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Equinix Metal Helps Mirantis Give Users Easier Access To Infrastructure

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Guests: James Malachowski (LinkedIn, Twitter)
Shaun O’Meara (LinkedIn)
Companies: Equinix Metal (Twitter)
Mirantis (LinkedIn, Twitter)
Show: Let’s Talk

Equinix Metal and Mirantis have been in a partnership for some time. This partnership is all about enabling customers to do more in the cloud-native space. The importance of that partnership, according to James Malachowski, Head of Solution Architects at Equinix Metal, is about making “one plus one equal three” and how the company can enable customers to do more with both of these products. Malachowski explains, “We typically deal in primitives, right? Basic level services, networking, compute, storage that customers typically compose to do much more interesting business level things. And for us, it’s really critical to have the right solutions, the right partners to really help customers get from point A to point B without us having to necessarily do all that heavy lifting.”

From the Mirantis’ point of view, Shaun O’Meara, Field CTO at Mirantis, says, “That partnership allows us to not only address a wider audience but also to do that on demand, which is a major advantage for us now.”

But how does this partnership serve the customers? From O’Meara’s perspective, it’s all about simplicity. To that, O’Meara says, “We’re able to give users a much simpler, much easier access to infrastructure. We’re in this world where we’re trying to move between public and private clouds. We’ve got a lot of customers who are on-prem. By really enabling them to have that on-prem capability through Equinix Metal but with the simplicity of public cloud.”

From Malachowski’s perspective, “What I find is most people are struggling. It’s really difficult. It’s really complex. They need a partner, they need a north star to help guide them on that journey. And that’s really the value that we see.”

With regards to use cases, O’Meara mentions financial services where customers want to be able to expand rapidly and want access to market aggregation services. Another use case is smaller telcos looking for aggregated and core services.

Finally, Malachowski says, on how the partnership has benefited Equinix Metal, “We’ve seen this pattern as companies mature and grow that they’ll expand their network and build things a certain way. And that’s really the opportunity we had. And I think the Mirantis team really helped influence how we think about that.”

The summary of the show is written by Jack Wallen

Topics we covered:

  • James, Equinix Metal focuses a lot on partnership. Can you talk about the importance of these kinds of partnerships, not only for Equinix Metal but also for the whole ecosystem?
  • Shaun, if I ask the same question to you, what is the importance of these kinds of partnerships for Mirantis?
  • How does this collaboration help the users of your services?
  • What’s the importance of bare metal in the modern cloud-native world? Why should developers care about it?
  • We do like to talk about the DevOps movement, but how many of these practices are being used in reality?
  • Mirantis is serving a wide variety of customers, dating back to OpenStack days, but are there any use cases where you feel Equinix Metal helps you serve these customers better?
  • There are other players like Equinix. Why did Mirantis choose to partner with Equinix Metal only?
  • James, partners like Mirantis bring many unique use cases and challenges to Equinix Metal. How does that make Equinix Metal even better?

 

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Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host Swapnil Bhartiya and welcome to TFIR Let’s Talk. And today we have two guests. Shaun O’Meara Field CTO at Mirantis, James Malachowski, Head of Solution Architects at Equinix Metal. James, Sean is great to have you both on the show.

Shaun O’Meara: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having us.

Swapnil Bhartiya: I want to talk to you James, we have covered Equinix Metal a lot of time earlier, and you folks start building your own manner services. You stress a lot on partnership and so can you quickly talk about the importance of these kind of partnerships, not only for Equinix Metal, but also for the whole ecosystem?

James Malachowski: Sure, absolutely. So first off, thanks for having us today. From my perspective, the partnerships are really about one plus one equals three, how do we enable customers to do more with metal, and Equinix Metal specifically, we typically deal in primitives, right? Basic level services, networking, compute, storage that customers typically compose to do much more interesting business level things. And for us, it’s really critical to have the right solutions, the right partners to really help customers get from point A to point B without us having to necessarily do all that heavy lifting.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Sean, if I ask the same question to you, what is the importance of these kind of partnerships for Mirantis?

