Join Eveline Oehrlich and Kumar Chivukula, co-founder and CTO of Opsera, to discuss the CTO role, the first no-code DevOps orchestration platform and no-code versus low-code.
Kumar is an experienced IT and Operations leader, with experience accelerating digital transformation and business growth with a customer-first mindset at companies like Adobe and Symantec.
Today, he is the co-founder and CTO of Opsera, driving the mission to help companies deliver software fast, safe, and secure via disruptive DevOps solutions.
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Kumar Chivukula 00:17
expectations from the prospects and customers are huge, because they expect everything to them yesterday. It’s very hard and even though you want to do it, but sometimes you need to understand balance between what is possible versus what is not possible. And sometimes you have to say no.
Eveline Oehrlich 00:34
Welcome to our humans of DevOps podcast titled with no code into the future. Today, we have with us a very esteemed thought leader in the topic, continuous orchestration. Our special guest is Kumar Chiku. Tula. I hope I said your name correctly Kumar Hello.
Kumar Chivukula 00:53
Yes, how are you?
Eveline Oehrlich 00:54
I’m fine. How are you?
Kumar Chivukula 00:57
I’m good. Thanks for having having me. I really appreciate your time and opportunity to talk to you.
Eveline Oehrlich 01:02
Yes, excited for you to be with us today. Let me give our listeners a little bit of a background. And then of course, I’ll open it up to you because you might want to add something. So Kumar is an experienced it and operations leader with experience accelerating digital transformation and business growth. With a customer-first mindset at companies like Adobe and Symantec. I think that’s where you were before. Today, he or you is the co founder and CTO of UB Sarah, driving the mission to help companies deliver software fast, safe and secure by a disruptive DevOps solutions. All of that sounds fantastic. So thank you again, Kumar, welcome and glad that you’re here. Thanks for taking time out of your I’m sure busy day. The first question of course, before we get started, if our listeners who are of course roles like DevOps engineers, app dev, folks, security people, individuals, contributors, leaders, give them about the 10,000 foot level of what does appsero really do?
Kumar Chivukula 02:16
Absolutely, thank you. So if you look at the current market, right, DevOps is nothing new. It’s been there for quite some time, the recent explosion of the digital transformation of all the kinds of press companies and multi cloud adoption, and the technological changes that is happening in the cloud, the way the rapid pace and the rapid pace. Like way the cloud evolved from easy to instances, to the containers to the micro services to the server less plus all the languages, it’s very hard for enterprises to keep up with existing the software delivery management, it’s very complex. It’s resource intensive, and it’s challenging for them to keep up with agility, velocity, and then also visibility. If you talk about like CTOs and CIOs and CTOs like care for agility velocity based on our survey, and then CISOs, and CIOs cares for care for the visibility, governance doesn’t mean that they don’t care what other things they do. But at the highest level, that’s what it is to solve the problem of how can we continue to help agility velocity for the CTOs and CEOs visibility and governance, and based on the practical challenges that we’ve seen and the challenges that we see in the current market and the gaps we started Apsara is that continuous orchestration platform, what we do is we like, as you rightfully said, in the early part of the introduction, our mission and goal is to enable and empower enterprise companies to make their software delivery faster, better and secure. It’s a very broad, bold statement loaded statement, I’ll just quickly unpack that. Our goal is to continue to protect existing investment of the current enterprise companies. And when we mean by the current investment, because people already invested in the DevOps in the last three, four years, we want to make sure that we invest we continue to protect investment, and using our platform, accelerate the DevOps and Dev SEC of journey in will, whether it be any cloud or whether it be AWS, Azure GCP, or running in on prem, or working across any technology stack or tool. So it just some summarize it together. Our goal is to we continue to work with their existing customers and have them keep the existing tool stack and build the new code pipelines, which is one of the one of the value proposition where they don’t have to worry about building the pipelines manually curate them and manage them at scale as well and providing the end to end visibility with respect to governance and where visibility with respect to doing more with less. And that’s the that’s that’s what we do. And think about for the lack of better way to say that the way the sales force solve the problem for the salespeople. We want our opposite of platform we go and vision is to make make it easy for the developers using offshore platform as well.
