May 25, 2018

The Cube Interviews atmail at OpenStack Summit Vancouver

This week we participated in OpenStack Summit Vancouver (fabulous people, fabulous event!). As part of the festivities, our colleagues Jason Brown (Global Solutions Architect, based in the United States) and Jay Sil (Sales Director Europe, based in London) were fortunate to be interviewed by The Cube‘s Stuart Miniman and John Troyer.

If you’re interested in atmail, OpenStack and/or hosted email solutions, we invite you to take a look at the interview video here (and/or read the transcript below):



Transcript: The Cube interviews atmail at OpenStack Summit Vancouver

The Cube (Voiceover): Live from Vancouver Canada, it’s The Cube OpenStack Summit North America 2018, brought to you by Red Hat the OpenStack Foundation and its ecosystem partners. Welcome back to The Cube – helping to extract the signal from the noise here at OpenStack Summit 2018.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): I’m Stu Miniman and my co-host for the week is John Troyer. Happy to welcome you to the program, atmail, which is an email as a service company. We have Jay Sil, who’s the European Sales Director and we have Jason Brown – we’ll call JB for the rest of the interview, who’s a Solutions Architect. Gentlemen thank so much for joining us.

atmail (Jay Sil): Thanks very much for having us here.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): Alright, so Jay, email as a service. Tell us a little bit about the company and you know the state of email. Haven’t Office 365 just taken everybody over?

atmail (Jay Sil): Well, so most people don’t want to talk about email, but it’s still essential. So, atmail is a 20-year-old company. We are probably one of the largest, pure-play, white label email providers in the world. We have about 170 million mailboxes out there in the wild. But we provide not to end-user businesses, we service the service provider and telco market. So, a lot of our customers you would have heard of. We’re more the brand behind the brand, so we provide the email to their end user subscribers. But it is very much the telco ISP that is upfront that you would hear about.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): Yeah excellent. There’s been a discussion we’ve been having at the show a lot is: OpenStack itself is kind of something that that gets in there, the telcos and the service providers you know big plays. So, JB tell us a little bit about your role and you know bring us into the involvement with OpenStack.

atmail (Jason Brown): Sure, so I’m the Solutions Architect for atmail. I kind of help bridge the gap between the technical and the non-technical. I help Jay out with explaining the technical details to the sales team and then bring back the, you know, the non-technical details – the feedback that Jay gets, and we get from our customers into Development and Operations, so they can actually improve the product in a way that’s fitting. And so, we started with OpenStack a few years ago through a partnership with DreamHost here in North America to move from, we kind of had a, you know, a traditional email, like a hosted email solution or an on-premise email solution. But it wasn’t a true cloud solution and so, took a big step back looked at our architecture – what it actually looked like, what it needed and it just turned out that OpenStack was the best direction for us to go to make that move.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): JB can you clarify, when you say a true cloud solution, what did you mean by that and what were kind of the requirements and?”

atmail (Jason Brown): Sure, so we had for years, we would just take our on-premise solution and we would run it in a data centre that we had a rack in. You know, we had 40 years’ worth of servers and I was the guy at the time that was responsible if something went wrong. You know I got a call at 3 o’clock in the morning to drive to Spokane to go to our data centre to fix something – to replace a hard drive or do something like that. And that just was, it didn’t scale horizontally or vertically, to be honest, you know. That was just limited to what we could do with it and so we really wanted something where we could save the cost by distributing in the load as we needed it. And I think that’s really the difference, is you can spin up instances for front-end or spin up an instance for a back-end, you know, whatever you actually, whatever resource you actually need, you can spin that up as a service, you know, in a cloud infrastructure. Whereas you can’t really do that as easily or as cost-effectively on bare metal.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): Jay, so, I bring it back to the business: your customers, what does OpenStack mean for them and the ultimate end user? You know, I don’t think I’ve seen emails that say, you know, sent to me via, you know, an email service powered by OpenStack. But you know what, walk us through, you know, what that means for the business and your well, constituents.

