Achieving Better Business Outcomes Jeff Deverter

Author: Scott Kinka

Rackspace Logo - The Bridge Podcast with Scott KinkaOn this week’s episode of The Bridge, we sit down with Jeff Deverter, CTO at Rackspace Technology to talk about achieving better business outcomes whether through leveraging new technology, hybrid work models or AI.

Rackspace Technology is the multi-cloud solutions expert. Their technical acumen with the world’s leading technologies and multi-cloud environments — across applications, data, and security — enables customers to grow their business, increase efficiency and deliver the future. They solve more than workload problems; they create business advantages. Their multi-cloud solutions expertise means customers are empowered to work faster, smarter, and ahead of what’s next.

During this conversation, we covered a lot of ground, including the history of Rackspace, AI technology, autonomous weapons,, acheving more desirable business outcomes and whether Microsoft is a friend or foe. We also talked about customers and how they consume technology, and how we as technologists get consumed by our tech.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • How IT decision-makers should prioritize solutions that can create tangible business outcomes.
  • The importance of focusing on business outcomes enabled by infrastructure solutions rather than just the technology itself.
  • How the role of managed service providers (MSPs) is to bridge the gap between technology vendors and customers, helping connect business outcomes with the right technology solutions.
  • Why the evolution of technology, such as AI and generative AI, doesn’t eliminate the need for developers.
  • How evaluating employee success in the context of hybrid work and the value of output versus work hours can create more positive business outcomes.
  • The concept of productivity as a math equation and the importance of meeting deadlines.
  • The impact of the pandemic as a catalyst for change and opportunities in reevaluating business processes.
  • Misconceptions about AI and the need for human intelligence in development teams.
  • Potential risks and benefits of AI, including concerns about runaway AI and the need for a pause in technological advancements.

The Bridge Podcast with Scott Kinka - Jeff Deverter RackspaceABOUT JEFF DEVERTER

Perhaps the best way to describe what I do is to say that I am fanatical about helping people and companies be more successful with technology. Perhaps, though, a better way to describe my approach to work would be to say that I’m passionate about helping people. These folks could be co-workers, customers, employees, or friends – meaning is found in making a positive impact in another’s life.

I’ve been working with cloud-based services and technologies for over 10 years and during that time, I’ve launched business units within companies, lead those units, functioned as the CTO for Microsoft Technologies, and in general – been the trusted advisor to business large and small in making Cloud-transformation decisions.

When I’m not working, I enjoy my wife and two sons in either San Antonio or our small place in the Texas hill country – outside of Bandera, TX, the cowboy capitol of the world. So, whether I’m helping restore our piece of Texas hill country paradise or help companies transform their business into the digital age – it’s ultimately about helping.

CONTACT JEFF

LinkedIn

Web

 

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Scott Kinka

Welcome to the bridge. We have a special Las Vegas episode that we’re about to embark on. I am here today with Jeff Deverter, who is the CTO of products and services for Rackspace. Welcome, Jeff.

 

Jeff Deverter

So glad to be here. This is fun to get to do it live.

 

Scott Kinka

So rare. 

 

Jeff Deverter

I know. It’s always, there’s always a screen, there’s always something going on, but no, you’re right there.

 

Scott Kinka

I mean, we were just commenting on how simple doing this was from a technology perspective, right Jeff? We’re here in Las Vegas.

 

Jeff Deverter

Yeah we are.

 

Scott Kinka

Tell everybody why we’re here in Las Vegas.

 

Jeff Deverter

Well, we’re here for channel partners. I don’t know how many years this has been going on, but several decades. And, but you know what, it’s my first time to the show. Seriously. Can you believe that?

 

Scott Kinka

It’s about my 847th in the show. Or at least it feels like that. But you already figured out the key to channel Partners is, it’s about the footwear.

 

Jeff Deverter

Oh, it is about the footwear, isn’t it?

 

Scott Kinka

It is about footwear. So are these are, these are custom Rackspace?

 

Jeff Deverter

These are custom designed Nike Air Force Ones and so I had a local artist in San Antonio do these. I gave ’em this Word document of three pages of Rackspace lore and logo and stuff. And so you, you can’t see all the things, but the original Rackspace logos down there, I’ve got the initials for the three founders of Rackspace plus Lanam Napier, who is our first ceo. And then Graham Weston was the angel investor.

 

Scott Kinka

There’s a lot more thinking to those shoes than I thought.

 

Jeff Deverter

There’s a lot about these shoes. And then there’s, I got other feet too, the current logo, oh, is this one the one I wanted to show you? So that right down there, really cool fanatical because for Rackspace, fanatical support, fanatical experience, it’s helping customers transform their business through the magic of multi-cloud.