Eveline Oehrlich 04:51
So what I heard you say is that you are protecting existing investments which is great because we do know we are in a challenging situation right across the world budgets aren’t growing as much, I think between all the different analysts is about maybe 5% or so in software and in services. So that’s great orchestration means to some extent you are making and bringing things together, which allows folks to actually improve their speed, reduce toil, and improve the reliability and security of the services. So I think that’s probably an excellent, high level summary. Now, you are yourself a CTO, CTO in a software company. Many of our listeners probably have their own CTOs within their companies, but they’re not in software. But as a CTO in a software company, what does that mean? What do you do on a day to day basis?
Kumar Chivukula 05:49
Yeah, it’s the title wise is the the next startup company, we wear multiple hats, and from the from the taking a step back and talk about what we do. Probably I’ll give my two cents. And I may not be the true for everybody, but in the startup and working on a day to day basis, building the product and setting the guidance and vision. And those are the high level responsibilities of CTO making sure that but I’ll explain that in general, what I see. So as a CTO, your job is to look at the future, look at the current pain points of the customers and make sure that that the current technology stack, also that the platform is aligning to that and making sure that it is solving the problem, the biggest thing is on top of the product, managing the product and technology roadmap, we the CTO job is to make sure that alignment between sales, marketing and product engineering is very important, because it’s very, otherwise, the CTO cannot just go and build a team build the product and technology. And next thing you know is after building the product into the platform, there’s no one to sell it and no one to understand what it is. And alignment is absolutely critical. And that is one of the biggest responsibility Besides building and managing the technology stack and looking at Division, looking at the innovation and whatnot. But that’s the second set. The second thing. Third thing is making sure that right people, right people are in place to manage this thing because CTO themselves as a city, we can’t solve everything, you can only solve so much. But you need to have a right set of people who are managing the product, etc. People who are managing the engineering, and then your reliability engineering SAS platform, and you need to have a proper team that manages architecture and design. So otherwise, it’s very difficult to bring it together and scale the platform as well. Their highest level in the people in the product, people process technology, and CTO plays a role in all of them in the initial stages of the company, it’s mostly around product and people. And then when you start to grow into this one, and it becomes a more process, and then the technology comes into play along the way as well. So
Eveline Oehrlich 07:53
So you actually, and your role are an orchestrator yourself, not just that your company does work in the orchestration, you actually have the role of an orchestrator as well amongst the different functions within your within your organization. Now, you mentioned people and processes, of course, people is the most important one and where I want to go a little bit further, when you think about your day to day job as CTO, I’m curious, what challenges do you face relative to some of the people in the culture either within your organization? Or what do you see within your installed base or to clients? Because you said you do a lot of I’m assuming you’re doing a lot of conversations with prospects and clients? What challenges do you have and see, relative to the human side and the culture?
Kumar Chivukula 08:45
Yeah, the expectations from the prospects and customers are huge, right? Because they expect everything we done yesterday, it’s very hard and even though you want to do it, but sometimes you need to understand balance between what is possible versus what is not possible. And sometimes you have to say no and hard to say no in the middle of the conversation. But we need to find a way to establish the relationship and explain to the prospect and customer in terms of like how they can need to align and how they need to think through this one. Not everything needs to be done yesterday, not everything is important. The prioritization, alignment with respect to customer and also employees is one of the biggest challenge that happens for many of the companies. Once you have that alignment initial stages, it becomes easier but as and when we add more customers, things are going to improve. But once you build MVP once you have a product market fit once you establish the go-to-market fit it the journey becomes easier, which isn’t we have an inflection stage of product market fit to go to market fit and the initial stages were building the product and headstone, building the product and we’re focusing on code to coding and testing and validating and making sure the product is ready. And then continue to add bells and whistles on top of it and add security and add reliability, scalability, a bunch of other features. That’s where the journey comes in. But the core product of core philosophy is not going to change. The challenges are associated with it in terms of like aligning the, the customer vision opposite, the opposite of vision aligning customers. And also making sure that our team is aligned to that is one of the critical component of the CTO job. Because without that, it will be very hard, very hard for either of the people to understand why we’re not seeing why we say no, or why we saying yes, people are not going to be happy when you say yes to the customer come back with an update, hey, we have to develop this new feature new capability new, our new offering, and they want to understand why and why not and what’s ROI, what’s the rate of return on investment, these are the things we have to invest, and we have to manage them. Because you don’t want to build it for one customer, right, and you don’t want to accumulate technical debt, you want to be very careful, managing the technical debt in the company, and especially SAS company is very, very challenging and very difficult as well. But if you have to have build the culture in a way, you continue to draw the line, what is the what what is the part of the product? What is not? What is the core versus context? Once you do that becomes easier conversation for, for having the challenges with challenge the conversation with the customer, also with the employees as well.
