Silly Sit-Downs with Rohan (SSD-01): An interview with Pranay Nanda, Customer Engineer at Google
With “Lord Shiva Blessing”, I’m thrilled to share the news that in 2023, I’m stepping into something new for me — “Silly Sit-Downs with Rohan", an interview series with industry professionals irrespective of their genre. The reason behind starting this series is to have insightful conversations, understand people better and get rich perspicuity into career and community. I’ll try to publish one interview every month.
I’m starting this interview series with Pranay Nanda; my icon, mentor, tutor and good senior friend. Pranay is currently working at Google Inc as Customer Engineer for Infrastructure Modernization and associated with the Google Developers Group community for a quite long time.
I would like to unfeigned thank Pranay Nanda for taking out time from his schedule for this interview :)
Rohan: Hi Pranay, a good afternoon, would like to thank you for doing this interview with me. It’s an honour to start this interview series with you. How are you doing lately?
Pranay: Hi Rohan, good afternoon, I thank you so much first for having me here it’s an honour to be starting this off and lovely catching up again. I’m doing well, how are you?
Rohan: Thanks a lot for your warm words. I’m doing well. Absolutely, it’s delightful to catch up with you again. Pranay, maybe you want to introduce yourself to our awesome readers.
Pranay: I’m Pranay Nanda, Customer Engineer at Google with an infrastructure modernization specialization. I primarily deal with customers who are either on-premise or have migrated pretty early to other cloud providers and are stuck in the legacy stack. Also, I help them move and modernize with Google technologies. That’s primarily what I do.
I’m originally from Pathankot, Punjab, and have had a long journey towards getting to my current role and the community played an important role there. I love to read, I love to interact with a lot of people. I think that is one of the primary drivers that I love being part of the community. Yeah, I also enjoy some good times with my friends and music.
Rohan: That’s actually such a pleasant introduction. Long journeys do have good memories. So what’s the reason that you chose Cloud? If we see out, there are a lot of domains in the market right now.
Pranay: I did not want to code[chuckles]. That’s not the reason; you do need to code if you’re in the cloud. It’s just I find this piece intriguing for a lot of reasons. One, my first internship was at a place where I would sit out of a data centre and I had seen the challenges of procuring a lot of infrastructure first-hand, the CAPEX was high, productionizing one server would take at least six months, you have to do capacity planning every year and so on; these still would be parts of a part of any FinOps activity that you would do in the cloud, but then you’re not restricted or tied by the constraints of your current capacities. You can actually expand whenever you wish to, that is one.
Second, the cloud will bring you the scale. I mean you wouldn’t have as many startups or AI would not be a commodity in our lives if there was no cloud because the flexibility of just being able to run as much compute as you want in that, that is what cloud brings to you, and it’s actually understated, right? It’s like people would always complain about roads, but when there are roads, nobody would really appreciate them. It’s a cloud that pays way to your development in ways that you don’t realize.
Rohan: Couldn’t agree more. Cloud gives so much flexibility and capabilities. Helping companies around the globe in their business by solving challenges by designing technical solutions; for me, it’s the more you deep dive, the endless opportunities you get.
Pranay: Exactly, it’s just at the ground layer and no matter what business are you in, you will need the cloud. One part that personally very much appeals to me — I see these as Lego bricks, you can put a lot of these solutions things together and build a very comprehensive and massive solution that can run. Chat the way you communicate with people across the globe.
Rohan: Indeed, right now large or small businesses or startups are powered up by Cloud without any lock-ins or constraints or heavy investments etc. Any thoughts on this?
Pranay: Actually cloud has the power to influence. The power to keep things secure, the power to store data reliably, the power to keep things running 24*7*365, the power to innovate more, the power to experiment on ideas flexibly, the power to invest less and achieve more. I don’t know whether a lot of people would remember, say back in the day, when you could only have internet for, let’s say, four hours or eight hours. The power of the cloud is I think what keeps people running today. The statement that I say normally “cloud is a business of trade-offs. It’s not technology. It’s, a business model essentially.”