 

Scott Kinka

Got it. So my shoes are not nearly are not nearly as interesting, but I am wearing my Bridgepoint socks, which is a staple for us as we get in here. So I like it. It is all about the foot fit here at channel partners. So I’m glad we were able to get this in.  Jeff, you are not only the CTO, for products and services, but you’re also on the Forbes Tech Council. Will you tell our listeners a little bit about Forbes Tech Council?

 

Jeff Deverter

Forbes Tech Councils is super interesting. So you know Forbes to be this publication Mecca. And, and they’ve got stuff in print. They’ve got stuff online. They’ve got audio and video stuff that comes out as well. But they also have some sub communities we could call them around different major topics. And one of those of course being technology. And so I’ve been nominated and was part of that. And so, which means I get to publish some content there about every six weeks I’ll get a new article out there. One in the hopper right now. Takes a little while to get ’em through their approval process cause it’s pretty stringent. So they gotta get my words through there, which makes it take longer. But, if you haven’t gone out to forbes.com and searched on the tech council, there is some great, great community of authors out there.

 

Scott Kinka

We’ll make sure to get that down in the show notes. A link for our listeners. We have a lot that come in from YouTube, so a good spot to put all that good information. So before we get into Rackspace, because I mean a company with an interesting history through a couple versions of the internet. Right.

 

Jeff Deverter

Almost a quarter decade

 

Scott Kinka

I mean crazy.

 

Jeff Deverter

Can you believe that? 25 years.

 

Scott Kinka

Crazy. Okay. We’re gonna explore

 

Jeff Deverter

24, but I round up

 

Scott Kinka

We’re gonna explore 24 years. But tell us a little bit about Jeff first. Tell us a little bit about you.

 

Jeff Deverter

Yeah, so again, I’m Jeff Deverter. I work over at Rackspace. I’ve been there since 2008.  I did leave for,  not quite two years. Went over to Cloud Reach for a little while. Okay. Thought I would try a smaller,  you know, cloud native  MSP and that was a fun ride. But, the gravity of Rackspace was pretty strong. And in 2020 came back, cause I thought I miss all these people. I miss the castle. It’s what we call our corporate headquarters. Okay. We call it that because it’s in an old mall now. It doesn’t look like a mall once you get inside. Okay. It used to be called the Windsor Park Mall. So we call it The Castle.

 

Scott Kinka

The Castle.

 

Jeff Deverter

And so I get back there, it’s January of 2020, it’s like, Hey, I get to be around people. Like it’s March. And,  so everybody goes home .

 

Scott Kinka

So, that’s interesting. So you call it the Castle, it’s about getting into this place. Are you all back or is it a different version of back now than it was, than you were expecting?

 

Jeff Deverter

That’s a great question. So everybody now talks about work being hybrid, and that definition for what that is, is different for different people. In different organizations I’ve seen some that say, Hey, we want people in two or three days a week. If you’re in leadership, you’re here more than than not. And, we had a big strong push for bringing people back into the office last summer. And so that brought back several hundred on any given day. That building is built for thousands. It still felt like a cavern, an empty, empty cavern because when you think about the amount of people we hired in those couple of years, we didn’t put any restrictions on where they could be. Sure. I mean, coming back to an office would be a foreign concept. I’m from Idaho, from Montana.

 

Scott Kinka

Exactly. And there’s great people there.

 

Jeff Deverter

There’s one we have, And I would rather them continue working for Rackspace, and be remote than, than the opposite of that.

 

Scott Kinka

So did you settle on anything different after you realized that it was cavernous? Like are you trying to bring people in on certain days so that it’s a little bit more?

 

Jeff Deverter

We’re hanging facilities. We were actually gonna sell that facility and we were under construction in a new one that will hold I think, I think a maximum of about 500, which still sounds like a lot. But as opposed to, I mean, the space where we were literally 1.2 million square feet, just to put it into reference

 

Scott Kinka

Also from a timing perspective, it’s nice to be able to think about and reimagine what kind of office is now.

 

Jeff Deverter

That’s exactly right. So, the office used to be this place where you went to do your work.  And it’s not anymore. I mean, not that you don’t work there, but it’s a place where you more come to work together with others. You come to learn, you come to team build, you come to strategize. There’s you, there are some great online tools. Nothing beats a whiteboard that’s as long as you want.

 

Scott Kinka

I agree.

 

Jeff Deverter

And you can just get some things done in those environments that’s hard to do, otherwise.

 

Scott Kinka

A phrase I love, I don’t even mind quoting one of our other guests, Gary Sorrentino at Zoom, and he said, if we’re gonna do this, let’s earn our employees commute. Wow. Right. Which is a kind of

 

Jeff Deverter

A great line. That’s a great line. Especially from Zoom.

