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Development Teams Should Not Wait For IT | Morpheus CMO Brad Parks

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Guest: Brad Parks (LinkedIn, Twitter)
Company: Morpheus (Twitter)
Show: Let’s Talk

Morpheus is a hybrid cloud management platform with the goal of enabling development teams to move faster by not having to wait on IT. To make this work, Morpheus offers self-service provisioning of VMs, container clusters, and application stacks across any private and public cloud. Recently the company released version 5.4 of their product and we invited Brad Parks, Chief Marketing Officer at Morpheus, to talk about what’s new.

What is Morpheus all about?

“A hybrid cloud management platform, Morpheus helps development teams move faster by not having to wait on IT.

“The platform originated inside of Bertram Capital, a $2.5 billion private equity firm. After 5 years of using Morpheus internally, our co-founders decided to package up that intellectual property, spin out of Bertram and hit the ground running in 2015.”

Can you talk about the scope of microservices? How far does Morpheus go and where do you stop?

“We’re a lot like self-leveling cement. Once we install, we connect very quickly to all of your third-party technologies.

“The software platform that we offer gives customers a customizable self-service application provisioning catalog to help them standardize workflows and unify processes.

“Sometimes it takes developers two or three weeks to get what they want from IT. And you have that classic dev versus ops friction. With Morpheus as a platform, we get rid of that friction and everybody gets what they want.”

What are your thoughts on how the industry is breaking old silos while at the same time creating new ones?

Developers as a stakeholder don’t want to be governed. They want creativity and move fast too. So we let them continue to use their pipeline tools, open-source tools, and other tools that they have. But we let them do it in a way that gets the governance of the guardrails in place.”

How do you help those vendors with the legacy or traditional workloads?

“In terms of helping people bridge that traditional versus cloud-native gap, I’d say two things. It’s very much still siloed within the enterprise. We tie in natively to those public cloud PaaS services like those from a GCP or an Azure or an Amazon. So teams can use DSLs like Terraform or CloudFormation or ARM templates as part of that automation process. We want to make sure those cloud-native consumers can still access those services.

“As for new paradigms like containers and Kubernetes, Morpheus itself actually started as a container orchestrator. ”

How much should companies worry about security or preparing their team?

“Public cloud is a shared accountability model. Everyone has different pieces of the stack. The responsibility still lies within the enterprise.”

What are the core components of the Morpheus Data platform?

“We are a subscription-based software platform, but we’re not a managed SaaS offering as what we found working with large enterprises is that they wanted their automation control plane as close to their workloads as they could get it.

“We have a very simple all-in-one package that can be up and running in about 10 minutes.”

Talk about the 5.4 release, either the features or functionalities? What else did you add there?

“We have our own Terraform provider and we can also wrap around Terraform to provide that catalog context. So it was one big piece of the latest release.”

“With the 5.4 release, Morpheus extended deeper into Kubernetes.”

Who are your typical users?

“A bulk of our business comes from large enterprises like AstraZeneca. We are quite a bit in banking and finance, as well as manufacturing. But about 30% of our business, which is a material share, comes from managed service providers including telcos, global systems integrators and OEM hardware manufacturers”.

The summary of the show is written by Jack Wallen

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Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host, Swapnil Bhartiya and welcome to TFiR Let’s Talk. And today we have with us, Brad Parks, Chief Marketing Officer at Morpheus. Brad, it’s great to have you on the show.

Brad Parks: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Today’s focus is going to be the 5.4 release, but since this is the first time we are talking to each other, I would love to know a bit more about the company as well. So tell us, what is Morpheus all about?

Brad Parks: Yeah, it’s actually got a great origin story. It’s one of the reasons I joined the company almost five years ago, I’m a nerd at heart. So a good superhero origin story always has a certain amount of appeal. So Morpheus is a hybrid cloud management platform. But really at our heart, our goal is to enable development teams to move faster by not having to wait on IT. So they get self-service provisioning of VMs, container clusters and application stacks across any private and public cloud.

But how we got our start is actually a little bit different than a lot of vendors, we actually started as an internal project in my boss’s $2.5 billion private equity firm. Right. He built a very successful business, buying companies who were in relatively low-tech sectors, but then injecting technology to help those companies transform themselves. To get that done, they hired 20 or 30 of the absolute best developers that they could find, but those developers needed a centralized platform to go engineer solutions into all of these different clients.

