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CIO Influence Interview with Craig Hinkley, Chief Executive Officer at CloudBolt

CIO Influence Interview with Craig Hinkley CEO of CloudBolt

“AI and automation capabilities have the potential to bolster cloud security in the near term and largely revolutionize it in coming years.”

Hi Craig , welcome to our CIO Influence Interview Series. Please tell us a little bit about your organization and how you arrived here.

I am the CEO of CloudBolt, the leader in automating, optimizing, and governing hybrid cloud, multi-tool environments for global enterprises and MSPs/CSPs. CloudBolt streamlines complex multi-cloud, multi-tool, and multi-team enterprise environments – helping unify disparate capabilities to simplify how organizations create seamless cloud experiences for users while providing greater management, security, and cost control regardless of where the compute resource lives.

Before arriving at CloudBolt, I was CEO of application security innovator WhiteHat Security, where I led its acquisition by NTT Security, followed by a divestiture to Synopsys in 2022. I joined CloudBolt in 2023, at a time when cloud security and its points of exposure are top of mind for IT leaders. I’m excited to lead the company through its next stage of growth and scale.

Cloud modernization costs are at an all-time high. Yet, they are riddled with problems of all kinds. Could you tell us what it takes to outline a safe, secured, and optimized cloud environment?

The first and most crucial step in managing hybrid/multi-cloud environments is ensuring teams have total visibility into all cloud-related activities. It is nearly impossible to track, govern, secure, or automate any cloud resource without visibility. As these environments continue to grow larger and more complex, development teams within organizations typically adopt different cloud tools without alignment or coordination, leading to duplication of purchases and inefficient use of resources. Custom coding also results in the creation of spaghetti code that obscures visibility and is prone to misconfigurations. Shadow IT poses another challenge, as IT departments are unaware of its presence.

Companies need cross-cloud visibility and interoperability to better identify and control costs, spot areas of waste, and streamline processes. With the right tools and approaches, enterprises can successfully manage their multi-cloud environments and realize the full potential of their cloud investments.

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How is Cloud automation now linked with FinOps? What factors should CIOs and CISOs keep in mind before integrating their cloud management with FinOps?

Cloud automation and FinOps are two essential components of modern cloud operations. FinOps focuses on cloud financial management and seeks to provide clarity on what is being spent, by whom, how it can be best optimized, and how to remediate cost and usage issues down to the group or individual level. Automation is used to ensure that guardrails (like automatic tagging of resources, provisioning recommendations, and “implicit governance” measures) are in place. Together, they help to get cloud costs under control and make certain they stay under control going forward.

Before integrating their cloud management with FinOps, CIOs and CISOs should consider factors such as security, integration, governance, skills, costs, and change management. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that cloud automation tools are secure and comply with relevant regulations and standards.

Why are cloud security professionals lagging in their operations? Could we see AI and automation capabilities at the center of cloud security resources management?

Cloud security professionals are struggling with operations due to the increasing complexity of cloud environments and the sheer volume of security data points that needs to be monitored and analyzed. Traditional security tools and processes are often inadequate to handle the scale and pace of cloud security threats. As a result, cloud security teams struggle to keep up with the constantly evolving threat landscape. They are often overwhelmed with the manual tasks of identifying and responding to security incidents.

AI and automation capabilities have the potential to bolster cloud security in the near term and largely revolutionize it in coming years. Through pattern recognition and anomaly detection, we’re already seeing this through AI’s enablement of more immediate awareness, smarter prioritization, and faster response to threats. Paired with automation, it can take over routine tasks, such as configuring security policies and managing access controls. This frees security professionals to focus on the security issues that truly matter and respond more quickly to the biggest threats.

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Please tell us about the future of self-service IT? How would it replace the current cloud management practices?

Self-service IT will likely continue growing in popularity as organizations seek to improve agility, reduce costs, empower end-users, and ensure governance. Self-service IT allows end-users to manage their own IT resources, such as software and infrastructure, without requiring them to be experts in infrastructure and security because the particulars are built into common blueprints automatically. This approach can reduce the burden on IT teams, increase efficiency, and provide greater flexibility.

However, self-service IT will not likely replace current cloud management practices entirely. While self-service IT can empower end-users, it is still crucial for IT teams to have visibility and control over cloud resources to ensure security, compliance, and cost optimization. IT teams will still provide oversight and governance to ensure that self-service IT is aligned with organizational objectives.

