Packet: Mastering the Cloud and Preparing for Edge and 5G [Interview]


Update 7th of March 2019: This article was planned as a sponsored post, arranged through RLM Public Relations agency. As there are payment conflicts, the content will be crossed out for now and eventually removed.

To me, cloud technology personally meant much more than it being a marketing buzzword. Of course, at times the term would be misused to brand a product in a modern way just for the sake of the hype. Things like that happen. We know that. And that is why it’s important to know what terms entail and what tech stacks do – even more important at times – it’s relevant to know what they don’t do.

To me, I feel like 5G and edge computing is experiencing a similar effect right now. There are legit solutions but then there is also a lot of misuse and branding where it should not exist. Fortunately, at the MWC in Barcelona this year we were mostly surrounded with proper solutions that made sense to me.

With a background in IT service management and network operations, I was curious to see more from Packet, a leading provider of cloud and edge infrastructure solutions. Even though it was very busy, I was lucky enough to talk with Zachary Smith who is the CEO of Packet.

Christopher Isak: As per Packet branding, you’re a bare metal cloud and edge computing infrastructure provider. How would you describe “bare metal” to IT enthusiasts who have not yet come across the term before?

Zac-Smith-CEO-Packet-Interview-MWCZachary Smith: Imagine sharing a work computer with 10 colleagues who you don’t know, and not being able to change the software under the hood. Let’s call that public cloud.  Now imagine having your own dedicated gaming PC, tweaked out exactly as you want it. That’s bare metal! It’s a cloud server that is 100% dedicated to you, and in which you have complete control! Packet combines both: we offer the automation experience of the cloud, but delivered on 100% dedicated bare metal.

CI: How did you get the idea to found Packet and what is your favorite aspect of the technology that drives the solution?

ZS: We started Packet because we saw developers and software pushing “down” the stack towards the hardware, while at the same time the public clouds were abstracting them away from it.  We knew that if we could provide an automation experience that developers loved, they would immediately gravitate to bare metal. My favorite aspect of our solution is the ‘wow’ effect that users share when they experience their applications on bare metal for the first time.

CI: Large enterprises traditionally prefer on-prem solutions. This is often due to brown-field issues as well as compliance requirements. Do you see a trend of enterprises finally moving into the cloud?

ZS: There is no doubt that much of the data and workload currently in private data centers will move at some point to a cloud model – but the rationale for hybrid and private cloud is still very strong and growing. Regulation, cost, and latency all play a part – and as workloads become more portable and deployments more automated, we see a healthy balance of the two.

CI: At the MWC in Barcelona this year it felt like everybody was screaming “5G innovation”. Are you prepared to offer edge computing service tiers to accommodate for a hyper-connected 5G future?

ZS: Not to scream too much hype, but yes!  In fact, we’re already deploying as the infrastructure partner for Sprint’s Curiosity IoT and working with many other parts of the 4G/5G wireless ecosystem to power a more distributed network. Strangely enough, the first use case for edge computing is the wireless industry itself, and we’re working hard to keep up with the demanding use cases that these companies provide.

Rack Server Cloud Edge Computing Solution Provider Back Rear Data Center DevOps ITSM Operations Automatic Deployment Uptime

CI: You’re running a Slack channel with thousands of professionals and enthusiast developers. What are people using this space for and why should others join the community?

ZS: The word community is easy to throw around, but in the end, you earn it each day.  The best thing about our Community Slack is that users can find answers and insights quickly, and even help each other.  As a service provider, it’s an amazing resource to have direct access and relationships with such a broad group of users.  Feedback is an amazing thing!

CI: Do you offer your users a reporting suite to give them an insight into what is happening in their infrastructure?

ZS: We’re currently moving beyond the basics of infrastructure and bandwidth reporting to help our users (who are often very sophisticated) get more value from the Packet deployments.  This includes a new partnership with open source leader Grafana Labs, to help create cloud-native solutions for monitoring hardware health and other physical aspects of data centers.

CI: How exactly do you handle resilience and fail-over scenarios? You’re offering more than 18 data center locations, but do I need to pay on top if I want a 99,9%+ uptime as a user?

ZS: It would be great if someone could promise 100% uptime on everything, but in reality, this isn’t possible.  Hard drives fail and PDU’s die. Our SLA and other policies help users prepare for this reality.  But of course, there are often uses case where higher standards are needed.  We have users that need five 9’s (99.99999%) uptime, and we can only achieve that by working collaboratively with our clients to architect solutions that can meet these demanding scenarios.

CI: I love how you handle deployment and infrastructure automation. What are the most popular integrations that you are offering and why do you think they got so popular on Packet?

ZS: Hands down our most popular DevOps integration is Terraform, by Hashicorp.  This is a very popular tool in the community, and we’ve invested a lot of time in making the experience great on Packet.  After that, we’ve found that users love running Kubernetes on Packet bare metal, so we’ve contributed substantially to the various provisioners and core plugins to help make this successful.

CI: On your website, I saw that you’re currently hiring a lot of positions. What do you do to appeal to the top talent out there in the industry and what do you expect from people who are sending through their application?

Yellow CAT Cable RJ45 Jack Isolation Blue Background Networks Cloud Edge 5G TechnologyZS: Packet is currently a mission-driven organization: we’re out to be the very best in the world at automating fundamental infrastructure.  We’re also ambitious, which means there are a LOT of challenges to solve, so we are looking for creative people who are excited to lead our industry.   Hands down, the best thing an applicant can do is be honest about whether these things get you excited to get out of bed and come to work.  If so, it’s going to be a great fit!

CI: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. I was really thrilled to dive into this space and appreciate that a lot. Is there anything else that I might have missed to ask or is there something that you’d like to share with our readers?

ZS: I have a secret: even though I’ve been in cloud infrastructure for over 15 years, I’m actually totally unqualified for tech!  Instead of studying computer science or engineering, I actually earned a degree from Juilliard playing the double bass. 🙂

Thanks so much for your time, Zachary. It had been very interesting, and I was able to learn a lot about the Packet solutions and what you have in store for the future. Also, interesting to hear that you don’t always need a theory degree when you obviously gained a lot of first-hand experiences and learned a lot throughout your career.

If you want to see more from the solution portfolio of Packet, you should try checking their website. If you think this might be a good company to work for, you can also check out their list of current openings.

Photo credits: The feature image has been done by Bert Sz. The photo “homelab backbone” was done by Thomas Jensen. The photo “yellow cable” was done by Markus Spiske.
Editorial notice: This article was prepared as a sponsored post but the invoice has not been paid.

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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