Shaun O’Meara: For Mirantis, this allows us to expand our services that we can offer to our customers. As a company, we’re very focused on providing the whole as-a-service experience through our software products. We reckon [inaudible 00:01:41] specifically we can leverage their infrastructure, their networking, their on demand of bare metal. And that partnership allows us to not only address a wider audience, but also to do that on demand, which is a major advantage for us now, software model.

Swapnil Bhartiya: If I ask, of course both Mirantis and Equinix, you folks offer your own set of services but did this collaboration, what real benefit users because sometimes this cloud-native work can become too complicated, too overwhelming. So let’s focus, because focus is mostly on users, right? Helping them in their journey. So let’s talk about how this collaboration help the user of your services.

Shaun O’Meara: So sure, from our point of view, it really is simplicity. We’re able to give users a much simpler, much easier access to infrastructure. We’re in this world where we’re trying to move between public and private cloud. We’ve got a lot of customers who are on-prem. By really enabling them to have that on-prem capability through Equinix Metal but with the simplicity of public cloud. And that’s really what it boils down to for our existing customers today and new customers.

James Malachowski: So from my perspective, I’ve seen customers from all different backgrounds and use cases, investing in cloud native, and depending on where they are in that journey, they need varying levels of help. One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in the market is how do we find that path? How do we find the best partner? How do we find someone that can help us experience that journey and actually manifest that journey to cloud native and digital transformation. What I find is most people are struggling. It’s really difficult. It’s really complex. They need a partner, they need a north star to help guide them on that journey. And that’s really the value that we see.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Can you also talk about the kind of importance of bare metal? Because there are some use cases, like edge is a very good use case, where developers will have to learn to deal with bare metal as well. So can you talk also about why developers should kind of care about, or have bare metal also in their mind?

James Malachowski: We live in a world that’s pretty heterogeneous and diverse at this point, right? I mean, take crypto into account now, right? It’s sort of a new way to abstract compute and databases in a new way for developers, right? So if I’m a developer in today’s world, there’s a whole variety of things I need to know about, bare metal is definitely one of them.

I used to sort of hear this joke about that we sort of lost our way back when we had dynamos and all these other things, sort of like this idea of a Heroku developer, right? That doesn’t really know what a computer is, but we’ve sort of like the pendulum swung back. Now we need to get access to accelerators and GPUs and all these sort of purpose built components, ARM, different things that’ll make bare metal much more relevant today than it was even a couple years ago.

Shaun O’Meara: Yeah, so I have a slightly different tack on that. I think developers are being forced to care about the infrastructure to a certain extent, but by and large, they don’t want to. They want to focus on building value with their applications. And the advantage that this whole edge world is bringing them is that they can now move those workloads closer and take advantage of the networks, move them closer to the consumers by taking advantage of the networks.

The challenge they have though, is this is fairly complex. All this choice that you’ve got to pick from within the public cloud, within the private cloud, within bare metal, and ultimately developers don’t want to have to become infrastructure experts and the value of services like ours and Equinix Metal is that they can consume metal services. They can consume these edge services, but through a very simplified, very standardized methodology, which means they don’t need to be infrastructure experts. We can be the infrastructure experts and just provide them access to the required services. That’s the real power of what Equinix Metal is offering along with, of course, all the other Equinix networking offerings, and then overlaid with a simplified hybrid cloud access model is where really what we’re driving towards for developers.

Swapnil Bhartiya: You said what we all like to hear and talk about, but the fact, if you look Sean, is that a lot of things are moving to developers pipeline. Yes, ideally they should just focus, but security is moving into their pipeline, site reliability. That’s why our rules are changing. We are getting new labels, but actually things are ending up in their pipeline. And that’s where the role of these partnerships come in. Yes, the rules are changing. A lot of things are stopping at their table to make it simple. So let’s talk about the reality in the space versus the new things or new movements and evolutions, DevOps, SREs. We like to talk about.

Shaun O’Meara: If you really want to look at that, DevOps has been around for a number of years, in my opinion, and that’s been… We’ve been talking DevOps for at least 10 years. The reality of DevOps is that it’s still really complicated. It takes enormous amount of expertise just to handle that layer between application value and infrastructure. So yes, a lot of it is moving towards the developer, but developers, your developer doesn’t want to, can’t deal with that complexity as well as trying to build value at the same time. And I keep coming back to this value statement.

