Ben Kepes is all about Diversity. It also happens to be the name of the project where he is a Director and Principal. But, then you see his experience—and you see his diverse roles: a technology evangelist, a commentator, an investor, and a business adviser.
Honestly speaking, he was one of the first cloud evangelists who took Cloudways for a run. He wrote about us twice; once in Forbes and this year in Network World. His previous work of commentary got featured on ReadWriteWeb, The Guardian, GigaOm, Wired UK among many other renowned publications.
Apart from his work with Diversity Limited, Ben is actively involved with enterprise software, software integration, financial and accounting software, aviation industry, and cloud platforms and infrastructure.
He works with many small and medium enterprises to help them leverage technology. For his good work in New Zealand, Ben was honored with the coveted Blake Leader Award 2016 from Sir Peter Blake Trust.
Recently, I sat down with Ben to have a quick conversation about how cloud is changing the technology landscape and what roles Platforms are playing in doing such. He also spoke about his involvement with Clouderati, a group of global Cloud thought leaders and shared his favorite events for our readers.
I enjoyed taking this interview, and I am sure our readers are also going to love reading the insights given by Ben Kepes.
Cloudways: Hello Ben. Let’s start with an introduction. Tell us something about yourself and your current role at Diversity.
Ben Kepes: My name is Ben Kepes. I am a technology commentator and an industry analyst. Additionally, I am also occupied with a lot of investment and advisory work for large and medium sized businesses and startups. Basically, I help businesses think about how they can use technology to help them perform better and compete within their industry. I also do a lot of non-profit and mentoring work which I love.
Cloudways: Ben, you have a very diversified portfolio. You are a journalist, investor, investigator, speaker, influencer, and a technology evangelist, among other roles. How do you manage wearing so many hats?
Ben Kepes: That is a good question. I am lucky that I do not have much of a day job as such and I have got time and flexibility on my side for doing a lot of different things. But, I find that even though I am doing a wide range of things, they are all connected in some way and experience in one area is useful to a role in another. I do wear a lot of hats, but I actually find it pretty easy to balance the stuff that I do.
Cloudways: You are actively involved with PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS companies. How do you see the competitive landscape given how blurry the lines between them are getting?
Ben Kepes: I remember, 8 or 10 years ago, when I first started, it was a very distinct: compute, storage, and networking oriented model, and on top of that you had developmental frameworks. You know those days have changed. The previous model of the triangle—with SaaS at the top, IaaS at the bottom, and PaaS at the middle—is now very different. The lines are becoming blurry, and we are seeing enterprises move to the realization that developers will simply choose the different tools they want and they are going to be heterogeneous and complex. We are definitely not going to be in an era of “one size fits all”.
Cloudways: Cloud Hosting is a new way forward for small and medium enterprises. What is your opinion about Cloud Hosting as compared to the conventional form of hosting for SMBs looking to scale their businesses?
Ben Kepes: I find this interesting. Because I think there is a lot of semantic argument and a lot of misinformation about what is cloud and what is traditional hosting. Fundamentally, the bottom line is that SMBs should not have to manage infrastructures and should not have to think about the hardware or servers. Interestingly, this sounds like a cliché, but I think about infrastructure the same way as I think about electricity. I turn it on and use it. That is what Cloud Hosting is doing for SMBs.
Cloudways: From your point of view, which is the biggest problem SMBs are facing today and how companies like Cloudways can help solve it?
Ben Kepes: Yeah. The real problem for SMBs is that they need to focus on business and not on back-end technology. So increasingly at an SMB level, having a partner that can hold their hand and tell them that “Don’t worry, I have taken care of this.”
This is what Cloudways is doing for businesses.
Cloudways has a stable platform and offers a valuable proposition. I, myself, don’t want to be managing the infrastructure and would offload that to a trusted vendor that actually focuses on SMBs.
Cloudways: Ben, you are one of the creators of CloudU, a free training and certification provider for enthusiasts. What was the ideology behind providing the certification free of cost?
Ben Kepes: CloudU is something I did five years and back then there was a lot of misinformation about cloud and it was a good opportunity for doing a cloud education program. I started organizing Cloud Camps globally and I thought that it was a good opportunity to build from there and I was lucky I found a team that was keen to do something for the broader cloud industry. I started off building the content and then came the certificate. It was really a chance for IT professionals, both vendors and end users, to learn about the basics of cloud computing. I am not involved with the program anymore and haven’t been for, I guess, five years, but the program has had tens of thousands of people go through it and I am pretty proud of that.
