Silk VP, Chris Buckel, sat down with Bob Evans from Cloud Wars to talk about the challenges of moving mission-critical databases to the cloud.
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Bob Evans (00:15)
Good morning, everyone. Welcome back to Cloud Wars Live. We are chronicling what’s going on in the digital revolution today. Some crazy things are happening and the role of data is becoming ever more important. We’re delighted to have Chris Buckel from Silk on today. He’s the Vice President of Global Business Development. Chris is going to explain some of the things that Silk is doing in the marketplace and some of what it is seeing its customers doing in these crazy times. Chris, welcome to Cloud Wars Live.
Chris Buckel (00:43)
Thanks for having me.
Bob Evans (00:45)
Oh, you’re very welcome. And, Chris, I love your office there. It looks like a great place to have a conversation.
Chris Buckel (00:51)
Well, as you can probably tell from the accent, I’m English. So this is the natural habitat of an Englishman, especially in the summer.
Bob Evans (00:58)
Perfect. Well, it creates a very inviting environment. Chris, give us a high-level overview. What’s Silk seeing these days out in the market, and how does that align with the unique value proposition that Silk is offering to customers?
Chris Buckel (01:14)
I’m in a very privileged position at Silk to be able to talk to lots of CIOs and CTOs at very large companies. We’re seeing the next wave of cloud adoption. Everyone’s been using the cloud for at least a decade, right? Most companies have put all the easy workloads in the cloud, backups, websites, etc. and they’ve started writing cloud native applications. But what we’re seeing now is the adoption of the cloud for enterprise applications, those big on-premise environments that really support people’s businesses. And I think that is the really interesting wave that’s taking place in the cloud today.
Bob Evans (01:56)
Perfect. And, you know, it’s a crowded field, Chris, in a lot of ways. Silk is in there and there are some big companies that have been doing a lot of the data management, migration, and all those things for a number of years. But you believe Silk has some unique capabilities that are going to let you do some things that nobody else can do during this time.
Chris Buckel (02:20)
Absolutely. So, I can certainly talk about that. But let’s first think about the bigger picture. If you’re one of these big companies and you have an on-premise application that’s supporting your business, it could be I don’t know, let’s say in healthcare, for example, it could be electronic patient records. You, as the CEO or CTO, are charged with moving that into the public cloud. And that’s a scary thing, right, Bob? I mean, we all know that database migrations are the biggest, most risky thing you can do. If you want to sign your name to that as a CIO, you’re potentially risking your future employment. These big applications, they are going to make their way into the cloud. And I think that over the next 18 months to two years, we will see the majority of those. Certainly, that’s what Gartner thinks. From the hyperscaler’s perspective, if you think of Microsoft, Google, or AWS, these guys are fighting over these really rich, important ecosystems. Under every application, there’s always a database. And even though there’s a proliferation of database products out there today, the big dominant players are still Oracle and SQL Server for those.
Chris Buckel (03:30)
I don’t want to use the word legacy because I hate that word. But let’s just say the slightly older applications that have been around for a while. Maybe they’re full of business logic. Maybe the developers left like five or ten years ago. No one knows how they work. The idea of moving those into public cloud is kind of scary, right? So that’s what Silk helps with. We’re helping customers take those applications and more importantly, the databases underneath them, and successfully deploy them in the public cloud.
Bob Evans (03:56)
Chris, as you said, it’s a very challenging environment then, right? If you’re a CIO or CTO and you’re going to agree to this, what are the things that Silk is able to offer them that gives them the assurance that even though your company’s name might not be as well-known as some of those that have been around for 30 or 40 years, that you have the unique capabilities to get the job done?
Chris Buckel (04:19)
That’s right. Silk is a platform that runs inside the three big public clouds. We run inside AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. And essentially, they are a landing zone for these databases to run in infrastructure as a service. And what we add is a massive boost to performance so that you can get the same levels of performance that you get on-premise and, additionally, a whole set of enterprise resilience features. So you can, for example, synchronize or replicate your applications and databases between different cloud zones, different cloud regions, or even between different clouds entirely if you want to completely protect against a cloud failure. We also add a set of enterprise data services, so we can squeeze down the application and database so it takes up less space, which means your bills are lower and those kinds of things. Really what we’re trying to do is to lower the threshold for adoption of the public cloud for these big applications and databases. If you’re taking a big Oracle database and putting it into the public cloud, we can be talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per month on infrastructure costs, cloud infrastructure costs alone.
Chris Buckel (05:24)
And that’s a massive cost, not to mention, of course, all the risk associated with it. We’re trying to lower that barrier to entry.
Bob Evans (05:31)
So, Chris, the combination then, as you’re describing it, of both the performance and cost. They’re interrelated. But both.
Chris Buckel (05:39)
You’re absolutely right.
