Google Cloud Application Modernization: An Interview with Rich Kopeikin

Rich Kopeikin

Director, Cloud Architecture, Prime TSR

Google has made many strides in creating a cloud platform that you simply can’t ignore. Our resident expert, Rich Kopeiken, was recently interviewed to talk about the benefits of Google’s cloud, and how important their Google cloud platform, Anthos, is to organizations who are considering moving to the cloud and want to keep a mixture of on-premise and cloud infrastructure. An edited transcript of their conversation follows, and at the end of the article, you will also find a few key soundbites from the interview.

Host:

Welcome to our discussion about the Google Cloud Platform. I have a special guest, Rich Kopeikin from Prime TSR, who is a Lead Cloud Solutions Architect who specializes in the GCP platform. Please explain to the audience how you actually got involved in GCP.

Rich Kopeikin:

One of the co-founders in my company came to me one day and said, "Hey, I think I have this Google Cloud opportunity, would you be interested in jumping on that?" And it's just been a whirlwind since then. I've completely immersed myself in everything Google Cloud, every day, as much as I possibly can.

Host:

Google Cloud released a new platform called Anthos which is all about application modernization. It's a really interesting topic and an interesting platform. Help me understand, what are the benefits differentiators of this platform?

Rich Kopeikin:

Anthos is one of the most exciting technologies that Google Cloud has come up with now. There's a lot of different Hybrid and Multi-Cloud platforms that are out there that are essentially meant to extend either if you want to look at it one way, take your cloud and extend it onto your on-premises, or if you look at it the other way, it's taking your on-premises and extending it on the cloud.

What really differentiates Google in this area from the other players is that Google really focuses on the application level platform and specifically using containers. Google looks at this at more of a software level. It makes your on-premises hardware and your cloud hardware. It puts a layer on top of that to where it doesn't matter which one you're running on and it manages both of them seamlessly. That's where Google is really headed with that.

And containerization, in general, is Google's strong suit. They were the ones who invented Docker, they were the ones who invented Kubernetes. Actually, the main layer of cloud software that all other clouds are built on are essentially containerization technologies which originated from Google, from services that they were using for their Search and for their Gmail services, and eventually, these core frameworks became adopted by other technology companies and either modified or wrappers were put around them to do similar things.

Again, this is Google's major strong suit and what they do well there, what their strategy is, is to basically, for your specific applications, to allow you not only to either run them on-prem and on the cloud but they also really have that goal of getting you a hundred percent to the cloud, if that's your strategy. They have a lot of migration services as well.

If you have, for example, an application that's running on-prem, in a VM, it's running on some type of server, like Internet Information Services, IIS, and it's running on really old technology. What the container technology allows you to do is to wrap that entire server and make it almost like a VM that's pluggable anywhere and re-deployable anywhere.

Once you have created your container image, it's really easy to move that over to the cloud or run it both on the cloud and on-prem seamlessly to where it no longer matters as much to you where you're running it, but you get all that power of the cloud in terms of durability and elasticity and scalability and also doing backups and recovery easier. That's the goal there.

And once you're on the cloud, purely a hundred percent, at least your module's up there, it does become a lot easier at that point to start peeling off pieces of that application and moving, using the individual cloud services to integrate with it and essentially re-platform piece by piece, your platform or application that you're moving up there. 

It's really cool technology and they have... So it's basically Anthos' high level, a few different services tied together. A lot of them are having to do with GKE, Google Kubernetes Engine, they also develop GKE on-prem which essentially, exactly like it says, it allows you to run the same software and platform that Google has for running its Kubernetes Engine in the cloud, on-prem and they also have Google Anthos Config Management, which allows you to manage that whole application and abstract away all that complication behind the scenes.

As well as they have a lot of services to monitor, metrics and monitor connections going back and forth between a lot of your microservice architecture. So it's really cool what they're doing in this space and they're really playing to their strengths I think. It especially works well for modernizing legacy applications that are just not a hundred percent ready to adopt all the major Cloud Native Platforms.