Ultimately, we want developers to be building value for the organizations that they work for. So our job as an industry is to make them still be able to get access to that infrastructure, still be able to choose the GPUs that James was talking about or the other specialized hardware components. Being able to select compute that’s closer to their consumers, but do that in a much more simplified way. Ideally, a more standardized way through a standard set of APIs, for example, Kubernetes is a standardized API that we can more address. And I think that’s our job as an infrastructure focused industry.

James Malachowski: Yeah, we see the same thing, maybe on the other end of the spectrum with the private data center customers that have aspirations to be more cloud front, cloud forward, cloud native, whatever term you want to use, right? They’re making the investments, hiring people, bringing in development teams to sort of do these things. But the struggle has really been on that complexity. The networking we’re finding is a big challenge for a lot of customers, right?

It’s one of the conversations we spend a lot of time with Mirantis and a lot of the value that we’re building with Mirantis around private networking for public cloud, how do I make things more private? How do I sort of diverse myself across the globe in a way that makes my users have a better experience? And we get things where customers are like yeah, I want to get out of the data center business. I don’t want to manage the global network. I don’t want to manage hardware, but I still need to have access to these low level primitives. And I need to have a consistent API and a consistent console in which to do that.

Shaun O’Meara: Yeah, if I can extend on that, the customers want the ease of use of public cloud, but they still want the self-determination of self bold. So where Equnix fills in the niche, where we’re filling the niche now is we’re giving them that choice so that they can have that self determination without necessarily being forced into a very rigid structure that comes from public cloud. And that’s one of the huge amount of power that we’re offering consumers.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Sean, if I may ask you, and this question depends on how you feel about it is that, Mirantis, of course you folks know, have been all the way from early days of OpenStack, you were early there and then Kubernetes and all those spaces. So you folks working in a different space. Are there any use cases where you felt that, hey, it connects  and enable you to serve that use case better?

Shaun O’Meara: Yeah, so I mean, a couple of big ones for us are in the financial services space right now. We’ve got customers who want to be able to expand rapidly, want to have access to market services as an example, so market aggregation services. Those services are already existing within the Equnix infrastructure, by being able to put their workloads inside Equinix Metal, which exists within that ecosystem by us being able to offer them the Kubernetes platform to run that application on, but they maintain the proximity to those market aggregators.

So that’s a very powerful use case for them, low latency, easy access to the network, and then throwing on top of that, they are using the hyperscalers. So they want the bare metal capability for high speed, high performance. They want access proximity, which is, I think an important word to the Equinix story here, to those market aggregators, but they’re also running significant workloads within the hypervisors. And that’s where Equinix really provides an amazing ecosystem for us to leverage for those customers.

Another good use case too, as an example, smaller telcos. Smaller telcos often have the edge infrastructure, but they’re looking for aggregated services and core where traditional public cloud services maybe are not suitable for them because they need access to that bare metal, they need access to that high performance capability at the core. They could start to have that public cloud on demand service so that they can grow as they need to by leveraging metal again. And that connectivity provides them at core.

James Malachowski: Yeah, so with Mirantis, a lot of the focus on our integration effort has really been around creating that proximity, both from a latency and performance perspective, but also just a logical networking perspective. One of the biggest challenges, we’ve seen with some of the other sort of traditional customers with going to public cloud, leveraging hyperscalers and leveraging cloud native is that networking component. And Equinix really is the best place to establish that type of connectivity where effectively, metal becomes a logical extension of my data center, right? We have a customer right now in DC that we spent a lot of time helping them figure out how do we get 40 gigs plus of throughput from their existing data center and their existing public cloud deployment in a metal. They wanted a disaster recovery use case and a place to just drop and expand their Kubernetes cluster.