 

The Ever Evolving Landscape of Hybrid Work

 

Scott Kinka

Well what was interesting about that conversation, and maybe I’ll parlay it into a question for you. Okay. Right. Which is, I always like to ask, do you have a company, do you have hybrid work? Do you think you have hybrid work figured out? Don’t answer it yet, because I asked that question of Gary, and you know, here you are Zoom. Right. I mean, in collaboration, we have a very well known kind of a verb in the pandemic about hybrid work. And he looked at me, he was like, hell no. I mean, if we did, we wouldn’t be innovating on the product. You know, we’re trying to solve our own problems. Right. Which is a really interesting way of thinking about it.

 

Jeff Deverter

So, my answer to that would be no, because if you figure it out, if you say you figured it out, then that assumes that there is an endpoint. And to you, literally your previous comment is, I think that this is a space that will continue to evolve as technology evolves. Think about augmented reality. I think that’s gonna play a really big part of it. Sure. There’s some really interesting things happening, just even in creative design of spaces that is enabling a hybrid meeting experience that’s uniquely different. So do we have it figured out for the environment that we have today and the technology we have today? I say, I say it’s working. I say it’s working, but the moment you go to sleep, the technology changes.

 

Scott Kinka

Totally. So lemme ask the question a different way. You know, you said effectively we’ll never have it figured out. Right. But would we be here now if not for the pandemic?

 

Jeff Deverter

No. And I’m quick on that answer too. 

 

Scott Kinka

I mean, you, you didn’t have to think about it. So

 

Jeff Deverter

Here’s what I wanna, I’m going back to the shoes. I’m going back to the shoes. Where is it? Right here. Right here. See that, see that? That’s the logo for SharePoint. Okay. That is why I came to Rackspace, I came to start what we call our dedicated or single tenanted SharePoint offering. Which means at my heart, I’m a collaboration guy. From the way back forever. And that means that I’m focused on how people work better together. And so I think that there is infinite opportunity for how that can, that could be better.

 

Scott Kinka

Let’s use that as a little bit of a stepping off point and let’s talk a little bit about Rackspace. There’s been a couple generations of Rackspace, but I think all fanatically taking care of customers, there’s been that common thread throughout. But maybe tell us a little bit about who Rackspace is today and then give us a little bit of the legacy.

 

Jeff Deverter

I can’t tell you who Rackspace is today, if I don’t tell you the history first. So Rackspace started as a leader, well, I can’t even say a leader in managing hosting, because when we started in 1998, there was no such thing as managing hosting. There was hosting, but managing hosting is easily defined as, we had data centers, we had servers and we had smart people. And with that we built a billion dollar business And fan the home of fanatical support. And you may not know this story, but I’ll tell you where fanatical came from. Fanatical experience. You see, the founders. Founders right there. Founders of Rackspace. It all goes back to the eFront at channel partners. So, the founders of Rackspace really had in the earliest of days, this is ‘99, 2000.  Their support was what we call denial of service support. Meaning they didn’t wanna support it. Their mindset really was, if you’re not smart enough to run the server, you shouldn’t have one in the first place. But at some point, some poor guy got through on the phone to somebody and explained the fact that because they couldn’t make the server do what it needed to do, their business couldn’t function. And isn’t that the same story today? And so he explains it. And this leader, now mind you, there’s like 25 people in the company. They’re working at card tables in an office at a high rise down in San Antonio, and he stands up and he says, we have got to give these people a fanatical experience with their technology. And that was where it started. That was where it came from. That was where it came from. 

 

Scott Kinka

It’s really interesting when you think about that in the vein of the timeframe that you’re talking about. Now we’re in our late nineties, early two thousand. We all know what happened in 2000. I have always felt like the idea that customers were self-sufficient contributed a lot to kind of where we landed in the economy in the com bus, because it was very much like, Hey, if we’re in sas, we should never have to talk to another human.

 

Jeff Deverter

That’s right. You know, I sold a license, the licenses are operating, I don’t care if you use it.

 

Scott Kinka

Is that sort of along the lines of the fanatical support experience you’re talking about?

 

Jeff Deverter

It was. And so that was a pivotal change in Rackspace. You could probably go back to, I’ve never done it, but go back to that date, whatever it was. And look at Rackspace’s financials and you couldn’t see ’em cuz they’re, we weren’t public then. But I could, well, I can’t. But I think it would be interesting because at that point, Rackspace’s focus changed and it has become part of our DNA and I think it’s part of our success. I know it’s part of our success. Because when you get away that you guys weren’t on, before we push the record button, Jean and I are geeking out over all kinds of microphones and lighting and, and great. Because we’re geeks and, and we love gear. But the reality is most of the rest of the world could care less about it. They just want their flower shop, their bakery, their enterprise to run more efficiently and help things. And if technology gets in the way, then technology is an impediment to that mission. And at no time more than right now, regardless of whether a company has opportunities or challenges, technology is at the heart of the solution. If it’s not the entire solution, it’s at least a major, it’s a significant piece of it. Which means then when we go back and think about it, we’ve gotta give folks a fanatical experience. That means we, let’s translate that from, from lure to reality. And that means that we’ve gotta get the technology to a point where it accelerates the business for the business’s sake, not for technology’s sake.