If you have a lot of legacy code, there could be a lot of refactoring there required to get into a state where you could really start embracing Cloud Native Technologies. This kind of lets you get a taste of that without doing a pure lift and shift either to where you're just standing up a VM in the cloud and you're taking this thing and moving on into a VM.

Now at least you've wrapped it in a container and once you have it in that container, you're allowed to use a lot more flexible technologies and a lot more flexible Google services to give applications a lot more stability while not having to refactor all your code and that type of thing. 

Host:

Sounds like you have experience and done a lot of research. Sounds like you've been living and breathing this topic for a long time, which is great.

Rich Kopeikin:

Basically, all I've been doing for the past two years is learning as much as I can and that's the thing, you could do this forever with how much technology is exploding right now.

There are hundreds of services out there and I learned the more you know, the more you don't know, is what I'm starting to realize for all these. Every now and then where I think, "Man, I really got this. I understand how this works and all this," there's some whole new other service out there that, "Oh my God," it was just built on this and I have no understanding of how this works. It just keeps driving me to learn more about this in order to help our clients at the end of the day is what it comes down to.

I really want to be able to answer their questions and know, "Hey, you're in this situation, you're in this scenario, you need to use X, Y, and Z to get there. Here's why you should do it and here's why you shouldn't do these other things." And it really does take... having that breadth of knowledge across a lot of different technologies. Because if you don't have that, once that happens if you do a little Google search, you say, "This looks good." You do a POC and you go that direction.

And from what I'm starting to realize in my career at this point, is just the breadth of what's out there and you really need to be out of your silo and your little area and see the bigger picture and the big world, know what's available to you, and that's how we design the best solutions for our clients.

We have so many people with so many different skill sets and backgrounds that I constantly turn to for advice, whether it be on the networking side or the infrastructure side or even experts in the other cloud platforms. I think any solution at this point that you are trying to stand up and develop by yourself, you're definitely going to be pretty far off the mark if you haven't discussed it with like three or four other people.

Host:

What would an organization need to do to prepare for as they migrate to and adopt Google Cloud Platform?

Rich Kopeikin:

I will say that it really depends on where their starting point is. If you're a company who has not adopted any cloud yet and you're purely on-prem, you're going to have a long way to go and there's a lot of considerations that you need to take into account when adopting and getting on your first cloud and migrating to your first cloud. If you already have one or more clouds, it should be a little bit more smooth of a transition. But I can’t speak to specifically GCP, what you should be prepared for either way using the Google Cloud as opposed to other cloud vendors and service providers.

One of the things that I think your teams will need to start embracing is the real open source world and the open source set of frameworks and tools, specifically a lot around the Apache Foundation. A lot of Google tools and services are actually either directly the Apache open source tools or light wrappers around them. Immersing yourself in that open source world is really a good way to start understanding Google and how it works.

There are a few other things with Google as well. I think you should be really prepared to implement a cloud the right way. And by this I mean, there are some pros and cons of Google and one of them is that the user interface for the Google Cloud Portal is not the most feature-rich or easier to work with experience. And I think this may almost be on purpose because they want to make sure that people who are creating your cloud infrastructure, using your cloud resources and services really understand what they're doing.

And at that point, you really do need to understand how to configure these services at a code level, at a command line level, and all the options that are available out there. And not only that, once you've done it that way, you can recreate your environments a lot faster and a lot easier. And you have a source of truth for how you've configured those environments.

Whereas some other cloud platforms who, yes, they have nicer user interfaces, they're probably a little bit less steep learning curve and they're easier to get started, it also provides you a way to make a real big mess, get way ahead of yourself before you really understand what you're doing. We've had a few clients who have come to us that I'm happy to get their business, but they're coming to us saying, "We now have this $3 million cloud bill, we have no idea where it came from. Do we really need all these services and everything to stand up?"

And their IT departments are kind of baffled as well because no one's been keeping their eye on what all this stuff is out there and what it is being used for. So people will get pretty unhappy pretty quickly when those cloud bills start to skyrocket and that could happen when... it's a little bit easier to use some of this technology.

