Voices in Cloud – Episode 19: A Conversation with Emil Sayegh

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David speaks with Emil Sayegh on his journey through the tech industry and the evolution and present state of cloud computing.


Emil Sayegh is CEO and President of Ntirety, a leader in managed cloud infrastructure and application hosting solutions, delivering reliable, secure and scalable private cloud, managed server, and hybrid cloud hosting solutions across 14 geographically diverse data centers.
Emil is an early pioneer of Cloud Computing, recognized as one of the industry’s cloud visionaries and "fathers of OpenStack" - he's launched and led successful cloud computing and hosting businesses for HP and Rackspace. He built Rackspace’s cloud business while serving as the company’s GM of the Cloud Computing Division and, earlier at Rackspace, served as VP of the Product Group and launched the company’s private cloud and hosted exchange services. He later moved on to HP where he served as VP of Cloud Service and initiated the company’s public cloud services.


David Linthicum: Hey, guys, welcome to the GigaOm Voices in Cloud podcast. This is the one place where you will hear from industry thought leaders providing no-nonsense advice in how to succeed with cloud computing, IoT, Edge computing and cognitive computing. I'm Dave Linthicum, best selling author, speaker, executive, and B-list geek. Joining me today is my good friend, Emil. How do you pronounce your last name Emil?

Emil Sayegh: ‘Saayg’

He's the CEO and President of – is it Ntirety?

Ntirety, as in the whole thing, the entirety, yeah.

I like that. Formerly Hostway|HOSTING, and it was formed by a merger of Hostway and HOSTING in January 2019. You're at the helm, and the merged company is a leader in managing cloud infrastructure and application hosting. First of all, I apologize for the background noise. (I'm going to make heavy use of the mute button.) This interview fell right in the middle of re:Invent. This is, actually, if you guys are at re:Invent, probably the most quiet place I could find. Fill out the missing pieces, Emil. Tell us about the story, how you got here, and what your background's like, what you do for fun, things like that.

Absolutely, yeah, so thank you so much for hosting me on this great podcast, David. David and I go way back. I've been the CEO of Hostway, before the merger, for about three years. Before that, I was the CEO of Codero [Hosting]. Before that, I was at Rackspace where I helped launch the cloud business there and helped launch OpenStack. I also had a short tenure at HP, leading the cloud business there. Been doing this for a while.

About two years ago, at Hostway, [and] as CEO of Hostway, we were looking to figure out our M&A strategy, and decided to merge with another great company in the same space. The company's HOSTING.com, which was based out of Denver, where Hostway was based out of Austin. We merged the two companies in January of 2019 and announced the new name, rebranded the company to Ntirety in September of 2019.

It's been a great journey. We're very glad that we found a company that's complemented us, and had the necessary skills for us to merge with and be successful in the market. This past year, we've been busy integrating the two companies, bringing the two teams together, and looking forward to it in the fantastic 2020.

Yes, speaking of 2020, we have your predictions for 2020. I didn't think CEOs were supposed to be visionaries. What's the deal? Are you a hybrid guy where you look at technology – strategy in terms of where things are going and then also run a company? How do you get into the visionary game or the prediction game?

My roots are really in product. I've been in product for most of my life. Started as a product manager. Actually, started as an engineer, then a product manager, and then ran product for Rackspace, actually. I've been a product person for the better part of my life. This is something I just really enjoy doing. It's more of a hobby: the predictions, and looking into the crystal ball. I've been doing it for a good ten years, probably.

What's your favorite technology out there that you like right now, something that's defined 2019 before we start talking about 2020?

Sorry, I couldn't hear very well. I apologize. What's my favorite technology?

Yeah, your favorite technology out there. Is it serverless, is it containers, is it AI?

Absolutely – frankly, it's hybrid. It's the merging of a lot of these technologies. That's the beauty. I do think that looking forward to 2020, it's the integration of all these technologies, together, that's going to be amazing. We're seeing how serverless, and hybrid, and multi-cloud, they're all working together. We're seeing how machine learning and AI are helping with security.

I mean, it is the combination of all these technologies, together, that is going to be one of the key stories in 2020 and going forward, of course, in the next several years. We're seeing more and more of a shift from either on-prem, or single technologies, or all in a public cloud, to more of a blend in hybrid. It's these companies that are able to master, like an orchestra, all these instruments, – that's how the music is going to come up and be beautiful versus just a single instrument.

One of your predictions, or your first prediction, would be prediction one: hybrid and multi-cloud are ‘the new normal’ for enterprise IT. Tell us a bit about that.

Yeah, I mean, look, it is ‘the new normal.’ I think if you looked at every survey out there, whether it's called multi-cloud or hybrid, and we can differentiate between the two; but if you looked at that as a single trend where you're using different landing zones, and you're using different infrastructures, that is becoming the new normal out there for enterprises.

There's three types of companies out there. There's companies that are under a cloud mandate because they have stuff that is sitting in their own data centers, or in co-lo, or in dedicated infrastructure. They have a mandate to figure out how to make the journey to the cloud. Then you have a second group of customers. Those are cloud natives. They're operating, already, fully in the cloud, but they're having challenges. They're having growth challenges, they have cost challenges, some security, some compliance challenges, so on and so forth. They have to rationalize that.

Then you have those companies that are in the middle – they're probably in the minority, but growing very quickly – that have figured out how to use multiple infrastructures and multiple types of clouds to meet their business objectives. Whether you're under a cloud mandate, you're not going to move 100% to the cloud.