And so over the course of several years, they’d built up their own intellectual property for their own use. But then about, I’d say six, seven years ago, we looked around, they said, “Hey, big enterprises are also trying to do this type of transformation. We should package up that intellectual property, spin it out as a dedicated software platform.” So that’s a little bit about how we got our start.

Swapnil Bhartiya: As you said, once again, like most cases, you folks are trying to scratch your own itch and that kind of… the solution you’d found, that solves a lot of problems for a lot of people. Can you talk about the scope of microservices? Because when we do look at cloud orchestration, it’s a kind of opening a can of worms where things can get complicated so quickly. So talk about how far do you folks go? Where do you stop? Or just give a quick overview of kind of, when we do look at Morpheus Data, what are we looking at?

Brad Parks: Yeah. One of the biggest challenges that we see, working with very large enterprise customers is they’re… first of all, they’re very messy. You’re right. It can be a can of worms when you start talking about hybrid cloud. And I think it’s why most big enterprises are… they’re really stuck at the last mile. Right? I almost think about it like the old Microsoft status update bar. Right? You can get to 90%, but that last 10% just takes, for whatever reason, the longest to wrap up.

When we go into a large enterprise, they’ll say, “Hey, we have VMware and Nutanix, ServiceNow and Ansible and Terraform, AWS and Azure.” They have no lack of tools. What they don’t have is a simple way to bring all of those tools together to achieve that mission of self-service provisioning for their developers, which ultimately is what may makes a cloud, a cloud. It’s what makes DevOps teams’ high-functioning, is the ability for a developer to hit a button, make an API call or automatically build their application stack as part of their process.

Where Morpheus comes in is, we’re a lot like self-leveling cement. If you’ve ever done home construction projects. Right? Once we install, we connect very quickly to all of those third party technologies I mentioned. And then, we enable customers to present a service catalog. So that developer can say, “I need my database. I need my web service, or I need my app stack.” And then we will go grab an IP address from their IPM tool, register a DNS entry, clone a VM on their VMware, call the right Ansible playback… playbook to lay down their app stack, install their logging, their monitoring, their security agents.

All of that work that historically has been a very manual for big enterprises. It’s why it sometimes takes developers two or three weeks to get what they want from IT. And you have that classic dev versus ops friction. With Morpheus as a platform, we get rid of that friction and everybody gets what they want.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Will it be wrong to say that cloud native is not a thing, it’s like kind of way of doing things as you also explained. So if we just agree, yeah, that is kind of… we are doing things. And then you also mention that they’re still stuck in the dev and ops. The fact is that while we are trying to break old silos, we are kind of creating new ones too, because there are folks who are interested in securities, they only do security. There are folks who are still doing… That’s why we keep creating new terms as well. First of all, what are your thoughts on that? Because you are trying to solve problems for those teams, but if these teams are still stuck in those silos. So you can bring a horse to the lake, but you cannot make a drink. But here, you have [inaudible 00:05:45].

Brad Parks: You’re spot on. I joke often with our partners and our sales teams that they play organizational psychologists, as much as they do sales teams sometimes, because we’ll… yeah, we’ll classically deal with a VP of infrastructure and operations. They have the charter to solve this problem. But along the way, they have to make sure they’re meeting the needs of those other stakeholders. And that’s where a lot of traditional solutions to your point have fallen short. I think one of the areas that makes Morpheus unique is, we really have striven to give each of those stakeholders what they need out of the equation. So while we are not a security tool, for example, we’re going to make sure the CISO and the SecOps team can embed golden image, templates, security agents, lockdown firewall ports. All of the things that keep them up at night, they get to set those guardrails and then get out of the way. Right?

Developers as a stakeholder, classically, they don’t want to be governed. Right? They want creativity. They want to move fast. So we let them continue to use their pipeline tools, their open-source tools, other tools that they have, but we let them do it in a way that gets the governance of the guardrails in place, then the one… the last big stakeholder is finance. Right? Cloud is not saving anybody money. Right? Long gone are the days where cloud is cheaper. You have to govern, how big are the machines people are provisioning? How do you do chargeback or project accountability? We give those finance teams the ability to track use of on-prem and public cloud resources, set budget policies. So again, we’re bringing everybody the table, making sure they each get their core needs met. But at the end of the day, it’s about letting development teams move faster at the same time.