And it was really hard for us to get them on board, but once we unlock that networking connection and show them, hey, here’s how you get that throughput. And oh, by the way, it’s 10th of a millisecond. This looks just like their data center, so they can literally add a rack or a row or a server or a cabinet or the hundred and first server that they can’t fit in their existing rack. Or when the public clouds run out of capacity or have an outage, they have another option that’s literally right there. And we’re watching them grow basically automagically from nothing to over a hundred machines in a matter of days.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Sean, if I may ask, there are other players also like Equnix. Why did you have folks choose Equinix Metal for this partnership?

Shaun O’Meara: We’ve had a long relationship with Equinix. We’ve worked with them for a long time on various projects. I think a couple of core items that were important to us. Firstly, the Equinix footprint, the global footprint of Equinix, it allowed us to expand and hit our global customer base. Mirantis is spread across the world. We’ve got a lot of interest across the world.

The fact that the technology that they’re using is proven and trusted, right back from the packet days. The flexibility of the team and the great team that we get to work with at Equnix, people like James and others who have been heavily involved in helping us get this right. This has been an [interesting 00:14:00] process. We started at one point and we’ve moved through it and with their help and with our technical teams, we’ve been able to build a really effective service together and that partnership and that true partnership, willing to work with us work through challenges, identify different customer use cases with us has been a very powerful way of working. And that falls through into the way we are dealing with new customers on the platform as well in that relationship.

Swapnil Bhartiya: James, if I may ask you, these partners like Mirantis, they also kind of help you improve your services because they also bring new challenges to you. So can you also talk about how do you see them kind of making Equinix Metal better?

James Malachowski: Being a consumer of metal during their development efforts around building this offering, we learned a ton of stuff and it’s one of the reasons we really focused our investment with them on private interconnect. And how do you do… What are effectively called bypass the public internet, right? Which is the thing that most enterprises, startups, hyperscalers alike are all very interested in, right?

We’ve seen this pattern as companies mature and grow that they’ll expand their network and build things a certain way. And that’s really the opportunity we had. And I think the Mirantis team really helped influence how we think about that. We’re launching a new feature with our interconnect that allows you to do things in a much more automated way and get private interconnect effectively in real time using a Terraform script. And a lot of that work came directly from our interactions with the Mirantis team. And to give you an idea, we’re on shared Slack channels and there’s a bunch of people involved in different threads and developers and we’re talking about go libraries and debug, and it’s a very deep technical relationship from that perspective.

Shaun O’Meara: I’ll also add that even beyond that deep technical relationship, they’ve also supported us to do some massive scale testing. We’ve done Kubernetes scale tests over hundreds of nodes, spun up nodes in hours. When you talk about building a Kubernetes cluster on bare metal, on demand with hundreds of nodes in it in a matter of a couple of hours, that’s quite impressed. And that’s where they’ve supported us and helped us get that right as well.

James Malachowski: From the Equinix perspective, we’ve really been looking a long time for these kinds of partners that are go-to, right? I think there’s a vacuum today in the industry around cloud native and managed service around cloud native, right? If you don’t use the Amazon or Google path, really where do you go? And I think we look forward to helping Mirantis be and hopefully that sort of alternative cloud partner that’s open source, that’s democratic, that’s free, that’s open, that’s accessible, right? And I think there’s a lot of opportunity in the market for us both.

Shaun O’Meara: Yeah, I think it’s a wonderful point. I mean, for us, it’s really about giving the market the choice. We’re not going to dictate to the market what infrastructure, what systems they can use or how they should go about doing, building their infrastructure and consuming that infrastructure. And by working with partners like Equnix, we give our customers that choice and we want to provide that to the market. And we believe that’s a strong part of the future on this open source journey that we are on as a company.

Swapnil Bhartiya: James, Sean, thank you so much for taking time out today. And of course, talk about your partnership. And also, as I said, I like the last part where you talked about the alternative cloud providers so that there are more options for customers where they do want to have that experience, but they want full control. And there are so many reasons, especially if you look at Europe, I mean the deployments are there where they do worry about that. So thanks for bringing that insight into that. And as usual, I would love to have you folks back on the show. Thank you.

James Malachowski: Absolutely. Thank you.

Shaun O’Meara: Thanks very much. Thanks for having us.

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