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Ep 32: Dariusz Parzygnat Serverless Enthusiast

Joshua Proto: Hello and welcome back to Talking Serverless. I'm your co-host, Josh Proto, and I am joined today by Dariusz, who is one of my favourite serverless enthusiasts across the globe. They're the author of Serverless using Azure and organiser of the Serverless Workflow meetup. Dariusz, thank you so much for joining us today.

Joshua Proto: Q: How did you get interested in serverless and Azure? How did you end up where you are right now?
Dariusz: I had a brilliant idea with my friends in primary school. This was the time when MySpace was really popular. We tried to set up a website with music staff or something, I don't remember exactly. But what I remember is that it was really brilliant. We ended up spending four or five weekends trying to set up a server, and as you can imagine, we failed at the time. So I promised my brother I would study computer science and provide a solution to the market.
A few years ago, because we have a brilliant Azure community here in Poland, I went to a meet up in Warsaw that was organised by the Azure group. It was my first time seeing Azure Functions, and it sounded like the best solution for my childhood problem. That was really cool, because for the first time I didn't have to fight with the servers. I could just deploy an app and have my app without thinking about all the setup that I was struggling with a few years ago.

Q: I know a lot of people who listen to this podcast are mostly living in an AWS world. In what ways does Azure really shine compared to AWS? What are some specific things about Azure that you find compelling?
Dariusz: A year ago I went to New York for serverless, and I realised that AWS is much bigger in consumption there than Azure and Google Cloud, for example. But I didn't see that in Poland and Europe; it was more like 50/50 there. I was shocked when I joined the event because 90 - 95% of content was completely related to AWS. For example, I asked about a product for monitoring staff. I asked if they had the option for Azure, and they told me they didn’t want to provide it, at least at the beginning. That was shocking to be honest. It's a huge difference in the US market compared to Europe.
I think that Azure does everything they can to get rid of gaps and make the game a level playing field. They have a lot of interesting stuff. I would say that what I like the most is application insight. So is there a service to monitoring things? It's brilliant. I was surprised that many companies just work on their own monitoring stuff. I thought that AWS had a similar service set up. I also like durable functions in Azure, from the perspective of death. So if I want to add durable functions, you have the step function in AWS as I remember, the similar solution on Azure is logic apps. So you can describe the whole process using the JSON file and describe the logic. But at the same time on Azure, you can use the durable functions to describe the whole logic workflow using code. It’s cool stuff, especially for developers.
Q: You were saying that in Europe the adoption is 50/50, while when you came to the United States it was 99% Amazon and 1% everything else. Is that a trend you think is going to stay the same in Europe?
Dariusz: It depends. I think that Microsoft is doing what they can to keep Europe balanced. The problem with higher adoption of AWS is that in Europe, most people use technologies connected with Microsoft. So basically when you use C sharp, Visual Studio, whatever, it's easier for you to use Azure as well. Of course, you have the option of using a lambda but for many companies in Europe, when you buy the whole stack from Microsoft, it's easier to get the discounts for a cloud. So I will bet that it stays like it is.

Q: Do you think there's opportunities for extra providers to join this space?
Dariusz: I think there is definitely room, but it depends. From my perspective, for example, GCP made a deal with the Polish government to create a region right here. After that so did Microsoft. This is one of the things that cloud providers can do; it's easier for companies to trust you if you have your own region in a country.

Joshua Proto: “... government services have very high workloads. So if you're going to be architecting for failure, and for security, then those are some pretty high standards. If you're able to meet that, and you have the seal of approval of whatever location you're at, there isn't a higher form of testimonial or authentication.”

Q: Talking to the companies that are coming to you or asking you questions about their own Azure adoption, where are they at? Are they legacy systems that want to lift everything and move it over to Azure? Or are they hybrid systems or a mix of containers and serverless? What are you seeing right now?
Dariusz: Let's not talk about the start-ups, because being a start-up it's easy to start with cloud and go that way. When you're a mature company you can do this 'lift and shift', but to be honest, it's not the best strategy. I think that many major companies just try to start from the apps that are not so important and move down to the cloud, or use monocot monitoring in the cloud, or testing environment. That is the good approach. And then you move on all the stuff that you have, because like going all or nothing, it's hard to encourage people to do it that way. And I don't think it's a good idea. For me, you should move the server service by service, and try to teach your people how to use the cloud, because if it's an old product, they may not be familiar with that kind of service. I think you need to use the proper technology for the problems that you have.

Joshua Proto: “... technology is always serving a purpose; it's serving some end goal for (the client) internally or for their customer. And that's sort of the ultimate form of satisfaction.’

Q: How often do you see major problems with serverless adoption that have stemmed more from people, rather than the technology?
I do think that people can stop you. We have many folks that just want to stay in their comfort zones. We have to encourage them and show them somehow that it's good to start new things. It's a continuous process, I would say. I see many folks joining the army dub that are crazy about serverless technology; it's the perfect solution for the company that wants to go serverless, but at the same time, you have to encourage them to share their knowledge and try new things.

