TechRepublic’s Tonya Hall spoke with Mohit Lad, co-founder and CEO of ThousandEyes about business implications and expectations for 5G. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Tonya Hall: The Internet was not built for the enterprise. So how do you manage and measure the same Internet that your kids are using to play games and watch cat videos? Welcome Mohit.
Mohit Lad: Thank you Tanya. Excited to be here.
Hall: So what does ThousandEyes do?
Lad: If you think about how the world has changed over the last few years, Internet has fundamentally become a key component of everybody’s life, not just individuals but also companies and there’s a big gap In really understanding what actually affects user experience and digital experience.
So really what ThousandEyes is doing is it’s helping companies and people understand all kinds of connected experiences. Think about just your life and average day where you’re connecting to all kinds of applications like Salesforce and Office 365 and Amazon and you’re really trying to understand why am I having a bad user experience. But you’re relying on stuff, which is entirely out there in the wild. That’s what ThousandEyes does is it helps people really understand connected and essentially look at the Internet like it’s your own network.
Hall: So you’ve said that the Internet is fragile, but it has many layers of redundancy and error checking, so what makes it fragile?
Lad: Yeah. Well, so the Internet was designed not for large and complex enterprises. It was designed with a very specific purpose and what had happened over the last few years is it works really well in most cases. So people start to build a lot on top of it and then as a result, it’s being used for things that it was not designed for and essentially the way the Internet works, it’s a connection of different networks that each operate independently. So some of the examples and the most recent one was with Amazon where a particular network which was not connected to Amazon decided to announce an address space, that an IP address space that belongs to Amazon and as a result basically sucked traffic away from Amazon’s environment to their own environment.
If you think about it, you could, if an Amazonia can do all the brilliant engineering you could do on your side, but a network configuration error by some other network that you have no relation can suck traffic into their environment. So that’s what I mean by the “Internet is very fragile,” because it’s not a centrally controlled network. It’s one where people can do whatever they want and that isn’t really the kind of security built in that prevents that from happening today.
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Hall: How is the always-on nature of the Internet changing the expectation of enterprise users?
Lad: Yes. A lot of what we find in enterprise users is they want to experience the Internet the same way they experience it as a consumer, right? So if you’re watching Netflix at home or if you are using a Nest camera at home, you have a certain user experience that you’re used to, and even on the online side of the business, it’s a bit more mature than the enterprise using the Internet. We all know that on the eCommerce site, but if your site is slow, you end up not having customers be on the site for a long leisurely transaction. But, if you are generally used to a very smooth experience watching movies at home through Netflix and you come to the office and your email is slow because Office 365 is it’s in the cloud and you’re not getting the same kind of consumer experience. That creates frustration.
What we find on the enterprise side is a really interesting phenomenon where the innovation happening on the mobile side or the consumer side, it has reset what user experience expectations are on the enterprise side. I mean, sometimes, we’ve had conversations with customers, where we map out the journey the data takes from their offices to where those services are hosted for an application and we have to explain to them that the latency or the time you get to actually interact with the application, it can’t be faster than the speed of light, like don’t expectations between this … to cover the geographic distance is actually one which would require you to break the speed of light requirement. So again, expectations, it really is covered by what your user experience is but at the same time there’s a lot of things that just no go wrong in an enterprise setting.
Hall: How has the role of a chief technology officer changed?
Lad: The chief technology officer’s role varies depending on the company. In the early days, in most companies that I’ve seen, the CTO is very involved with just defining the product itself. Then,as the company matures and grows, the CTOs tend to be a lot more focused on R&D, on the technical vision. A lot of times, like in our case, our CTO is also the co-founder, that’s Ricardo, and he went from very focused early on in building the core product and being really hands on to now focusing a lot more research and development, a lot more on setting the vision for what the technology should do and not getting as involved in the nitty-gritty details of the product. So again, it depends on the companies, but it’s a really important role for any start-up or any company to have clarity on the technical vision and what innovation mean that company.
Hall: How do you focus on security when you’ve got a lot of remote employees? Employees who maybe work remotely, or maybe even they travel often, what businesses need to do to maintain the stability?
Lad: So I’ll tell you what, how we look at the business, right? We started a different journey compared to a lot of other companies, because we didn’t raise a Series A investment and then started building product. We actually built the product with some very money and started going to market to customers. So from the beginning, we realize that our job was to the decode complexity in large enterprises. Early customers literally had Fortune 10s, Fortune 50s in there from the beginning. This is the reason why we took a very serious, serious perspective on securities from the early days. I had a chief security officer very early in the company.
