. Let's do these different sorts of things." I find myself speaking at a lot of those, whether they're large events, whether they're partner events, all sorts of different things. As chief technology evangelist, fancy title as it is, it means I tell the story and I'll tell it to any audience that'll give me five minutes, or two hours in this case, to talk about it. But I do spend a pretty fair amount of time talking at those sorts of events.

Rob Collie (00:42:54): So what would you say are the top three topics? A conference isn't typically going to bring you in to just talk about Rackspace, right? They're not bringing you in to-

Jeff DeVerter (00:43:05): They tend to not want to hear, and they're smart in that way.

Rob Collie (00:43:07): They don't want an explicit infomercial, right?

Jeff DeVerter (00:43:11): Right.

Rob Collie (00:43:11): What do your session titles end up being about? Is it about FinOps?

Jeff DeVerter (00:43:16): Even at the most technical event, always spin it to the business outcome, because while you and I get excited, the three of us get excited about getting up in the morning for what has changed in Azure and the capabilities there that now we get to play with-

Rob Collie (00:43:29): Oh, no. No, we don't. No, we don't. No. I'm much more about the human plane, it turns out, than the tech. So I'm glad there are people who get excited about those things.

Jeff DeVerter (00:43:39): Some people get excited about those things, but, at the end of the day, you go to these conferences and they want to know, "What can I get out of this new bag of tech that exists?" And so I'll tell stories from customer success angles. How did Aeroméxico beat the regional airlines that were coming up by utilizing just the right tech? How did Wyndham Hotels & Resorts transfer from being this company that had 25 different brands in it with 25 different systems for all their things into a singular thing that is now first an organization? And what has the business outcome of that been? It does ultimately get down into the bits and bytes, but it is a different angle, a different way to tell the story, as opposed to, "Let me tell you how this sweet piece of Terraform did this thing." You don't care about the sweet piece of Terraform. You care about what did it do to the... Sweet piece of Terraform sounds like a really strange phrase to use, by the way.

Rob Collie (00:44:28): It does. It also sounds like one of those long-form band names.

Jeff DeVerter (00:44:33): Band name. Called it.

Rob Collie (00:44:35): You have to abbreviate it. All the fans would abbreviate it after a while.

Jeff DeVerter (00:44:39): Sweet Piece of Terraform.

Rob Collie (00:44:40): Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:44:42): [inaudible 00:44:42]-

Rob Collie (00:44:42): Even Dave Matthews Band is DMV now, right? It's just too many syllables.

Jeff DeVerter (00:44:46): It SPOT. Sweet Piece of Terraform.

Rob Collie (00:44:48): SPOT. There you go. Yep.

Jeff DeVerter (00:44:50): So, that's what I talk about a lot. So if I'm invited in to talk to a customer, I'm going to spend my entire time telling them how we're not a managed hoster anymore, because that's how the world knows us as Rackspace hosting, the managed hosting company. That is a piece of what we do. It just isn't all of what we do. Really, it's how do we drive these outcomes? So, that's what I end up talking about a lot. And then what is the latest tech, and what can it mean to them? I do this live stream once a week, and that's a big part of that, whether it's a interview aspect or let's talk about new things from the cloud providers and why it's important to them.

Rob Collie (00:45:23): That's a good model for a show, right? If you've got an ongoing live stream show, let's talk about new tech development de jour, because there's plenty of those. You're never going to run out. Our format on this show is mostly, it's just about the person that we have on, right? It's their story. We haven't even asked you your origin story.

Jeff DeVerter (00:45:42): No. Ooh.

Rob Collie (00:45:42): We don't know. I know. So how did you get into being an enterprise architect at the financial services firm? How did you come to be? We got that little glimpse.

Jeff DeVerter (00:45:51): I got you back to 2006, between 2006 and 2009, but there's a lot of years before that. I am not a spring chicken.

Rob Collie (00:45:58): Where were they incubating you? What lab did they grow you in?

Jeff DeVerter (00:46:00): We go all the way back and come forward? Or what direction are we going in?

Thomas LaRock (00:46:03): Yes.

Rob Collie (00:46:04): Well, let's-

Thomas LaRock (00:46:04): It's a data origin story.

Rob Collie (00:46:06): ... talk about your first intersection with computing, where you started to get that little twitch where you're like, "Oh, I can do this."

Jeff DeVerter (00:46:13): I was in high school. It was at high school in the mid-80s.

Rob Collie (00:46:14): Okay.

Jeff DeVerter (00:46:16): Computing in high school in the mid-80s was not an exciting experience.

Rob Collie (00:46:21): It wasn't very exciting. I agree.