Swapnil Bhartiya: When we do talk about the cloud native, we do talk about the workload that are being created with cloud native in mind. But most organization, they also have legacy, or you can say… or traditional workloads-

Brad Parks: Bridging that gap is a huge part of our story, so [crosstalk 00:07:56].

Swapnil Bhartiya: … Exactly. So I also understand, because refactoring can take so much time. You don’t want to… There’s not… You cannot afford to have time. So how do you help those vendors with the legacy or traditional workloads? So they can be benefits of cloud native without having to either investing too much or worry about [inaudible 00:08:14]. Yeah.

Brad Parks: So in terms of helping people bridge that traditional versus cloud native gap, I’d say two things, it’s very much still siloed within the enterprise. You have new teams, kind of the cool kids off running, doing cloud native analytics with services from a GCP or an Azure or an Amazon, as an example. We tie in natively to those public cloud PaaS services. So teams can use DSLs like Terraform or CloudFormation or ARM templates as part of that automation process. So we want to make sure those cloud native consumers can still access those services. Other kind of net new paradigms like containers and Kubernetes, Morpheus itself actually started as a container orchestrator. The dev team that created this platform where a bunch of… Linux and Hurd using Docker, LXC containers long before Kubernetes was externalized. We help those container-focused teams quickly get on demand provisioning of Kubernetes clusters. And then, simplify provisioning of containerized workloads into those clusters.

But I think where a lot of the value gets felt are those more traditional workloads, you mentioned. Right? 70% of the apps in the world still running and pretty traditional paradigms. We let enterprises create that same past like experience that they’re getting in the public cloud or we let them do it on-prem. So if you need database as a service, web services, other app stacks that are in a more traditional vernacular. We bring that same level of agility to those traditional workload. So you can start to take your application libraries and re-platform and modernize, over time without having new silos, you don’t have the public cloud silo, the Kubernetes silo and the old VMware silo. It just… it’s untenable. We are a unified platform. And really a lot of our target work is with platform engineering teams inside these enterprises. And that’s charter is to enable the entire company to benefit with the same level of speed and agility.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Thanks, Brad. And now, I’ll go back to the point of security and also preparing teams for… When they were managing their own leg legacy or traditional stack, of course they were responsible for everything. But now, when they are using Morpheus Data platform in a way, how much is still in a buck stop there? How much they should worry about security or also preparing their team? So what I’m trying to understand is… once again, where does your role stop? What do you expect from them to prepare up peacefully? You don’t have to worry about anything as soon as you move to Morpheus Data, we’ll take care of everything.

Brad Parks: No, you’re good. Yeah. So public clouds. Right? It’s a shared accountability model. Right? Everyone has different pieces of the stack. We’re a platform. Right? Responsibility still lies within the enterprise. But if we go back to our core use case, which is self-service provisioning of application stack. So a security team, a CISO, for example, they’re still going to have best in class security tools that are doing scanning and test automation and all of what makes up security.

Where we come in is, we enable that team to build in the right security policies into the provisioning process. So every time a new workload gets provisioned, if that CISO and that SecOps team wants to make sure policies are in place, security agents are installed so that their dedicated security tools are all set up. We do that in a fully automated fashion. So it’s repeatable. And if it’s repeatable and automated, you reduce risk. Right? Because every time you introduce a human, sadly humans are… we’re usually the most failable of the process. So the more you can bake security and policy in at the beginning, you’re going to reduce the need to clean up a mess, after the fact. So probably the way I’d put it.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Excellent. Once again, thanks, Brad. And now, let’s talk about technology, especially if I dot for release that what I think was announced December, can you also give an overview of what does the tech stack look like? What are the core components of Morpheus Data platform?

Brad Parks: Sure. So we are a very flexible platform, we can be installed. So I guess, I’ll take a step back. We are a subscription-based software platform, but we’re not a managed SaaS offering. And actually that’s very intentional, because what we found working with large enterprises is that they wanted their automation control plan as close to their workloads as they could get it. And for most enterprises that means, they want to install it on-prem. Right? Behind their firewall, where they can maximize the value. We certainly reach back up into the public clouds, but for those on-prem workloads where they’re tying in other on-prem tools, they’re going to install Morpheus. We have a few different ways we can be deployed. We have a very simple all-in-one package that can be up and running in about 10 minutes. You can cluster the services and that’s what most larger enterprises are doing for scale and resiliency. So you can deploy it across multiple nodes, behind a load balancer, with shared backend database. So it’s highly scalable and resilient. We have enterprises using us to manage tens of thousands of virtualized and containerized workloads.

