Silly Sit-Downs with Rohan (SSD-02): An interview with Aditya Raj, Senior DevOps Engineer at Srijan Technologies
I welcome all readers to February month of Silly Sit-Downs(SSD) with Rohan — an interview series with industry professionals irrespective of their genre; the purpose of these interviews is to have insightful conversations, understand people better and get rich perspicuity into career and community. I hope everyone is doing great.
This month we have Aditya Raj with us working as a Senior DevOps Engineer at Srijan Technologies with one more insightful conversation. Aditya Raj holds a graduate degree in Electrical from BITS Pilani. Aditya has a solid understanding and experience with three major cloud vendors: AWS, Azure and GCP. He works with large enterprise customers and helps them with cloud migrations, service implementation, provides business and technical solutions with infrastructure modernization.
I would like to unfeigned thank Aditya Raj for taking out time from his schedule for this interview :)
Rohan: Hi Aditya, a good evening, thanks for doing SSD with Rohan. How are you doing these days?
Aditya: Hi Rohan, thanks for having me. I’m doing great, how about you?
Rohan: I’m doing great, just enjoying the winters of Armenia. Aditya, let’s start with your introduction.
Aditya: Myself Aditya Raj, I’m working as a Senior DevOps Engineer at Srijan Technologies. I’ve been designing and delivering technical cloud solutions according to business requirements. I have been in the industry for the last three and a half years. I have been fortunate to work with various cloud providers, AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, you name it, I’ve worked with all.
If I talk about my personal background, I’m actually from Gaya District in Bihar and I did my engineering in the electrical background from Birla Institute of Technology. I love travelling, late-night drives and adventure sports.
Rohan: Wow[excitedly], you are from an Electrical background. I really want to know how you got into DevOps. Why not some engineer at electrical or electronics-based companies? How did you start?
Aditya: Yeah. Well, so in the initial days of college, at that point in time, I was quite fond of technology, and still am very fond of it. I used to work on Linux and I was fond of automation. My friends were in DevOps. They were working on solution designing and all the other tools that are in the market. I got tempted by it and Cloud then I decided to dig into it. I started exploring it while interning at a company.
Rohan: Oh, so you were working somewhere else when you started with DevOps. That’s nice.
Aditya: The journey is quite interesting, at least for me. After graduation, since my degree was in electrical the first job that I got was from college, I was associated with an MNC that was working in the electrical business. Worked there for 3 to 4 months but soon realised it was not my cup of tea and I don’t want to do it endlessly.
Rohan: Why it was so?
Aditya: Aaaa, just because you have an idea that doesn’t mean you work there, it’s all about the interest and passion that you have for any work. Back to your previous question, I worked there for around one year and resigned and started preparing for Cloud and DevOps. I joined a coaching centre in Jaipur as an intern to meet my ends and kept diving into DevOps. Gradually my interest in DevOps rose a much and I’m still unsure when it converted into a passion. And hard work always pays off I got my first job, yes, my first job as a Cloud Engineer in February 2020. I got associated with the cloud solution provider and consulting company; one of the large GCP partners.
Rohan: Woah, that was a fascinating story. I really liked it and got the reason why you are a rockstar, and I share an affinity with you about passion. When you do something passionately, you always love no matter how many years have passed, you find happiness in that thing. Tell me one thing, sorry if it’s a lame question, but please bear with me[laughs] do you think you got tempted by DevOps just because your friends were doing it or had you done research prior to your decision? Why not ML or AI?
Aditya: So one of the aspects of choosing DevOps was again, the trend was there and still here, actually it’s getting raised day by day. If you look 5–6 years back when it was getting started if I’m not mistaken, DevOps was a niche skillset that was coming up and the demand for DevOps Engineers was incrementing in the market. Everyone was starting with AWS and Linux automation, that was the first thing I looked into. And as I told you that Linux was my interest since starting, and then automation adds up, looking at the friends who are doing that at a large scale. These are the things that you can do in the Linux System; this is what you can do with the operating system, dual boots, virtual machines etc. Those were the terms used at that time. So my interest in that evolved. I never got a chance to explore ML or AI because only DevOps and Cloud is a never-ending path, I hope to explore ML or AI wrt the cloud maybe in future, however.
Rohan: One question, I’ve seen people are confused b/w DevOps Engineer and SRE. Can you put some light on the difference?