Bob Evans (05:40)
Chris Buckel (05:40)
Performance and cost. We always describe it as two sides of the same coin. You can have all that performance maybe, but it’s going to cost you the world or potentially you can’t even get that level of performance because not all clouds were made equally, and some have more performance problems than others. So, yes, performance, cost, and then that third angle, which is always important, which is the resilience as well. Let’s face it, if you’re running an application and database in your own on-premise data center, it might be costly. It might be costing you a lot in CAPEX for example, but you’ve got control of it, you’ve got absolute control of it. And then when it moves to the cloud, it’s running on someone else’s computer, you’re letting go of that control. And that’s the scary thing.
Bob Evans (06:18)
Yeah, I was going to ask about that. Chris, what are some of those final hurdles that you have to overcome with a big company that’s about to undertake this fairly daunting move into the cloud with you? What are the final questions that they need to ask or that you need to answer that gets them to jump in?
Chris Buckel (06:38)
Yeah. So, first of all, we’re not a migration company. As I said, we’re a platform. We run inside the cloud. So we tend to work with customers that have already made the decision to move. But I do hear the questions. You’re absolutely right. And it’s always the same question. It’s amazing how often you hear the same questions. The first one is, if I move this database into the cloud, what’s it going to cost? That’s always number one. And then after that, the questions are how do I maintain the same levels of performance and availability that I take for granted on-prem while I’m running it in the cloud and on someone else’s infrastructure? Those are the big questions. And then I guess the other one is which cloud? How do these guys choose which cloud? That’s where it really comes back to your whole concept of Cloud Wars because these cloud providers are fighting each other tooth and nail to try and win these really rich, juicy workflows into their cloud. Let’s face it, if you’re Microsoft, for example, and you can win a big Oracle on-prem database into your cloud, into Microsoft Azure, it’s probably not coming out again.
Chris Buckel (07:37)
That’s a long-term revenue stream and everything that’s surrounding it, all the other applications, they’re going to come to the cloud too. The term that the cloud providers use is anchor workflows, because if you can drag the database in, it drags all the other stuff with it. And then once you’ve captured it, even if it’s on infrastructure as a service, you can start to develop that. You can start to talk to the customer about moving into platform as a service. You can sell your high margin services like data, AI, and analytics. It’s a massive win. So that’s why the cloud providers, more than anyone, are really focused right now on winning these big database clients.
Bob Evans (08:09)
Yeah, and Chris I was intrigued by the Silk website. The company is described in a couple of places as the Database Supercharger. It seems like today every business, every one of your customers or prospects, is trying to do things on its own to allow that business to move faster than ever and to move at the speed of the customer. Could you talk a little bit about the Supercharger part?
Chris Buckel (08:35)
Exactly. The way the platform works is a very clever system as you’d expect. It uses a two-tier architecture that splits performance and capacity into independent dimensions. By default, when you deploy an application in the cloud, or database in the cloud, performance and capacity are joined together. When you want more performance, you have to take more capacity and pay for more capacity, regardless of whether you use it. It’s called over-provisioning. It’s very wasteful. People don’t really want to be paying lots for capacity they’re not even using. Our platform breaks the link and allows you to scale performance and the capacity independently. One of the things we often talk about for example is in retail. On Black Friday you might need 50 times the performance you need in a normal week. What the Silk Platform does is it allows you to scale up seamlessly with no code changes to get all that performance and then afterwards scale that down again so you’re not still incurring that big cost. We have a customer called eToro. They’re a social trading company. They use us for their databases and it’s the same story. They want to be able to scale up to get that performance when they need it and scale down again.
Bob Evans (09:46)
Yeah, it’s very much a parallel to the Amazon store, right? That’s how AWS came into being, right?
Chris Buckel (09:52)
Exactly. Yes, it is, of course. But the thing about those cloud providers is that they are forcing customers to purchase blocks of compute and performance together. That’s just the way that the card works, the way you provision it. But that doesn’t always suit different customers. It’s essentially like t-shirt sized methodology. But most real-life workflows don’t fit into these small, medium or large categories. And that’s where you get the wastage.
Bob Evans (10:22)
And the lack of cost-efficiency.
Bob Evans (10:24)
So, Chris, if I’m sitting across the desk from you and I’m the prospect, and I’m just about convinced that Silk is the right way to go, and I ask, once I’ve installed Silk, once it’s in, how are you and your team going to help ensure that this goes well? That in 12 months from now, I’m still just as happy as you’d like me to be.
Chris Buckel (10:46)
The first thing is that I probably wouldn’t be there alone, Bob. I’d probably be there with one of our cloud partners. We work very closely with Microsoft, AWS, and GCP. Just last week, I was speaking to a number of different customers with my Microsoft partner account teams. They are going to these customers and saying work with Silk because they will allow you to get what you need in Azure. It’s a case of understanding the customers and the challenges they have in adopting the cloud and then defining how we can build a solution that will allow them to scale when they need it and not break the bank in terms of costs.