Eveline Oehrlich 11:06
Great, I love what you said core versus context, sometimes, in my role as an industry analysts, which is my second job. When I go into briefings with some of my vendor clients, they forget to share core, they only share context. And that makes it sometimes very difficult. And then one other thing you said, MVP, or minimum viable product, I heard something just recently, which I really have adopted. I’m going to call it a minimal lovable product instead of a minimal viable product. Some of the enterprise clients loved when he suggested that. Excellent, great.
Kumar Chivukula 11:44
Now a good minimum lovable product.
Eveline Oehrlich 11:46
Yeah, that’s a new a new vocab. I mean, I’m sure you heard about
Kumar Chivukula 11:51
it before. Yeah,
Eveline Oehrlich 11:52
I think I leveraged the aka stolen from somebody else. But I don’t I cannot remember. So I cannot give that person credit. All right. So um, Sarah was founded, I believe, in 2020. And with a vision, as you mentioned, software developers and DevOps teams to achieve faster software delivery through an orchestration platform and did some research, of course on ops era. And I’m not a stranger to you, because I covered or looked at, at your solution. When I was doing research as an industry analysts. Looking at it, you’re the first no code, DevOps orchestration platform. So give us a little bit more context in terms of, again, that orchestration platform, and particularly in terms of no code, right, because I think that’s really what’s intriguing with regards to our listeners, because sometimes folks are a little bit afraid to say no code, what do you mean, you’re replacing me? And others are saying, yes, that’s great, because I can actually do additional work which I can get to when I have an orchestration platform. So that’s kind of the backdrop of my question.
Kumar Chivukula 13:00
Yeah, thank you for the question is a really good question, actually. So there’s always misconception about the no code and low code and this whole concept, right? So when we talk about no code, it’s more not about replacing people, it’s about enhancing the ability of the existing DevOps team and making sure that they accelerate the journey, because otherwise, you end up doing that, in our survey, about 30 40% of the time they’re managing the tools and managing the pipelines. It’s nothing wrong with it, but is it really impeding them for them to help developers innovate and shipping things faster, which is not a good thing as well as evaluate. another data point is based on IBM and Gartner survey that was done in 2019 2020. This was again, two, three years back 15 to 18% of the code that was written by the most of the companies doesn’t see light at the end of the tunnel, because it is all done for internal development, nothing that has been for customer. Imagine that 15 to 20% of the time that has been gone, invested by the people, and the company is not generating the value that is a product to the loss for the company and revenue loss and opportunity loss. How can we have them focus on things that they can help the company bottom line, and also help accelerate the journey and make sure that they continue to stay current with the technology, right? So if you look at that, do those things then apcera will come as a like for It’s like another smart chatbot or smart Mini and for them like where they can continue to accelerate the journey by leveraging opposite orchestration platform. How do we do that we as a core principle of apcera, we want to build reusable micro services in the platform when what we mean reusable micro services so that when we build a micro service, or a petrol function, we want to make sure that it scales across many and many enterprise customers. So as a in our in order orchestration platform, we have three modules. One is tools and automation. Second one is no code pipelines. Third one is unified insights. We we explained previously, tool chain automation will help the enterprise customer to protect their eggs Testing investment by bringing the tools together, once they bring the tools together using local pipelines within the local pipelines, what we have is we built a bunch of integrations in a microservices format. All the enterprise customers have to do it instead of them worrying about the right and the glue code integration code, or like Jenkins file, or maybe writing the glue, groovy scripts that were maybe custom in scripts what they have, they can leverage the existing microservices that we have, and be able to build them as a part of Lego set, we are given the Lego set, the DevOps team still have to conceptually, the their, their own car, and to drive it the Release car, right, we’re not stopping them, we’re not going to drive the car for them, they have to drive it, that’s still the responsibility of ops, what we’re doing is instead of them building the car, then all by themselves, we’re enabling them to build the car glue to the reusable microservices, so that they can make the journey faster, better and secure. And then last, but not least in doing so they get to see the visibility aspect of it. So for the for them to achieve all of them in a scale. It’s very cumbersome and difficult. You need to have a ton of people to managing it