atmail (Jay Sil): So, there are both commercial and technical benefits. If I look at the commercial benefits first and foremost, what OpenStack allows us to do is to provide a solution quickly and efficiently. Now the first thing that people want from email is they want a stable robust service. You know, it’s bit like turning a tap on at home and then getting clean drinking water. You really don’t give it a second thought. It’s only when that tap stops working and it’s not coming out properly – then you think about it. So, first and foremost, our customers want a stable, mature, reliable service. They also want to make sure that it’s secure and that allows us, you know, the OpenStack initiative that we’ve undertaken and allows us to achieve that. The commercial other benefits that we obtain from that is being able to reduce our cost base or controlling our cost base. As a result, that’s passed on to our customers so they can then not only mitigate their risk, but they can control their costs. As well from a technical point of view, I mean JB can touch upon some of the technical benefits, but one of the things that we found because we are a small vendor in terms of the DevOps team, that we have what OpenStack allowed us to do, was to gain from the knowledge that the community had and really benefit and accelerate our solution to market. And when you talk to some of our DevOps guys, the first and foremost thing that they say is that we couldn’t have achieved this without the help and support of the engineers and the OpenStack community. So, the depth of knowledge out there really helped us accelerate those services.

The Cube (John Troyer): That’s great. Is the fact that it’s OpenStack and it seems like it at this point, one of the themes we’ve been talking about is OpenStack, ubiquitous, mature, you know, a lot of talk here about containers and other things, but the stack itself is well-known and mature and that seems that that would also have an impact on, things, something that a telco understands.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): It’s a well-known stack.

The Cube (John Troyer): Yeah. So JB, this is your first time, you said this was your first time at a Summit. I’m kind of curious to, before we dig into, kind of, maybe what your stack looks like, OpenStack looks like, what did you think of the Summit, the level of, kind of conversation here, as the sessions and that sort of thing so far?

atmail (Jason Brown): It’s been fantastic, like I’ve had a complete, not a 180, but there’s so much here that I’ll be able to take back to our DevOps guys and our QA guys. We’re looking at the Zuul stuff really heavily. The CI/CD stuff, just a huge benefit that will streamline all of our, you know, development and testing and, you know, pushing that to market.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): Anything specific, cos you know, one of the things we look, there’s a number of CI/CD offerings in the market today. What specifically about Zuul is because you’re you use an OpenStack, that it makes sense in fits so well?

atmail (Jason Brown): Yeah, I liked it. It fits with OpenStack really well. I like its level if maturity and I like the gated. Looking at the future, as opposed to looking at the past or looking at the present for your testing, specifically.

The Cube (John Troyer): Gotcha. That’s interesting, yeah. Can you talk a little bit maybe about you? So, your stack is, it, so it sounds like, well yeah, talk a little bit about the OpenStack. Your OpenStack deployment in terms of, there’s a lot of components, are you using kind of the core components then, and any other thing else that it interacts with? The other theme here, right, is OpenStack has to talk to a lot of other systems but…

atmail (Jason Brown): Right. So, we use pretty, we use the OpenStack storage module and networking module. I don’t know all of the little names to all the little pieces, but we do use the storage and the networking. The networking was a really big help for us, because we were actually able to offload some of the system load into the network layer, moving into OpenStack, whereas before we would have, you know, with an email system, you have, you know, all of your actual email traffic or your IMAP traffic. It can create a significant load. By being able to move some of that load into the networking layer, we’re able to provide a better customer experience because all of those edge services aren’t as taxed. And so, when the user goes to check their email or send an email, they’re not waiting because of a high load. And you see this, especially if, when, something goes wrong at a system because their systems and things do happen, and so when that happens, the time to recover is faster on our back end and the overall, the way that’s presented to our end-users, is much better for us.

