CloudBrew Episode #12

How important are cloud assessments for end customers?

Where is the industry at in terms of manual vs. automated assessments?

What’s the partner perspective on all of it?

In Episode 12 of CloudBrew, CoreStack's NextGen Cloud Governance podcast, we get a real-world partner perspective on assessments. Qasim Akhtar, Founder and CEO of Cloudelligent, joins our own Tobey Amy, Director of Partner Development at CoreStack, to talk about the assessment advantage, co-selling, AWS, partnership tips, and much more.

Discover how our NextGen Cloud Governance platform brings together FinOps, SecOps, and CloudOps solutions so you can Cloud with Confidence.

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Kaylee: And welcome back to another episode of CloudBrew. For our first-time listeners, my name is Kaylee Raduenz and I am on the Strategic Alliances team here at CoreStack. And for our returning guests, welcome back and let's get into it. So, today's topic is, it's really looking into a partner perspective. So, partner’s perspective and the importance of assessments to our end customers, which is that full value, right? I am so excited to have two new guests to the podcast. So before we get into the meat of things, I want to give the opportunity for them to introduce themselves. Qasim, do you want to kick it off for us today?

Qasim: Thank you, Kaylee. Really excited to be here. Again, my name is Qasim Akhtar, founder and CEO of Cloudelligent. Cloudelligent is an AWS advanced consulting partner. And we basically focus more on startups and NSMBs, and looking at their workload and making sure that we have an optimized workload running for them on cloud at all times.

Kaylee: What do you do at Cloudelligent? Give us some background, give us a beat!

Qasim: Jack of all trades, right! I help with, coming to a bit of a background, right, so I have a more technical background. I worked at Toyota, recently, in the last life as a cloud architect. And in Capital One. So, my experience has been with migration, modernization and management of these workflows and AWS. So, bringing that into cloud elegant has been an amazing journey. Overall, I create solution design. You know work with business development team for go to market strategies and then you know talking to customers and understanding what are their pain points and how can we actually work with them to drive that value right as part of our service delivery. So that's what is involved in my role, but you know, you can, you can kind of like encapsulate that in multiple ways.

Kaylee: Jack of all trades. I really love that. All right, Tobey, you're next up.

Tobey: All right, so my name is Tobey Amy. I'm a partner development manager here at CoreStack. I've actually been in the AWS ecosystem since 2016, where I've been helping partners build AWS practices from the ground up. I've had the privilege of working with Qasim and Dwayne and Cloudelligent for quite a few years now and really excited about our partnership with them here at CoreStack and being able to drive us strong to go to market strategy that's going to drive pipeline and you know resell and services and just a really good experience for the customer and the partner as well.

Kaylee: Awesome. OK, audience, you heard it first. We got some really talented people on our podcast today. So ok, let's get into the meat of it. So ok, let's kick it off. So, assessments can mean many things in the CoreStack world. It can be the famous well architected reviews. It could be financial operations specific. It can be SecOps specific. But I really want to get, you know, back to the topic and the partner perspective. You guys live and breathe the well architected review. So can you give me some insights on what you're seeing in the cloud world and how you're kind of working with CoreStack to kind of automate that process?

Qasim: No great question Kaylee. So first off, we've been running well architected for a good amount of time now, but what has changed for us is really the flow of providing as a service delivery, right. So working with CoreStack platform and actually leveraging the automation and auto discovery has been huge value back to our customers. Going back, you know initially when we started running this, you know it would take us a couple of weeks right and back and forth with the customers on these questions and understanding their pain points. And then you know putting up as a proposal or as a statement of work to kind of like reviewing all of those, right, capturing after capturing all that data, gathering all that data. It's a lot easier now because that time frame has been now shortened up to almost a week. We're meeting up with the customer, you know, first session is mostly about understanding their pain points, understanding their perspective, why they want to actually run a well architecture, right, because there could be multiple different reasons whether that's performance, whether that's security, right? Whether that's maybe a new compliance they're working towards, right? And this would help them achieve that. And then actually running the session, right. It's an easy plug and play for us where we bring in CoreStack, integrate the platform with the workload and then you know go through a deep dive session which takes us no more than two hours. Where also depending on the customer, right? Some customers would want to go really comprehensive and some want to kind of like just hit the high level of the, you know maybe they're more interested in just the security pillar or maybe they're more interested in just the cost optimization, right, depending on the pain points that we have captured originally. And then just you know jumping on one last time to kind of talk about what we've gathered using the CoreStack platform. One of the best things that I've seen is really hitting down to that specific S3 bucket that is not encrypted right or that that resource that that someone created within the environment and you know was left off and no one knew until they came up in the report. So it has been a huge value back to the customers running these assessments.