Cloudways: Ben, you are an active member of the Clouderati, a global group of Cloud thought leaders. Tell us something about this group.
Ben Kepes: Yes, Clouderati really started off being a bit of a joke. Back then, there were a small group of people who understood cloud and talked about it on social media or during conferences. It’s basically a loose group of individuals who have that collegial environment where people can have conversations and discuss what is happening in the industry. Fundamentally, it is just a group of friends who spend some time discussing cloud computing.
Cloudways: You have been a part of a multitude of events. You were recently at OpenStack Summit and had been following it for six years. How was your experience? Which events would you recommend to our users as a must attend?
Ben Kepes: Yes, OpenStack is a really interesting project and I have been following it from day one. So it’s been great to be at most of the OpenStack summits across the years and see the really exciting big use-cases. What I would suggest for people reading this is to think about two different classes of events to attend:
- First, the very specific events about the technology and products they use. For example, if they are in the container world, then they should go to Container Con. If you are into WordPress, then you should definitely attend WordPress events, especially WordCamp events in your area.
- Then, there are the more general technology events where people can go to and find out what is coming up in technology. Not specifically related to what they do, but more related to general trends.
Two of my favorite events that I look forward to attending are the two events called Defrag and Glue. They are really good events about hearing about some really cutting-edge technology trends. They are definitely a must-attend.
Cloudways: You are a technology evangelist and an investor. What do you look for in a company before deciding to invest? What type of companies do you invest the most in?
Ben Kepes: I have invested in a range of companies – IaaS, PaaS, and, SaaS. It’s a very simple question for me to judge about investing in companies. I believe if the team can execute the pitch, and articulate a realistic plan, then I am more likely to be on board. I have said it a lot of times that a fantastic technology with a bad team will go nowhere, but the right team with bad technology will pivot and find the right thing which they can execute upon. So, for me, it comes down to the team that is behind that business.
Cloudways: As an opinion writer for famous publications like Forbes, Network World, and others, you must be getting a lot of pitches from different companies. How do you decide which medium to choose to publish a certain pitch? What do you look for in a pitch?
Ben Kepes: Yeah. That is a really interesting thing. Companies spend a lot of money on PR. Even though tech is a massive industry, there are not that many people who are covering the technology world from an analyst or journalist perspective. So I would suggest that companies take responsibility for building relationships with those individuals and influencers. Focus on just building relationships with them. The rest is just human nature. At the end of the day, if you have a company that you know well and you understand the product and you know the people, then it will be easy to write about them as compared to a company that you don’t understand. It really comes down to relationships.
Cloudways: Everyone has some influencers they look up to as an inspiration. When you were starting out, who was an inspiration for you?
Ben Kepes: When I started out in the Cloud world, there weren’t many people who were doing cloud. But there are a few people who have been around for a long time; people like James Urquhart. Randy Bias is another one. You know people like Werner Vogels, who very much invented Cloud Computing. These are a bunch of people out there and people outside the industry as well who are doing a good job of balancing the different avenues we have to balance in life.
Cloudways: Ben, you are an influential figure in the technological domain and people follow you for all news related to innovative technology. Who are some other influencers that our users can follow to keep up with all the latest technological news?
Ben Kepes: What I would suggest you know is that Twitter is a very good medium. I would recommend Alex Williams at the New Stack. He is doing a good job in covering in-depth perspective of technology. And, Clouderati is a good start.
Cloudways: Let’s step aside from work. Besides all above, I know you “seriously” run, I followed your challenge with the Mental Health Foundation fundraising event last year. Moving around as you do and with an agenda like you have, how and when do you train? What does running mean to you?
Ben Kepes: Yes, I turned 45 this year. I am getting older so I have to take care of my fitness and I have been running for about 10 years. I find, because I travel so much, that running is a fantastic way to see a new city and also a great way to keep my body healthy. When I am traveling, I run pretty much every morning. When I am home, I run pretty much every day and I find that running is a really good thing for both mental and physical health.
Cloudways: Just for our readers, would you please share a snap of your workstation.
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