Jeff DeVerter (00:46:22): It wasn't very exciting. So my dad was a lifer with IBM. In the early '80s when the 8088 PC first came out, we had one of the first ones. And so it was in the house from an early age. And so I got real smart with it really, really quick. Not as smart as you could be at that point. The high school I was in, maybe I'm a sophomore, maybe I'm a junior, I don't remember. And so they get the math teacher to teach the computer class. So I go to the computer class. It was midyear. He comes in, and it's the first period. So he comes in and he yawns big. I look at him and I said, "My sentiments exactly. Can we go a little deeper?" But I'll tell you a little secret here, Jeff was also into music at the time. I love talking about myself in the third person. And so then-

Rob Collie (00:47:05): Jeff does like that.

Jeff DeVerter (00:47:06): Jeff does like that. Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (00:47:06): Jeff does, yeah.

Rob Collie (00:47:07): Jeff does like that. Yeah, yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:47:07): Jimmy jumps high with these sneakers on Seinfeld. So I'm senior in high school. I'm in whatever, this is '86. This is AP computer science, whatever that means at that point. And I have this decision to make, I'm thinking, because I like this music stuff, I like the computer stuff, but I come in and I sit down, and this is the era of green screens. That's all you get. And I think to myself, "I can't stare at the green screen. I'm going down the music road."

Jeff DeVerter (00:47:30): So off I go. Guitar is the main instrument. I had a great guitar teacher who gave me some really sage advice, "Get into audio production. Don't try to make a career as a player." So, that's what I did. Went off to a little school for a couple years, learned that stuff. Moved down to Houston, Texas, where I became an intern at this relatively large recording studio. Fast-forward a few years, get married. And then a couple years after that we buy the recording studio. Pretty fancy, pretty neat. It's been around at that point for a couple of decades, so it's got some heritage about it. So the first thing I do is I think, "I need a computer network here. I need these front office computers talking to other things." I'm putting this thing in, and I thought, "If this music thing doesn't work out, I like this. This is fun. Computers have come a long way."

Jeff DeVerter (00:48:12): So you fast-forward another couple of years. My wife and I have our first kid. Working in music in Houston, Texas is a lot of long days and it's a lot of long nights and the rates are pretty fixed. The biggest room we had, which was really a good size room, could only really command about $75 an hour. I was hanging out with some friends who were in computer consulting, and I said, "How much did your company charge you to go in and do what you do?" "About $150 an hour." And I'm thinking to myself, "I'm in the wrong business. This guy shows up with a pencil and charges that." So I'd been working with a business mentor. In fact, it was a really cool organization. These older retired guys who didn't want to just play golf all day, so they filmed this organization and they would mentor young business people. The name of the organization, Silver Foxes. That's right.

Rob Collie (00:48:58): Wow.

Jeff DeVerter (00:48:58): Silver foxes. Now, but these are folks who, in this case, Houston, were ridiculously successful. So I would meet with Monty. He was my man. I would say, "Look, I'm having an insurance issue." And he would effectively, on a piece of paper, write down the name and say, "Call this guy over at Chase," or wherever. This is the president of the bank. So I get walked into all these different places. But Monty was consulting with a bunch of companies. One was a computer consulting company that also did Microsoft training. And he said, "They need some on hold music produced. Maybe you can work something out."

Jeff DeVerter (00:49:25): So I effectively bartered my MCSE in 1995, '96 is the timeline for that. Sold the recording studio, did all that training, then went and actually ran their consulting side for them for a short while. My wife has family here in San Antonio. I had a family in Austin. We had no family in Houston. We were there because I had a recording studio. And I wasn't enjoying the company I was working for and thought, "Why are we in this city that I do not enjoy?" Sorry, Houston. I don't like that city.

Jeff DeVerter (00:49:54): Ended up moving to San Antonio. I worked for EDS for a couple of years on a Department of Defense project doing systems management. Built some really cool stuff there. Went to work for a company called World Savings. This is how I get into financial services. Learned SharePoint. This is where SharePoint shows up. This is SharePoint 2003. And so I get smart in SharePoint. I go to some classes, I go to some conferences. Then I get picked up by another financial services firm, the one I referred to earlier, USSA. I was an enterprise architect over collaboration and search. Gee, I wonder what product that was.

Rob Collie (00:50:23): Hmm, I wonder.

Jeff DeVerter (00:50:26): And so I did that for a couple of years and then over to Rackspace.

Rob Collie (00:50:29): So, Muzak launched the long and glorious chapter of your career that's tech. It was a shady parking lot Muzak deal.

Jeff DeVerter (00:50:42): Well, you know what? You know what? I actually brought that back. I've gotten some pictures from back then, and I brought it back into my presentations. It shows up saying, "Look, my first..." But how do I put it? "My first job wasn't in tech, but it's always been the career because it was technology that enabled all that stuff."

Rob Collie (00:51:01): Yeah, that's cool. Did you watch the TV series Parenthood?

Jeff DeVerter (00:51:06): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:51:07): They call it the laundry or something. I forget what it was. It was Dax Shepard, is it?

