Epi 27: Reducing Operational Complexity – Tobias Kunze, CEO of Glasnostic

Learn more about Glasnostic at: https://glasnostic.com/

Find Tobias Kunze on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tkunze/

JC: Well, welcome everybody to another episode of the future of biz tech. I’m your host JC Granger. I have with me here Tobias Kunze who is the co-founder and CEO of Glasnostic. Tobias, thank you so much for coming on the show. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself and what is it that your company does?

Tobias: Absolutely happy to do it, thanks for having me on the show. So I’m a platform as a service guy, previous company, I was a Tech Co-Founder of a platform or service product that was acquired by Reddit, became open shift. So spent a lot of time thinking from a technical perspective and from a product perspective, obviously, how do you optimally support the building of applications, right? And then by running open shift or like watching up and shift ran or, you know, publicly in the cloud and the public cloud also realizing that the building of the applications is not really the difficult piece anymore where the rubber really hits the road is once the code is running, like how do you manage that? So the operational side, and more specifically what’s called the Day 2 Operations. So that’s what we focus on here at Glasnostic, where we look at what happens after you deployed the code and before you deal with incidents, right? In that window of time, there’s very little we can do, right? There’s really, once something goes wrong, the only thing that we can do is roll back, maybe reboot machines, that kind of stuff.

And it’s actually really surprising how much manual labor there is. And there’s a lot of monitoring going on and a lot of like looking at data, deep data root cause analysis, takes hours, days, and then there’s the incident management piece of it, where you need to get all the teams together.  You need to decide what are you going to do? But meanwhile, your customer experience so it’s just nose-diving. 

So we kind of automate a lot, you know, big part of that. We say like, don’t even go too deep on the monitoring side. Just look at how the systems behave, then manage it as it’s happening. And then you can still decide what, how much of a manual process you want to attach to the backside of this?

Meanwhile, the situation is not in control. So our value prop is really don’t sweat the Ops, the Day 2 Ops piece too much. You got drawn kind of control now. We give our operations teams, the dev-ops, the DevSecOps teams, runtime real-time control over what’s happening at a very high level.

JC: Oh, that’s great. So then tell you a little bit about what types of clients do you have are these enterprise Fortune 500s, are these, you know, small business owners who are maybe developing apps or SaaS of their own, you know, who’s really your optimal client, who do you really make an impact for who even is interested in what you have?

Tobias: Yeah. So really important question, right? We thrive on complexity. Our product, our company is in the business of reducing operational complexity, massively.

JC: I like that one. 

Tobias: So if you come along and you have one application, It’s kind of like you build a, you know, single-family house, you kind of built this like you’re always built this on it years ago. It’s a stick frame. It’s something, you know, you, you just put some things on it. That problem is solved. There’s not a lot of complexity. There’s scheduling complexity, but there’s not a lot of billing complexity. What we come in as when you have something large industrial.

You have a shop floor, you have any report, you have these kinds of things that are very complex. A lot of processes like stepping on each other’s feet in there. You need the supervisory function that is essentially a management layer on those operations.

JC: Got it.

Tobias: Think of us if you build something small, you’re flying a single-engine plane. If the weather’s nice, you don’t need air traffic control. If there’s a smaller airport, somewhere in Nevada and there’s 10 planes a day, you just look out the window, right? And you land the plane. If you have hundreds of planes in the airspace, you need our traffic control because everything’s unpredictable, right?

You need to make sure the space itself remains stable. So that’s what we bring to..

JC: I like that analogy. You’re air traffic control for complicated business setups and systems, you know, so that’s pretty cool. What’s an example of one of the clients that you have, or an example of a type of maybe a brand name that the audience will recognize like, hey, now here’s an example of a client that could be ours or one that you can say is yours. 

Tobias: Yeah, so clearly there’s a lot of clients we can’t name, but we play with Fortune500, Fortune1000 global, 2000, these kind of enterprises, right? Complex infrastructures, generations of systems, tons of integrations, right? If everything is siloed away, you have maybe 10,000 applications, but they all kind of like running like a small Python app, or it’s a Java app on a platform. Not really that interesting 

JC: Are these like telecom or healthcare, like what industries would be more complicated than others that you guys could help?

Tobias: It’s pretty horizontal, so we are not glued to one vertical or another. If it would call out a couple of segments, I would say managed service providers are big segment for us simply because you’re running other people’s workloads, right? The code is not yours. So you need to protect yourself against whatever these applications are doing.

And besides how you run, these are actually already pretty complicated, followed by financial services, but then a lot of like, you know, automotive retail, you know, there needs to be a size of amount of operations in order for us to be, you know, really shine, to bring value..

JC: What about any like government or military applications with that? I mean, you know, that there’s so many moving parts in government agencies that do you guys try to get any government contracts or do you mostly to stick to the private sector? 

Tobias: We have inbound interest from that, and that’s kind of about what I can say.

JC: Okay. I read you loud and clear. So then, you know, other than the inbound me, you talk about inbound. So that kind of triggers me as a marketing guy, you know, inbound, outbound marketing, whatnot, other than things like this, like for example, being on my podcast, but what is your company doing marketing-wise to get the word out about what you do?

