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What’s New With Netlify And How They Work In A Cloud-Native World


Guest: Akram Hassan
Company: Netlify
Show: Let’s Talk

Netlify is a web development platform used to multiply productivity by unifying the elements of the modern, decoupled web. According to Netlify, their product can enable a 10x faster path to more performant, secure, and scalable websites and apps.

Akram Hassan started with Microsoft 15 years ago, where he worked on the Azure team as one of the early product managers. He then transitioned to Dell EMC and worked at Uber on some of their internal platforms. He recently was brought into Netlify to serve as their VP of Product.

Why did Hassan make this move? It all starts with how Netlify is redefining the web stack and how it should look from a presentation layer. He also says, “They’re actually allowing you to move in a very productive fashion as a developer. You can move your code from your laptop to the content delivery network (CDN) in just minutes.” When Hassan tried Netlify, he immediately fell in love with the product. He knew exactly what it was about and how they could be successful.

At that point, Hassan started talking with Matt, Chris, and the founders and enjoyed a great connection.

In the world of cloud-native, Netlify is all about productivity. According to Hassan, “Netlify is redefining for you, as a business owner, how fast can you get to the market?” To get a great website today, you have to consider frameworks, code generators, build tools, CDNs, and caching. All of that combined can get very complex and take considerable time. Netlify simplifies that process and makes it possible for companies to deploy quickly and efficiently.

The company made several enterprise-related announcements. One of the more important announcements is a new enterprise plan. Before this, Netlify already had a lot of single developer accounts where whole stacks can be managed by a team of one. Netlify saw a need to make it possible for multiple teams to work on a single project. With their new enterprise account, “You can see every team separately, you can actually see their usage and a map of the usage. And not only that, you can actually have automated invoicing for all of these teams. Previously, you used to have separate invoices.”

The second addition is logging and measurement. Most customers have previously used their own tooling for logging and measurement. For example, some use platforms like Datadog. With the recent addition, those logging and measurement platforms can now be integrated with Netlify.

Another new feature is called collaborative deployed previews. Hassan explains , “If you’re doing a website, the first thing you do is you want to have some preview of the website, that you can send to disciplines. Like, Hey, I have a marketing person I’m working with. I have a UI designer that I want to get feedback from.”

These previews have a direct impact on the users. Hassan addresses this when he talks about the traditional workflow feedback, which can require using multiple tools and having to track communications and histories. To explain how Netlify addresses this, Hassan says, “Imagine all of that is recorded in a single place. It’s ready, you don’t have to open any issues, it’s already open for you. And it makes the developer’s life way easier to get that feedback. So, it changes the dynamics of how you get feedback on a website that’s developed.”

The Netlify roadmap includes offering their product through the AWS Marketplace. They also plan to continue offering more and more functionality to help make apps faster and more secure, as well as providing developers with more tools for productivity.

The summary of the show is written by Jack Wallen

Here is the rough, unedited transcript of the show…

Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host Swapnil Bhartiya, and welcome to Let’s Talk. My next guest is Akram Hassan, VP of Product at Netlify. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you joined Netlify?

Akram Hassan: I have been in the platform world for over 15 years. I started with Microsoft, worked there in Windows Azure, was one of the early product managers actually to work on the platform. I have a love and passion for platforms and transitioned to Dell EMC, after. Worked on data storage, and also worked at Uber on some of their internal platforms, specifically the communication and automation platforms that they have there. And Netlify is at a very unique position. When I looked at them as a company, they’re one of the few companies that are redefining how are you actually going to move your web properties to the CDN. And they actually started saying, “There’s a new way for you as a developer, to be more productive.” And not a lot of companies are doing that today.

If you look at it, they are redefining, first of all, the web stack, how it should look like, from a presentation layer, from pre-rendering. And the second thing, they’re actually allowing you to move in a very productive fashion as a developer. You can basically, move your code from your laptop to the CDN in just minutes. And when I tried it out, to be honest with you, the first thing I tried it out, I loved it. I fell in love with that platform. I knew exactly what it is about and knew exactly how they could be successful. And in that sense, once I’ve seen that platform, what it can do, I just started talking to Matt and Chris and the founders, and we just had a great connection. And that’s how I’m here today.

Swapnil Bhartiya: If you look at a Netlify, or if you look at Jamstack and other technologies that you folks are building there, a lot of problems are there, which are new. A lot of problems have been solved in different ways, right? We try to just, make it a bit better. So, when I look at Netlify and we also look at the cloud, or web-centric world that we live in, where almost every company has to have an online presence, they have to have a cloud, or [inaudible 00:02:11]. What role is Netlify in a word, so that you are enabling business owners, irrespective of whether they are developers, or not, so that they can get started with a business, or whatever is their job.

Akram Hassan: It is all about productivity. If you think about it, Netlify is redefining for you as a business owner, how fast can you get to the market? And if you can really get a website today, just think about it. If you want to get the website up and running, there’s a lot of frameworks that you can use. And there’s a lot of code generators that you have to figure out. And there’s a lot of build tools. And not only that, you have to figure it out the CDN, you have to figure it out caching. You have to figure out how to configure all that. It takes time and it’s complexity during all of that development process can cause you issues. But, if you can simplify the whole process and with one click, which has deployed to Netlify, then that’s what the business would really gains, is the time to market. The ability to get there fast, quick, and more efficient. And that’s one of the key things, the value props that really, Netlify’s all about.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Now, Netlify recently announced quite a lot of announcements related to enterprise. You have a new enterprise, good plan. Tell us a bit more about these plans and these announcements.