Jeff DeVerter (00:51:11): Dax Shepard. Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:51:12): Yeah. He had a recording studio. One of the guys on my hockey team in Indianapolis also owns a recording studio here in town. He says, "I own a recording studio because I hate money."

Jeff DeVerter (00:51:24): So true.

Rob Collie (00:51:27): He says, "So naturally I go do the Alaskan fishing boat thing in the summers to make ends meet."

Jeff DeVerter (00:51:34): To fund his career.

Rob Collie (00:51:36): Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:51:37): Yeah. And so now we fast-forward all these years. So I mentioned that first son that was born. Seven years later my second son's born. And so he's my youngest who has just gone off last fall to school. He's going to Belmont University in Nashville. Now, that's a school that's known for their music program. And he's very musical. If I've done nothing else right in my life, I've convinced him that, "I love that you're a musician and it is an amazing hobby. Go find a day job so that you can do all that stuff." So he gets to go there, learn his graphic design. He was actually an intern for us this summer, which was great fun. But he gets to hang around with the music kids and chuckle to himself because he'll be able to pay his rent.

Rob Collie (00:52:14): Music is one of those places where there's just so much talent that never gets its break.

Jeff DeVerter (00:52:20): Yes. Never sees the light of day. It's so true. It's so true. But he's in such a sweet spot. Think about how we communicate these. Like what we're doing here and other stuff, corporate communications isn't, "Hey, I'm going to just stand up and tell you a thing or just send you an email." Everything is visual. Everything is all of it. I mean, so he's an artist. He is a graphic artist. He is a designer. He is a musician. He knows how to put all this stuff together with all of the tools in the Adobe suite. I mean, he'll never want for a job.

Rob Collie (00:52:48): Especially as he pairs that with a couple of new talents, new skills. Those are all going to play a beautiful symphony together.

Jeff DeVerter (00:52:59): Imagine he gets out and say he doesn't make a career at some point of being a graphic designer. Maybe he becomes a computer consultant, a crazy thought that that might be, or whatever it is, he will be able to express himself better than any of his competitors.

Rob Collie (00:53:10): Agreed, agreed. If I actually had the ability to draw, which no amount of schooling would have taught me, by the way, I was just DOA on that, but if I could do that, if I was an illustrator, I'd be able to do a lot of things that either would never happen or I have to pay a lot of money and wait a long time to get them done.

Jeff DeVerter (00:53:31): Well, even just having that artistic sense when it comes time to create a PowerPoint slide or a compelling deck to tell the story that you're trying to pitch. Knowing how to design something that is attractive is always going to win over somebody who puts a bunch of text on a slide at 12 point font and expect everybody to read it while they read it to them.

Rob Collie (00:53:51): One time, Jeff, you and I built a PowerPoint deck together. I don't know if you remember this, but-

Jeff DeVerter (00:53:56): I don't remember that.

Rob Collie (00:53:57): ... I was explaining to you how the BI industry works and how it was changing. I told you about the IT-centric BI model, what I now call the traditional model, which is still really the dominant model. Even though the world has woken up that it shouldn't work that way, it still does work that way most everywhere. And I was explaining to you the dynamics and everything. And you're like, "Oh, so it's like the take a number thing." So you immediately went and you found some clip art that was the take a number that you get at the deli.

Jeff DeVerter (00:54:26): Yeah, yeah.

Rob Collie (00:54:27): And we put that in the slide. That has now been repeated a million different times on a million different decks, including artistic renderings of take a number.

Jeff DeVerter (00:54:37): So I've had an impact in the career is what you're saying.

Rob Collie (00:54:39): You've had an impact. Yep. Yep, for sure. That's it. That's the one.

Jeff DeVerter (00:54:45): That's the one. If I can do one thing.

Rob Collie (00:54:48): Yeah. If I can summarize Jeff's contribution to my life-

Jeff DeVerter (00:54:51): Just take a number.

Rob Collie (00:54:52): ... it's the take a number clip art. Yeah. That's the one.

Jeff DeVerter (00:54:55): I think I was going through an old directory of stuff, and I think I found a batch where I was downloading a bunch of those. Now, I don't know why I was doing it. Now I know why I have clip art.

Rob Collie (00:55:05): You might. You might. You might. Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:55:06): Because why would you throw anything away? So I still have everything.

Rob Collie (00:55:08): No. You got to keep all that.

Thomas LaRock (00:55:09): Now, you're allowed to use clip art? There isn't somebody at Rackspace that tells you, "It's not on brand. You can't use that"?

Jeff DeVerter (00:55:16): I used to get in trouble for that sort of thing, but now I just do what I want.

Rob Collie (00:55:21): Now he's CTE.

Jeff DeVerter (00:55:21): CTE.

Thomas LaRock (00:55:21): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:55:22): Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:55:22): Has the power.

