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PayPal exec talks cloud deployment models, cloud psychology

Moving to cloud is a multi-step process, says PayPal's Saran Mandair. With new technologies hitting the market, enterprise IT must know its motives.

In part two of our Q&A with Saran Mandair, senior director of platform engineering and operations for PayPal, we discuss cloud management, how companies should approach a move to cloud and some new (read: cool) technologies making a mark on the industry, such as software-defined networking and intelligent management software.

Saran MandairSaran Mandair

What other types of technologies are important for successful cloud deployment models?
Saran Mandair: I think manageability is actually a key aspect. When deploying the open source software, you want to ensure you actually have a team that can support this, and that's where the manageability aspect comes in.

Security is another aspect. From a security perspective, you have to ask how you're going to manage the security level. Some people have a different security lens and I think it's appropriate for them to keep an eye out for what's relevant to them.

Even in cloud, there are different layers of maturity cycle. When you're in maturity cycle 1 vs. maturity cycle 5, there are different components. But I think no matter where anyone starts, you have to ask if you're solving a business problem or solving something else. Just saying, 'I want cloud' without having a clear business value or some other technology value can cause projects to linger.

Are there any workloads PayPal will never put into cloud?
Mandair: I think as we're going through the journey, we're looking at different workloads. Our workloads have a different spectrum and I think at a higher level, it's just a matter of which workload is easy and feasible for us to put it on this platform first versus last. When you look at an entire spectrum of the software-defined data center [SDDC], I think within the next 12 to 18 months, we see pretty much the majority of legacy and new applications under this umbrella of SDDC -- not just for us, but for a broader industry.

What are the cool things you're looking forward to in the market?                          
Mandair: We see a lot of potential in the software-defined network. I think it's just starting, but some of the potential we see is actually very powerful. The other thing is that we're looking at different data centers that are distributed around the globe and managing those within one management system. As we move forward, we think of it as a cell approach -- each data center is a different cell. And all of those cells will be controlled by one major intelligent software system. So if we need to do something across our global data centers, we can just go into one console and manipulate our entire infrastructure with one or two clicks. That's fairly powerful, and I think within the next 12 to 18 months we will definitely see inroads with all of these services coming into the software-defined data center.

What advice would you give an enterprise about moving into cloud and managing it properly?
Mandair: First of all, define the specific use case. Ask 'Why am I moving to cloud? Am I moving to cloud because that's the buzzword or is there something I need to actually solve and cloud helps me solve that?'

The next step would be to assess the skills. What kinds of skill sets do [IT teams] have? Can you take something off the shelf via open source and have the skill set to work with it? Or do you want to have a partner similar to managed services so you can call someone or have someone actually come in, deploy the cloud for you and train you? You need to fill assessments within your IT organization to determine skillsets. And then determine your aspirations of the future. Do you want to have the critical skill set in-house?

We realized the psychology [of cloud] is different. Cloud is a fairly destructive technology. So you also need to think there are rules that need to change and handling change management within the organization. What one team did when they started may be totally different later.

Everyone needs that change-management psychology to say, 'What we're doing is a technology transformation, there will also be an element that will align teams.' How you bring the rest of the organization along as part of the journey is extremely critical. The less you tell your team about that journey and what it entails, the more insecurity about roles and control you'll have. I think that's a very important key of human psychology because, as technologists, we tend to minimize those things. That's something you cannot minimize because the entire organization has to be part of the change.

For part one of our Q&A, click here.

About the author:
Michelle Boisvert is executive site editor for SearchCloudComputing, SearchWindowsServer and SearchDataCenter. Contact her at

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