Tobey: I think like from a sales perspective, selfishly because, and I work with you guys, I think you know the other advantage I've seen for you guys and I say this all the time. So if you listen to me or you spend time with me, you know that this is my thing. But as a seller the hardest thing to get is a meeting. So when you're leading with well architected, you know you're really also using it as a way to go to market and a way to get new customers and have a very meaningful conversation. Because when I come to that meeting with all the facts and figures of your environment and I'm able to point exactly to what's wrong and exactly how we're going to fix it and use funding and speed the process up. You know that's very valuable and you can't deny facts. So you know it's going to make it very easy to position your services, your resell, MSP service. So it really just broadens that whole co-sell and go to market for us as well.

Kaylee: Yeah, I think you know go to market and co-sell obviously are really a main value or one, two or three within I guess the goals that we strive when we call a ‘partnership’, right. And it can mean many things. And so, I think it's really wanting to dive into the collaboration of what both these parties have done. And to be completely frank, just being kind of on the outside, seeing what Cloudelligent is doing and what Tobey and our PDM team is doing, doing with our partners is you guys are really unlocking that secret, that secret sauce that really shows, “hey, this is a partnership”, but it's not just step one and it's one and done. It's really a full life cycle and it continues on and that's really where you see that value of partnership, right. Do you guys have any weigh-ins on that? I think that's just kind of my two cents from what I've seen.

Tobey: No, 100%. I've always told these guys like you know and we've always when we get on the phone, it's not about selling CoreStack, it's about building a solution together and driving that solution and then everything else comes behind that, right? Cloudelligent, CoreStack, it's all packaged. So we tend to focus on the solutions and that's the beauty of this partnership is yeah, we're starting with well architected, but guess what, in a couple quarters we might start focusing on FinOps or SecOps, right? The CoreStack tool allows us to really carve out different go to market methods. But really starting and focusing with well architected has been very successful for these guys.

Qasim: Yeah, I agree with Toby, right. So from day one it has been what is the value it's going to, you know it's gonna drive for a Cloudelligent customer, right. And what are we looking for, whether it was right after demo once we started looking into it, I think and a lot of that is that go to market strategy that we have with CoreStack, right. It has been apart from CoreStack being a great partner since we have established that partnership, we're able to jointly target those customers, right, running joint campaigns or it could be you know when the technical resources are available directly to us, when we are, if we see any issues or you know whenever we are assisting customers with our demos, right. It has been huge. Apart from that the marketing portal, the team, marketing team is leveraging the co-branded materials, right. All of that has been part of this larger partnership and go-to-market strategy that we have with CoreStack and it's been huge.

Kaylee: And Qasim, you just segwayed into my next question that I was thinking about. It’s always tying it back to the end customer, right! I think that is our main view, is making sure we are solving mutual customer pain points. So I want to get your insights on it's more than just an assessment, right It's, it's streamlining value and different avenues when we are working with our end customers. Can you give me more insights on it is more than just an assessment and what you've seen in the past and working with your end customers?