Akram Hassan: Yeah, so Netlify does very well. One, when you have a single developer, developing really, a web stack. We really do very well. We have a lot of developers single account, and they can really manage a whole stack by themselves. But, when you come to the enterprise, there’s a team of people working on it, not just the team, there are multiple teams. And from that stems multiple, I would say, needs to the enterprise. The first need is, I want to see every team in my organization and I want to basically, quantify their usage. So, the way we actually are thinking about this, we ship this multi-team management. You can see every team separately, you can actually see their usage and map of the usage. And not only that, you can actually have automated invoicing for all of these teams. Previously, you used to have separate invoices, you used to have to deal with all these invoicing separately.

But, now you can actually start understanding the usage of your team and actually charge them in the right way. That’s the first step towards really becoming on the enterprise side. The second thing, is logging and measurement. Most of the enterprise customers have their own tooling. They have their own ecosystem for monitoring. Let me give an example, some customers have Datadog, it’s one of the key partners that we just announced in the last launch, which basically, can start integrating your monitoring tools that you are familiar with, with Netlify and doing really a drain of locks and be able to see traffic logs, functional logs, and others, and be able to manage that within your environment. So, those are some of the enterprise capabilities that we shipped, and we really want to gear that ecosystem towards the enterprise at some point.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Excellent. What else is there in addition to helping teams?

Akram Hassan: There are also integrations that we did, with what we call collaborative deployed previews. If you’re doing collaborative deployed previews, just take a step back. What is it about? If you’re today doing a website, the first thing you do is you want to have some preview of the website, that you can send to disciplines. Like, “Hey, I have a marketing person I’m working with, I have a UI designer that I want them to get feedback.” Or, any other discipline within the organization. Imagine if I can give you a way, not just to use a link, but it can give feedback right there and have all your feedback in a single spot? So, initially we started with GitHub integration, all the feedback are within GitHub issues, screenshots. But, now we found that people actually are using different tools. Let’s say JIRA, for example. And we shipped JIRA integration recently with this collaborative deployed preview integration. So, now you can have JIRA integration also as well, or audio visuals and all the feedback that you get from all these disciplines within one spot, in JIRA as well.

Swapnil Bhartiya: One thing that I always, am curious about whenever we talk about these new features. I want understand the direct impact on the end user, or in this case would be developer. Can you know that how their life changes after these features? How you make it easier for them?

Akram Hassan: Yeah. So, previously, when you do these previews, what happens? You go to Slack, you go to email and your feedback was all over the place. So, you as a developer, you’re trying to figure out, “Okay, I got that feedback. I’m going to open an issue, or I’m going to actually, go track it somewhere.” And that the time used to just track all this information is definitely lost after a period of time. You don’t know, “Okay, what happened in that history?” Imagine all of that becomes just in a single place recorded. It’s ready, you don’t have to open any issues, it’s already open for you. And it makes the developer life, way easier to get that feedback. So, it changes the dynamics of how you get feedback on a website that’s developed. And I think that’s going to be one of the key things that not just the enterprise, any customer using Netlify too, they can use that feature, it’s available to every customer. But, it’s the beauty of being able to get that feedback real time and be able to have it in a single place to look at it for history too, as well.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Right. One thing, I want to talk more about, is the integration with data log, because you can build a great service, a great website, but things will go wrong. So, observability is really critical, you need to know what’s going on there. So, can you just go a bit deeper into the work that you are doing there? And once again, what things you are exposing to developers, so they can look at the log? And how far you go, to just show them that something is happening? Or, what about understandability? And actionability also based on those metrics?

Akram Hassan: So, this is, I would say the start of the journey. We still have way more to come hopefully, in the future. But, the start of the journey need basically, customers where they are. We are not trying to develop a monitoring platform. We’re trying to actually ensure that the monitoring and data is going back to the customer, especially for enterprise. They want to be able to drain these logs into data log. And Datadog is an amazing platform that you can actually go and slice and dice data, and actually be able to do alerting, notification, all that on top. What we provide is a way for you to get traffic logs, for example, and then based on this traffic log, you can trigger certain notification. Or, function logs, if you’re using serverless functions. And these serverless functions, you can actually download the logs and basically act on it too, as well. So, with that in mind, it gives you that ability to use your tools and notifications you’re already familiar with, especially DevOps folks that are familiar with these tools will appreciate a lot also integrating with these third party platforms.

Swapnil Bhartiya: So, Akram you recently joined the company. We have been covering Netlify for a very long time, since almost its inception. If I ask you, what do you see in the company? Because, you also saw something in the company that you joined. What are the achievements that you saw that Netlify has, in these past years? And then, we can quickly also talk about what roadmap do you have? So, let’s start with the achievements, and then future plans.

Akram Hassan: So yeah, we’ve had a few things that are coming through. The first thing, is we’re also offering Netlify on AWS Marketplace. So, that means, if you’re a customer of AWS and you have credits already that you want to utilize, you can utilize these credits towards Netlify. That’s one of the most important things that we think will help customers also make that transition when needed, is be able to use AWS credits to actually offer Netlify services. Our roadmap is definitely coming through, to provide customers with more and more functionality towards how can we make their apps faster? How can we make sure that they are more secure? And how can we make sure that we actually provide more developer productivity, or developer productivity is going to be a key thing, definitely in our themes next few years. So, all of that is coming through, and these are the main things that we are thinking about as we speak.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Akram, thank you so much for taking time out today and talk about, of course, these new announcements and of course, shared, not too much in detail, but just a glimpse of the roadmap as well. But, I would love to have you back on the show. Thanks for your time today.

Akram Hassan: Thank you. And thank you for having me here.