like in my previous life, and both Symantec and Adobe, and we used to spend a boat to the world’s largest software publishers, as you guys know, we spend about 60% of the money that you spend on people and 40 personal tools. It’s the Yep, it’s not easy for every company to scale, invest that much money. And then there’s that many resources, we’re talking about scale in the lines of poleetical. If a million dollars per year just on software delivery management, I’m not talking about software development, software delivery management. So to bring it together, the no code pipelines, what we talk about is like we give you the templates, within the templates, you have reasonable micro services, we let enable the enterprise enterprise customers to take the templates build the templates for their own use cases, whether it be sblc, which is a software development lifecycle that includes across multiple languages, multiple technology stacks, means stack, Java stack, dotnet, stack, and so on. So forth, are SAS DevOps, which is Salesforce, snowflake, Informatica, Adobe Experience Manager, APG and so on, so forth, which is it DevOps. And the third one is about intra intra as a code, all three things can be possible by layer in the quality security gates, we have a deeper integration to security stack and quality stack as well, which is included that includes from the code time the code commit is done, we want to make sure that we scan for secret keys passwords, and ensure that no vulnerabilities are there. No known vulnerabilities are there in the builds and deployments, and the dynamic code analysis and making sure the containers that are running, fully secured known vulnerabilities are not there, or any any VMs are being deployed that vulnerability management, we can also scan them. So having these things as a security hygiene as part of the CI CD pipelines along with quality hygiene, we’ll help them make the software delivery faster, but also make it secure, and also improve the quality security posture significantly for them. So imagine that we don’t have any of these things, they have to do it with hundreds 10s of people plus a person leaves, and the second person wants to come in, we do it all over again, because they don’t want to talk to the code, again understood a lot, but just bring it back, we have the new code pipelines. What we mean by that is not to replace people. It’s about enhancing the existing journey that they have, by taking the templates and the reusable micro services help them build the pipelines at scale across SDLC SAS DevOps in Frazer code.
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Eveline Oehrlich 18:57
Sounds like this actually will make if I am in the software delivery role, my job a lot more fun, because I do remember conversations with software developers who say, I really like my job most of the time. But there are a few aspects of it, which are really not fun. And I don’t look forward to those. And I think you as you just described some of those tasks, if they are like a cookbook or a playbook or a template, allow me to actually step out of the mundane tasks and allow myself to actually bring things together. That’s one of the biggest challenge we see. And we found when we did our upskilling that folks are really starting to disengage with in connecting, not connecting with what they’re doing because some of the work they’re doing is just not as challenging and creative. So I see lots of opportunities there now. Low code, and or no code All right, what’s the difference? I think the
Kumar Chivukula 20:04
there is a slight difference. And basically how we want to use it. It’s sometimes it’s marketing term and buzzwords in the industry. But low code or no code development is like, for example, locode is called Give an example of low code, like in the case of where some tasks that needs to be done repeated way. And, for example, you want to collect a application particularly, like, I’ll just give an example of the DevOps, you want to be in a position to repeatedly use your static code analysis step across all CI CD pipelines, you can do the low code, or no code way, low code way is nothing but you just write a minimal code that can work work across various tasks and leave it as part of the your stepper microservice and create a template and use it across multiple multiple pipelines. And that way, you know what to expect, what are the conditions, what are the thresholds, what are the gates and so on so forth, it’s with a bit of a little bit more customization or making it more meaningful to the existing your own environment as well existing environment. Whereas a look no code, that means that you just really like doing the plug and play, basically, it’s a plug and play and think about is like, your Lego example, right? You are given a set of Legos and the blueprint and the template. And for you to construct the thing without you making the Legos and deliver the with the model, where people like in the different personas, like when you look talk to it DevOps, and especially with SAS DevOps, it’s basically the focus is more on the configuration and making changes at the application level. They don’t want to be the coders, traditional coders, like Java developers, or the good Golang developers, and