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Meeting Intel's Cloud Solution Architects

In This Episode

  • Darren Pulsipher, Chief Solution Architect, Intel, talks with Intel’s top cloud solution architects Stephen Holt, Kiran Agrahara, Sarah Musick, and Todd Christ about how they can help organizations, at no charge, migrate to the cloud and optimize their workloads.



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On this episode, Darren talks with Intel’s top cloud solution architects (CSAs) Stephen Holt, Kiran Agrahara, Sarah Musick, and Todd Christ about how they can help organizations, at no charge, migrate to the cloud and optimize their workloads. 

Intel has invested heavily in hiring some of the best CSAs in the industry, with about 80 architects globally and 22 in the United States. These are new roles with a large focus. 

Stephen Holt is a CSA for the East and manages the other CSAs in that area. Previously at Intel, he specialized in databases, but he came from varied roles in business process, analysis and sales, technical analysis, and technical sales at IBM and an assortment of startups. He brings all that experience to Intel to help the team work together to drive value to customers.

Kiran Agrahara is an East Coast CSA, reporting to Stephen. His experience is in data center infrastructure focused on data storage virtualization.  He has worked in the cable and financial industries. In the past five or six years, he worked with startups focusing on areas such as persistent memory and software-defined storage. When customers ask Kiran why they should utilize expertise at Intel, he answers that Intel is everywhere, and he wants to spread that message to end-users. 

Before Sarah Musick came to Intel as a CSA, she was a partner doing software work around cloud migration and optimization that was precipitated by some time in data analytics. She worked for a deep learning textual analytics company before that and found that the work she did in data brought a lot of what she did in her earlier technical sales full circle. She brings the analytics to bear on cloud migration. She came to Intel because of its integrity and its role in the new model of engagement for everyone, including cloud providers. 

Todd Christ has been at Intel for 26 years, with 30 years of experience in IT and the product space. He most recently came from Intel’s cloud enterprise solutions group, which is part of the data center platforms group. Intel wants to meet customers where their data resides, whether on-premises or in the cloud. Todd architected Anthos, so the hybrid or multi-cloud models have been important to him, and he’s worked directly with Microsoft and Google. 

One major shift in helping customers move to the cloud is simplicity. Now, customers don’t have to think much about hardware. They are up and doing meaningful work much faster with less overhead. Although the hardware still matters, of course, it’s abstracted away. It’s important, however, not to lose sight of the fundamentals. It’s like having an HVAC system that you never think about until it’s not working right, and then it’s an issue. For example, there are situations where a customer finds that a particular workload they’ve moved to the cloud isn’t working well, so they have to revisit the hardware. 

Intel has been with the cloud providers since their inception, and they focus on those workloads. Intel puts a tremendous amount of effort into the cloud ecosystem that helps build those workloads to run best on Intel. 

Intel has delivered 2 billion cores to cloud service providers (CSPs) and over 90% of all compute in the cloud runs on Intel. 

Customers want fast scalability and they want the compute resources as quickly as possible; they don’t care what the hardware is. The truth, though, is that low latency workloads work much better on Intel hardware than on any other competitor. The newest third-generation Xeon scalable processor, Icelake, is blazingly fast. Once customers realize that they can save significantly, it sells itself.  So part of the job of a CSA is education. 

Although the CSPs may seem to sell services as a utility that works out of the box with 100% reliability, you can’t just drop, or lift and shift, critical workloads into the cloud. 

If your applications are designed in a cloud-native format, then you don’t have to think much about deploying it on the cloud. However, if you have a monolithic application designed to run in a data center, for example, you can’t simply lift and shift it on the cloud because it's not optimized to run on specific CPUs. By using Intel optimization or migration tools, customers can make informed decisions before migration. 

Some workloads may not be suitable for the cloud. That’s why, especially in the latter part of 2021, there was more buzz about repatriation. The pendulum is swinging back a bit as enterprises in particular learn the right balance. This is where CSAs come in. Not everything should go on the cloud, and Intel can help determine how to optimize things. Some customers are finding that after moving workloads to the cloud because of mandates, they are not saving money and even spending significantly more than keeping things in their own data center. Or perhaps there are security issues because there is data residency in some places and the cloud isn’t in the proper country. 

Intel CSAs are agnostic, so they are only interested in what is best for the customers’ particular needs. They help make workloads more mobile so as IT departments become more mature, they can bring workloads back to their own data centers or move it to another CSP in the future, or whatever is most cost effective.  Intel CSAs can help customers in ways CSPs are not currently addressing. 

Many customers are concerned about data because it’s expensive to retrieve from a CSP. Intel has a deep bench of people who can help with this issue. They are well informed on not only the constructs of being able to set up hybrid models, but the security, the firewalls, and all those access points. Once your data is behind a firewall there are many layers of security that you need to get out to those services. So the first thing is that you need to be able to send your data back and forth securely. 

Even in a multi-cloud scenario, pulling the data out is costly. If you are just moving between Azure and AWS, for example, the data is still migrating, and that is a slow process. If customers have terabytes or even petabytes of data on-prem that they want to move into the cloud, there might be a cloud-like service that runs on-prem where they can get the ease of use and functionality of a cloud. If you think of the cloud as more of a function than a location, there are more possibilities. 

Intel is here to free people up to do the work that’s most meaningful to their organization, and analytics is going to be a big part of that. In 2022, there is still a huge gap between how much data people have and how much insight they are producing out of it. Only about 3% of data is actually used to produce insights. So there’s a massive treasure trove and Intel chipsets perform well in situations where there is robust processing work. Crunching data is what is coming next. 

Architecting wisely is part of the future because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. On the other hand, there are going to be newer solutions that could be a good fit for an organization. Where an organization is in its journey is also key. Older, established companies that have been doing things well for a long time, for example, may have a lot of technical debt that potentially could be worked through. They need to look at the underlying technology and then eventually take it to a place where they have agility. 

The CSA services at Intel come at no charge because Intel wants to help customers run their workloads most effectively and take advantage of Intel technology that is ubiquitous in the clouds.  The expertise and experience of Intel’s CSAs run deep, and they work as a team to help with any piece of knowledge a customer could need. Customers should ask their Intel account executive or inside sales to get help from a CSA with cloud migration and optimization. 

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