Rohan: Would you like to elaborate on this statement?
Pranay: That’s my perspective. I mean you would still have servers before the cloud. You would still have everything you need. You can still have nine nines of availability with the cloud and maybe use some technology or be able to scale up or scale down. But the business model is that you only pay for what you use. And I think that flexibility for any business that you’re able to trade your operational expense, that you are able to trade your CAPEX, or you’re able to trade, some flexibility for a lot a longer term, benefits on what you as a business would really want to focus on. I think that is the power that the cloud would bring and that excites me.
Rohan: So, do you think companies care to understand what’s underneath the cloud?
Pranay: As a company, nobody wants to understand though I think it’s good if you understand cooling systems or if you understand what HA is or power back up or a dual cable or what electricity would mean or how much electricity your data centres need. It’s good to know, but it’s not something that adds value. Let’s say a startup or any company for that matter — its infrastructure is as basic as utility, and that just should be there; the cloud takes care of these a lot. Magical things happen here every day.
Rohan: Wow[excitedly], I can totally relate to these things so easily, maybe because I also work in Cloud. The power, flexibility, helping companies, infrastructure etc also excites me a lot and even after working in the cloud for so many years I never feel boredom and I explore cloud and DevOps wholeheartedly. Tell me one thing were you being taught cloud in your university or college?
Pranay: One thing that I take pride in myself, is that I taught it to myself. Yeah, I taught it to myself. I learned it myself. And again, the drivers were that I was seeing the first-time challenges on with the industry was going and the challenges that I was facing while setting orders. Yeah, I think one of the better things that happened was that the company that I was working for, at that time, had given me some resources to learn something else, but they also had this content so I travelled onto it and helped me in the long and I still pay for that for the same thing every year and I paid as career insurance. But just the idea that you continue to be able to learn I think that is continuous because not only cloud does not bring the ability just for you to innovate as a business, it also communicates the capacity same to the cloud providers as well.
Rohan: You must have faced some challenges while learning or while looking for a job in this domain. Would like to share it with us?
Pranay: When I look at myself very honestly I think I would be a handful of first idiots who on-boarded with Google Cloud and not any other cloud because I don’t think at that time when I was doing even Google, saw it as serious business. But then we still did it and I think it paid off in the long term but we had no vision about how things were going to be. Also, there was not a lot of content available so there was just one particular course that you could go through. And just doing it the right way. And I mean, we were fortunate that the course content available at that point in time was just sufficient for us to pursue certifications. I would also say that in the first cloud job I did; a lot of things that I did weren’t truly understandable [chuckles]. But I got that headroom to just keep practising and really made a difference.
Rohan: Same with me, even though I started in 2017 with Google Cloud back then was not a lot of content available to explore Google Cloud, there were some listed and selected courses available on some platforms. Right now the internet does have a lot of content on Google Cloud.
Pranay: Correct, it’s much better than what we had four to five years ago. But wow[smiles], it’s already five years or it doesn’t really feel like it[nostalgic laugh]. You still wouldn’t find as many jobs as you would find for other cloud providers. So I think that challenge will continue to stick for, let’s say a year or two more. I believe so because of the way Google Cloud is accelerating and there have been decent pragmatic shifts and in fact how the option has been, but I think that challenge will continue to stick on from a career perspective as well learning perspective.
Rohan: But if you see for learning perspective, we have Google Cloud communities, programs, courses and experts to pollinate. What do you think?
Pranay: From the learning perspective, you have some courses but then you, of course, need a lot of them. And it’s such a small community in terms of content creation, or especially teaching not everyone knows it. You yourself are like one of those people that people aspire to learn from then there is Sathish, Antoni then there’s all the GDG, GDE, and Innovators. A lot of people are just cross-pollinating resources across. There needs to be a lot of content creation that still needs to happen; for it to become a commodity skill.