so on so forth. They care about having something in a plug and play in a resort based approach, which is what low code development is like, basically, they want to just take something that is out there, create by clicking couple of visits, and be able to create the pipeline for them. Whereas no code, low code is like where we want to give them a little bit of opportunity for them to tweak it with existing investment, and also be able to help them bring the existing tools. As a result, we have to give them a little bit of opportunity for them to tweak the Legos that they have. So that I’m trying to give you that like example of the DevOps context. So the they’re in the industry standard standard, they’ve kind of interchange in some areas, and they people conveniently use it. But low core to me is there isn’t 100% locode is very hard to do it at this point in this is not fully not there, but there are a couple for a particular use case you can achieve the low code for for a particular use case, you can you can achieve no code as well depends on the use case. Depends on the persona.
Eveline Oehrlich 22:37
Great. Excellent. Okay, I want to shift a little bit Toria installed base because I know you know them well, because you do have conversations and you are the owner to take those conversations and turn them into products, which is a great, a great noble cause. What challenges do you think? Let’s maybe take the number one challenge if you kind of go back and think about your last week’s conversations or last quarter, while the quarter is I don’t know what yours. It’s just
Kumar Chivukula 23:10
the end of this month.
Eveline Oehrlich 23:12
Okay, so if you go back to the to the last quarter, what would you say? is the number one challenge your installed base? Or prospects today? Half? And how are they solving them? Besides, of course, you are offering your orchestration platform? That’s of course one, right. But what are some other challenges? I’m curious.
Kumar Chivukula 23:35
There are a few, but I think I’ll highlight a couple of them. Especially like in the, in the enterprise sector, digital digital transformation is really key. And people will expect it to transform because customer and their end user expectations are different. Like nowadays, if you asked me six years back, you can go back, go to the website and just or maybe mobile app, just book a car and the car would show up to the door, which is Tesla in this case, it’s very hard, I would have said no, and there’s no way and it’s happening and especially with the pandemic, it’s even changed. We don’t have to go to the car dealership and get the car and then the car has to show up the car can show up to your door. And it’s very hard to even imagine that and that the this type of innovation is happening and customer expectations have changed and they like Amazon prime prime example right? You just ship something, it shows up the doorstep without you going and worrying about all of them. So the behavior and the customer expectations have changed as a result enterprises are dealing with digital transformation, they have to otherwise they will be taken out of the business for them and how do they do it without having the people then without having the platform without having the way to manage the overall software delivery management because they have to transform themselves from a retail company to more of a software company or to maybe manufacturing company to a software company, as Microsoft CEO said famously into those data to those in depth tell every company has to become a software guy Coming in, as a result, that people are struggling with it in terms of like trying to keep up with the pace of the digital transformation and innovation that is happening in the market. The second biggest challenge is how do we do it in a more in a secure manner. Because that’s another thing that is coming into the play, it’s not just the shipping the code, especially with the cloud, we would develop something and just put it out there in the cloud expect the cloud is secure, that’s a wrong assumption, you have to make sure that your data, your your bills, your deployments, you have to protect it, there is no other way around AWS and Azure and GCP, they will only give the offer the utility computing and they’ll give you the compute for a cost. And they have to run, the enterprises have to run their application, they have to manage the deployments as a result coupled with software delivery management in the digital transformation, along with because it’s continuous innovation, right? It’s not like you just do the release once a year, or once in six months, it’s a continuous innovation every week, every day. And sometimes every two weeks, sometimes once a month depends on the company trajectory and their adoption and their Agile transformation roadmap. So it varies from there, it’s hard to keep keep up with the pace of innovation also managing with people with that. So it’s we continue to see that that is a digital transformation coupled with the software delivery management along with DevOps. devsecops is one of the one of the big no longer the nice to have any more for four years. But it’s nice to have now it’s a line item, everybody’s talking about it, executives are talking about it.