It's going to be a journey. It's going to be a journey that is measured in years, not in months. You're going to be operating in a hybrid environment for a very long time. Certainly, those that are ‘all in’ the cloud, they're, like I said, having cost challenges, security challenges, growth challenges, scalability challenges, sprawl challenges. They've got to figure out how to rationalize that by either going to a multi-cloud environment or something a little bit more hybrid as being the new normal. We see that in almost every customer that we touch.

I like prediction three: more business is feeling public cloud pains in their pocketbooks. Tell us a bit about that as far as next year goes.

Yeah, I mean, I think there's a whole industry that's emerged that specializes in optimizing costs in the public cloud. That's because of the sprawl. When you talk to companies that have grown all in the public cloud, that is their second concern if not their first concern. Their first concern, usually, is security; second concern is usually cost. Then it goes back and forth. They're very close to each other in terms of their top concerns they're feeling.

That's one of their top cost items. Whenever their CEOs are looking at the P&L, they're seeing their spend in the cloud. They're saying, "Well, what can you do to reduce that cost?" That's all coming from either lack of governance in spinning up cloud instances, in shadow IT, in potentially applications that are not optimized to operate on the cloud. They're not sophisticated enough. Look, it's okay. This is all about technology and adoption. When people are adopting the technology, they make mistakes.

It is now time to rationalize this because this is a well-understood problem. Companies need to figure out how to optimize their spend in the public cloud. Public cloud providers also want them to optimize spend because they know that they will start to either lose customers, or customers [will] not be satisfied, or lose some of the excitement about public cloud, unless customers figure out how to optimize their spend, and rationalize their IT spend between public cloud, and hybrid, and all the different infrastructures out there.

I like number eight as well: the CIO makes a comeback. When did the CIO go away?

The CIO's role was a bit marginalized, but now with preeminence of IT, and how important IT is in the life of even companies that are not IT-oriented. We just announced today a large customer win with the largest glass recycler in North America, Strategic Materials, SMI. SMI is a manufacturing company. It's been around for over 50 years. They've had generations and generations of IT that has been built up over the last 50 years. However, what you see is the preeminence of the role of the CIO in rearchitecting an IT strategy that advances the cause of a manufacturing company.

It's not an IT company. They figured out how to position SMI, how to put tools in the hands of their salespeople, how to put tools in the hands of the manufacturing leaders, IT tools, so that they can better operate the company. They can offer products that are more tuned to their customers as well as to optimize the usage of their facilities and their manufacturing. All that is enabled by IT. This gentleman, who is the CIO of SMI, wanted to focus his small IT team on the mission of the company instead of managing infrastructure.

They said, "Look, Ntirety, you guys know how to manage infrastructure. We're going to give you all our servers. You will manage them. You will monitor them. You will patch them. You will alert on them. You will figure out what goes to the public cloud, and what stays on the traditional infrastructure depending on what application we use. You will also move us into Office 365. You will offer VDI to our employees that are on the factory floors."

All of that is freeing his small IT team to essentially develop applications that are aligned with the mission of SMI versus managing mundane infrastructure, which is what we do. This is what we're very good at. Now, all of a sudden the CIO is asserting themselves, again, in corporate America, even in industries that are not IT-oriented.

Great, and last one because we're going to run out of time, prediction nine predicts a true blockchain market. Tell us about that. What's the true blockchain market in 2020?

Blockchain was really synonymous with Bitcoin for a very long time. Now we're seeing true applications out there: contracts. We're seeing records being transmitted. Companies are springing up right and left using blockchain technology, not necessarily for Bitcoin or cryptocurrency, but for real life applications where there are massive contractual relationships that need to be developed between two or more entities out there.

We're starting to see that. That requires some pretty specialized gear that is dedicated to that function. We saw that happen all year long. It seems to be continuing to mature. We're looking forward to blockchain becoming more and more of a mainstream technology. Also there's the whole aspect of security. As we hear about more hacks, more cybercrimes, cybersecurity, so on and so forth, we're going to start seeing blockchain move in to essentially be a deterrent against that. We're very optimistic about that.

What prediction did you leave out of your predictions here that you thought you should add it in?

Yeah, look, I think we're moving into a bit of a down economy. That's going to actually mean more automation, and probably more control to cloud sprawl. You're going to see that happen in 2020. What you're also going to see is potentially more security breaches. It's going to get much worse before it gets better, which is going to drive big compliance efforts and so on and so forth.

A lot of people are talking about cloud moving to the edge. I think you're going to see that more and more with more streaming media moving to the edge, especially with the advent of the latest in cell technology, and 5G, and so on and so forth. You're going to see more and more applications moving to the edge, specifically streaming media applications.

I think we'll leave it at that. I think we'll have to get you back on the podcast next year and see if any of your predictions come true. Please pick up a copy of my book, Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence available on Amazon and all places books are sold. Also, please make sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidLinthicum, as well as LinkedIn where I have several cloud computing courses on LinkedIn Learning.

I am on Ntirety.com, of course. Also, my email is emil.sayegh@ntirety.com. You can find me on Twitter, my handle is @esayegh, and of course, LinkedIn. You're more than welcome to email me. I'm always available to answer questions.

Reach out if you want to talk to Emil. He's got some great thinking here, especially around predictions in 2020, a very thoughtful piece. Till next time, best of luck in building your cloud solutions. We'll talk to you guys next week. Take good care.

Thank you, David.

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