NARRATOR: Luminaries, talking to the brightest minds in tech.
SPEAKER: We are technologists, and we share an awesome responsibility. The next three decades will hold even more progress, coming more quickly than ever before. A new age of miracles is literally just around the corner.
NARRATOR: Your hosts are Mark Schaefer and Douglas Karr.
MARK SCHAEFER: Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Luminaries. This is Mark Schaefer, with my co-host, Douglas Karr. And you know, on Luminaries, we promise to bring you the brightest minds in tech. And we are going to over-deliver today, with our friend Deepak Patil. Deepak serves as Virtustream’s senior vice president of product and technology. He’s responsible for designing the solutions that enable IT transformation, which has been a theme on our show for a couple of years now.
The thing I think that’s so interesting about Deepak– and we’re going to get into this today– he’s been a proven leader in the cloud space for more than 20 years. Of course, he’s with Virtustream today, which is owned by Dell. But he’s also made his mark at Oracle and Microsoft, where he was responsible for engineering and operations for services like Hotmail, Messenger, and MSN.com. He designed and delivered one of the largest infrastructure platforms on the planet, Microsoft Azure, one of the fastest-growing businesses in the history of Microsoft.
And I’m feeling very tiny right now.
Welcome to our show.
DEEPAK PATIL: Thank you, Mark, and you’re too kind. Mark and Doug, pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation, and it should be fun.
MARK SCHAEFER: So I was I was stalking you on LinkedIn, as one does.
And you write there that you’ve designed, and built, and managed several platforms that have turned into multi-billion dollar businesses, I mean, several? And it occurs to me that you’re sort of the Elon Musk of technology. But I thought, no, wait a minute, Elon hasn’t even done that. Elon Musk is the Deepak Patil of cars.
So just what a remarkable career you’ve had. You just seem to be in the right place at the right time. So can you just tell us a little bit about how you got to this place.
DEEPAK PATIL: Oh, you’re too kind. And Elon Musk is a legend, and I’m a big fan. So it’s quite flattering. Thank you very much. You know, it’s a phenomenal time to be in technology, and especially doing what you are doing, which is cloud. Every industry, and every business in every industry, is going through a generational transformation around the cloud. I’ve had about four or five major transformative forces in my lifetime. The first one happened when we went from mainframes to PCs. Second one happened with the advent of graphical user interface. Then the internet showed up. Then smartphones showed up. And I believe that we are in the middle of a major transformation fueled by the cloud.
And I’ve just been very fortunate to be in the middle of it over the last 12, 15 years, and being surrounded by some amazing technologists, some amazing minds, and being very fortunate to be able to contribute my little part in how cloud has evolved as a default computing paradigm that it is today.
DOUGLAS KARR: Well, I’m not sure about your little part. I am in awe that we’re sitting here with someone that was there at the pioneering days of Azure. In your view, how has the cloud advanced since then?
DEEPAK PATIL: Cloud has evolved a great deal. When I think about how the cloud has changed, and how the cloud has changed the ecosystems surrounding the cloud, three things come to mind. Number one is it’s not a fashion statement anymore. It’s ubiquitous. It’s a necessity. And moving to the cloud is an integral part of any CIO/CTO’s modernization journey for their firm.
I remember having gone to conversations around trying to convince our customers to adopt cloud, embrace cloud, seven, eight, nine years ago. And those were uphill battles. There were concerns about security, and privacy, and performance. There were challenges around relinquishment of control. Because when you have your workloads running in your own data centers, you at least have this perception of control over your performance and your costs. And then in the cloud, you are just taking all of your workloads and handing them to your cloud provider. And you’re saying, OK, you do it for me.
MARK SCHAEFER: It’s really a cultural change, isn’t it?
DEEPAK PATIL: It’s a massive cultural change.
MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah, it just occurred to me now. It seems like such a like an obvious thing. But it really is this idea of fear and control, isn’t it?
