This article was originally published on November 20, 2020.
Hailed as one of the “Founding Fathers” of the internet for co-creating PHP, Andi Gutmans is just getting started. To discuss his new role at Google and the future of data, Gutmans joins C2C for a discussion in our sixth installment of our thought leadership series where we don’t hold back on both the fun and challenging questions.
As a four-citizenship-holding and engineering powerhouse, Gutmans brings a global perspective to both tech and coffee creation.
“I love making espresso and improving my latte art,” he mused. “I always say, if tech doesn’t work out for me, that’s where you’re going to find me.
But, when he isn’t daydreaming about turning it all in to own a coffee shop and become a barista, he leads the operational database group as the GM and VP of engineering and databases at Google.
“Our goal is building a strategy and vision that is very closely aligned with what our customers need,” he said. “Then, my organization works with customers to define what that road map looks like, deliver that, and then operate the most scalable, reliable, and secure service in the cloud.”
It’s an enormous responsibility, but Gutmans and his team met the challenge to three steps: migration, modernization, and transformation. They accomplished this, even though they’ve never met in person—Gutmans started working at Google during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Driven to support customers through their data journeys as they move to the cloud and transform their business, he digs into the how, the why, and more during the conversation, video above, but these are the five points you should know:
Lift, Shift, Transform
The pandemic has changed the way everyone is doing business. For some, the change comes with accelerating the shift to the cloud, but Gutmans said most customers are taking a three-step journey into the cloud.
“We’re seeing customers embrace this journey into the cloud,” he said. "They’re taking a three-step journey into the cloud. Migration, which is trying to lift and shift as quickly as possible, getting out of their data center. Then modernizing their workloads, taking more advantage of some of the cloud capabilities, and then completely transforming their business.”
Migrating to the cloud allows customers to spend less time managing infrastructure and more time on innovating business problems. To keep the journey frictionless for customers, he and his team are working on a service called Cloud SQL. The service is a managed MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQL server, for clarity. They also handle any regulatory requirements customers have in various geographies.
“By handling the heavy lifting for customers, they have more bandwidth for innovation,” he said. “So the focus for us is making sure we’re building the most reliable service, the most secure service, and the most scalable service.”
Gutmans described how Autotrader lifted and shifted into Google’s cloud SQL service and was able to increase deployment velocity by 140% year-over-year, he said. “So, there is an instant gratification aspect of moving into the cloud.”
Another benefit of the cloud is auto-remediation, backups, and restoration. Still, the challenge is determining what stays to the edge and what goes into the cloud, and, of course, security. Gutmans said he wants to work with customers and understand their pain points and thought processes better.
Modernizing sometimes requires moving customers off proprietary vendors and open-source-based databases, but the Gutmans team has a plan for that. By investing in partners, they can provide customers with assessments of their databases, more flexibility, and a cost reduction.
Finally, when it comes to transformation, the pandemic has redefined the scope. A virtual-focused world is reshaping how customers are doing business, so that’s where a lot of Google’s cloud-native database investments have come in, such as Cloud Spanner, Cloud, BigQuery, and Firestore.
“It's really exciting to see our customers make that journey,” he said. “Those kinds of transformative examples where we innovate, making scalability seamless, making systems that are reliable, making them globally accessible, we get to help customers, you know, build for [their] future,” he said. “And seeing those events be completely uneventful from an operational perspective is probably the most gratifying piece of innovating.”
Gutmans adds that transformation isn’t limited to customers that have legacy data systems. Cloud-native companies may also need to re-architect, and Google can support those transformations, too.
AI Is Maturing
Gartner stated that by 2022, 75% of all databases would be in the cloud, and that isn’t just because of the pandemic accelerating transformation. Instead, AI is maturing, and it is allowing companies to make intelligent, data-driven decisions.
“It has always been an exciting space, but I think today is more exciting than ever,” Gutmans said. “In every industry right now, we’re seeing leaders emerge that have taken a digital-first approach, so it’s caused the rest of the industries to rethink their businesses.”
Data Is Only Trustworthy if It’s Secure
Data is quickly becoming the most valuable asset organizations have. It can help make better business decisions and help you better understand your customer and what’s happening in your supply chain. Also, analyzing your data and leveraging historicals can help improve forecasting to better target specific audiences.
But with all the tools improving data accessibility and portability, security is always a huge concern. But Gutmans’ team is also dedicated to keeping security at the fore.
“We put a lot of emphasis on security—we make sure our customer’s data is always encrypted by default,” he said.
Not only is the data encrypted, but there are tools available to decrypt with ease.
“We want to make sure that not only can the data come up, [but] we also want to make it easy for customers to take the data wherever they need it,” Gutmans said.
Even with the support through the tools Gutmans’ team is working to provide customers, the customer is central, and they have all the control.
“We do everything we can to ensure that only customers can govern their data in the best possible way; we also make sure to give customers tight control,” he said.
As security measures increase, new data applications are emerging, including fraud detection and the convergence of operational data and analytical systems. This intersection creates powerful marketing applications, leading to improved customer experience.
“There are a lot of ways you can use data to create new capabilities in your business that can help drive opportunity and reduce risk,” Gutmans said.
Leverage APIs Without Adding Complexity
There are two kinds of APIs, as Gutmans sees it: administration API and then API for building applications.
On the provisioning side, customers can leverage the DevOps culture and automate their test staging and production environments. On the application side, Gutmans suggests using the DevOps trend of automating infrastructure as code. He points to resources available here and here to provide background on how to do this.
But when it comes to applications, his answer is more concise, “if the API doesn’t reduce complexity, then don’t use them.”
“I don’t subscribe to the philosophy where, like, everything has to be an API, and if not...you’re making a mistake,” he added.
He recommends focusing on where you can gain the most significant agility benefit to help your business get the job done.
Final Words of Wisdom
Gutmans paused and went back to the importance of teamwork and collaboration and offered this piece of advice:
“Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated; treat people the way they want to be treated.”
He also added that the journey is different for each customer. Just remember to “get your data strategy right.”