Make sure your people are going to have to have those skill sets and be ready to prepare to deliver a cloud the right way, which actually most people should be excited about in my opinion. It's going to keep you true and on target to the core principles of how we all know that technology should be designed without taking those shortcuts to maybe arrive a little quicker but you're going to cause yourself much more headaches way down the line.

Host:

How would healthcare organizations benefit from utilizing some Google Cloud Platform services?

Rich Kopeikin:

Funny you should mention that because the Google Cloud has one of the best healthcare-specific toolsets that are available right now, specifically in the HL7 and FHIR API. It's a service designed to specifically validate these healthcare medical record EMR-type data and stored in the cloud in a specific format that's easy to query, easy to access, and then not only that easy to distribute back out to all of your customers who might be interested in that data.

For example, if you are a medical software-as-a-services provider and your doctors and hospitals are using your SaaS Platform and entering in their claims and their patients’ data and all that stuff. First of all, you're guaranteed to be secure and HIPAA Compliant from an infrastructure standpoint. From a services standpoint, obviously security, a lot of the times is a shared venture between both the cloud provider and the cloud user but... I'm going to getting a little off there, that's a separate story.

But Google has definitely dedicated themselves to designing industry-specific services and this definitely applies to the healthcare industry which is certainly where they've targeted the most out of. But just really quickly, they've also targeted the media and entertainment industry, they've targeted the financial industry, they've targeted retail largely, and a lot of, again, designing either kind of white-glove services and teams to deliver these solutions as well as really specific services designed within the platform to do this.

Healthcare specifically, one of the... actually I think they're the only one right now who's handling the FHIR, the new FHIR format. FHIR, which is a successor to kind of HL7, the next generation of that electronic medical record that was shared. And one of our clients, actually, we're strongly looking at simply adopting the Google Platform for them just because they have that service alone and nobody's coming close to meeting it.

And if nothing else, even if they do adopt another cloud, they may still just use Google for this specific piece, which I think in the future is how a lot of these organizations and companies are going to end up using clouds, they're going to realize that this guy's a little stronger here, this guy's a little stronger here, and these real Multi-Cloud platforms and Hybrid environments are going to just continue to become more common and common.

I think I read a Gartner Statistic where 90% of organizations now have at least one cloud. So everyone's touching and playing around with it a little bit, but I think what the second phase of all of this is, which is happening now, which is now we're talking about getting in two and three cloud environments and how do we mix and match these to best meet our services and our needs, and really, it's a matter of don't put all your eggs in one basket. Some of it is diversification like that.

I have that, like you said, that webinar series coming up. Funny little story about that is that when I first approached my leadership with an idea of, "Hey, I really want to do this webinar," and I was like, "Let's make it a full day, eight-hour session. I think that'll really give me the amount of time I need to talk about this."

Host:

That's how it started. I remember, yes.

Rich Kopeikin:

Yeah. They were like, "Let's start with an hour and see if you could hold people's attention for that long and see how that goes." That's kind of how we ended up with four one-hour sessions as a split the difference compromise in the middle. Super excited to be talking about this, super excited for the upcoming webinar. Just really want to be able to share everything that I feel I've learned over the past two years with everybody.

And I've invited a lot of former colleagues and co-workers who I haven't seen in a while. I'm hoping this rekindles, re-sparks, kind of relationships with them as well. Google's definitely become my passion. I've lived, eaten, and breathed it for the past two years and now I want to use it, I want to share it, I want to implement it, I want-

I want to get dirty, and I've already been dirty in some projects with it but always more, always more.

Host:

Well, thanks again, Rich for talking with me. You have a lot of wonderful thoughts about the Google Cloud Platform. I know you have a lot of experience in it and I'm excited about the upcoming webinars, best of luck. I know you've been preparing for these for a long time.

If you're not attending the Google Cloud webinars, you can register at primetsr.com/events. Thank you.