Aditya: Okay, as the name suggests, Site Reliability Engineers, normally are DevOps Engineers. What DevOps is doing — they’re basically designing and delivering the cloud solutions. But if you talk about SRE, they’re actually maintaining the system's reliability. If you have designed a solution and provided it to your clients, SREs are the folks who are responsible for looking at and taking care of the system afterwards. Everything like updates, upgrades, monitoring, maintaining, logging and debugging, no downtime and fixing it. They also improve systems and products. SREs are experience person who knows how-to, what-to and where-to stuff because they have good experience and humongous knowledge. It’s an indispensable role.
Rohan: To simplify, these are too heavy industry terms which require great experience and good hands-on; which not a lot of people understand because if given this responsibility in inexperienced hands things can go south rapidly, however still a lot of companies go for it. I’ve seen companies looking for an SRE role with good numbers of experience and even some companies hire with smaller numbers.
Aditya: In the cloud industry, if you look at the overall picture now some companies actually hire for DevOps roles whereas some hire for platform engineer roles. Some companies still hire System Engineers. There are a lot of varieties. And one of the reasons for this could be cost, an experienced SRE would cost handsomely to the organization. From my point of view, a company should hire experienced SRE because of the things they do and are responsible for. An inexperienced SRE surely will cost less but could have dire consequences. Let’s say you hire a person with two years of experience as an SRE; during some crucial production issues there, if they couldn’t fix things, things can go south and if you have SLA for your customer, this could lead to penalties in thousands/millions/billions.
Rohan: I totally agree with you. Let’s move on and talk about DevOps tools. Which is your favourite DevOps tool(s)?
Aditya: There are a lot of tools in the market which I love. If you look at the DevOps life cycle, there are a lot of tools involved in there. From infra provisioning using Terraform, CICD like GitLab and Spinnaker, Monitoring suite, Kubernetes etc. If you ask about the public cloud, then I would really prefer GCP as a main cloud provider to build a solution. It is just a preference, I don’t like comparing clouds personally but since you asked about my favourite tool I admire Kubernetes and Terraform.
Rohan: I think every DevOps Engineer out there admire Kubernetes because it has rapidly changed the way of software designing and deployment.
Aditya: Absolutely, I love Kubernetes. Not only has it improved design and deployment, but it has also drastically reduced software/application release time. We have seen an influential reduction in releases from months to days, you can do new releases per day even and if something goes wrong just roll back. Right now every second or third client that you actually get the projects with, prefers Kubernetes, some clients who got legacy software they asked us to containerize it and run it on Kubernetes. It has changed a lot and one good thing is Kubernetes is fully loaded with numerous features, for instance, Self Healing, for me, is the best feature period. Just imagine a tool that is capable of healing itself if it gets crashed or is not healthy for whatever reasons. It gives you the flexibility not to worry about the underlying infrastructure or periodic infrastructure checkups. There are a lot of features in Kubernetes which make it a superior and out-of-the-world tool.
Rohan: And Service discovery and load balancing also, I really appreciate this feature of Kubernetes. I can’t imagine Kubernetes without this and sometimes I wonder what if they would never come with a feature, life would be worrisome[chuckles].
Aditya: Worrisome and messed up[laughs].
Rohan: But these days major cloud providers like GCP, Azure and AWS. They are launching a serverless service. Like, if you talk about GCP they’ve Cloud Run, which is like a Serverless GKE, AWS got Fargate and App Runner. Basically talking about FaaS and BaaS. Do you think these types of offerings will overtake IaaS and PaaS later in future?
Aditya: Okay, when you talk about Serverless, there’s a perspective of companies, there is a perspective of the customer who is actually giving you the project and team who is actually responsible for delivering the solution. If you see from the client's perspective, they do prefer it because once the project gets completed they don’t have to maintain a team who’s actually looking at the infrastructure maintenance. If you see that perspective some clients prefer it to be serverless. Just code your applications, deploy them and bingo.
However, there is a downside to it which is control and transparency. Ample clients like healthcare, fintech etc wanted to have transparency and control of infrastructure to be compliant and other reasons. They want to see what’s running behind or what’s running on the infrastructure side, how can they optimize infrastructure cost etc. With this perspective, obviously, IaaS is the most preferred choice FaaS and BaaS can’t be.
Now, talking about IaaS/PaaS being overtaken by BaaS or FaaS, from my point of view I would say that both will go hand in hand. I don’t think Serverless is going to overtake IaaS. I really prefer something that I can manage and have full control over.
Rohan: How is the adoption? You, as an engineer do you recommend a serverless solution to new client onboarding? How do you decide?
