​I had the opportunity to speak with Skytap chief technology officer Brad Schick and VP of products Brian White on the recent release of “Skytap on Amazon Web Services.” In this interview, the two explain the reason behind the integration of Skytap and Amazon Web Services, and why current marketplace trends call for increased efficiency across the entire software development lifecycle.

Noel Wurst: Hello. This is Noel Wurst with Skytap. I am speaking today with Brad Schick who is Skytap’s Chief Technology Officer and VP of Engineering, and also Brian White who is the Vice President of Products.

I wanted to sit down and speak with them a bit today to talk about our new release, “Skytap on AWS,” and to learn a little bit more about what all that means for Skytap’s current customers, for prospective customers and just what new abilities this new release offers people in general. How are you both doing today?

Brian White: Great.

Brad Schick: Good.

Noel Wurst: I guess just to start off with, can either or both of you go into a little bit about what this release involves and why it’s an exciting time?

Brian White: Yeah, sure. This is Brian. We, Skytap launched on 2008 with the focus on providing easy, self-service access to complex development and test environments. This is about the time Amazon Web Services had just launched their S3 service. It was pretty early days for all of this.

Skytap has been supporting enterprise customers who are typically doing their development and tests of applications that they’ve been deploying back on premise to a VMware-based infrastructure. Of course it makes a lot of sense to be doing your development and tests on the same infrastructure as you would do in production.

Really over the last 12 months or so, we’ve seen a definite increase in enterprises that are working on new projects where Amazon Web Services is their production target. So it’s both customers who asked us as well as, I think, other companies that are trying to do development and tests of these more complex applications. If they’re targeting AWS, now Skytap makes a whole lot of sense for them.

Brad Schick: This is Brad. I’ll just reinforce that a bit to say that Skytap has had our own infrastructure stack, top to bottom for a number of years and it enables us to deploy environments, development and test environments that are very compatible with what customers have traditionally done on premise. 

Customers are able to take their workloads and move them into Skytap largely unchanged. They don’t need to do any porting modification of their apps—even the concepts and terminology used in our product are similar to what you’d experience in an on-premise data center. That enabled people to get the benefits of Skytap’s product without having to make a lot of changes.

As we’ve seen clouded option grow, there’s an alternate deployment strategy to production that’s growing up which is deploying in the cloud services like Amazon. It makes absolute sense for us to focus on the development and test lifecycle not only for on-premise applications but for applications that will be ultimately deployed in the cloud as well.

Noel Wurst: That reminds me of Amazon re:Invent 2013. You gave a session that predicted that we’re going to see a rise in “hybrid applications.” Is this why this move was made, as far as joining these two together, if people are already using AWS or already using Skytap—being able to seamlessly use those two together?

Brad Schick: Absolutely. One of the things that we see happening in the enterprise already is that a lot of big businesses have existing investments in their IT applications and infrastructures that have been developed over literally decades. There’s really no interest on the part of these businesses to throw away everything they have and start over on a new cloud platform.

The evolution of enterprise applications that we see occurring and that we’re starting to talk about is what we’ve called “hybrid applications.” The idea there is to take an existing application that has been built up over quite a number of years and start taking little bits and pieces of that and optimizing them or moving them out to the cloud.

What you end up with is a big complex enterprise application with just some portions of it running in the cloud. It hasn’t been wholesale forklift upgraded and moved out to the cloud which is extremely expensive, time-consuming, and fraught with a lot of potholes.

Rather than do that, we take bits and pieces and we move them out opportunistically. That’s what we’re calling hybrid apps and what the talk was about at Amazon re:Invent. We absolutely think that’s the direction that businesses are going to follow. One of the reasons for us to integrate Amazon as back end for Skytap is to enable us to help enterprises with that transition.

We can take their traditional apps today, we can help them with the software development lifecycle and over time we can make the gradual consumption of cloud resources in those applications more efficient and easier to deal with.

Noel Wurst: Brian, to turn to you, as the Vice President of Products, we’ve already been going to this a little bit as far as the specific need for an integration like this in the marketplace—I was curious as to when this idea was being developed, what other kind of benefits you saw enterprises is being able to really take advantage of. Like the things Brad was saying about not having to get rid of everything they were doing in the past but still be able to keep some of that familiarity while taking advantage of some of this new technology?

Brian White: Yeah, I think, we touched on the point of having your dev/tests mirror your production, and if your ultimate goal is Amazon Web Services as a production target. I think that’s one of the core reasons why we did the work. But another interesting thing is that Amazon Web Services is a really powerful platform of a bunch of independent services. In order to create a complex computing environment, you really need to learn a bunch of new concepts and you need to learn how those things are stitched together and configured to work the way you want.

Skytap has years of experience building a very simple, self-service user interface for developers and testers that make things simple, that use concepts that they’re familiar with. Another big benefit that we see for users is just being able to get on board with Amazon a lot faster than trying to roll it on their own.

Noel Wurst: Brad, to go back to you, With you being the Chief Technology Officer, we’ve spent a good bit of time talking about the advantages that this integration will give developers and testers specifically. What kind of benefits do you see, CTOs, CIOs, and other people as far as being able to benefit from this integration?

Brad Schick: Skytap’s high-level goal is still to help businesses improve efficiencies in their software development lifecycles. We want to enable them to work in parallel, get more done faster, and we come at that by making it easy for people to create, clone and share and control development and test environments—specifically complex development and test environments.

It doesn’t, at a high level, it doesn’t really matter if you’re going at Amazon or you’re going at a traditional VMware infrastructure. The ability to get these complex environments quickly, create them, tear them down, share them, control them, and understand where your costs are going will improve the efficiencies of your team.

That’s really what Skytap is all about. It’s improving the efficiencies of software development teams. As a CIO or CTO or VP of Engineering who’s responsible for a team building software, this is the way to think about Skytap. We will help you make your team more efficient. With the addition of Amazon as a back end, we now have more options.

If your ultimate deployment is on Amazon, we have choices there. If it’s going to be back on premise with VMware, we have options there. I think the way to think about Skytap for the CIO, CTO, VP of engineering is all about improving efficiency.

Noel Wurst: It was just recently that we announced the general availability of this, but of course there’s been a beta program that’s been going on for a little while. I was curious as to what kind of feedback we got back from some customers who participated in that beta program that have helped us see maybe some additional needs the people have, or some things that they really, really enjoyed about it that we were really glad to see. I guess that question is really for either of you who’ve gotten to hear some of that feedback.

Brad Schick: I’ll say one of the first things we see is the demand for even more features. People have adopted it pretty quickly and started making very good use of it.

We have a number of customers that are ready to get started and have already signed up for GA usage and the first thing they want is more and more capabilities which we’re planning on doing.

We absolutely expect and plan for Skytap-based development and test labs to be very similar to the capabilities that you’re going to get in Amazon. A lot of the features that we bring to Skytap environments like complex networking, automatic NATing, remote desktop access, very simple VPN access—some of these things are incredibly difficult to accomplish on Amazon and in some cases not at all.

We’re going to bring our technology over to Amazon to make it possible. So, yes, we’ve had a very good beta, and some people have been pretty enthusiastic about asking for even more.

Noel Wurst: Cool. Well, thank you both so much for sitting down with me today to learn a little bit more about what all this release means. For anyone listening at home, you can learn more about Skytap’s support for AWS infrastructure at skytap.com/aws. Thank you both again.

For more information or to sign up for a trial please visit: http://www.skytap.com/product/aws?/AWS

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