The Cube (John Troyer): Business benefits.

atmail (Jason Brown): Yes.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): JB, have to think in the regions that you play, kind of the governance and compliance, something you need to worry about. It’s also, it’s May 2018, so I have to ask you about GDPR and how that fits into your business these days, so.

atmail (Jay Sil): Absolutely Stu, so, GDPR comes into effect this Friday. We’ve had a team dedicated on working on that and make sure that we are compliant. Obviously, our telco users, service providers rely on us implicitly to make sure that we are fully compliant. I can assure you that we are. We have seen a number of high profile breaches of other vendors. It’s not something that we want to have an experience of, so we have worked diligently in order to make sure that we are fully compliant.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): You know, any commentary you want to share on security these days too? Is, people always, you know, governments asking for things, hackers, you know it’s a complicated issue.

atmail (Jay Sil): It is and it’s interesting because, email, I think represents the largest surface area of attack in any organisation. You know you can get from a CEO to anyone in the organisation via email. That’s how powerful it is and again as we were talking off record earlier – it’s not something you give an awful lot of thought to. Email is like turning on a tap at home and clean drinking water comes out. You don’t give it a second thought. But when it stops working or there’s an issue, that’s when it becomes a problem and, you know, you could regress back into the dark ages because you can’t do business. You can’t send that message. You can’t communicate or connect to the audience that you want to. So, yes, we have a lot of issues around that that we need to make sure that we are fully on top of. Our aim is to provide a stable mature reliable and secure service to our customers and their end users and security is something that we take seriously, as do a lot of other vendors, But, it’s something that is always constantly changing and evolving, you know. By the time the latest attack comes out and you’ve checked that you are covered, the next one has come out, you know. And we’ve seen a lot of attacks over the last few months. They come in waves. You know, we had WannaCry last year that really hit UK and Europe hard, as with other regions, and I’m sure there’ll be more coming out soon.

The Cube (John Troyer): JB, containers and well secure containers, one of the topics of conversation here. Containers in general, been a big topic. Kubernetes. How are you all looking at that application of orchestration layer?

atmail (Jason Brown): Containers with an email system are kind of tough. Security is a big reason for that and it’s not that we can’t use containers, but by the time you take a container and wrap all the security around it and everything that you need for something you would use with an email system, it almost negates the benefit of using the container to start with.

The Cube (John Troyer): Gotcha.

atmail (Jason Brown): So, we’re constantly looking at other ways that we can take advantage of that and you know Kata, I think today, just released their version one of their solution, which secures it down to the, you know into the actual core of the system. And so, that changes the game a little bit on what might be possible now, not having to worry about some of the security issues that we are concerned about.

The Cube (John Troyer): Right, so it’s set, but even now your cloud portability strategy per se, is your app runs inside an OpenStack context, with OpenStack configuration. You run, I think, at least on two different instances of OpenStack, so that’s part of your, you are multi cloud in that sense.

atmail (Jason Brown): We are, yes.

The Cube (John Troyer): That’s great.

atmail (Jason Brown): And that actually made it, really, you know the move into our EU data centre was so much smoother because of our experience with OpenStack on our initial deployment. We were just able to just launch it and go.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): Alright, well I want to give you both just the final word as to, you know, your takeaways here at the show so far – first-time attendees.<

atmail (Jay Sil): So, from a commercial point of view, I mean the networking has been tremendous. You know, I’ve had conversations with people over email, over phone, that I’ve actually met face-to-face here and made that connection. So, for me as a salesperson, those networking events etc have been invaluable. What I also like about the show itself and the community as a whole is that there is this openness and this willing to share ideas, which you don’t always find in other arenas. It’s much more of a closed, well “I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing because it’s a trade secret or it’s going to give me an advantage”. Whereas, here it is very open. It is, we want to collaborate, we want to share. And that’s been very refreshing from my point of

atmail (Jason Brown): Yeah and the community is a big part of it for me. All of my work in development or operations has been from the open source community. So, to come back and see that thriving and pushing this forward the way that it is, it’s just so reassuring.

The Cube (Stu Miniman): Jay and JB, we really appreciate you being open with sharing your story with the practitioners. So, thank you and congratulations atmail for all that you’ve done, you know, here in the community. For John Troy, I’m Stu Miniman, much more coverage here at the OpenStack Summit 2018 in Vancouver. Thanks for watching The Cube.


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