Rob Collie (00:55:23): Yeah. "Whatever you do, don't look him in the eye. Don't make eye contact with him." That's what the new employees are told. "And don't question him on his clip art."

Jeff DeVerter (00:55:34): Well, what's gotten real weird is I've got this live stream that I do weekly, and I do all sorts of training videos for the company, and I do all sorts of stuff that ends up out on LinkedIn and YouTube and the different places for Rackspace. And so these new employees come in. When somebody starts looking at Rackspace, they'll go to YouTube or they'll go wherever and they'll type in Rackspace to see what they get. And invariably, half of it is me, and it's really scary that that's the case. But they'll come in and they're like, "Oh, you're Jeff." And I say, "Oh, it's not that impressive."

Rob Collie (00:56:00): Just tell them, "Listen, I used to make Muzak."

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:01): "I used to make Muzak. Stand back. Let me play guitar for you."

Thomas LaRock (00:56:05): Beautiful Muzak.

Rob Collie (00:56:07): Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:08): You went very quick to Muzak. I said it was music. Let's be clear.

Rob Collie (00:56:11): It was on hold music, right, in the '90s?

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:14): Oh, I did do that one little bit for those people, but that was a custom jingle. That was custom work. That was good stuff.

Rob Collie (00:56:18): Yeah. I mean, wasn't talking about all of your output. I was not going to take your entire catalog and brand the whole thing. I was just saying that-

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:25): I felt sort of pigeonholed. I was typecast.

Rob Collie (00:56:28): ... the Muzak deal, it was your bridge.

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:31): It was the bridge. Muzak was the bridge. It sounds like my memoir, Muzak is the Bridge.

Rob Collie (00:56:36): Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:38): It's going to be a coloring book, by the way.

Thomas LaRock (00:56:41): So my son is starting school in the fall and music will be his focus. The advice I need to give him as well is, "Get a job in production," or, "Get a day job"?

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:51): Day job is a good thing.

Thomas LaRock (00:56:51): Okay.

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:52): College music?

Thomas LaRock (00:56:53): Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:54): What's his instrument?

Thomas LaRock (00:56:54): He does it all. It's triple threat. He does all the percussions, right? So your guitar-

Jeff DeVerter (00:56:58): Nice.

Thomas LaRock (00:56:59): ... your piano, your drums. And he mixes stuff down in the little studio we have set up for him and-

Jeff DeVerter (00:57:04): Nice.

Thomas LaRock (00:57:05): ... we hear him playing all sorts of stuff. He likes to do a lot of Beatles.

Jeff DeVerter (00:57:09): Ooh, I like your son.

Thomas LaRock (00:57:10): It's just really interesting to hear him do that and have an affinity to it. But he likes composing.

Jeff DeVerter (00:57:17): He should. So I threw a lot of rocks at music as a career, but the opportunities for... The person wants to be the rockstar, that's who I'm throwing rocks at.

Thomas LaRock (00:57:25): Oh, yeah. I know.

Jeff DeVerter (00:57:25): The person who wants to make a living and is willing to be scrappy and hungry, there is a big living to be had. A good friend of mine, well, he used to work here, he just moved on a little while ago, Paul Cruto, Paul is an amazing musician. I mean, saxophone's his main thing, but he does it all. But he writes a lot of music and it's on all these TV shows and whatnot. Collaboration with other artists. I mean, corporate, you got to hate to say it, but corporate music is a big thing and there's a lot of money to be had. Radio jingles, big money. Big, big money. And you don't know the names behind it, but you don't need to because that's a good check.

Thomas LaRock (00:58:00): This is the thing. As a kid, somebody goes, "Hey, so you like music, whatever. Who's your favorite musician?" He's like, "Danny Elfman."

Jeff DeVerter (00:58:07): Ooh, that's rather cool.

Thomas LaRock (00:58:08): I'm sitting there and I'm like, "Damn, I'm proud. That's beautiful."

Jeff DeVerter (00:58:11): Swimming in the deep end there. I like that.

Thomas LaRock (00:58:12): Right? I'm like, "That's awesome."

Jeff DeVerter (00:58:15): Yeah. You just got to be aware that there's a lot of work to be done. But if you're talented, you're talented.

Rob Collie (00:58:21): Yeah. I mean, do you know how much of my brain space is occupied by 1980s commercial jingles?

Jeff DeVerter (00:58:31): Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Let's sing some.

Rob Collie (00:58:31): I can sing you, not well, I can sing you the Tater Skins ad from Keebler.

Jeff DeVerter (00:58:36): Ooh, you beat me on that one.

Rob Collie (00:58:36): Anything that was advertised on cartoons.

Thomas LaRock (00:58:39): I'd forgotten Tater Skins even existed until you said it. I can't buy those today, and you know the jingle.

Rob Collie (00:58:47): No, no. I looked it up. I looked it up recently to see. Tater Skins was acquired by another company.

Jeff DeVerter (00:58:51): Of course you did.