Aditya: This actually depends on the client. Let’s say, the client application is running on Kubernetes partly, they are up for migrations from one cloud provider to another and in that case, they wanted to have the remaining apps containerized in this case obviously our first choice would be Kubernetes as they want that solution to be implemented further.
Now there is another client running legacy applications on VMs, they have code but don’t have the knowledge, and they don’t know the existing container technology, we try to make them understand. What’s that, how it works and how to manage everything there etc? If they comply with that, that’s fine. But if they ask for any other solution, obviously, serverless is a great option you have in any cloud.
Basically, the point is you can provide multiple solutions to clients and that’s basically on the client, which one to choose? Depending on what their needs are, what their cost is, what is the preference of their cost range, do they want full control etc? Serverless is getting adopted with great numbers, I wouldn’t say massive but yeah it’s great.
Rohan: We have a great set of third-party tools in the market like terraform, chef, spinnaker, new relic, jenkins, consul etc with good market capture even after the large cloud providers and small as well have offered these services/tools already integrated into their console. With these, no integration is required, easier support and no need to worry about what’s beneath etc, still companies are preferring 3rd party, I mean terraform is one the hottest tools in the cloud industry right now, however, almost every vendor console is equipped with their proprietary IaC. Why is it so?
Aditya: Flexibility. Let’s take the example of terraform, what’s terraform, an open source which codifies your infrastructure, with terraform you don’t have to learn multiple things to provision your infrastructure, just code and apply and your infra will be provisioned on multiple clouds(code change required but similar arguments. You just have to learn a little bit about terraform, check the documentation and other things that are required in there and you’re good to go to provision any infrastructure that you need, whether it’s public or private. So flexibility-wise, it’s really good.
About other third-party tools, you mentioned New Relic or Elastic Search, Splunk or Promethus-Grafana they are providing more insights into our system or what’s going on with a lot of additional features which help customers, developers, engineers, managers and even CXOs to peek inside in a better way. This comes with a price obviously.
Third is open-source, a lot of hot 3rd party tools like Jenkins, Terraform, Consul, Prometheus and Spinnaker are open-source which means they are free to use and you can contribute in terms of bug reporting, feature requests and code enhancements. Cost is one of the main aspects which everyone looks at and tries to bring it down.
Rohan: This massive adoption of the third-party tools, does it affect you in any way? What I meant; for example, is if you started studying AWS or deep diving into AWS probably either with acloudguru or proprietary courses from AWS. It’s a very obvious thing that they will include let’s say Cloud Formation for IaC. They want you to learn and work with Cloud Formation and you did, then the customer comes with an ask to use 3rd party.
Aditya: As an employee, as a DevOps engineer, it doesn’t affect me anytime because it’s great to know more about tools and technologies. It won’t affect the thing. It won’t hamper anything if you learn more but again it’s to clients what they want, it’s our duty to make understand them and act accordingly. We can make recommendations to use proprietary tools but again at most acceptance and rejection, the suggestion is on them.
Rohan: I agree, luckily the majority of the customer I have worked with everyone was a fan of 3rd party tool and I’m also a fan of 3rd party tools so I never had such cases where the customer wanted to have proprietary and I suggested to use 3rd party, though I’m not saying I don’t like or prefer cloud proprietary tools and stacks.
Have you heard about chaos engineering?
Aditya: Yes, I have heard about it.
Rohan: Ever get a chance to perform it?
Aditya: Honestly no. I hope someday I’ll implement it to test our infrastructure but when no clue. By the way, it’s a great discipline to test your system capabilities and build confidence. I’ve read about it on blogs but again never got a chance to perform, so no comments.
Rohan: One last question. Apart from job, DevOps, migration etc. What are your day-to-day looks like? What do you like to do?
Aditya: In general, I like to travel. I mean, I love travelling, love exploring places. In India, I think it’s around 21 or 22 states I have already travelled to and explored. That’s one part that I’m actually fond of. I actually also like some adventure sports or normal sports for that matter.
Rohan: Which was the last place you have been to and which was the last adventure activity that you have done?
Aditya: I had been to South India two months ago, it was a 2000 kilometres road trip of seven days exploring South Indian states which were part of my bucket list. Everything was great there and yeah it was fun.
The last activity which I had done was parasailing, don’t remember the dates but it was an amazing experience.
Rohan: Thank you so much Aditya 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.
Aditya: Thanks, Rohan. It was fun too. Bye.
I hope readers would have enjoyed this interview with Aditya Raj. I’ll publish one more insightful interview in March’23.
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