Next Stop… The Open Cloud

Sign-posts-Contact-info

Most of my conversation partners on Twitter know that this past Friday was my last day of employment, after 2+ years, at VCE.  I am grateful for and humbled by the number of now former colleagues who expressed their well-wishes and thanked me for the contributions I made to the VCE community.  There were also a number of folks who expressed varying degrees of surprise and asked me, “Why leave and why now?”  Both are very valid questions given the momentum VCE has created as the leading Converged Infrastructure platform in the industry.

A core tenet I live by in evaluating the trajectory of  my career is this… assuming I am able to make enough money to take care of my family, the single most important thing for me to maintain is passion for what I do.  And over the years, I’ve tested myself in this area by asking these two questions:

  1. Am I passionate about the community of people I work with?  I.e. the question of culture.Passion_0
  2. Am I passionate about the technology and tasks I am asked to take on?

After asking myself those questions for 6 months, I came to do the decision that it was time to move on from VCE and to pursue a new path.  That is why I now find myself writing this blog post on a flight down to Texas.  Monday, I begin my new journey as an Open Cloud Architect at Rackspace.

rackspace_logo_2Rackspace Culture

While the OpenStack technology and an intriguing job description is what first led me to begin the interview process with Rackspace, it was the company culture I heard about, the people I met, and the folks I follow on Twitter that sealed the deal for me.

  • The people – I’ve always strived to work in companies with really smart people from whom I can learn and be challenged.  One of the first things I noticed, during the interview process, was how sharp everyone was at Rackspace.  The quality of the people I met has been every bit as high as the vArchitects and Engineers I worked with at VCE.  This is no faint praise given the high regard with which I hold my former colleagues.  I am excited about the conversations I will have, the whiteboard sessions I will participate in, and the varying ways we will work together to serve our customers and the Rackspace community.  Along the way, I also expect to have fun, food, and drinks with my fellow Rackers.
  • The Community – Beyond the character and intelligence of the folks I met, what also drew me to Rackspace was the sense of community and collaboration that was palatable within the company.  I’ve always place a premium on collaboration and working together with others to create awesome sauce.  For me knowledge is most valuable when shared openly with others in community, not used as a means to gain leverage over your colleagues.  This sharing of knowledge, appropriately done, includes those “outside” the immediate Rackspace tribe since they are members of the wider Rackspace community.  The goal is to positively influence customers through education and not through FUD or by assumed leadership by virtue of market share. During my interview process and throughout my research, I found the Rackspace culture to be one that seem to embody these values and I look forward to working at a company where this type of openness and collaboration is encouraged and valued.
  • Fanatical Support – One of the values I most appreciated about VCE was its commitment to support their customers and so I focused on interviewing with companies that had the same commitment.  Rackspace clearly stood out for their “Fanatical Support” and willingness to own a customer’s issues from beginning to end.  In an industry where hardware and software are quickly becoming commoditized, I see our level of service and support as a huge differentiator in the marketplace.

The Open Cloud Architect Missionopenstack-logo-5122

It’s understandable why many only think of managed hosting or the OpenStack Project when they think of Rackspace.  However, I actually view Rackspace as being a pioneer and enabler in the transformation of IT into a provider of services.  My role will be a combination of pre-sales, consulting, and technical marketing.  Why are these roles important to the role of a Cloud Architect?  As I’ve opined in the past, albeit briefly, Cloud Computing is not primarily about a technology solution but an operational model.  This operational model involves a cultural shift (some may call it DevOps) that utilizes ITaaS enabling technologies, like OpenStack, Puppet and Chef, for the purpose of helping IT more effectively enable the goals of  the Business (More on how all this fits together in an upcoming post).

  • Pre sales – On the Cloud platform and tools front, I will have the opportunity to work with and to advise customers on arguably the fastest growing open-source project in history.  I will have much more to share, in the future, about OpenStack and how customers can leverage it to create Private, Hybrid, and Federated Clouds.  And all of it in the service of enabling the Business to drive maximum value out of their IT spend.  My 2+ years of experience at VCE has confirmed to me that the future of Cloud Computing is not in closed, proprietary platforms but in open cloud platforms, such as OpenStack or CloudStack.  In upcoming posts, I will lay out exactly why I believe OpenStack is the best solution to choose and why Rackspace is the vendor best positioned to deliver on the promise of OpenStack and the Open Cloud.
  • Consulting – One of the most attractive aspects of coming over to the Rackspace Cloud team was the understanding they had that this is not really about just selling a cool product.  Again, it’s about helping customers transform their IT organizations to be more agile and service-oriented through cultural change, agile methodologies, and automation and Cloud platform tools.  It is my conviction that Rackspace is at the forefront of this transformation and can become a trusted advisor of choice for customers large and small, who grasp the need for change.
  • Technical Marketing – There is little dispute that there is still confusion in the market about what constitutes Cloud Computing.  As I’ve written before, far too many customers mistakenly equate Cloud Computing with merely a virtualized infrastructure that is fronted by a web portal.  To me, that constitutes a huge failure or outright Cloud-washing on the part of many traditional IT vendors.  I’ve been impressed with Rackspace and the other vendors that are part of the OpenStack community, in terms of how much effort they’ve put into educating end-users; however, still more needs to be done and I am looking forward to assisting our Rackspace Cloud Evangelist team in any way I can, through training, documentation, blogging, conference participation, etc..

I will be in San Antonio and Austin all this week, to kick off my new journey and to meet with many of my fellow Rackers.  I am looking forward to renewing my passion for technology and being stretched in new ways as I look to contribute as much as I can to this great community that has been built-up around the Open Cloud movement.  To borrow a rallying cry from my former employer… GAME ON!

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6 comments

  1. I’m glad you were finally able to share this news. It certainly helps give some context to your increasingly critical comments over the last couple months. As someone who fielded many a back-channel question asking what was going on, I’ll definitely be pointing people here for answers! 🙂

    Life is a collection of calculated risks, sometimes we have to pick our pitch and swing hard. As always, I wish you the best and good luck on this new journey!

  2. Jeramiah,

    Thank you. To be honest, I will be critical of all parties when it is warranted and praise when it is deserved. That’s goes for OpenStack, CloudStack, AWS, VMware, etc.. Just going to call it like it is. 🙂

  3. Hi Ken,

    Glad you’ve found a new passion with OpenStack. I think that will keep you busy for a while. Best luck with your new job at Rackspace!

    Steve

  4. Congrats Ken. Sounds like you know exactly what you are getting into over at Rax. You’re going to learn a ton and if you fit into the culture a long career there as well.

  5. Two words: food trucks 😉

    Congrats again!

  6. […] two great communities, OpenStack and VMware.  When I announced my switch to Rackspace last year, I wrote about following my passion and I find that what I wrote then still resonates […]

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