I mean, how do you guys reach out to other companies to just so they even know you exist to provide this service? 

Tobias: Yeah, we’re a small company, we’re still at the beginning. We have our hands pretty full just by word of mouth from operations professionals. Frankly, we don’t do a whole lot. I like to blog so our blog has a lot of like deep articles on how to upgrade something that is essentially too big for any single person to comprehend. And those get good inbound interest. You know, I like being on podcasts, these kinds of things, but we don’t really do a full-blown sales motion today, right?

It’s just, there’s so much coming. Word of mouth at the moment. 

JC: That’s a great spot to be in. It sounds like you’re trying to keep up with the work. So that’s good. How do you prioritize new features and releases in your software? I’m sure there’s a lot of ideas that you have. There’s a lot of suggestions. How do you guys prioritize what gets made next and released? 

Tobias:  Yeah, that’s a very important question because there’s way more demand than what we can do at this point. Right? Of course we’re growing, we’re trying to hire pretty aggressively, but also it takes time to ramp up people to what are we doing? How does the code work? How does everything, it’s technically very complicated, but we are not a single technology company. We can inject ourselves in many different ways. So the prioritization, the backlog or lack of features is something it’s a daily struggle. We try to unify as much as we can, thankfully because we’re still early in our journey and a lot of our customers are still early in their journey.

There’s quite a bit of understanding and compassion from our customer side that not everything can be done this month.

JC: Sure.

Tobias: We keep them all well in the loop of what the plans are like for instance, huge push into machine learning obviously, we capture a lot of data. We want to make sure we don’t have to browse through them manually. But we keep these customers close and there’s a little bit of a customer advisory board going on, like yeah.

JC: So personal question now. I asked this sometimes to guess when you were a kid, What did you, like, what did you want to be when you grew up, so to speak and then was it this? Or if not, you know, how did it, what would that life path take? You, you know, like, well, I’m always curious, like, you know, what people wanted to be and then how they got to where they’re at. 

Tobias: Yeah. It’s really funny because I wanted to be a musician.

JC: Oh, I see a piano right behind you so I feel like you did something there. It’s a great piano. For people who are only listening and can’t see, he’s got this marvelous grand piano in the background.

Tobias: That’s what I do today. That’s kind of like when I have time, but yeah, I studied music. I studied composition and conducting. And from there, straight line into computer science, I started doing digital sound synthesis that was quite a lot of programming. So that’s how that started in computers. And then between composing and programming. It’s really kind of the same thing in a lot of ways, very creative act. You need to think a lot that you need to, you can, you know, come up with solutions. So from there just did a little bit, you know, a couple of industries, stints, and then startups ever since. More or less.

JC: Well, that’s really cool. See that that’s a nice smooth path, right? 

Tobias: To me it’s a straight line, absolutely straight line. Everybody thinks what is this? 

JC: Yeah no, I mean, that’s actually pretty rare, that’s nice being, so you know, being the title of the podcast, the Future of BizTech. Let me ask you a question first about the industry that you’re in, right? With cloud computing and there’s AI. And, you know, and of course like what you guys do, which as far as, you know, you know, taking complex systems and organizing them and whatnot virtually. Where do you see your industry? Like you and the competitors around you, basically. Where do you see the industry going in that next five to 10 years?

Is there any, you know, milestone moments that you think are coming down the line based on other technology that’s out there that might integrate, you know, just if you had to predict the future, you know, magic eight ball here. Yeah. Where do you see it?

Tobias: Yeah, I think I have a pretty unique view, I think of where it’s heading and not in each component, but I think the conclusions, my experiences that for instance, development is getting easier by the day.

It’s developing core functionality. A – the functionality of it is becoming smaller and smaller. You’re developing small narrow domain bounded context services. It’s a couple thousand lines of code. Maybe, maybe it’s a couple of 10,000 lines of code. It’s still not big. You’re not building multi-image million lines of code and, but you’re building many of these.

So now we’re in the world where we can actually develop very quickly and the developer experience and most technology is extremely good, but now we’re running way more pieces in way more places. It’s not just on premises, it’s not just cloud it’s hybrid. It’s multi-cloud it’s actual locations, right? And what happens, it’s not just more pieces and more places and more diverse technology stacks that kind of compose together into play.

We also connect these systems more, because we reuse exist, so part of the fallout from writing small services is that I’m going to combine these with existing capabilities that I have, right? Because..

JC: It  becomes a Frankenstein model in a way, 

Tobias: Yeah, it’s in any  organization, how do you assemble teams? You pull a couple of good people from other teams and say, Hey, we have a task force here. Please, can you do this? Right? It’s a new application. And that’s kind of the model that’s much more taking hold in the industry. Started a little bit with microservices, right? But if microservice, most engineers still think of microservices as a blueprinted finished design application, kind of like you’re a stick-built house.

Right? You have the floor plan and yeah, a couple of variations, but it’s the same house. It doesn’t really change, but we’re getting, because the pressure from the business is so big. It’s so large to accelerate. That now we are splitting up development and parallel teams they’re all pretty autonomous, they can release on their own schedule.