Joshua Proto: “... there's a business philosophy called Kaizen. It's a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement. I think many of us are probably familiar with always trying to find small opportunities to optimise your process and try new things.”

Q: How do you convince a team to try new things? What has been successful for you?
Dariusz: When I last joined a company, I think it was easier for them because they knew that they had a guy that knew serverless and they could trust that I could help. And of course, I tried to answer all questions across the company. So it was like 40 - 50 people, and several of us. After a year or two, I saw a huge difference. People see that it's easier and faster to provide something using serverless, but they start from the small things, like the first lambda or Azure function that will schedule staff or something. So really simple things at the beginning, eventually ending up with really complicated solutions.

Q: What have you learned through these processes and how has your process changed when shepherding companies through these decisions? If people are interested in learning more about Azure and feeling comfortable with it for their business solutions, where do you suggest they go?
Darius: If you want to use a new technology, no matter what it is, then you have to have people to use it. So if it's a new library, framework, cloud... I started to organise a meetup with friends and experts of meetup because I wanted to have people that shared the same ideas and wanted to learn new stuff through serverless. Thanks to this knowledge sharing, we have more opportunities to work with people that have a similar perspective, and it's easier to encourage your manager to use new technology and tools if you have a team that are able to use it. So if you have the idea, okay, show the team, make a presentation, talk with them, and help them to start. Then you can go and ask for permission to implement that solution into the company.

Q: During this process, do you work with teams that either have AWS or GCP experience beforehand, or is it usually people who are new to the serverless world? Does knowledge transfer between platforms like AWS or GCP and Azure?
Dariusz: I can't really say from my perspective, because there are many presentations of GCP. And I'm not so familiar with AWS, or I wasn't the beginning of the meetup. To be honest no matter what you use, 80% of it you can use the same services, just with different names. But of course there are many differences on a low level. I learned a lot from the AWS presentations, and GCP presentations during the conference, so I saw the problems that I can meet with Azure with my field. I always try to relate those problems that people have on different cloud providers to my services. It's definitely easier to start with a new cloud provider if you already have experience. It's good to go to a presentation from the cloud provider, see the difference, and see how you can use the services or how they are similar to what you already use.

Q: Where do you think the Azure serverless space is heading? Are there new services or areas that they're looking to cover or implement, that you think will really be a game changer for 2021/ 2022?
Dariusz: It's hard to say if we can call them game changers, but I see changes in mindset. At the beginning of the serverless movement, it was common to use functions around lambda for every service over a logic that you want to provide. Currently it's more using integration, if you're able, and then using the glue that you used to use, for example, functions. In the short term, I expect the power to be shared by serverless, and many other services will be labelled as serverless.

Q: A few months ago I was seeing so many articles about how serverless is missing the mark, and who in their right mind would ever choose to use serverless for their enterprise production workload. Do you have any ideas of where this is coming from?
Dariusz: So I think that there are many folks that want to do stuff using containers, and maybe they are trying to use that against serverless. I think that all these technologies can work together, because hopefully sooner or later, serverless will be everywhere. With all these rumours, I think that it will take a few years for many services to be more mature. So, for example, my colleague is a consultant from the AI staff. We were talking about the AI, self-driving cars, and whatsoever, and he told me that he went to like Colombia, to help introduce the AI solution. The problem was that in the company where the solution should have been introduced, many people still used paper to write notes and things. So if we have many old, but working, solutions, it's hard to suggest serverless at the beginning, move them to cloud or try to use new functions from the cloud providers. From that perspective, containers are cool. But it's still a long way I think for things like, let's say, the old mainframe bank application to be serverless ready.

Q: I've heard a lot of talk by some of the experts in the community that there's a spectrum of cloud usage that makes sense for your organisation or company. Do you think that approach is potentially useful as a framework? Is there a better solution?
Dariusz: It's good to do a small thing at the beginning. Let's imagine a guy that comes to your house and tells you, sorry, but you have to get rid of that house and start from the beginning. I'm betting that nobody would decide to start from the beginning. We would have to start with the windows, or painting, whatever. Continuous improvement is the best solution.

Q: Are there any other things that you'd like to share on Azure and serverless, other projects you're working on, or things you are looking forward to in 2021?
I would like to encourage all of you to look at an Azure or if you use Azure, then look at AWS. Focus on how you can resolve problems using the serverless services. From my perspective, it would be cool to have any kind of folks on the market that I can work with. I would be super happy to meet them, somewhere in the future.

Q: If people are interested in reading some of the articles you've written on Azure or just follow up with you and the things you're doing, where's the best place for them to find you?
Dariusz: You can follow me on Twitter, I try to share things from time to time, so that's the best way I would say. If you meet me somewhere, hopefully in 2021, let's talk and have a great discussion. I am nothing alien.

Joshua Proto: I want to thank you so much for joining us today. It's always great to get your perspective. I also want to thank all of our listeners for joining us again. Until next time, this is Josh Proto of Talking Serverless, signing off.

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