What are the biggest factors that CIOs should keep in mind to reduce cloud operations cost?

Enterprises often have multiple teams using different cloud service providers, automation tools, and processes, resulting in fragmented silos of preferences, tool sprawl, and custom code. As a result, these “islands of automation” operate independently without proper visibility and control from the organization or IT department. In the worst cases, some groups even “go rogue” and become shadow IT operations with little to no oversight from IT.

Additionally, islands of automation aren’t sharing best practices and proven elements of code, blueprints, scripts, and integrations with other teams, which results in multiple teams inefficiently “reinventing the wheel” when they could have just reused something another team already created and vetted.

Furthermore, hybrid cloud/multi-cloud makes cloud costs even more opaque, and Day Two operations are difficult to manage consistently and effectively. Lastly, in the mad dash to the cloud, an increasing number of organizations are beginning to realize that some workloads were more efficiently handled in their data center/private cloud.

If companies really want to reduce cloud costs operationally, they should:
– Implement advanced self-service capabilities that make spinning up workloads simple, consistent, and effective; reduce cognitive load while increasing efficiency.
– Centralize repositories of key automation content so that approved elements can be reused across entire organizations, not just within a single silo.
– Apply advanced cost management and optimization techniques that go beyond just the cost of provisioning to include entire lifecycle costs and management of resources.
– Explore which workloads are best suited for an existing data center/private cloud and choose to keep them there or repatriate them from a public cloud(s) where necessary.

What is CloudBolt University? How does it benefit the cloud users?

CloudBolt University is a training and certification program we offer. The program is designed to provide comprehensive training to IT professionals who want to learn how to use CloudBolt’s platform to optimize their organization’s cloud environment.

CloudBolt University delivers a range of courses covering topics such as platform administration, infrastructure automation, and cloud cost optimization. The program also offers certification exams to validate the skills and knowledge gained through the training. Participants can earn certifications as a CloudBolt Platform Administrator, CloudBolt Automation Engineer, and CloudBolt Cost Optimizer.

The benefits of CloudBolt University for cloud users are numerous:

  1. It gives them the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively manage and optimize their organization’s cloud environment. This can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and better resource utilization.
  2. The certifications earned through CloudBolt University can enhance participants’ professional credentials, making them more valuable to their organization and potentially opening new career opportunities.
  3. CloudBolt University is available entirely online, making it accessible to IT professionals worldwide.

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Please tell us about your predictions for AI-driven Cloud management capabilities.

AI-driven cloud management capabilities will become increasingly sophisticated and critical in managing complex cloud environments. While lots of things are currently being explored and tested, in the coming years, it will become commonplace to see AI algorithms assist with:

  1. Automated decision-making: Make complex decisions about cloud infrastructure and services in real-time based on data gathered from across the environment.
  2. Predictive analytics: Predict performance issues and security risks before they occur, allowing for proactive remediation.
  3. Self-healing: Automatically detect and fix issues with cloud infrastructure and services, reducing the need for manual intervention.
  4. Resource optimization: Optimize cloud resources based on real-time demand, ensuring that organizations only pay for the resources they need.
  5. Improved security: Detect and respond to security threats in real time, reducing the risk of data breaches and other cyber-attacks.

Overall, AI-driven cloud management capabilities will help organizations manage their cloud environments more effectively and efficiently, reducing costs, improving performance, and enhancing security in the future.

Thank you, Craig ! That was fun and we hope to see you back on CIO Influence.

[To participate in our interview series, please write to us at sghosh@martechseries.com]

Craig is an experienced transformation and growth leader with a proven track record of repositioning and scaling growth companies. He has more than 20 years of executive leadership in the technology sector, with two successful exits, creating over $600M in enterprise value for investors.

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CloudBolt helps companies automate easily, optimize continuously, and govern at scale in hybrid and multi-cloud, multi-tool environments. Pulling together islands of automation, our framework helps unify disparate capabilities for DevOps, ITOps, FinOps, and SecOps. Backed by Insight Partners, CloudBolt has won numerous awards and has repeatedly been recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies on the Deloitte Fast 500 and the Inc. 5000 lists.

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