Everything we’ve done like from architecting the product, from thinking about data, thinking about the process and employee practices, et cetera, has been built around making sure that this is not an afterthought. So when we think about security, it can start from physical security, all the way from making sure the offices have a good amount of surveillance from the exterior, et cetera, so if there were to be any kind of break in attempts, that’s monitored. Now that’s the physical aspect of security. But then there are where the Internet plays a really, really important role, and it makes it easy for you to connect with each other. It also makes it easy for other people to do sort of take traffic away from you as well as pretend to be somebody else and so on.
So one of the things that I’ve seen when it comes to security that works well with larger companies is really understanding what do you depend on for connectivity, where you actually depend … What are your most important assets, and how does your user base reach that asset and how do you make sure that that’s always happening. The example I gave earlier around Amazon and their identity being hijacked by another entity, Amazon cannot actually prevent that, right, but they can monitor that, but if they’re not monitoring that, it takes them some time to figure out what actually is going on. So that’s why visibility and monitoring and intelligence is a key component of making any environment secure.
SEE: Photos–Real-world server room nightmares (TechRepublic)
Hall: So how should companies look at or approach implementing new technologies like IoT?
Lad: So when it comes to any kind of change where the adoption of a new technology fundamentally changes your architecture, that’s a big deal. So IoT or even cloud or SAS, what it is effectively doing is changing our architecture entirely. If you have an on-prem application and like an Oracle database on your data centers, you’re in a closed environment. But now, when you move to a cloud-based data system, relying on the services of Amazon, you’re now relying on the Internet and so that fundamentally changes architecture.
So even thinking about IoT for example, where we had a specific customer, it’s a large manufacturing company in Europe, and they make giant drilling machines and one of the use cases that they we’re using us for was they were controlling this drilling machine in Texas from Belgium and the role that ThousandEyes played was to make sure that the connectivity between the remote site which was controlling this drilling machine and the actual many tons of drilling machine that was drilling in this in this region in Texas was performing. When you think about the kind of stuff you control remotely, a 25-ton drilling machine being controlled remotely is a big deal. So IoT is not just on webcams and small devices, it can be around mission critical stuff, things that really need to work.
Tracking that reliability in connectivity and understanding what’s working and what’s not, so you can immediately fix issues, is really important. When it comes to understanding how do you adapt technologies like IoT, or cloud or SAS, it’s really important to figure out what it looks like today and then what it will look like when you make that change or make that motion towards IoT, et cetera.
SEE: Photos–Real-world server room nightmares (TechRepublic)
Hall: What do businesses need to know about 5G? I mean, what do they need to know to be ready?
Lad: There’s two perspectives to this: one is, if you’re building an application — let’s say a mobile app that you’re using that consumers would use — 5G will give them, give your consumers the ability to do more on that app and the design of the app or what you can deliver that experience would it be different. So that’s one aspect. The other aspect is managing expectations as an enterprise because when you’re an enterprise and you have employees, a lot of what we find in customers is even though they have Wi-Fi, employees often ended up going through 3G, 4G connections to applications and if you have a bad network in your environment, you struggle to understand why am I having issues and the IT team ends up being blamed.
So effectively, what happens with any of these technology trends is expectations change and when expectations change and you don’t have clarity on what actually is the underlying technology that you’re going through, that causes problems. So it’s going to be an interesting phase where we’ll see technology innovation, especially on the wireless and mobility side and 5G becomes mainstream. You’ll find applications were evolved and you’ll see more and more stuff. For example, watching YouTube over T-Mobile or AT&T connections is very normal these days. It wasn’t normal a few years ago. You had to be on Wi-Fi to get that kind of predictable experience and all those other things that just expectations change, application change.
Hall: Well I appreciate your time, Mohit. If somebody wants to connect with you, maybe they want to find out more about the work that you’re doing at ThousandEyes, how can they do that?
Lad: So the best way to connect with us is to follow us on Twitter. It’s @ThousandEyes and then obviously we have a ton of resources on our website, ThousandEyes.com. If you want to follow me personally, it’s Mohit Lad on Twitter as well. The one thing I’d encourage, is one of the themes we really care about, is making sure we can educate the community on the Internet and what’s going on. So we blog a lot about recent events, where the Internet’s fragility is exposed, and so I highly encourage everybody to track the blog ThousandEyes.com.
Hall: I really appreciate, personally, your forward thinking on education and keeping us informed. If you guys want to follow me, you can, you can find me, more of my interviews right here on Tech Republic. In fact, you can also find me on social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter by going to my website. I’m at tonyahall.net. I have links to all my social sites. In fact, if you’d like to chat, I’d love to hear from you. I’m at Tonya Hall Radio on Twitter. Thanks for connecting and thanks for listening.