Rohan: If I talk about myself in brief, I started with AWS, not with Google Cloud. At that time I didn’t find much about Google Cloud if you compare it with AWS directly. AWS got humongous content or course or anything. Google Cloud was quite immature with very fewer offerings available, again a direct comparison to AWS. If I recall after the blue console of GCP and services back then, I was being asked myself, why would someone on this earth use Google Cloud?[laughs loudly]. Anyway, I started with a commitment perhaps because of GDG. People were suggesting ditching GCP and restarting AWS, obviously, because of market capture and content availability. Right now, I’m totally married to Google Cloud and agree with you, there are not many jobs which ask for GCP knowledge and I take pride in this because I have knowledge of something which not many people does have. I’ve GCP in my CV which many engineers don’t have and that makes my profile unique.
Pranay: It’s a great thing in my opinion. Also from your perspective, I think you continue to stick and then you continue to follow that path and then also continue to talk about it. That is a story I think is worth capturing and which also has been captured. But I think people need to talk about it a lot more, how from being called a student and then pursue this. And then, becoming one of the influencers in the community. I think that needs a lot more words.
Rohan: Thanks. Thanks a lot for your words[motivated]. My friends used to say there is no future for GCP, and exploring it wastes your time, start AWS or Azure. I think they were right because AWS was, still a market leader, no company would hire for GCP but unsure why I decided to stick to GCP. GCP always attracted me towards itself and keep on echoing— “Explore me more explore, explore me” and I ended up marrying it.
Rohan: How do you see the industry in the coming years? What are your thoughts on that?
Pranay: I think what we see is cloud is already becoming a commodity. It’s not an innovative or business differentiator today in terms of the technology itself. That’s just being able to have compute on demand. It is not novel today. Everyone just expected to be there. Like if not, then, of course. Now that I think the challenge or how things are pictured is or at least how the market sees it — with which cloud provider do you want to associate which part of your business more? Everyone can serve you basic compute, but some would be good at DevOps or analytics or infrastructure or probably at certain services that are very exclusive to a particular cloud provider that your particular business needs. Just having cloud I think is not good to have it. It is as equal to how you have electricity and water at your place the only difference is that if you want to shut down your electricity and water connection, you still have to go to the office and file an application. With Cloud providers you have to do is just stop because it’s a utility business again with a lot of focus on just realizing that it’s a business model for you to be able to pay in this particular form format.
Rohan: What about infrastructure? Do you see it as a differentiator?
Pranay: The way I look at it, I don’t see how infrastructure would be the differentiator going forward because 10 years ago you would have virtual machines and today also you have virtual machines, and if you’re running a virtual machine 24/7 today, out of a cloud provider, yes, you’re essentially doing the same what you were doing 10 years ago and this is where Kubernetes and other API driven services come into a picture. It’s one of the reasons why today a lot of businesses are API driven, not productized. You would get like very specific products such as retail recommendations API, or healthcare API, something that is very specific to a particular. Two things that I see — one is that more industry solutions will continue to pop up and that will continue to keep happening over and over again. The second aspect I see is infrastructure, the compute, bare-metal compute that we see today barring licensing constraints, operational constraints, OS constraints etc.
The deployment model will continue to rise up from pure infrastructure to something that is abstracted for the developer because ultimately for a business the value is in the app and not the infrastructure that it runs on. You could run that up on any cloud provider and that is why business is just treated as a simple commodity. They don’t care about the cloud provider because if you are able to bring that abstraction that app does not know what is the underlying OS or infrastructure or compute beneath.
Rohan: I think this will continue to happen for the coming decades as this relieves developers to think about underlying stuff and code accordingly, now they can ship the same code to multiple environments without bothering about unwanted dependencies over the same cloud or multi-cloud.
