Zendesk And 8x8’s Multicloud Strategies For Operating At Scale

Jackson Lucas
Cloud Tech Journalist
Published:
Aug. 28, 2019
8 minute read

Your multicloud strategy is driven by the need for innovation and agility at scale. But as you progress along your cloud journey, many organizations run into challenges with increased complexity, preventing security risks, and maintaining efficient operations. How can you harness the innovation of AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and others without exponentially increasing complexity?

At VMworld US 2019, Joe Kinsella (VP and CTO, Products, CloudHealth by VMware) walked through VMware’s vision for an all-encompassing multicloud management platform, where cloud users—regardless of where they’re at in their multicloud journey—can optimize, protect, and govern their cloud environments with reduced complexity. 

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Joined by two VMware customers, Zendesk and 8x8, Kinsella highlights the power of VMware’s multicloud management portfolio—and gives us a glimpse of where the industry is likely headed next.

Challenges with multicloud today

The reasons for moving to the cloud are well known and understood: the cloud provides greater agility and innovation over traditional data center solutions. These benefits come from a combination of consumption-based pricing, on-demand infrastructure, globally available data centers, third party management, and access to rich platform services.  

But these benefits also come at a substantial cost—while most organizations find it easy in the early phases of adopting the cloud, this cost increases substantially with scale. Why? There are three main reasons: 

  1. Pace of change in the cloud. Business services in the cloud move at 4 to 5 orders of magnitude faster than the pre-cloud world. This means a business service in a traditional data center that might see 4-5 changes per month that might impact cost or security, will often see 4-5k changes per month (or more).
  2. The cloud has primarily been adoption from the outside-in. Cloud has been adopted by teams in departments within lines of business. This means the management of a multicloud strategy is no longer entirely under the control of IT. Instead of being managed by a handful of teams in IT, the cloud is now managed in dozens, hundreds, and in some cases a thousand or more places across multiple business units, departments, and teams. This means that every day there is an opportunity for any one of these teams to expose your organization to risk in the form of cost overruns, security exposures, and reduced service levels. 
  3. The world is becoming pervasively multicloud. Not too long ago, many organizations were using two clouds: Amazon Web Services and VMware. Today, organizations are using a breadth of public clouds, including Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba, IBM, multiple hybrid clouds, and SaaS portfolios that number into the hundreds. 

Kinsella says these three challenges are producing what he calls the ‘complexity gap’, where every year, quarter, month, and week is more complex than the last. VMware’s multicloud management portfolio is aimed at disrupting this complexity, to make it so you and your organization can run at cloud speed with integrity and confidence. 

Zendesk tackles cost and security

Zendesk’s journey to the public cloud began back in 2011 with just a few cloud services. It wouldn’t be until 2015 that the team started a major shift out of their data centers and into the public cloud in order to take advantage of services to speed innovation and drive product velocity. 

Since then, Zendesk has completed zero downtime migrations for all of its customers and decommissioned all of their data center environments. Now 100% cloud, the journey hasn’t stopped…the team has now shifted its focus to increasing efficiency, optimizing infrastructure, and improving customer experience. 

Steve Loyd, Vice President of Production Engineering at Zendesk, and his team turned to the CloudHealth Platform to gain visibility into team performance, cost overruns, spikes, and more. While Loyd found value in high-level reports that he could send to their finance partners and executives, he says the real change driver was making these cost insights available to everyone in product and engineering. Every individual can see how their service impacts overall spend, in turn allowing them to take more ownership in increasing the efficiency of their particular service(s). 

Once the team had visibility into their cloud environment and who was spending what, it became easier to optimize their costs. For most organizations, purchasing reservations is one of the most impactful ways to reduce cloud spend. Loyd estimates that Zendesk has reduced their cloud spend by 40% using Reserved Instances that they buy and manage using CloudHealth.

I estimate that we've reduced our cloud spend by 40% using Reserved Instances that we've bought and managed using CloudHealth.

- Steve Loyd, Vice President of Production Engineering, Zendesk

As Zendesk was transitioning out of their data centers and into multicloud, their approach to security and compliance changed. For Loyd, he says he needed to set his teams loose in order to give them the velocity they needed to continue innovating and scaling. The caveat? You need to make sure you’ve provided teams with the knowledge and sense of responsibility to ensure they are keeping security best practices top-of-mind in all their cloud services and projects. 

It also helps that VMware’s multicloud management portfolio offers transparency and proactive monitoring for potential security vulnerabilities. Zendesk was able to set a foundation of security best practices and standards and then use the VMware suite to ensure those practices were being followed. 

8x8 works through automation and service integrations

To support their 1M+ business customers located in more than 150 countries, 8x8 uses 15 data centers, AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud (if that wasn’t enough, they’re looking at expanding into other public clouds in Asia). Over the last few years, 8x8 has experienced exponential growth across their AWS and Microsoft Azure environments, and have been using Google Cloud more recently for its machine learning and AI services. Most recently, 8x8 has moved heavily to microservices to support their scaling efforts. 

To maintain control over their expansive multicloud environment, Dejan Deklich, Chief Product Officer at 8x8, turned to CloudHealth and VMware’s multicloud management portfolio (e.g. Wavefront and Bitnami) for everything from visibility and cost management to automation. 

CloudHealth has been instrumental for 8x8’s cost management initiatives. According to Deklich, 8x8 has over 80% of their infrastructure covered by Reserved Instances.

Using tools like CloudHealth, we've saved over $1 million in the last six months.

- Dejan Deklich, Chief Product Officer, 8x8

8x8 embraced Kubernetes quite heavily over the last few years as they’ve ramped up their use of microservices. Deklich has found Wavefront’s Kubernetes integration phenomenal, saying his teams appreciate both the holistic and granular visibility Wavefront can give them into their Kubernetes environments. 

Where does 8x8 go from here? Deklich says he plans to continue focusing his efforts on automation. Not only will this make 8x8’s massive multicloud environment much more manageable, but will allow him and his teams to continue innovating and growing for years to come. 

VMware’s multicloud management portfolio 

VMware has made incredible investments to its multicloud management portfolio to help customers eliminate the high complexity that comes with managing the cloud. Using products like CloudHealth, VMware Secure State, Wavefront, vRealize for Cloud, and more, organizations can mature along their multicloud journey towards success, and be able to eliminate the risks that come with scaling in the cloud. 

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VMware will empower customer’s Cloud Center of Excellence, enabling teams to collaboratively and confidently make decisions at cloud speed that are not only right for their team, but their department, their business unit, and their company.