 

Scott Kinka

A hundred percent about business outcomes. Yes. I mean, the negative about being a geek in this space is that we want all the shiny toys. Right. We want all the shiny bars.

 

Jeff Deverter

Well, we get excited in the morning, but what change we will look at aws.com/updates.

 

Scott Kinka

Right. And ultimately though, the risk is that it becomes about so many people will hear channel partners, right? The biggest show in our industry for the indirect distribution of all of the technology companies that all of the listeners of this pod engage with on a day-to-day basis. And we’re here, and I walk around on the show floor and I watch the mistakes and I’m like, you’re making everything that you’re saying is making it about your widgets. Not about what your widgets actually deliver business. What’s the outcome?

 

Jeff Deverter

If you’re making your customer think through that sort of stuff. If you’re an IT decision maker, you got money to spend and you got a salesperson who shows up and is giving you a speeds and feeds conversation when you’re not asking for speeds, there’s a place for speeds and feeds.

 

Scott Kinka

There certainly is.

 

Jeff Deverter

But at the beginning of it, if they’re coming in and saying, my device is shinier, faster, as opposed to my device can create these outcomes for your business, then I would challenge you to make it. Don’t talk more.

 

Scott Kinka

We’re worse yet if my shin balls are shinier and then attach the litany of whatever the hot terms in the market are today. Oh we’re based on microservices today. Or we’re like,

 

Jeff Deverter

Here’s our container based solution.

 

Embracing Business Outcomes in a Cloud-Based World

 

Scott Kinka

Well, I’m sure you’ve dealt with a whole hell of a lot of that for a long period of time at Rackspace. So tell us now, so you started with Rackspace. So, and for those of you who are thinking back to now 97, 98, 99, We’re literally talking about space and Dell One, One U pizza boxes in racks. That’s right. Farmed out to individuals. They get a log into it, my data center, not yours. Then somebody raises their hand and says, I just don’t know what to do with that thing. Rackspace decides that you’re gonna make it about fanatical support. So now here we are. It’s, you know, 20 some odd years later. Right.

 

Jeff Deverter

Well, let’s move through. There’s another error to go through. So, this is nearly two thousand. And then we realize we can turn that into what becomes managed hosting. Because it’s not just about the server blinking, it’s about the server functioning. So the way that I translate that is Rackspace could make Windows and Linux servers run better at Rackspace than they could run anywhere else in the world. Backed up, available, tuned, hardened, all of the stuff that matters. And so that takes us through the two thousands. In fact, that’s what pulls me into Rackspace, cuz I’m this SharePoint guy. And the SharePoint guy comes in and says, Hmm, you have award-winning things and certifications around windows, then around SQL and around active directory. In fact, Microsoft says you do that better than anywhere else. That’s the foundation of SharePoint. So let’s build an offering around that. That’s how I came into Rackspace. And not long after I’ve been to Rackspace this, now we’re decades into Rackspace. And Rackspace is starting to look around at all this gear that is now upgraded for customers and we’ve got all this leftover stuff and they, they team up with some friends at NASA and they say, let’s make a cloud. You know, at this point in time, Amazon’s been selling books. I don’t even think they’ve gone into general retail at this point. And they say, Hmm, let’s take this service that we sell books on and make it something people could buy. I think it was like two VMs you could buy, maybe a little storage, not much. And, and so it’s literally Rackspace and Amazon at this point in industry. Which is fascinating to think about. But you know, our cloud is one that was built and helped operate the same stuff that runs a lot of the NASA things. So we built that with nasa, the OpenStack environment. It became our public cloud. It became a private cloud, stuff for people. And so that takes us from, call it late two thousands into the, into the teens probably up to around 13, 14. And we got a good run out of that and realized that with Rackspace millions of dollars we’re spending in research Compared to what Amazon was spending. And Microsoft now is starting to spend, because Amazon, Azure didn’t exist, Google still doesn’t exist as a cloud service. We realize, we should partner more than we should. We should continue, and so that really began in 2017 when we launched our partnership with AWS. And we went from, in March it was a serious drive. No, it was before 17. It was before that. It was 15. There was a serious drive to get certifications. We went from like nobody certified in March in AWS to more certified architects than AWS had at the time.