DEEPAK PATIL: Absolutely. And the first evolution that has happened is that customers are comfortable with that now. They have embraced this culture change. That’s number one. Number two thing that has happened is this notion of public cloud is going to win and private cloud is going to lose. That notion is proven to be wrong. I think everybody has acknowledged that it’s the ecosystem. It’s the time of the ecosystem.
Your workload’s going to live in your own data center in dedicated servers. Part of your workloads are going to live in your own data center in the virtualized world. Part of your workloads are going to live in public cloud. And some of your workloads are going to live on the edge. And customers are getting more comfortable with the fact that they’re going to hold these multiple operating models that are going to have to work seamlessly together. And that’s the future.
And the third way the cloud has evolved is we are– what we are seeing is the rapid evolution of this multi-cloud ecosystem that isn’t going to be an Azure or an AWS or a Google, or a Virtustream, or an IBM, or a VMware cloud. It’s all of these clouds are going to have to coexist. And data, and application, and information, and transactions have to move seamlessly across these clouds. And that’s going to be the next big frontier, I believe, for all the cloud providers to really figure out a way to win on, so that the customers don’t feel like different clouds are getting in the way of their modernization.
MARK SCHAEFER: Well, I’m the non-technical person here. They just add me, I think, for comic relief.
But as I understand it, where Dell is moving today with the cloud is addressing some of these things that you just talked about in this third phase.
DEEPAK PATIL: Absolutely.
MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah, so I think that would be a good time to talk about this future, and some of the new announcements that are coming out from Dell about how you’re reimagining the future of cloud.
DEEPAK PATIL: It’s phenomenal. It’s phenomenal to be doing what we’re doing inside Dell Technologies. One of the reasons why I came to Dell Technologies, about a year ago, was this fundamental belief and this knowledge in the way the cloud is evolving, as I mentioned. Dell Technologies, with all of his assets, from Dell, to EMC, to Pivotal, to VMware, to Virtustream, to Boomi, we happen to be the only company on the planet that has the assets that span from your on-prem infrastructure, to your virtualized infrastructure, to your hybrid cloud infrastructure. Azure has the edge where we can provide solutions to the customers across the entire gamut of these operating models.
And what we announced today, the VMware Azure solution that is powered by Virtustream, or the Dell Technologies cloud platform that is powered by VMware, they are the beginning of their journey, in many ways, for us, to really bring all of those capabilities and those assets together. The way I describe it is we are just getting started on putting the power of unified Dell behind what we offer to our customers. And the next five, 10 years are going to be just amazing in terms of how all of these assets come together and what we can do for our customers.
MARK SCHAEFER: But you already have a very robust heritage with Virtustream. I mean, it’s a technology that’s different from the other clouds out there. So talk a little bit about what you’ve got now, with Virtustream, and what that’s going to bring to the party.
DEEPAK PATIL: And Virtustream is– the way I describe Virtustream is it’s an industrialized cloud with personalized attention for some of the most mission-critical applications out there on the planet. We don’t have, and we won’t have, 100,000 customers. We go after large-scale enterprises with some of their most important workloads. And we move them– we architect, we design, we move them, migrate them, and we manage them, in a cloud environment.
When our cloud has issues, the train network in Italy comes to a standstill. When our cloud has issues, teachers in many, many states don’t get their salaries. When our cloud has issues, some of the most important pharmacies can’t fill prescriptions for their customers. These are just some of the examples of how mission-critical the workloads running in our cloud are. So Virtustream really specializes in designing/architecting/managing mission-critical applications that are the heart and soul of some of the most important enterprises on the planet. That’s our niche. That’s our differentiator and value proposition. We are the one throat to choke or one hand to shake, depending on how happy the customers are.
We are on the one hand to shake for the entire modernization journey for our cloud. There aren’t multiple players involved. There isn’t an SI, and an ISV, and a cloud provider involved. We are on the one hand to shake. And the general philosophy we have inside Virtustream is, whenever there is an issue across the entire stack– from infrastructure, to application, to network– we are guilty until proven innocent.
