CloudBrew Episode #10

FinOps is a critical, necessary undertaking. Every company touching cloud must prioritize it, but many have questions about it.

In Episode 10 of CloudBrew, CoreStack's NextGen Cloud Governance podcast, we get real answers from someone who eats and sleeps FinOps. Mark Newton, FinOps Field CTO at TD SYNNEX, demystifies topics like where to get started, partnering with end customers, the roles of resellers and distributors, and the AWS/FinOps relationship.

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Kaylee: Hello and welcome to episode 10 of CloudBrew. For our first-time listeners, my name is Kaylee Raduenz. I lead strategic alliances for AWS here at CoreStack and we are very excited to have a very special guest. Hey, Mark, and welcome to CloudBrew. We're so excited to have you on board.

Mark: Thank you, Kaylee. Really excited to be here today with you.

Kaylee: Likewise! So, before we jump in, would you mind giving us a little background about yourself, what you do at TD Synnex and a little bit more about your previous industry experience?

Mark: Again, thank you so much for having me on today. Really excited to share with you, and so in my current role with TD Synnex, I have the honor of being field CTO for our FinOps practice. Spend most of my days with my business partner Greg Hansen working together on the messaging and the rollout and the go to market strategies around our FinOps practice and finding ways to serve better and lift them up in excellence. And in previous life, I have been in technology for 25 years about 20 as a CTO, various roles, the last 15 or so pretty major into cloud and of course with the most that you would expect with hyper cloud being AWS and a lot of fun projects though also in Azure and in GCP as well. So, I am certified as a Solutions Architect Associate as well as a FinOps certified practitioner and really excited to be talking with you today about Finops.

Kaylee: Awesome. Likewise. So just to preface to our audience, we're going to switch it up a little bit today of how this episode's going to go. Mark and I, and our extended team have been working very, very closely together. So it's really just going to be friend to friend. I'm going to grill Mark on a few questions that I think, and we think are a really hot topic these days, and it really should be all the time. But here we are and also just to get a view of a ‘Field CTO stance’ on FinOps. So, today's topic is the three most common Finops questions…So we'll fire off my first question. So FinOps we see is a big undertaking. Where do we even jump in and how does one get started?

Mark: Yeah, that's a great question, Kaylee. That's a question that I hear pretty often in various forms and in different ways. And really when I kind of think about it, it starts from the same place. So whether you're a practitioner and you're applying it within your company setting, or I'm going to call it a partner, let's talk about someone who is serving through professional services. I kind of like to hold them to the same spot. And the reason for that is I'm a big believer in not being able to just only intellectualize about a topic, but to be an actual practitioner of the topic. So, whether you're selling it through professional services or technology such as CoreStack or other things or relationships that you have, or you're actually a practitioner within your company, I think it's just really important that you have a mastery of it, minimally being able to walk the talk as they say. So that's the first place I start when I kind of think about it. From there, there's a couple of different directions you can go, but starting with finops.org obviously, you know, spend time with the website. It wouldn't take a person more than two or three or four hours at total to really consume the material. And my encouragement would be, you know, work towards your FinOps practitioner. I think it's important it demonstrates at least a general level of understanding to the world that you've taken the time to invest and know how to be able to speak and how to position the framework and how to relate that to the maturity model that it is organizationally and being able to apply it technically. So, I think that's the first thing. Again, whether you're applying it internally or you're going to go and apply it within customers, it's important to be able to demonstrate that. And then from that spot, it's just being able to understand and relate the business model, proposed context that what FinOps does. Really it's about the framework itself, the personas and their interaction with the framework itself, and then the maturation organizationally, in this crawl, walk, run, we like to call it the ‘Infinity Model’ because you're never really done with it, right? So you know, you're informing, you're optimizing and you're continuing to cycle back and through. Because you're really trying to make a cultural shift and then highlight through analytics the easiest way to come at moving the organization towards the best value return for the investment in cloud. So that's the kind of the way I think about it to start. And there there's other ways to go at it too. I'm, you know, certainly getting into how would you roll that out and how would you continue to apply it and so forth.

Kaylee: Awesome! I really love the stance of it, it’s always, it shouldn't just stop. You don't just like start and stop, right? It's always something that you should always keep conscious and in mind when you're with your company or wherever you may be. So thank you for your insights on that. So question 2, running FinOps as a partner, like a reseller, distributor, how would you think about this as a practice and profit?

Mark: Yeah, that's a that's a really good one. Again, the differences being an actual practitioner, you're not really focused on profitability of running FinOps. You really are focused on optimization and other activities that are driving the value of cloud through alignment to the business. When it comes to profitability and creating a P&L, I think there's a number of ways to come at it, and this is something we think a lot about. For example, how would you go about creating a technological stack in such a way that you're creating margin? And what would that margin look like and how would that margin relate to the value you create for your end customer? And, going even further, are the things you can do to educate your end customer or use that funding in such ways to really help them lift up their game to understand better how to apply it. And I would say I've even began to start seeing some of the pressures moving towards a lot more embracing of the authority to operate. So customers are deciding FinOps is really important, we understand it better and know better how to apply it. But we're kind of seeing this pushback that says well we don't really want to get into it. We want you guys to run it for us and think about how to do that on the daily. And then going even a little bit step further, you know, part of what FinOps talks about is cost and utilization. You know the constant push is on optimization of rate. But we're now starting to see organizations that go well, that's pretty good and all, but I don't want to look you know over my shoulder in the rearview over the last 30 days of my cost and usage, I kind of want to know in the moment like how much am I paying for things and is that moving the right direction? Or, minimally having the ability to respond to something before it blossoms into a real pain. So, we're seeing this kind of movement towards observability and being really aware through real time analytics, hey, what are my actual costs and where are those costs coming from and what decisions can I take today or what conversations need to be happening internally today in order to address them. So there is that for those organizations that really understand how to move towards that and really understand how to mature their offering for an end customer through those kinds of practices, there's a real competitive stance for being able to get out in front and drive value to their business model.