 

Scott Kinka

So did you do something like a bounty program?

 

Jeff Deverter

Oh, a hundred percent. It was one of those certifications today. Oh my gosh. We had admins who were, they weren’t architects, you know. Of course. Getting stuff. But, that’s tremendous. And on the heels of that, we launched the Azure offering on the heels of that. Then, Google invited us to be one of the first MSPs, on their platform. And, and so now we’re in this world where we have our own public cloud. We support all the public cloud, other public clouds, and we have our own data centers. And that puts us in this world where we realized we were forced into this realization because we have all these employees and all these tech people who are looking after our customers. Our customers start having more than one set of resources. You know, they’ve got the stuff with us. They may be dabbling in our public cloud. And now they’re dabbling in somebody else’s private cloud. And our engineers are supporting all these workloads. What do they do? I mean, where are the tickets? Where are the monitors? And they gotta pay attention. So we started to build some, some internal technology that really just helped our Rackers be able to serve them better. And it’s become the core service layer that allows us to support what we call multi-cloud support. And that’s to be able to know what existed when, where all the tickets are. Single portal to get into everything. Single R back for all the cloud environments. We call it Rackspace fabric. And it is one of our, what I call our somewhat secret sauce. Although we tell anybody who wants to know about it.

 

Scott Kinka

But say more, more specifically, you guys grew up sort of building services on top of your infrastructure. And the latest turn on this is you are effectively saying, our cloud, your cloud, their cloud, we’re gonna build the services tier, the fanatical services support here that’s been in the DNA forever. And work across multiple tiers.

 

Jeff Deverter

You know, as you go there and what it was really driven by is we had to turn the mirror on ourselves. We just kind of made lambasted people who say it’s all about the tech. We had a lot of really technical people who love to talk about tech. And, we needed to then talk about business outcomes enabled by any infrastructure solution. Because we could support infrastructure in a customer data center in a Rackspace data center, where we still have over 30 of ’em all around the world, or in the hyper scales. And we still have our public cloud that’s still humming away over there. More than capable. You know, I’m not saying I put it up against Azure, AWS, or Google, but it does create choices and options so that we can then say, technology aside, what are you trying to do? What are the outcomes you’re trying to drive? Are you trying to hire more people? Are you trying to understand things? Trying to get a handle on your data? That’s a really huge conversation. We have a chat these days. GPT has opened the eyes to the world that AI is not a science project, but a reality. And everybody wants to ask questions about their data. And so that is creating all sorts of opportunities around data projects. Cuz the data’s gotta be clean before you can do that sort of work.

 

Scott Kinka

Well, and the processing power to drive AI is exponential. In terms of its use of processing and which ultimately then drives power. It ends up driving. So all of that You know, pulling forward is a super interesting part of the conversation. You know, I wanna just slide back for a minute. We’re bouncing around. Then you came in and SharePoint and then you talked about you guys being in hosting and then ultimately Azure was one of the clouds that you were managing. I’m often asked, I’m in a distribution and cons in an advisory, in a consulting business role now, but I spent a lot of time on the supplier side on the technology vendor side, if you will. And I’ve always asked a question, Microsoft, friend or foe. And you know, I’ll come back to my response on that in a minute, but I’m curious, having kind of gone, you’ve had a couple of businesses that you were sort of hosting one of them, they’ve eaten a little bit of lunch maybe and pulled some people over there. But then you’re managing, answer that question for me as a service provider. You’re not Microsoft, but you transact around Microsoft. Friend or foe on this stuff. I know obviously, it’s an overly simplistic question and I’m partly doing it for effect, but I’m curious what your thoughts are.

 

Jeff Deverter

So I spent the first, I would call it that my first decade was all in the Microsoft ecosystem. So I launched our SharePoint offering, our single tenet exchange offering. What, exactly was a link or Skype, whatever,  for business. And then our private cloud running on hyper hyper V what it hyperscale Hyper V and then our Azure offering. So I was all in those things, and now I look after all things. So there’s really, the short answer depends on the time. Short answer friend. Yeah, But you wanna think of them as your enemy.  And the reason I say that is okay, is keep who is it your friend close.

 

Scott Kinka

And your enemies closer.

 

Jeff Deverter

That’s literally the line I’m going for. Because you really wanna understand, you have to understand that as a technologist, you want to, you’re gravitated to talk to the technologist inside of this case, Microsoft. And the technologists wanna talk about the tech and wanna adopt the tech, but at the end of the day, Microsoft is a for-profit organization who is in the business of creating a profit. So it is vitally important that you keep that as a viewpoint, understanding that you have to make sure that your business is getting the right business outcomes from your chosen tech. Now I say also friend, because there’s nobody easier to get your email and all the collaboration stuff through. There’s no easier way to do teams chatting and, and integrating that into the whole workflow. When you add the whole power suite into all of that, you now create some very fascinating automation. Now with CharGPT being baked into all of that stuff as well, you can now start to ask some really interesting questions. It’s not just about a Power BI output, but now you can say why they were, I can see that sales were down in March. But why were sales? I literally asked the question why were sales down and it’ll tell you .