DOUGLAS KARR: Wow.
DEEPAK PATIL: So we take it very seriously and we understand what’s riding on lot of cloud.
MARK SCHAEFER: I love that. It’s one of the things I write about in my books and talk about in my speeches, that you need to find a company today that says, we will never let you down. That’s the mentality. And there’s not that many companies out there that will do that today. So it just tugged at my heart when you said that. So I just–
DEEPAK PATIL: Awesome.
MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah, I just love that mindset.
DOUGLAS KARR: I remember– and you were just talking about it– I remember when futurists were telling us about the cloud, and they made the parallel to energy distribution. They said, someday, you’re just going to be metered like everything else. But multi-cloud is really different from that, because each cloud, if you will, kind of has its purpose and its strengths and weaknesses. And Virtustream, of course, being on top of this, mission-critical.
Can you kind of give a picture of a company, and how they would slice and dice the multi-cloud.
DEEPAK PATIL: Absolutely. And multi-cloud is different from a utility model in some ways, and it’s not. I describe it as, at some point in time, all of these cloud ecosystems have to come together to deliver dial-tone experience. You pick up your phone, and the dial tone– at least in the old days– the dial tone is always there. You expect it to be there. It’s not a surprise when your phone has the dial tone. It’s a surprise when it doesn’t. Right?
What has happened over the last two or three years, the customers have evolved to think differently about all of these clouds. There are some business imperatives that most of the CIOs and the CTOs who are pushing their enterprises on the modernization path are after. They are going for better performance, efficiency, reliability, elasticity, extensibility, speed of innovation, cost.
Everybody is very clear about what results they want to try for their business as part of their modernization journey. And they are going to pick and choose the cloud platform that helps them best meet those goals. 97% of the enterprises are going to pick and choose multiple cloud platforms, because it allows them to leverage different cloud providers for their respective strengths, it allows them to give negotiation leverage. Because if you’re an enterprise, you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket. And it allows them to really future-proof their business, in terms of interoperability, and so on, and so forth.
So multi-cloud is here. It’s not a trend, it’s a reality, and it’s here to stay. And the challenge for companies– and the opportunities, at the same time, for companies like Virtustream, and a Microsoft, and an Amazon– is how we work together to deliver that seamless experience for the customers.
MARK SCHAEFER: I want to mix it up a little bit. Because when I was, again, stalking you on LinkedIn, one of the things that you mentioned is that you’re sort of an urgent learner, that continuous learning is important to you. And as a person in your position, where the world is just changing so fast, I think our listeners would be interested in how do you stay on top of these things, how do you sort things out, how do you remain relevant in your world at the top of the tech stack.
DEEPAK PATIL: So I think three things. Number one is, we all, especially working in technology, are always very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are hands-on and focused on innovation, have their pulse on the market, in the technology. And I have been very fortunate to have people around me who I really enjoy exchanging ideas, and information about what’s happening, and trends.
I mean, I’m just coming from a meeting where we kind of talked about the future or, for example, software-defined networking, and what’s going to happen, and how we should think about it, and where it is going to be five years from now. A couple of days ago, we had a debate about the perils and the benefits of AI, for example. So taking advantage of your network, and really engaging in these technical intellectual conversations is a key part of that.
Second thing is, at least I have been fortunate about in terms of some of the habits, is getting to know the products, and getting to know my own product as well as the competitive products really, really, really well. So I use my own platform. I use my competitor’s platform quite frequently. And I understand– I try to at least understand where this is going.
And third competent is reading. In the information age, there’s so many resources available. Like your podcast, for example. There are so many amazing resources available. And people like myself, we spend so much time on the road, in the flights. I mean, whenever somebody asks me, where do you work from, I say, terminal B.
