On this episode, Darren talks with Kiran Agrahara about what Intel Cloud Solution Architects (CSAs) do in a day to benefit not only cloud service providers (CSPs), but end users.
The Intel Cloud Solution Architect team formed less than two years ago with a few people and has grown rapidly to 21 team members. That growth indicates its importance both internally to Intel and externally to customers.
As customers move from on-prem to the cloud for flexibility and scalability, they need to understand that the underlying infrastructure and features matter for optimization. Since the majority of cloud service providers, including the top three, Google, Amazon, and AWS, are powered by Intel, Intel’s CSAs can help optimize services through a customer’s entire cloud journey.
A typical day for a CSA begins with back-office tasks such as emails, internal meetings, team meetings, staff meetings, and a significant amount of time talking to end-user customers. These can be Intel customers who are currently using Intel CPUs on-prem, and now they are looking at going to a cloud, or maybe they are already in the cloud. CSAs also have partners, one-system integrators, who are interested in how to translate Intel’s stickiness and in some of the features such as ABS firewall or Boost or encryption.
CSAs do not only work in the pre-sales role, but they also design proof of concepts, write use cases, and work with a team to run benchmarks based on a customer’s workload. They also spend time authoring or co-authoring playbooks.They also create a playbook to train Intel’s own managers and partner salespeople.
In addition, CSPs are announcing new services every day, and CSAs must stay on top of the technology supporting those services and understand how the services can benefit customers. This means understanding the users’ workloads and using models as well.
Intel CSAs see themselves as trusted advisors, an extension of the customer’s team, rather than trying to take over decision-making. Many times, for example, a customer will know which cloud they want to use but will need help looking at which tools are available to assist them in analyzing their current workload and then correlating them to what instances are available in the cloud. CSAs will also assist and educate customers with cost analysis. Intel has a portfolio of tools for every state in the cloud journey.
Once a customer is up and running and finished with the initial project, they will reach out to CSAs for new initiatives and projects as the cycle continues.
CSAs have a unique set of skills, in that they spend a lot of time writing, communicating, and educating, but also understanding all of the technical aspects and customer needs. For example, a CSA should be able to discern whether an issue is a technical problem or a business problem. The backgrounds of Intel’s CSAs are diverse with different cultures, technical skills, sales experience, and work backgrounds, so they bring expertise in different areas. They are also a deep technical source beyond their own people. If, for example, someone wants to talk in detail about AWS services, they can bring in a peer from AWS. In other words, Intel’s CSAs can be a single point of contact for all the customer’s cloud services needs.
Why should a customer utilize the Intel CSA team rather than a CSP’s team? Intel is truly agnostic, as their chips and CPUs are running almost every cloud service provider. It doesn’t make any difference to the CSA which service a customer chooses. In addition, a lot of the providers’ CSAs don’t understand the underlying Intel features which are available only in a certain instance type. For example, an Intel CSA would know to choose an instance powered by Ice Lake rather than Cascade Lake to provide significant cost savings and an uptick in performance on their applications. The CSP CSAs would not necessarily be aware of this information.
Intel also has many tools to collect telemetry, whether it’s a cloud instance or bare metal cloud instance. The CSP CSAs do not have access to those tools. They can troubleshoot, but only at the hypervisor level. So if a customer is having a problem, an Intel CSA can go down to the chip level and use troubleshooting tools and telemetry to solve the issue.
The best way to get in touch with the Intel CSA team is through an account executive. Technically, the CSAs are in the sales and marketing group, so they are actively searching for opportunities as well, such as contacts from the past.
CSA services are not an extra expense. In fact, Intel has a program where they will fund the initial migration to the cloud. CSAs will bring the tools, people, and expertise both from a human resource standpoint and from a monitoring standpoint as well. This will help a customer in a greenfield environment shorten the learning curve. Then, monetization comes when a workload is fully running in the cloud or migration is happening where they are consuming resources.
Intel CSAs have no vested interest in which CSP customers use, but only that they are optimized in a highly secure and reliable environment.
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