 

Scott Kinka

So interesting. I’ll answer the question in a slightly different way. We agree, but I think with the interesting part, you mentioned SharePoint, you mentioned single tenant exchange hosting and in, and in the back of your mind, from a business protection perspective, you’re like, we entered a business around their software. We build a hosting offering around that. Effectively they put us out of that business. But the one thing that has always been interesting to me about Microsoft is their clarity of vision in terms of how far they want to go and support. So in a lot of ways, to me it feels a lot like the fanatical support conversation earlier. Like their model on most of this stuff is still very much like the Rackspace model pre the fanatical support discussion.

 

Jeff Deverter

Right. Right. Which is like, here’s all the tools. Have fun storming the castle.

 

Scott Kinka

Exactly. Exactly. So for me I mean, yes. You know, if you are in the business, which I’ve been a couple times in my career, obviously you have a couple times even at Rackspace, sort of taking software and then monetizing it to service. Competitive risk is always with them. But you just know that they never wanna take a phone call from a customer at the end of the day if they can avoid it.

 

Jeff Deverter

Yes. So this tier of doing something with my tools, that’s always going to live there. I think of it as sort of the way I think about it. I think I would caveat one tiny piece on that. And the tiny piece would be, at the end of the day, they want you to be successful. Because if you can’t be successful, they can’t sell you that license again. And the story that I tell about my friend Kent King, he’s watching this, knows this well, back to the early days of SharePoint, I hadn’t even come to Rackspace yet. I’m at a large financial services organization in San Antonio, and we have deployed SharePoint 2007 and we have the book. They didn’t write it, it was a third party book, but it was written with Microsoft stuff, and they don’t use their documentation. And I don’t even remember what the problem was. It’s a Friday afternoon. And the thing isn’t working, and part of the whole thing is down because the thing isn’t working into the book. We go and we literally get to the page where it says, and here’s how you’re supposed to solve this problem. And in parenthesis it says, check with Hashish, meaning it didn’t get through editing where they didn’t take that out and actually put the content in. So we’re stuck. We get on the phone with Microsoft, we escalate, we escalate, we escalate, and they finally get this guy, there’s all right, I know the engineer to call, he’s in the car, we’re gonna call him in, to conference him in, because this is 2000.

 

Scott Kinka

Tell me his name’s not Hashish.

 

Jeff Deverter

It was Hashish. We had Hashish on the call and Kent and I were literally there.  We’re like, it’s our cheese, it’s the guy, it’s the guy from the book, and it solved the problem. So that was good. Right. But, I’ll say that push comes to shove, they want it to work. They do not wanna talk to you. That’s why they have partners. And it begs the next question that you might wanna ask, and that would be, well, in a world of how Rackspace has evolved, where does an MSP sit as we come in and we have this fancy single tenant SharePoint thing that literally has been decommissioned at Rackspace because nobody wants it. Nobody wants it. Nor should they. Nor, and I’ll say nor service. But meanwhile people still don’t know what the hell to do with SharePoint. It’s still a goldmine if you’re looking for a business to get into. So when you think about Rackspace’s beginning, and that fanatical support experience, I love how we keep going back to that anchor, and we said, look, we can make the operating system run better at Rackspace than it can anywhere else. Now you get to where we are in a cloud-based world where we don’t think about that. We just send, we just deploy a new one if something goes blank. Because in a single line of script it goes off it goes. So what happens is all of this evolution occurs inside of technology, whether it’s from not in your data center to a Rackspace data center, to a managed hosting, to a cloud, to containers, to serverless, to software as a service. Well, there’s always gonna be a need for somebody who is going to connect the business outcome to the technology regardless of where the tech is. Now, the people who are still in business, who are still thriving, are the ones who say maybe it just doesn’t matter if the operating system runs well, because at the end of the day, it kind of doesn’t. There’s technology that fixes that automatically. And we use a ton of it at Rackspace. We solve over 80% of our tickets, either system generated or customer or racker generated through automation, just because we’ve seen the problem before. We know how to solve the problem, and an automated system can solve that.