So we do spend so much time on the road, that using that time creatively and intelligently to really read and learn, and then correlate all of that into my role and into the future strategy and investments for my company is a key part of my job.
MARK SCHAEFER: It’s interesting, you didn’t mention conferences or anything like that.
Because I mean, it’s interesting that I think the world of conferences is changing a lot. It was something I sort of expected to hear, but didn’t hear from you.
DEEPAK PATIL: Conferences are important, especially for meeting with customers and partners. And I spend a lot of time meeting with customers. And conferences are probably the best time to meet customers. I mean, over the next three days, my calendar is full with customer meetings. And one of the key aspects of establishing myself as a trusted confidant and an advocate for my customers is to listen.
I have two ears and one mouth, and I try to do justice to the ratio. So listening to the customers, and listening to what challenges they are facing, and how they perceive the cloud migration and the modernization journey and the challenges is a key part of this process and a key benefit of conferences.
MARK SCHAEFER: So I love this idea that you really focus on the customers. Because the other thing that I read about you that I liked is that you said that you’re deeply obsessed with customer happiness.
DEEPAK PATIL: That’s right.
MARK SCHAEFER: That’s sort of one of your personal mantras.
DEEPAK PATIL: That’s right.
MARK SCHAEFER: So what else is part of that? Do you have a formal process, other than talking to customers at events? I mean, what is your process for that obsession?
DEEPAK PATIL: That’s right. It is not enough– especially when you’re in the cloud business, it is not enough to be committed to customers or to learn about customers. I deliberately choose the word, obsessed. And it’s important to think about it because of the relinquishment of control part that I talk about. Every single CIO and CTO, as they chart their modernization path, and as they make these huge bets on cloud providers like ourselves, they’re building their own jobs, they’re building their own shops, they’re betting their entire business on my and my company’s abilities to support their business. It’s a big responsibility. It’s a big leap they are making. So the least I can do is to be empathetic to the risk they are making, take the time, make the commitment learn and understand their challenges, their priorities, and then establish myself as this trusted confidant.
And I’ve been in the industry long enough to know that we’re going to be all in– it’s a very, very small industry. So even if somebody doesn’t choose me today as their cloud provider, 10 years from now, I’ll be in some role, and they’ll be in some role, and our paths will cross. So leaving every engagement better than where I started is a key part of how I try to conduct myself, and the customer obsession and deep commitment to their happiness and their success comes from all of this experience I’ve gathered over the last 25 years.
DOUGLAS KARR: Let’s talk about that risk a little bit, because I think it’s an important notion. With the multi-cloud, an underlying theme of most of our podcasts this year have been AI, Artificial Intelligence. It seems that there’s a really great role for AI to help mitigate the risk of a company maybe hand-selecting the wrong multi-cloud environment. Is that already underway?
DEEPAK PATIL: It’ll happen. It’ll accelerate. It is already underway. And the mechanics that AI will play in the cloud, it’s a two-way mechanic. Number one is, how does cloud fuel widespread growth adoption/evolution of AI as a key part of how we conduct ourselves? That’s number one, cloud helping AI. And other part is, how does AI help cloud, in terms of choice of cloud, evolution of cloud, management of cloud. So it’s a bi-directional thing that is– I do believe that our industry is just getting started down that part in the journey.
DOUGLAS KARR: So cloud computing obviously has come to the forefront because it’s affordable, secure, reliable, all of those pieces. But tuning the platform for each customer’s needs can be quite expensive. How is your company helping to balance that?
DEEPAK PATIL: So Virtustream, as I mentioned, specializes in modernization cloud journey for some of the most mission-critical applications that our customers run. And we take care of their entire journey. We think about planning, migration, integration, and optimization as kind of the four pillars of the journey our customers go through. And we have several hundred experts who are doing cloud migrations for the last 10 years. And the way I describe them, I kind of steal this from that State Farm commercial– we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two. So we have done so many migrations to the cloud now, over the last 10 years, that we know the potholes, and we know the roadblocks, and we know the trends and the patterns.