Eveline Oehrlich 26:28
Which brings me to my almost last question, it’s around skills, we at DevOps Institute are very passionate about upskilling, and helping the different roles right, and in the last five years have been conducting the research around skills. And we’re just at the point where we are releasing our upskilling 2023. report in April. So I’m doing a lot of research there. So if you have to give advice to our listeners, and remember, those are their software developers, software engineers, there are DevOps engineers there’s SRE is, but if there are a few things, you would say, hey, really focus on this? What would that be?
Kumar Chivukula 27:10
It’s the continue to when you when you’re in the technology field, it’s not a the what environment is changing around us. Right? So and continue to keep up with the basic core elements of the right one is the one is the cloud stack, because cloud is going to be there for next 10 years, I continue to be there, it’s the only wall which can change. But keep up with the certifications and keep up with Cloud level certification, there are a lot of free courses that offer both AWS and Azure GCP. And also you can sign up for the course Coursera Udemy. And then a lot of the videos are available in in the internet, where you can just take advantage of them, and then be able to upskill and continue to upskill. And like attending the some of the trade shows, and wherever possible, most of them are virtual now, thanks to pandemic and most of the sessions used to be in person now the virtual so that we have a lot more opportunity for people to learn from the community. And effectively, a new kind of like you have to transform into into more of SRE DevOps team no longer just doing the configuration management did they have to have a language, they have to at least understand the data structures languages, and will be able to understand the algorithms is very, very important. No, they don’t have developed all of them. But they will be dealing with the developers who speak the language, having the idea about all of them and be able to understand proficient in one language will be always helpful. Because once you understand the language, it’s easy to replicate the knowledge across the rest of the languages that are going to be there in the market. And it’s like, to me, it’s we continue to keep up with the cloud vendors what they’re doing, and then basically, take one or at least one of one or two withdrawal possible, which is one minimum, to certainly have a certification in that so that way you will know and then you will people recognize that people understand the value and value that and then having keeping up with trade shows and also continue to leverage advantage of the communities communities are things that we have. Plus, obviously we have now we are going to be taught to a Coursera Udemy and a bunch of other things LinkedIn learning, they’re all the things that resources are available at a much cheaper rate than we used to be before and is accessible individual so you can sign up for a monthly plan. You can sign up for a yearly plan and put a plan a plan together, what wins instructor led or like you can do the self paced learning as well. So
Eveline Oehrlich 29:33
Fabulous. Fabulous Kumar, thank you so much. I have one more question, but this is more of a fun question. Yeah. So what is your favorite weekend activity? I’m assuming you have sometimes a weekend.
Kumar Chivukula 29:47
Yeah, I do. Like obviously if a weekend comes in, I want to spend time with the family as much as possible and also like to me, I my fun time is mostly around, catching up on Reading and especially I’m not really reading books and books but I think I listen to a lot of podcasts and listen to some videos and follow the some of the blog posts and so on so forth and try to keep keep up myself. And I try to take myself out and then go for do some exercise and walk and long walks and when they have a free day, the last one is about like catching up on sports and that’s just I like sports and public acceptance on the sports.
Eveline Oehrlich 30:30
Great, super. We have been with Kumar Chiba Kula CTO for apcera, a DevOps orchestration platform Kumar, thank you so much for joining me today on humans of DevOps podcast. Humans of DevOps podcast is produced by DevOps Institute. Our audio production team includes Julia Papp and Brendan Leigh. I’m humans of DevOps podcast executive producer Evelyn Yoli. If you would like to join us on a podcast, please contact us at podcasts at DevOps institute.com. I’m Emily gnomish. Stay safe and hope that you tune in next time.
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