They can just push code into production. And now that code in the place with all the other code that’s there, right? So you get into a very, like pretty massive multi body physics problem. And this two important aspects to it.

Number one is how does your transaction execute through all these systems? Is there any bug, is anything that’s taking too long?

Is there anything on the path of execution that’s not right or should be different? That’s one big chunk of problems, but I think largely solved with existing tooling. There’s a lot of observability there’s monitoring. There’s, you know, all kinds of simulation toolings out there. On the other side, you have these kind of environmental behaviors because something else gets deployed.

All of a sudden this dependency is a little bit different, right? All of a sudden something happens. You don’t know what hit you and it’s Oh, it’s some limit has been reached. There’s a connection pool that went out as a space, right? A message queue that’s full wide or, you know, something takes too long.

So another automation hits it. So, we live in an extremely old automation, rich environment today, and none of these automations are designed to work together. There’s a lot of impedance mismatch, right? So that’s where we come in. We are not looking at the execution of code actually at all. Right. That’s the pilot’s problem – how do I land this plane? How do I get it to the direction or to the destination? We are looking at what is happening in the airspace. And no matter how well you plan on how much you automate here, unpredictability rains. There’s a lot of unknown unknowns. And the key is to detect these quickly enough and react to them immediately.

And reaction does not mean trying to hunt down a root cause. That takes hours and days. Sometimes if there is a root cause at all, and it’s not just a confluence of factors, but stabilize the situation, stop the bleeding first, create predictability. And then maybe yes, maybe you start an incident management process.

Right. So that’s kind of the story of what we do, but that’s my prediction. Obviously, my company is, that’s my prediction for the future of the industry. We’re going to run more and more things in more places, and it’s very clear. There’s a natural limit. How much we can engineer.

JC: Yeah, no, for sure.  And now let’s talk about your company specifically, then what kind of new features or services do you have coming out soon that the audience could kind of look forward to when they finally hear the podcast? 

Tobias: There are quite a few directions we’re going, we are going to take this and one piece I mentioned earlier is a lot of like machine learning and detect more patterns. Not every pattern becomes actionable, but we want to know and flag those patterns. The other direction is of course, and increasing automation and automation doesn’t have to be necessarily a full-on close loop system where you just let the machine do whatever it thinks is right.

It can be a time-delayed automation. So you can think about it. You can observe if you can do something often, the human brain is much smarter than any machine, but particularly when it comes to operations, because you have more context, you know, “Oh, I know the team or of that service. So I don’t think that’s happening” They’ve been doing something else, right? The machine doesn’t know that, but there’s like automation pieces. We can make it much easier to manage these large exploding infrastructures. 

JC:  Very cool. Last question I have for you is this: with all your experience and wisdom from before your company and doing your company, what’s the best piece of advice either you’ve been given or that you can give from your own experience to the audience?

Tobias: I feel it’s been given to me. I don’t know from where, but I think when I did composition, when I studied musical composition, one thing I learned is that we underestimate the amount of novelty we can create and that creating something really changes the world. So I feel a lot of my peers are much closer trying to look at competition, look at what the market’s doing and try to be very, you know, always keep the enemies closer.

JC: Yeah

Tobias: And I think that puts you in a very reactive mode. And you lose the big picture. There is by putting like, you know, in the board game goal, you put a stone on the, on the board that stone has meaning, right? Whether you, you put it on as a reaction to something else, or you just make a statement. I think we underestimate how many, how much we can make statements.

To make this a little bit more concrete, by putting something, but releasing a product that maybe even just solves 50% of a customer’s need. You’re already putting a stake in the ground. You’re creating reality, right? And that’s something that I wish we would see more in the industry.

JC: I like that. That’s really cool. You know, and to further your point when you’re talking about like people react to competition, I used to people, I say “I don’t have a rearview mirror”.

I’d have no idea who my competition is because I don’t care. To be honest, because if I’m reacting to them, that means I’m a step behind them. I prefer that they, I prefer that they react to me, right? Like we’re trying to beat ourselves. So, you know, we’re always trying to improve in our own processes, our own, you know, sales or systems and, you know, services and everything.

And as long as we’re doing that, we’re looking forward and we’re not looking backward. And, and a lot of the times too, if you look at the competition, there’s this tendency to think that well, they’re big and they’re, and they’re that, so they must be doing it right and they might not be, you might be reacting and trying to copy literally the wrong thing, just because there’s a perception that they’re doing great when in the reality, maybe their whole falling apart completely on the back end, you know?

So I know I like that. Like that advice. That’s good. So again, thank you for coming on the show. How can people reach the company and how can they reach, maybe you personally, they want to reach out for some sort of partnerships or anything like that?

Tobias: Very simple, the company webpage is Glasnostic.com – that’s G L A S N O S T I C. It’s like Glasnost and Perestroika, but it’s transparency. And my email is Tobias@Glasnostic.com. 

JC: Awesome, well thanks a lot and I’m sure that, uh, that me and you will be talking soon again as well. So thank you for coming on the show and for parting a lot of your wisdom and the best of all to Glasnostic.

Tobias: Thanks. It’s a pleasure. Thank you. 

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