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CEO Michael Crandell on the Cloud: "A Perfect Storm for RightScale"
Addresses Customers & The Future in Cloud Expo Interview

Santa Barbara, CA-based RightScale resides in a blue state near a blue ocean, with blue t-shirts as the unofficial dress code all the way to CEO Michael Crandell (pictured below). The company and its employees were well in evidence at the recent Cloud Expo in Silicon Valley, where its focus on cloud management and "controlling your entire stack" seemed to resonate well with attendees.

I was able to spend some time having a highly interesting conversation with Michael about the company, its vision, and its future, followed by a formal interview in which he addresses the company's customers and where the industry is headed.

RightScale was founded before the term cloud computing was in widescale use. What was the original vision of the company, and how has that evolved recently?

Those were the days, Roger! Potential investors didn't understand cloud, let alone cloud management. That turned out to be a huge advantage, as we really created the category of cloud management and became the pioneers in helping companies design and deploy applications of amazing scale and importance.

The vision has remained essentially the same since day one: namely, to provide a bridge between apps & services people want to run and the cloud resource pools they want to run them on -- whether public, private, or both -- and to do that through a single "pane of glass" management interface.

What size customers are your sweet spot? Any particular verticals that stand out?

In the early days, there were many startup customers for obvious reasons. Ironically, now some of those have grown to be substantial-sized companies in their own right.

The trend we see is toward serving larger customers, since RightScale both as a management platform and as a company has the power and capability to handle large customer needs. We often say our A-Z of customers is Associated Press to Zynga -- and it also might be Akamai, A&E, Animoto or many others, ranging from web-scale social games to biopharma to education to telcos to bricks-and-mortar retailers.

What have you found is most appealing to your customers, eg, ability to handle spikey/bursty traffic, freeing them from time-consuming management tasks, cost/ROI, etc.?

Everything you mentioned!

Seriously, customers want a platform that provides four key capabilities: automation, dynamic configuration, a marketplace of solutions, and governance. They don't want to patch pieces together to get that -- they want a one-stop shop, which is what we provide.

You held what appeared to be a very successful conference within the recent Cloud Expo conference in Santa Clara. What were the most popular sessions? And what did you learn from your customers during your event?

Yes, our recent User Conference was our largest ever, with over 500 attendees. The most popular sessions were the technical breakouts in the afternoon, and the partner reception -- both standing room only.

The key takeaways from our customers were: 1) cloud is no longer a fad or even a trend -- it's become a requirement for companies of all sizes, and 2) how forward-thinking development and operations teams are innovating at an amazing pace and pushing us to expand the limits of what RightScale can do across the board.

How do you take the input from Cloud Expo and the Rightscale Conference and integrate it into your products and services over, say, the next six months?

We live for our customers and partners. One of the key reasons we hold the Conference is to gather input from them -- and so we send RightScalers from departments like engineering and services who might not normally attend such events to meet face-to-face and hear the feedback.

These folks sit down with our product planning teams immediately after the conference and begin to work the feedback into our planning roadmap, Since we're an agile development shop, some of the requested features may even show up much faster than six months later.

As I'm currently based in Asia, I always have to ask: how much business are you doing in Asia, and what are your plans?

We see Asia as the fastest growing cloud market, currently have offices and staff in Singapore and Japan, and are hiring directly and working with partners in China, South Korea and Austrailia.

While we don't break out revenues for Asia, off-shore revenue represents about a third of our business today, and it's growing.

You mentioned that cloud management could grow 10x-20x in the next couple of years, on the scale of a magnitude or more. What gives you confidence to believe this?

Three converging factors: 1) the use of public-cloud infrastructure is accelerating rapidly, 2) the vast majority of new application development will be cloud-based, 3) the growth in private-cloud installations will drive the adoption of cloud architecture in general, and the need for hybrid cloud support.

All these factors play right into the need for cloud management and create a perfect storm for RightScale.

Who is the coolest company in Santa Barbara, RightScale or Eucalyptus? (Note: I asked Mårten Mickos this question as well.)

Both are very cool.

RightScale is the most amazing & fun company I've ever worked at, and our history of legendary customer stories makes me proud.

Eucalyptus has become world-famous very quickly, and continues to light up clouds we can manage at an impressive rate. Together with Citrix Online and others, we put "Silicon Beach" as a bright circle on the world map of cloud computing!

About Roger Strukhoff
Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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