Qasim: Yeah, definitely. I think predominantly well architected in the past we've seen with customers they've either leveraged it for really understanding where their workload stands right now comes to for example in AWS we're running it against six pillars that is part of AWS world active framework. And overall the value that customers are looking for is like you know, we're going for our next product lifecycle phase, we're releasing our next product or it could be a next increment of the release of their product, major or minor. This helps them. It's a way of helping them analyze where their workload is at that point before going live, right. And at the same time, we've seen customers who have never run that well architected before and they're already in production environment and it gives them an idea of you know what are the things that were missed, whether it's performance, whether it's operational, whether it's security costs, right. There are different opportunities that they always look at which goes back into their backlog right into the spring able to work upon. So it's a great set of lenses they get out of this world architected framework. At the end of the day, and yes, there's obviously that 5K you know credit back to the customer. It's always good to have that especially in the down economy. But overall, it's actually it's a good direction setting for or the product team or the engineering team to look at where they are with their workload and what are the optimizations do they need for their product lifecycle.

Tobey: Yeah. And I think to piggyback on that, you know from that's definitely a good from Cloudelligent I think the CoreStack layered on top of that when you join Cloudelligent billing program or you become one of their customers, you get a free license of CoreStack. So in addition to this customer alignment and really augmenting and being an extension of Amazon. The additional benefits that come with it on top of a well-architected review, you know and cost savings and then watching over it. But also giving you a license of CoreStack which has a cost of its own and being able to actually use that as well to manage your environment and give your end users the autonomy to do their job without having to worry about it might not well architected is my cost out of control security not aligned up. So I I just want to add that because I think there's more there when you tie it back to the customer from the CoreStack side that as well.

Qasim: Yeah, it's a continuous cycle as well, right. So it's not one and done deal, right. You run that assessment and I've seen customers where you know they're too busy with their product lifecycle where they're not able to work on all of those pillars at the same time. So they might run one this quarter and they're ready for another one and they're focused on another pillar next quarter. So you know having that tool always available to you, right. As always good one as Tobey mentioned right. You get that as part of our services and you know we onboard our customers as we onboarded our engineers. So we're looking at a single pane of glass, all of those issues that we can jointly optimize.

Kaylee: Yeah, I think something that always resonates, and I think our marketing team came up with this and it's very specific to our SecOps. But it's you're only as compliant as the last time you checked. So I really loved how you said it's not a one and done thing. It’s a continuous thing. You always want to make sure you are well architected throughout your journey, you're expanding, you're scaling. So I really loved how you guys tied that back together. So have one more question or thought for both of you and I think you guys had really closed it out really well. I always like to end these types of episodes is what is a key takeaway or what is something that when our audience is done listening, what do you want them to take away from this episode? And I'll let you guys both weigh in because I think you guys have really unique ways to look at that. So I'll let you guys take that on.

Qasim: Sure. So my thought process is existing customers and future customers, you know CTO's, VPs of Engineering and Products, they're, look, they're talking about their next release or next product cycle and as they're planning for their fiscal year, right. So my call to action for them is, you know, maybe this is the time you actually do a well architected session, right. And take a look at how can you actually prioritize some of that workload along with your product features right. Or if you're a customer, you know built on AWS or have a SAS product that you've never done well architected before, maybe this is the right time to actually do that, right. Talk to Cloudelligent and talk to CoreStack and then we'll add you to our backlog and you get it going.

Tobey: Yeah. I think it’s seamless. It's quick, it's painless. But the results are really beneficial to any organization and considering the credits and stuff it could be low cost. You know these guys are gonna do everything they can to save you money, which is very critical right now. But I think Qasim’s right. Follow up with the assessment. It's never too late. You'd be surprised that the stuff we find sometimes. I'm serious, there's like, holy cow, I didn't realize I had this huge instance running and it's costing me $30,000 a month. Didn't even know it. Like there's those types of stories happen all the time and it goes across all the pillars. So definitely engaged. It's risk free. It doesn't cost you anything. And I think the benefits will definitely show itself.

Kaylee: Awesome. All right. I think this ends it. So a big thank you to you guys. We really could not have this podcast without our great guests. So a big, big thank you to you guys. A big thank you to our listeners. As always, how I end it, If you guys want to listen to more content, please subscribe. We're on the top streaming platforms. SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Audible, we're all on there. So until then, we'll see you again.

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