Rob Collie (00:58:52): It's actually, they're sold as TGI Fridays Tater Skins.

Thomas LaRock (00:58:57): Oh.

Jeff DeVerter (00:58:57): Oh, brand combo right there. Well, all things '80s fit into it. Literally, I walk out for breakfast a couple days ago with my wife. And I said, "Guess what song's in my head?" And she tries to run from the room because I'm about to stick something into her head that she's not going to be able to get out. Theme song to The Facts of Life.

Thomas LaRock (00:59:16): Okay. Now I can't get rid of it.

Rob Collie (00:59:20): You take the good, you take the bad. All right.

Jeff DeVerter (00:59:21): Yep, you're welcome. (singing) Yeah, there you go.

Thomas LaRock (00:59:22): No. Stop it.

Rob Collie (00:59:22): (singing)

Jeff DeVerter (00:59:27): (Singing) It could be a sing along podcast. How fun would that be?

Rob Collie (00:59:31): Well, don't-

Jeff DeVerter (00:59:31): There'd probably have to be more beers before that.

Rob Collie (00:59:33): Well, here, let me wash that out of your head with the Different Strokes theme.

Thomas LaRock (00:59:40): Oh, no!

Jeff DeVerter (00:59:40): (singing)

Rob Collie (00:59:43): (singing) I even remember the Barney Miller theme song. Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:59:50): That bassline in the beginning was so cool.

Rob Collie (00:59:52): Yeah, yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (00:59:53): But that was '70s. You're splitting here.

Rob Collie (00:59:55): That's true. That's true. So in terms of trends, what are the trends that you're seeing right now that either aren't getting enough attention, they're sort of like sleepers-

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:07): Hang on a second. There's a cookie.

Rob Collie (01:00:08): Tray.

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:09): Just look at that tray of cookies.

Rob Collie (01:00:11): Oh my God. What?

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:14): And they're warm.

Thomas LaRock (01:00:14): So, no, you could do a hot dog cart.

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:15): Oh, look at that!

Thomas LaRock (01:00:16): You could do cookie. Oh my God.

Rob Collie (01:00:19): I don't get cookie-

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:20): It's like a cake. It's like a cake.

Rob Collie (01:00:21): Yeah. It looks like a muffin meets a cookie, but it's probably got that cookie consistency all the way through. It's going to be delicious.

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:27): When you meet in the briefing center here in the afternoon, right about now, they would come out. They'll bring them into the room, just like what you just saw, with jugs of milk. Cookies and milk, Rackspace briefing center.

Rob Collie (01:00:39): The briefing center. This is where you bring customers?

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:41): Customers, that's right. Customer experience center is what it's officially called.

Rob Collie (01:00:44): This is when you're selling a house, right? You're supposed to bake some cookies.

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:49): Oh, yeah. Leave some cookies in the oven.

Rob Collie (01:00:49): In the oven, before. You don't leave them. Well, don't leave the oven on. But you make the house smell like cookies, and people can't resist it. They buy the house, right?

Jeff DeVerter (01:00:57): Can't resist.

Rob Collie (01:00:57): I see what you're doing. They come in. They're like, "Oh, Rackspace cookies."

Jeff DeVerter (01:01:02): That's right. Got to come back.

Rob Collie (01:01:04): Yep. Oh, man. Here we go.

Jeff DeVerter (01:01:05): All right. Trends. Here we go. Back to work.

Rob Collie (01:01:06): So any trends that you think are sneaking up on us or trends that are kind of fake, getting a lot of hype, or even just trends we know about that you think are going to be some of the most important things, whatever? Let's just talk about trends.

Jeff DeVerter (01:01:20): Let's talk about trends. So the first is everybody views the move to the cloud as a trend. I will define what I mean by that. What I mean is that they think they just have to "get to the cloud." Why am I doing air quotes for an audio only podcast? I don't know.

Rob Collie (01:01:34): Okay. Okay. But I actually think you can hear air quotes because you actually also kind of pronounce them, in a way.

Jeff DeVerter (01:01:42): You do.

Thomas LaRock (01:01:42): Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (01:01:42): And there's that break like air quotes.

Rob Collie (01:01:45): Exactly. Yeah. Maybe I don't "wash behind the ears" as Chris Farley-

Jeff DeVerter (01:01:51): This got weird.

Rob Collie (01:01:52): ... used to say.

Jeff DeVerter (01:01:54): So I view the people saying, "Hey, are you in the cloud?" And people view, they think, "Hey, the cloud is just another place I have to go." It's like, "I'm going to move from data center X to data center Y," or, "I'm going from Windows 10 to 11." Or you think about the old days of IT and it was every couple of years we knew we had a Windows upgrade coming. We knew VMware was going to get upgraded. And it was this rallying cry that all of IT came around and to get to the cutoff point, and then we could go back to business as usual. But the move to the cloud, if you're doing it right, if it's not a trend to your organization and you're doing it right, then the move to the cloud is actually a change in the way you do business.