So this team– I have a professional services team that is really good at taking workloads, tuning the workloads, customizing the workloads for the cloud journey, and then moving those to the cloud. We conduct several dozen such migrations every quarter. Once the workloads are running in the cloud, we work very closely with our customers– very, very closely with our customers on integrating those workloads into their broader cloud and non-cloud ecosystem, as well as tuning the workloads for the best performance, best reliability, best security.
A key part of this entire endeavor is really combining the platform, application, infrastructure expertise that my people have with the core business expertise that our customers’ people have. Many a times, we essentially just put the two teams in a room and say, OK, now just work on this over the next several days and figure out a way to best optimize whatever the business imperative the customer is going through.
And one of the things that I tell customers when I meet with the CIOs and CTOs as they are starting their modernization journey is, be very clear about what you want to get out of your modernization and your cloud journey. If it is cost and efficiency, let’s go after that. If it is performance and reliability, let’s go after that. If it is innovation, speed, and extensibility and elasticity, let’s go after that. Other things will follow as well, but everybody always has a prioritized list of business results that they want to achieve as part of their modernization.
And then helping them get that clarity, establishing benchmark of where they’re at today, establishing targets of what they’re expecting, and then getting our two teams to work together as one cohesive unit to go after those results is a model. It’s a framework that we have. We exercise it with many customers, and we will continue to exercise it because it works.
MARK SCHAEFER: Well, I’ve so enjoyed our conversation today. And I think if I had a Deepak Patil word cloud, one of the words that would be coming out today is clarity. It’s a word I’ve heard a lot in our conversation today. And I know one of the other things that’s sort of part of your personal mantra is simplicity.
DEEPAK PATIL: That’s right.
MARK SCHAEFER: And you know, I see this in so many great leaders. They have the ability to take the complex and distill it into the simple. That’s really a great leadership quality. How do you apply that in your own life? You’re in this tech hurricane that seems to me, at least, anything but simple. But how do you apply that in your own life, in your career?
DEEPAK PATIL: That’s a great question. And again, I joined Microsoft in my late teens, sort of kind of very early 20s, and I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been surrounded by some amazing leaders who have imbibed this kind of clarity-of-thought manta, and really trying to get clarity and simplicity across everything.
But, if you think about it, especially as a leader, one of the amazing quotes that Jeff Bezos had that I really hold near and dear to my heart is the key to scaling as a leader is to successfully transition from making a lot of small decisions to making a few big decisions, and getting good at that. And that’s been something that I really try to strive at, in terms of really focus on a few big decisions that I have to make, and then break down those few big decisions into smaller decisions, because everything is always an amalgamation of a lot of smaller forces, here and there, at play.
Once you get better making down big decisions into smaller units, things become a lot simpler. And once it is simple, it becomes a lot easier to tackle. And once you have that clarity of thought where you know what’s below the line that you’re not going to worry about, but what’s above the line that you’re always going to prioritize, things become a lot easier.
MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah, similar philosophy– I got to study under Peter Drucker.
DEEPAK PATIL: Oh, wonderful.
MARK SCHAEFER: And one of his ideas that he would always teach us about which had a big impact on me is that the role of the leader is to not have all the right answers, it’s to have all the right questions– to know the right questions to ask. So Deepak Patil, senior vice president of product and technology at Virtustream, what a delight. The time has just flown by. We so appreciate your time.
And we appreciate all of you. Thanks for listening. We never take you for granted. Leave us a note let us know what you’re thinking. Be sure to visit the Luminaries page on the Dell site. We’ll have lots of bonus material. You can learn more about Deepak and what he’s doing with Virtustream and cloud computing at Dell. And until next time, this is Mark Schaefer and Douglas Karr saying so long for Luminaries.
NARRATOR: Luminaries, talking to the brightest minds in tech, a podcast series from Dell technology.