This interview was conducted at the 23rd International Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. The full video interview is available here.
Roger Strukhoff: We're joined right now by Haseeb Budhani, CEO and Cofounder with Rafay Systems. What is Rafay Systems doing?
Haseeb Budhani: At Rafay Systems, we're solving a problem that plagues so many different companies. It’s a widespread problem that we used to think somebody would eventually solve. Well, that somebody is us.
Q: And what is the problem you’re solving and how widespread is it?
Haseeb Budhani: When a company decides to “modernize their applications”, which is a code word for “containerize their applications”, they choose to run their apps in a public cloud or a private cloud, or some combination thereof. One of the tools we hear about a lot in this context is Kubernetes. But when someone says they are using Kubernetes, what they really mean is they are using Kubernetes and 20 other things that go with it. For example, I need to update my configuration, I need to have storage volumes, I need to secure my clusters using crypto, etc. Kubernetes relies on other tools provided by open source projects – such as registry, security, telemetry, networking, and automation. There are so many other things that have to be brought into the mix to run clusters across sites. Particularly when it comes to this complexity, every company internally is solving for the lifecycle management of their applications and their clusters. Which means they are internally building a skillset around Kubernetes, and all the tools that go around it. Because every company is effectively reinventing the same wheel, our opinion is that maybe this is not good for us, an industry.
Q: A few years ago, I worked for a company and I remember the CEO complaining that Kubernetes was immature. To what degree do you think Kubernetes can mature more compared to what Rafay is building?
Haseeb Budhani: I think Kubernetes is a brilliant piece of technology, given how fast it came along and the things it allows us to do. It's incredible. In fact, the pluggability of Kubernetes is why we love it. There are things that we love, and there are some components that we don't like because they're not Enterprise ready. But this allows us to replace them with our own inventions. And that's the beauty of Kubernetes and that's why it's the right technology to be shepherded by the open community.
But complexity is a different beast altogether. When you have so much pluggability, there's an opportunity for you to shoot yourself in the foot. That's a challenge. You see, there's no standardization around how to configure these clusters, or how to run them across sites. Today, every ‘managed Kubernetes’ offering brings up your cluster and then you’re on your own.
The lifecycle of the application has so many more components to it. After the cluster bring-up, a company’s DevOps team or the apps engineer have to think about the YAML scripts that need to be written to bring-up their pods, how to scale them, how to get the config thought through, how to upgrade their code, how to get their keys in all the right places if something breaks, what the next steps would be, how to get the logs back, how to get the metrics of cluster performance back. The list goes on. Every company in the situation faces these issues, no matter if you're selling eCommerce or you're a security company, 80% of the challenges with containerization remain the same.
So, from our perspective, we thought, what if we could build a SaaS platform where companies can consume the container lifecycle capabilities as a service. They would not have to spend their time on the undifferentiated tasks and have their DevOps teams focus on the more important things to the company.
Q: Okay so you've been thinking about this problem for a long time. How long is Rafay systems actually been in existence? What is being produced now? What is available now and without giving away secrets, where do you expect to be in six months or two years?
Haseeb Budhani: Absolutely. Rafay Systems is relatively new. At 18 months in, we have a product that is very polished, we have a number of customers on the platform.
Previously, we were consumers, now we are the practitioners. But having had that experience in the past of trying to carry out application containerization in an ad hoc fashion across multiple cloud providers gave us a perspective on what can be an effective way to do this going forward. Not just for us, as a company, but for the community as a whole.
Our aim is to get our customers to think in terms of business intent. For example, a customer should be able to say, “I have an application that's got three containers, each independent container should scale this way, I want them to run in these three regions in Amazon and these two data centers, I want my logs to go to that s3 bucket, I want my metrics to go here, and I want to upgrade this often. Go.”
And all the underlying complexity, the customer won’t have to think about.
Q: Who's the ideal customer? Anyone who's using Kubernetes?
Haseeb Budhani: Anybody who's got containerized applications on Kubernetes is certainly a user of the technology. Rafay Systems would dub our software as ‘A tool on the DevOps Team's tool chain’. That’s what this is for.
In DevOps, there's always stuff to do. Every company I talk to, even when they have perfect production environments, somebody in dev is complaining that “man I check in code and then I can't get stuff done and I want to test faster”. So, let's help the DevOps teams free up resources so they can focus on the more important things because there's always more stuff to do that would directly be profitable to the company’s business intent.
Q: Where can companies find you online?
Haseeb Budhani: The company's website is rafay.co. Please go ahead, sign up for a free account, play with it, kick the tires see what you think. We'd love your feedback, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.