Bob Evans (11:27)
That’s nice company to keep there. Your partners, that is.
Chris Buckel (11:37)
We found the whole partnership experience very interesting. I really do find the whole Cloud Wars concept fascinating because of all the public cloud providers, as I said before, not all of the clouds are equal. And if you think about Oracle and SQL Server, the two biggest databases that I’ve talked about, which 95%, maybe 99% of the customers I talk to are using. With SQL Server, you’ve got a natural home for that in Microsoft Azure because it’s the same vendor. It’s Microsoft. However, you can run Microsoft SQL in other clouds as well. But Oracle is the really interesting one. Oracle is interesting because, without casting stones on SQL Server, Oracle does tend to be the biggest player in terms of the really big, high performance databases. And you cannot run Oracle in Google Cloud as Oracle is not supported by Google. You cannot run Oracle in Microsoft Azure as platform as a service because they don’t have a PaaS offering. You must use IaaS. AWS does have a solution. And then, of course, you’ve got the Oracle cloud. And Oracle sales reps are out using their famous carrot and stick methods to try and get people to move into the Oracle cloud. It’s the Oracle databases that I think are really going to show who the winners are and who the losers are over the next 18 months.
Bob Evans (12:59)
Chris, could you talk a little bit about when the prospect across the desk signs on and says yeah, let’s do this? How long in partnership with the three big cloud providers, how long might the Silk installation take until they start to see improvements and are able to circle back in touch with you and say, hey, this is going just like we thought, it’s better than we thought, or to share some idea of time to value, time to innovation?
Chris Buckel (13:28)
Absolutely. First of all, Silk is a virtualization layer that runs inside the customer’s subscription or customer’s virtual private cloud. You can deploy it in under an hour and be ready to go, and then simply the time it takes to move the data over into it, you can see an immediate realization of value. But I guess the bigger picture, maybe the question you’re really asking, is how long does it take from the engagement in order to get to value? And really, that depends on when we arrive because we’re typically involved in some kind of migration of a database from on-prem into the cloud. If we get there in the beginning, then it really doesn’t matter because it just depends on how long the database migration takes. Those things can take a long time. But in the case of the customer I mentioned earlier, they were already doing the migration. They weren’t able to see the performance they needed. We were able to take them from a two-year migration to two quarters. That was an incredible amount of value for them.
Bob Evans (14:24)
Yeah, it seems like more and more that’s what businesses are looking at. The whole premise behind the Database Supercharger is that you can help them speed up time to insight, prepare new products and services more rapidly, and be able to make the right decisions. That’s indispensable today, right? For any sort of business.
Chris Buckel (14:47)
Databases have always been the Crown Jewels of the data estate, aren’t they? I mean, you know that, Bob, because you’ve worked with database companies like me. It really is the most important part of your data estate. You look after it, you spend the most money on it, and, therefore, when it comes to moving it and putting into someone else’s cloud, you really need to be absolutely sure that you’re going to get everything you need in terms of the service levels, availability, performance, resilience, and so on.
Bob Evans (15:13)
In one of those customer conversations, if somebody says, Chris, this all sounds great, but look, the big companies have to be doing the same sorts of things. Wouldn’t it be easier for me to just go with one of the big companies instead of bringing in a partner like Silk?
Chris Buckel (15:29)
I honestly don’t believe that there are other companies that can do what we’re doing at the moment. It’s a very new space, this idea of a Database Supercharger in the cloud. We’re very fortunate because we come off the back of working with database workloads on-premise and have a whole lot of IP around things like the ability to write very fast in order to scale out and the resilience required to use multiple systems and so on. We’ve got a bit of a head start at the moment.
Bob Evans (15:58)
I believe it’s a fascinating topic and I think the picture you’re presenting of what Silk is doing is quite compelling. Is there anything you want to be sure to add before we wrap up?
Chris Buckel (16:09)
I just think that everyone needs to keep an eye on what’s happening in this database space. So enterprise databases on the big three clouds plus the Oracle cloud. I think it’s going to be a really fascinating space. I think that in 18 months, maybe two years max, we’re really going to see who the winners were.
Bob Evans (16:26)
Yeah, it will be a remarkable time. I think this business never slows down, but it seems like gosh over the last year or so, as you’ve just described, things are moving at an extraordinary pace so it should be a fun next year or so. We’ll see what happens and thanks so much for sharing some of what Silk is doing in the market.
Chris Buckel (16:44)
Thank you very much.
Bob Evans (16:45)
Good to see you, Chris. To all of you. Thanks for being with us here at Cloud Wars Live. We hope to see you again soon.