 

Scott Kinka

You’re right. It’s funny how the entire conversation has come back to that macro level conversation about that moment when you all decided that you weren’t hosting pizza boxes, but you were taking care of customers. It’s just really wild. We talk about business outcomes all the time in our business. That’s really the focus. We’re like, don’t get so invested in the shiny balls. Get invested in the customer and then we’ll bring the tool set to be there. And again, just kinda answering on the Microsoft side of the house, it’s definitely me. It’s been that clarity of, it’s just been that clarity of message like, Hey, listen $9 is made in the ecosystem on every dollar. I don’t know if I believe in numbers, you can make numbers say whatever you want, but at least their story is, somebody makes $9 on every dollar we make, in and around the ecosystem. And they don’t want those services at all. And there’s a place to live. It’s that gap. It’s that gap. There’s always a gap. When I meet with customers, I say to them, I’m like, well, you can be as well-intentioned as possible. There’s always a gap between where the person you bought the tech from ends, and where you wanna start begins. And that’s where the matter services providers live, where the consultants live. It’s in that.

 

Jeff Deverter

Now as technology gets smarter, the gap still exists, which is farther up.

 

Scott Kinka

Just get farther up, the ability to fill this just basically becomes more of a specialized skill set.

 

Jeff Deverter

So as you think about career, there’s a lot of people worried right now, especially if you’re a coder. What’s happening with everything around generative AI? Because it’s writing some pretty fantastic code. Is there still a position for a developer in the future? My answer is yes. I think we’ll have just as many developers in the future. They’re just gonna be more productive.

 

Scott Kinka

A hundred percent

 

Jeff Deverter

So my challenge then to anybody watching who is worried about what happens to my career as either,  AI does things or Microsoft or a or Google come along and create what used to take my skills, now they do it as a service. All right, well, where’s the next window? Just move up to the next window. You are flexible.

 

AI and the Future: Productivity, Automation and Dystopian Concerns

 

Scott Kinka

Will we be prepared? However, getting back, I’m gonna say all the way back to the early conversation about being ready for hybrid work. Will we be ready as business leaders to evaluate our employees, and in this case, our developer’s success? Based on output or hard work, like is the developer who can churn out twice as many lines of code in two hours a day, more valuable than the person who was the first person in and the last person to leave. Just given our Cold War mentality about how we work.

 

Jeff Deverter

I’m watching a video this morning on, for the guy they called the Godfather of AI. He just left Google.  outta some concerns over there. He made an interesting statement in that interview. It was a CBS this morning interview, you can find it. But he said, well, what is, you’re ultimately asking a question about developer productivity. What is productivity? Productivity is a math equation. It equals the amount that gets done divided by the number of hours that it takes to get that done. So if you think about that, I don’t care when somebody shows up. If you work for me, look, I just put myself as the boss. If you work for me, I love you and you’re a developer. And your job is to write this chunk of code, and I’m gonna give you a timeline that’s gonna make me happy about that. And if you can meet that chop? Well done. And if you get it done faster, then it’s consistent, then I may have some questions. Not because you’re in trouble, but because It’s a gold star. Now how do we take that and, and use it elsewhere?

 

Scott Kinka

And look at the smarts. I think one of the big misnomers about the current state of AI, particularly in sort of generative AI, is that you can ask a terrible question and get a good answer. I mean, the reality of it is the smarts still need to be in the development team to get the output wired

 

Jeff Deverter

For now, I’m a little concerned.

 

Scott Kinka

Okay. All right. Well then let’s, maybe there’s a good bridge, cause this has been a great conversation. I promised you I was gonna get you back to your next appointment and on time, and we’ll continue this, certainly we’ll continue this dialogue another time. But let me do this, and I think I know where your answer may be, or at least in the category where it may be. You know, get your crystal ball out. Give me a shameless chef prediction for sometime in the next 18 to 24 months,

 

Jeff Deverter

About AI stuff? About anything?

 

Scott Kinka

Anything. I think you’ll land in AI unless you’re gonna pick your favorite.

 

Jeff Deverter

So do you wanna, do you want something that’s interesting and sexy or do you want something that is mass market?

 

Scott Kinka

I think whatever you are very sure of, get behind whatever you’re gonna say. Doesn’t matter which bucket it’s in.

 

Jeff Deverter

I think we’re in the middle of a great awakening. And that great awakening is, you asked me a question earlier and we didn’t really dance too much on it. And that was, could any of the stuff that’s happening right now have happened without the pandemic? And my answer to that was no. And the reason for that answer was ultimately because it required it, it was a catalyst. Because I was a collaboration person from the very beginning and collaboration was a solution looking for a problem. That problem was everybody having to go work from home. And at that point, everybody said, oh, we like video meetings. Now every meeting is a video meeting. It now becomes a core competency. Now we’re figuring out how to do that in a hybrid context a little bit. So there’s some new muscles. And the other thing that we had to do as part of that was get our data in a place where everyone had access to it before it was tucked neatly inside of our organizations behind firewalls that didn’t work when we all went home. So everybody,  every IT person got out their snow shovel and just started heaving it out into a cloud of choice, and that creates opportunity. So now, I think leaders are looking at their organization and going the way we’ve done it, we don’t have to do it that way anymore. There are options, there’s tooling, there’s technology,  that creates opportunity because what we’ve done up until now is we’ve put technology around our existing processes. Now I think we’re starting to analyze those processes in a terrible, different way to do it. And that’s why I think it’s a great awakening for how business happens. And I think it creates one of the best opportunities to begin in it.