Kaylee: Yeah, awesome. Yeah. And I think its forecasting is such a big thing, right? It's, it's OK, whatever is past is past. I want to know right now what's happening, but also effectively forecasting what that looks like and essentially doing it right. So that's a huge thing. Awesome. That's super great insights. Question three, so, this is going to be a loaded question. So we've, I've been hearing it. We've been hearing it. I'm sure you're hearing it on your side. Cloud vendors have been pretty quiet about FinOps as a whole. Is it a bad idea to embrace FinOps when big cloud vendors are less vocal about it? So that'll be my first portion. And then the second one would be, have you seen a cloud vendor that has been more vocal than others?

Mark: Wow, that's again, Kaylee, really an intelligent question. I think the first answer is no, don't stand back just because cloud vendors have been a little bit slower or a little bit different in how they react to it. I mean, the reality is this is a global movement. You know, when I first started participating in FinOps a few years back, I think there were less than maybe three or four thousand practitioners at that point. And just clip 10,000 and it's only what, 2-3 years in at this point, formally. So it's definitely under way. It's definitely important. The vast majority of Fortune 100 already participate in FinOps. So it's not like you would be behind the curve. You might be early, but you're really not that early. And unfortunately, with, you know the way the push of recession and concerns about costs and profit headwinds and so forth, the conversations have myopically been going towards well, we need to get our costs down, get the cost down, get them down, get them down. And while that's an OK spot to start a conversation around FinOps and definitely integral to running a good FinOps practice. It's not the only reason for FinOps to exist. So, I would encourage someone that's thinking that way to go, well, OK, we should be involved in FinOps because, yeah, we want to reduce our cost, but it's not the only reason we want to be involved in FinOps. You know, we don't want to out save our competition. We want to outperform our competition, which means we invest in the right ways, and we do that better. So part of that function is, you know, spending money in the right way and cost optimization. serves that. So yeah, I would say definitely be involved and have I seen any one cloud solution more than another step forward. I mean, Azure recently joined finops.org a few months back and they had their particular take which I think is very valuable. AWS has been talking about this since before Finops was an org. So you know a core to the six pillars. I think all of the cloud providers could agree to the six pillars and performing things in a well architected manner. To be secure and to be optimized and so forth. And I think, you know, regardless of the level of conversation, it's still very germane, it's still very important and all of the cloud providers very much care about where FinOps is going. And I think we'll, I think we have some interesting times ahead. It would be fun to see how things continue to unfold going into the year. Supposedly there are some announcements to come. So that would be a lot of fun to see how that happens.

Kaylee: Yeah, I imagine, I mean you and I, we just live and breathe FinOps, every day. I can speak from my experience working with AWS. Love all the cloud vendors, love it. My world is AWS and FinOps is an everyday conversation. So I imagine you're experiencing the same thing with the cloud.

Mark: It is. It is an everyday conversation and the energy and the focus around how to best apply the practices and as long standing as they've been, there's always advancements and so you know, cloud financial management has been a longstanding term. And I think the continual development of tools against cloud financial management are phenomenal. CoreStack is one of them. Love CoreStack! And I think it's really cool that cloud solution providers are playing along so well and so nicely. It really helps to support the whole industry around getting insight into cost and into utilization and how to drive better agility and produce a value. I love it.

Kaylee: And there you guys got it, everyone. Directly from a Field CTO around FinOps. So Mark, fantastic! Thank you so much for being on today. I do have one more question. I promise it's the last one. So last but not least, I always like to end our episodes to ask our guests what would be the key takeaways from the episode that you'd like our audience to take away from our discussion today, like a call to action or what should you take back from our episode today?

Mark: Again, another great question. Well, you're full of great questions, Kaylee, I feel like I should have prepared better for you. This is great. This is really good. Key takeaways, get active, get involved, take responsibility for your, and ownership, for your learning around FinOps. There are a lot of things happening on the daily around FinOps in the conversation. So I think that's the first thing. The second thing would be, understand your customers well and keep them front and center. I mean that's not going to change regardless of FinOps, regardless of DevOps, SecOps or Dev-SecOPS, or any other future advancements. Again, keep the customer front and center. And so, in my history, never been about the technology, it's always been about the customer. So, understanding them well, understanding their model well, understanding how to serve them well, always up front and center and everything after that will just come along naturally. So that would be my 2 encouragements for the takeaway from our conversation today.

Kaylee: Awesome! Thank you, Mark. So big thank you. I know I've said thank you probably 50 times on this, this episode. So again, last but not least, thank you. Thank you for joining. And we are so happy to be partnered with TD Synnex. And ofcourse thank you to our listeners for listening. And please subscribe to hear more content. We're on Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, iTunes, Audible. Until next time. Thanks Mark.

Mark: Thank you, Kaylee. I really enjoyed it.

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