But we also do have companies, an open service providers or global systems integrators, who are actually running the Morpheus package up in the public cloud. So very flexible in terms of how it can be deployed unique to different enterprise needs. The stack. Right? We have a application front-end, use a Elastic, use MySQL. You can externalize that, things like Percona and take advantage of some of those public cloud services when you’re installing a semi public cloud. So really, it depends on customer needs. We also use technologies like Guacamole, to provide remote desktop access into provision machines. And we actually contribute very actively back to a lot of those projects, I just mentioned. So we were talking about open-source earlier, while we ourselves are a commercial software platform, we actively help enterprises with their own open-source needs and contribute back to the core projects that we use in our own platform.

Swapnil Bhartiya: And since you’ve brought up open-source projects, open-source kind of solved day one problem, but the real problems start day two, when you have to manage, update, upgrade, or actually add functionality too. So that’s where commercial players come into picture, because without commercial vendors, open-source itself will not be able to solve all of our problem. Now, can you also talk about the 5.4 release, either the features, functionalities? What else that you added there?

Brad Parks: Actually, piggybacking off of the open-source thread is probably a good place to start. So that central platform engineering team, I mentioned, that often is the… they’re the ones that manage Morpheus inside the enterprise. They’re having to address needs around classic hybrid cloud management. So how do they tie in to the more AWS, Azure and other stacks. But more and more, they are also being asked to help the enterprise take advantage of open-source technologies like Terraform or Ansible. Now, Ansible and Red Hat will promote a platform like Ansible Tower, as the paid role-based access governance version for your Ansible, HashiCorp would similarly position a Terraform Enterprise or a Terraform Cloud, as the enterprise version to provide governance and collaboration around your Terraform.

Well, one of the opportunities we see with enterprises is reducing some of that tool sprawl and a lot of their cost. So rather than acquiring Terraform Enterprise and Ansible Tower as separate silos, we let them continue to use the open-source versions of those projects like Ansible Core and Terraform. But we pull the governance and the policy and the management into a single platform. So you’re not having to context switch between management planes, but also you’re avoiding a lot of the added cost of those kind of bespoke, more narrowly scoped platforms. So a big part of the 5.4 release was improving our hooks into those technologies. So for example, we have our own Terraform provider and we can also wrap around Terraform to provide that catalog context. So it was one big piece of the 5.4 release.

One of the others was extending deeper into Kubernetes. So another very rich open-source community, but the actual day two management of Kubernetes was a struggle for a lot of operations teams that grew up on VMware and other more commercialized platforms. So we built in a Kubernetes cluster management engine into the platform. So that… again, you’re avoiding yet another silo. We don’t have a separate Kubernetes management silo. We can deploy our own Kubernetes distribution into private and public clouds. But if a enterprise already is using an OpenShift, a Rancher, a Tanzu or another third party, we can connect to those, but bring that operational data into one pane of glass. I try and avoid the single pane of glass trap, but we do want to minimize the amount of pane that an IT operations team has to go through.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Who are your typical users? Who are you targeting? And also, if you can share some use cases without giving any names.

Brad Parks: Yeah, well, I can share some, some I can. But I’d say, a bulk of our business does come from large enterprise. So companies like AstraZeneca, healthcare, a very tightly regulated industry. We are quite a bit in banking and finance, also manufacturing. But about 30% of our business, which is a material share comes from managed service providers. So think about telcos, global systems integrators and OEM hardware manufacturers. A good example would be British telecom like BT, actually uses Morpheus to power their managed hybrid cloud offering. So we work with companies, who may have a data center or a hosting facility where they’re already hosting customers, managed private cloud workloads. We let that service provider have a white labeled interface to let those tenants or clients access the same benefit that we provide to enterprises, which is self-service provisioning of workloads into private managed or public clouds. So yeah, service providers’ definitely a big one for us.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Brad, thank you so much for taking time out today. And of course talk about Morpheus Data. But also, the larger problem that comes with the complexity of cloud native work. So thanks for sharing those insights. Thanks for sharing more details about the company. And I look forward talking to you again. So thanks for your time today.

Brad Parks: Absolutely. Thank you, Swapnil.

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