 

Scott Kinka

When you started that answer with a great awakening, I thought you were going, you were gonna stay on the AI event. And I was getting the dystopian future robots taking the world over, which so many people have a fear of. TWe don’t have the time to explore that one together, but is the singularity near?

 

Jeff Deverter

Is it near? Well here’s how you know when it will be. When you hit what’s called runaway AI. And runaway AI is defined by AI that can improve itself through code, through knowledge. By the way, AI right now is built on data that we give it, but AI is starting to create its own data and it is testing its algorithms based on its data. And it’s choosing what’s good data and what’s bad data. And what’s good, it then improves itself on, so are we getting close? I would sign that letter that Elon and others have signed, that said, that didn’t say take things out of the market, but it said anything past GPT four, we just need a pause. We need to pause.

 

Scott Kinka

We constantly have this kind of life imitating art versus art imitating life conversation about AI sometimes on these episodes, because I find it so interesting that the whole Elon letter about GPT four and where we’re at and taking a pause. Like, it goes back to science fiction written in the thirties and forties.

 

Jeff Deverter

It absolutely does.

 

Scott Kinka

Immutable laws and like all of this stuff it was in the sixties and seventies all over Star Trek, like, I mean, kind of crazy stuff.

 

Jeff Deverter

And here we are and the mutable laws actually don’t work real well either, because when you think about it, they say they’re not doing it, but do I trust them? I don’t know if the government has autonomous lethal weapon systems. What happens when the goal of the autonomous lethal weapons system is to get the bad guy over there. Mutable laws all of a sudden don’t work anymore.

 

Scott Kinka

Totally. And I mean, more movies we could just keep going.We wrote our own future, by the way, here in Hollywood.

 

Jeff Deverter

Right. And here’s your last stat. The last stat is that 50% of the heavy thinkers in AI right now say there’s a 10% chance that it will cause the extinction of the human race.

 

Scott Kinka

I heard that stat. It’s a pretty amazing one. We’re gonna leave you to dwell then I’m gonna to fire two questions at you and I’m gonna get you back to the show floor. So here it is. So the robot apocalypse occurs, and you have your phone in your pocket. Only one app continues to function. What is it? What’s your end world app?

 

Jeff Deverter

Instagram’s not very interesting anymore. I have some property in Texas where I’m gonna actually retreat to and go farm and not worry about technology.So I won’t even turn it on anymore.

 

Scott Kinka

Okay. So your one app is turning it off?

 

Jeff Deverter

The off button.

 

Scott Kinka

That’s possibly one of the most interesting answers we’ve gotten. Last one, and you’re obviously a very learned guy. We’ve bounced all over the place today. Is there something on your end table that you’re reading right now, or maybe you are the reader that you want our listeners to take a peek at? Where’s your brain right now?

 

Jeff Deverter

So I’ve read it, it was about a year ago, but I continued to recommend the book, if you’re familiar with the New York Times author, Nicole Perlo. She wrote a book, she covered cybersecurity for over a decade, all the Snowden stuff. And she wrote a book called, This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends.

 

Scott Kinka

You know, I’m ordering it this afternoon and I’m reading it on my IPad. It’s for the ride home

 

Jeff Deverter

Absolutely. It’s compelling. It’s a story driven thing. It talks about zero day stuff. And it’s eye opening.

 

Scott Kinka

Well, Jeff, we could continue. This has been eye opening and fun and we bounced all over the place, which I love and I was hoping we could do and I’m so glad we did it in person. So much more fun than staring at each other on screen. Which makes this awesome. So first of all, thank you. Thank you for the partnership. As our listeners undoubtedly have figured out, Bridgepoint and Rackspace are partners, we go solve business problems together out there in the field.

 

Jeff Deverter

Our biggest 2022 partner.

 

Scott Kinka

Let’s do that right on camera. I love that we were able to do that right here. And you know, we’re thrilled to have you. We’ll love to have you back. Thank you. My guest was Jeff Deverter, who is from Rackspace CTO of products and services. He’s got the shoes to show it. So thank you so much for joining us on

 

Jeff Deverter

Thanks so much for the invite. This was great.

 

Scott Kinka

Awesome. Thank you.

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