Jeff DeVerter (01:02:32): If it's not, you're doing it wrong, because that cloud, never before has there been... I like to say that the cloud is infinite. Now, you guys are technologists. You know it's not infinite. You know there's only so many data centers and there's only so many servers and services inside of those data centers, but there's more of them than there are us, meaning there's more capability that businesses could be using that they're not, whether it's capacity or capability.

Jeff DeVerter (01:02:56): Now, combined to that the fact that since we started this podcast, there's probably been 50 releases across the three clouds of new capabilities. So if you're truly adopting the cloud not as a technology but as an operating model, well, then that's not a trend, that is the way business needs to be done now. And it doesn't matter what industry you're in. That's how it should be done. So I think that the trend is that people are just viewing that move out to be the singular event that they can go through the waterfall event and move on. But they really can't because what they have is this brand new box of Legos that gives them more capability than they've ever thought that they could have. There are customers they can reach, there are products they can create. They can reinvent the way they do what they do if they will spend the time to do it. And then it's not a trend, and they become leaders in their market.

Rob Collie (01:03:45): Interesting. Yeah, that resonates with me. I oftentimes find myself saying that this thing that we think of as a noun is actually a verb.

Jeff DeVerter (01:03:53): Ooh, I like that. I'm going to steal it.

Rob Collie (01:03:55): Yeah. So there you go. Now we've reached parody. You gave me take a number, right?

Jeff DeVerter (01:04:00): Take a number, and I get nouns and verbs.

Rob Collie (01:04:02): Yeah, right.

Jeff DeVerter (01:04:03): So now let's talk real trend here, and that is data. I think data is the real trend. If we go back to when I first came to Rackspace back when we first met, if you were to call up, in fact, you did, and you said, "I need a server. I need to run my thing here," I would ask you three questions. And that would be, "How much compute do you need? How much storage do you need?And how much networking do you need to make that whole thing happen?" A few other little details, but I only needed to know those three things. And I asked you about the storage because that was a necessary evil to make the application run. We cared about the app. The data was just there because the specs on the box of the application said it had to be there.

Jeff DeVerter (01:04:38): But where we are now and where you guys are in the sweet spot is the fact that that has been flipped over. I kind of don't care about the app because the real gold's in the data. If we've truly adopted this new modern operating model of the cloud and our stuff is in a consolidated location, we can now play "what if?" with that data in new constructs, from an engineering point of view. Even if it's across multiple clouds, we can create these supply chains of data. You can have that one. I'll let you use that one tomorrow.

Rob Collie (01:05:05): Ooh, all right.

Jeff DeVerter (01:05:05): Supply chains of data so that ultimately business can get greater insights about their customers or their employees that they were never able to get before in real time. And then if they've truly matured to that point, they can get that in a predictive state when you mix in a little ML and AI.

Rob Collie (01:05:21): We just had an old friend of mine, Danny Hoter, on the show. He's working on Azure Data Explorer, codenamed Kusto, and it's like trillions of row log file IOT type data sets, and-

Jeff DeVerter (01:05:36): Big stuff.

Rob Collie (01:05:37): ... it's crazy. First things first is you've got to capture it. You see the inversion right there. We're generating trillions of events a year.

Jeff DeVerter (01:05:45): Or a month. Yeah.

Rob Collie (01:05:46): Yeah. How do we not lose those? I always used to be struck by the term data warehousing. It started out with the idea of, "Let's not lose anything."

Jeff DeVerter (01:05:54): Right.

Rob Collie (01:05:55): But then it became this priesthood of how to do your schema right and everything, because the only place to store it was SQL.

Jeff DeVerter (01:06:01): Yes, yeah. In your data warehouse. Now, when I first heard the term, again, we're going to go back to child of the '80s, I'm thinking Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they put the ark at the end of the movie.

Rob Collie (01:06:09): Exactly.

Jeff DeVerter (01:06:10): It's a place where you put it, never to look at it again.

Rob Collie (01:06:12): That's the third or fourth time that image has appeared on this podcast in audio form.

Thomas LaRock (01:06:17): And you have to hire top men.

Rob Collie (01:06:19): Who's going to be maintaining this, top men? Who?

Jeff DeVerter (01:06:22): Who. Top men.

Rob Collie (01:06:23): Top men.

Thomas LaRock (01:06:23): Who's going to write these reports? Top men.

Rob Collie (01:06:25): Does Rackspace do anything with Power BI?

Jeff DeVerter (01:06:28): Oh yeah, absolutely. We have a big data practice. It isn't big data, but I guess it could be big data.

Rob Collie (01:06:32): The practice is big. The practice is big.