Pranay: Yeah, I think that will continue to happen because even for developers, they do not want to go back to their infrastructure folks and say, give me a four-core machine because I need to run this or I need to test this. They wouldn’t want to ask to give a database. This is how the setup should look like. This is what I want for this particular application can run. They would continue to work on high levels. One product that I look at it from that perspective would be a Cloud Run, you have a container and you can run just on top of it. You do not know what runs underneath it, you do not know what you need, you do not manage to scale, it just scales and I think something like, that will continue to pop. Even, you know, with all the options that cloud run gets today, it will continue to add like more flexibility for all the developers. Cloud will continue to become more developer focussed than infrastructure focussed. You would not want to bother about security, you would not want to bother about setting up that cicd pipeline or the consistency of it or the security of it, you wouldn’t want to take care about insecure libraries that your developer might be using in their containers and so on.
Rohan: Containerization, can you put some light from an industry side? The reason I want to talk about this is I think it’s almost omnipresent, even home appliances which are remote-controlled, they got containerization.
Pranay: Containerization is fascinating. Containerization as a technology will also continue to evolve, and Kubernetes will continue to support how we do things and will continue to bring come closer to our homes. So imagine running a massive scale cluster that can provide you with the same information on your phone, iPad, TV or even on your car screen and all of that data are just centralized, blocked and stored in one place because you as a user will want to have that continuity of work from one place to the other. Containerization has changed the way to develop applications and the way they are being utilized. I think that is where I see the industry heading largely from a private cloud perspective. From a career perspective for cloud engineering folks, I genuinely believe that development skills should become vital to their current skill stack. Somewhere at some point in time, your customers will stop asking you what’s the infrastructure beneath or about the processors. They would probably just ask you how would you run this app given these parameters and the constraints.
Rohan: Do you think AI will play some major role in development or cloud engineering in the coming years?
Pranay: In the coming years' AI would be commoditized, even when you’re designing infrastructure or deploying your app AI would continue to assist that what can be done better. Today, we are looking at tools that can leverage AI and recommend an architecture basis of what you want. It already generates images from text.
Rohan: Definitely, I think the biggest AI thing trending right now is ChatGPT, everyone is talking about it, and even MNCs are investing to incorporate it into solutions or offerings. Then we have one more trend going on in AI Image Creator which is creating your image in different avatars. It’s everywhere; there is a website for video, documents, image solutions, and writing assistance and they are leveraging AI in the cloud to provide all these and other solutions.
Pranay: Absolutely. Imagine having something like giving an application in your context and that context can generate a diagram; once you approve the diagram, it translates it to terraform and then deploys it.
Rohan: [with a loud laugh]If this would happen I’ll be so free and have spare time and also will gain weight. Haha. My day-to-day looks like terraform, CICD, app deployment and troubleshooting. We do use google designed terraform modules but there are several clients which wanted their own custom terraform code to be coded.
Pranay: Don’t gain weight, it’s bad. There’s just something that my manager says a lot — “you need your health to enjoy your wealth”. I think that has continued to inspire me to work on my health.
Rohan: Since you mentioned Cloud Run. The first time I saw Cloud Run in action was by you at the Google event(Gurgaon office). It’s a convenient tool for all the companies who don’t want to manage even a single bit of infrastructure. I’ve seen Cloud Run maturing from its preliminary stage and adoption in years. Clients have started to ask more questions about Cloud Run, they are keen to adopt Cloud Run as a service. I’ve worked closely with Google Cloud in my previous company to publish multiple blogs on Cloud Run.
Pranay: Right, not just Google, at large if you see that other cloud providers would also continue to bring on that level of abstraction and that is something very important from a business perspective, would be really important to for any CISO or any CTO to have. Frankly, I think others would continue to add, and of course, Google’s definitely making a lot of investments in that line. It’s one of the best products that I personally love.
Rohan: Thank you so much Pranay for doing this interview and sharing precious thoughts with us. It’s always amazing talking to you. I hope this interview will help others in some way. Good day ahead.
Pranay: It was fun talking to you. Thanks, Rohan. Best of luck with the interview series.
I hope readers would have enjoyed this interview with Pranay Nanda. I’ll be interviewing one more amazing person in February’23. Also in the coming weeks, I’ll be publishing one Google Cloud Security blog.
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