Jeff DeVerter (01:06:33): The practice is a good size practice. Yeah. So we'll help customers think about the different layers of the cake, because I have a big cookie here and makes me think of cake. From an infrastructure point of view, what's the right infrastructure to be running on? Data engineering, because that's a thing now, because we have all these different supply chains of data coming in. How do we engineer that data? And then how do we make use of that data?

Jeff DeVerter (01:06:52): So we really try to help customers evolve to a point from not just being data aware or data literate but to data fluent, because I think that an organization that is going to truly be successful against their competitors is one where every member of the organization can see the right bit of data, argue about that data with their peers to make a logical decision and make sure that that data set that they're looking at, one, is the same data set, but they have the tooling and the knowledge to be able to do that kind of stuff.

Rob Collie (01:07:21): Awesome.

Jeff DeVerter (01:07:21): We help customers through that chain.

Rob Collie (01:07:23): Tom, do you remember when Jen Stirrup was on? She talked about how she didn't like the term data literacy. She preferred data fluency.

Thomas LaRock (01:07:31): Yeah. I thought we had mentioned it before. Yeah. I like data fluent. I like that. How about data affluence?

Jeff DeVerter (01:07:39): Ooh.

Thomas LaRock (01:07:39): Yeah. Data affluence.

Jeff DeVerter (01:07:40): Oh, I'm just getting two things out of this, because once a company's data fluent, then that makes them data affluent.

Thomas LaRock (01:07:45): Affluent, yeah.

Rob Collie (01:07:46): And then they get data affluenza.

Thomas LaRock (01:07:49): That's another one for free, along with the hot dog cart idea. You get that for free.

Rob Collie (01:07:52): There'll be no charge. There'll be no charge for this.

Jeff DeVerter (01:07:53): For these.

Rob Collie (01:07:54): Yeah. The spitting of hot fire that is going on here.

Jeff DeVerter (01:07:57): No, but it's super important because if you're doing data right, then your company is going to benefit. And I think that back, Rob, when you were doing your stuff, if I were to ask you, "How easy is it to convince a company that they need to pay attention to Power BI and whatnot?" I would think that's a hard sales job, but in today's world where everybody wants to have access to the information that matters to them, whatever that is, they're just looking for companies who have the wherewithal to do it. You don't have to convince them it needs to be done anymore.

Rob Collie (01:08:24): Yeah. But there is something similar, you were saying going to the cloud, right? I think there's a parallel in data, which is people are sitting around in small rooms where not many people are listening to them. So they don't have to worry about being judged. They're saying or thinking, "We should be doing data because it's very clear that data is hot. We should be doing data. Oh, everybody's doing data, right?"

Jeff DeVerter (01:08:51): Right. "I need all new data."

Rob Collie (01:08:52): But then when you're on your own in private, you're thinking, "I should be doing data. What does that even mean?"

Jeff DeVerter (01:08:58): What is it?

Rob Collie (01:08:58): Right? I think there's a lot of people out there that are in that sort of paralysis mode.

Jeff DeVerter (01:09:04): It is a big thing, because it's just like saying, "Hey, we should be in the cloud. And okay, yeah, we should be in the... But what does it mean to be in the cloud?" And I think your analogy to data is spot on because we need to pivot from, "I need to be in the cloud," to, "I'm trying to accomplish this as an organization, and can this new thing called cloud and its tech do that for me? Well, I want to be in data. What does that mean? I want to make more intelligent decisions about sales forecasting." Grab an example. "What assets do I need to be able to do that? How does it need to be structured? What are the permissions?" And you go down the road.

Rob Collie (01:09:38): Yeah. And it's this concept, I think a book called Crossing the Chasm. I don't really read business books. I don't really. Educate yourself, as we said earlier, but I do read summaries of business books. And I think it's called Crossing the Chasm where they talk about getting from any new product or service, how it has to get from the early adopters to the early majority. So the early adopters are people who want revolution and are driving all this.

Jeff DeVerter (01:10:11): That's you in 2010.

Rob Collie (01:10:11): Right. Exactly.

Jeff DeVerter (01:10:11): "Look what we can do, people!"

Rob Collie (01:10:11): And my clients at that time, not the Pivotstream clients, my private clients at the time were very much of this revolutionary mindset. You couldn't fence these people in. But the early majority wants evolution. And so if we think about this in terms of the market at the beginning is skeptical of something. It's skeptical of the cloud. It's skeptical of this sort of agile form of BI. But then we reached the point where it's sort of like the argument is over in public because all the early adopters have decided. They voted with their feet. But the early majority is still lagging behind and they have FOMO. They know that judgment has been rendered. "We got to go to the cloud. We got to be doing data. Okay. But what does that mean? Why? How?" And they can't ask those questions out loud because they look bad, right?

Jeff DeVerter (01:11:04): Yeah.

Rob Collie (01:11:04): There's a lot of the world like that.

Jeff DeVerter (01:11:06): Yeah. And how much of our organizations are slowed down simply because of fear of looking bad? "What does it actually mean?" I think it's a very valid question. I mean, it's a very self-aware question for an organization to at least say, "I don't know, but we know it could be better."

Rob Collie (01:11:21): And the Venn diagram of people who are willing to ask that question out loud and early adopters is almost like a perfect overlap.

Jeff DeVerter (01:11:30): I only see one circle. You're doing it wrong.

Rob Collie (01:11:32): Yeah, yeah. Can you change the focus a little bit? So yeah, it just takes a while. Even after the verdict is reached, overwhelmingly, it still takes a tremendous amount of time for that to become the norm everywhere.

Jeff DeVerter (01:11:47): It does. I'll give you a little personal Rackspace experience, and I think that it would ring true as an example for other organizations, is there needs to be that one thing. Jack Palance back in City Slickers, let's go back to another '80s movie. And he says, "You got to figure out that one thing." And for Rackspace, we underwent a really big data effort a couple or three years ago. It's about three years ago. And it was around our customer satisfaction scores, Net Promoter Score, NPS. We wanted to have greater visibility into NPS across all of our regions, all of our things. And what we realized is that internally, tell you a little secret, there wasn't a lot of trust in that number, because, as it turns out, there were like five different NPS systems running.

Rob Collie (01:12:32): Of course.

Jeff DeVerter (01:12:32): One for enterprise. One for the US. One for SMB. And so you had Rackers who were arguing, going, "Hey, our NPS is 85." "No, our NPs is 35." And they were both right because it was two different data sets. And so we got this new chief data officer, a cool new title that we find in all these organizations now, and he came in to fix it. And around the singular experience of, how do we, one, accurately know what the NPS is, and, two, can we use that with a couple other points to help predict churn, somebody's likelihood to leave Rackspace? So they came in with this whole plan. Actually they chose GCP, so all the data went off to BigQuery. It was supposed to be a nine month project. They came back in five months and went up to the customer sat team and said, "Here's where we are, and here is why."

Jeff DeVerter (01:13:17): They all looked at each other, going, "That's a number I can trust." Because these were folks who were close to the customers, close to the experience, and it was a gut check. Right. And then they could show exactly why it was right. And this is my favorite part, especially in a data project, and that is they were asked to go solve for a couple or three, four things, and nobody believed they could do it. This wasn't the first rodeo attempt to do this thing. But they said, "Good, you go do your little project." And they did go do their little project.

Jeff DeVerter (01:13:41): And they came back and it was like, "Yes, this is right. If you can tell me these five things, I got a list of 25 for you now." And thus is born a data office, a group of folks who are in charge of not just making sure that all the right sources are there, that it is accurate, that it is defined, that the right guardrails are there, they're also the ones who are creating the reports in a structured way and defining the tools to give people the tools to play in the right sandbox, to get their own data, to go from data aware, to data literate, to data fluent and affluent. But it started with that one thing, NPS. For Rackspace, it was NPS. If I was going to encourage anybody listening, "How do I start in data and unpack it?" don't think, "Data at the company." No, think, "What is that one business case I want to know more about?"

Rob Collie (01:14:24): I completely agree. Hey, for an out of the blue reconnect more than a decade later, A, I really appreciate you enthusiastically agreeing to do the show. I didn't have to talk into it.

Jeff DeVerter (01:14:36): Not at all. It was like, sign up. If Rob Collie's there, I'm there.

Rob Collie (01:14:40): We didn't miss a beat. I feel like we were just talking a couple weeks ago.

Jeff DeVerter (01:14:43): So true.

Rob Collie (01:14:44): So let's stay in touch. I'm not saying that-

Jeff DeVerter (01:14:46): I would love to.

Rob Collie (01:14:47): ... the usual fake sense. I think there is a lot of interesting things to talk about, maybe even to collaborate on.

Jeff DeVerter (01:14:56): Yeah. I'd love to get you on the live stream as well and talk. Let's take a whole-

Rob Collie (01:14:59): Oh, I got to be video. I got to be video friend-

Jeff DeVerter (01:15:01): Video. Video friend.

Rob Collie (01:15:01): ... and I got to actually find an actual camera and shit. Oh, man.

Jeff DeVerter (01:15:04): Oh, yes.

Rob Collie (01:15:04): All right. Maybe I'll do that. Yeah.

Jeff DeVerter (01:15:06): Okay.

Thomas LaRock (01:15:06): Yeah, you will.

Jeff DeVerter (01:15:06): Bring Tom along. It was great fun.

Rob Collie (01:15:08): All right. Well, hey, thank you very much. Thanks for being here.

Jeff DeVerter (01:15:11): My pleasure. I really appreciate the offer. Thank you.

Speaker 3 (01:15:13): Thanks for listening to the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive Podcast. Let the experts at P3 Adaptive help your business. Just go to Have a data day.

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