Meet the Product, Meet the Manager
An interview series with Cloudflare Product Managers where we will showcase Cloudflare products and discuss their pathway to product management.
Hi everyone, my name is Michelle. I'm a member of Cloudflare's business intelligence team.
And today I want to welcome you guys to our new show, Meet the Product, Meet the Manager.
And it's where we'll be shining a spotlight on the various products at Cloudflare.
And just so you know, if you guys have any questions during this show, please email them to liveshow at Cloudflare.tv and we'll answer them during the end of our session.
So today we have the product manager of load balancing, Brian Batraski.
Thank you very much for coming today. And so just to kick off the show, could you kind of tell us briefly about what load balancing is and how it works?
Absolutely. So load balancing in its simplest form is, I guess most people can guess it, balancing the load to your infrastructure.
But more importantly, it allows customers to better utilize the resources within their infrastructure, maximize their application reliability.
So then customers go to their application or their website, it's always available, always up, increasing brand trust.
And lastly, it creates a more performant scenario and experience for customers to make sure that requests are being routed from when people enter a URL on their website, in their URL bar, on their browser, to when that request actually hits the origin server.
And again, we want to make sure that's as fast as possible.
And so in a nutshell, you're really just maximizing your application and again, making a better experience for your customers.
So it's really all about the speed and how well the data can deliver to the request, right?
That, but also always having kind of a pulse on your infrastructure, always knowing when your servers are healthy and receiving requests properly versus when they are becoming unhealthy or a problem, unexpected problem might occur.
And thus, being able to steer traffic away from those unhealthy origins and making sure that again, those requests are being handled properly by the infrastructure.
And again, so the users at the end of the day are having the best experience possible.
And so that's really the main gist of load balancing. Yeah. So how has load balancing helped specifically some small customers or one of our larger customers?
You can share a little story. Yeah, great question. So different companies, different sizes, different industries, different geographies across the world have different needs.
And so I can share two stories from one of our slightly smaller companies.
One was on our pro plan. And so they were having some issues and we need to load balancer VPN services locally within their data centers.
And so they were having a hard time finding a solution that was able to fit into their budget and their cost while also allowing them to kind of scale their business, allowing them to work in a very agile way and propel their development velocity.
And so we talked to this company and kind of saw what their requirements or what their needs were.
And basically, we're able to provide them a solution for very, very low cost within their budget while allowing them to move very quickly and implement Cloudflare's load balancing so then they can load balance the different VPN services within their infrastructure.
And so we were able to actually, in a very tight bind, set them up.
Cloudflare's load balancer is incredibly easy to set up.
It's really in a matter of minutes, depending on the type of architecture you have.
And you really can set it up and then get going and focus really on your table stakes.
And so we were able to get them up and running in less than a day, actually, within really an hour or two.
And they're still using our load balancer today and are very, very happy customers.
On the flip side, when you move to our enterprise side of the house, there is a very, very large enterprise company that specializes in delivery services.
And so they had this problem where they had a lot of different vendors in their infrastructure.
And as we all know, the more different vendors you have, the more complexity you have into your infrastructure and thus maintainability gets a little bit cumbersome.
And so they wanted to remove their Amazon ELB or elastic load balancer to, again, kind of simplify their infrastructure, really make everything into a solid platform that Cloudflare offers.
And so they wanted to see if Cloudflare's load balancer would be a viable option.
And so together with, after meeting with that company multiple times, really assessing out what the needs and requirements were, we were then able to figure out that our load balancer was a great fit, would be able to suffice the needs that they were getting already with their elastic load balancer at Amazon.
And then in fact, with a marriage between Argo tunnel products and load balancing, they're able to get the encrypted tunnels they needed, set up the exact config that was required for their current architecture.
And now they're still very, very happily using our load balancer today.
And they've been able to not only to continue scaling up their business, but as we all know with COVID-19, coming earlier this year, we've seen a huge transformation of traffic moving from in -person to digital.
And so having these massive traffic spikes had really set them up for success, being able to scale with our massive any cast network and thus they're still very, very happy customers today.
And so our load balancer really can suffice any type of company, whether you're a very small developer driven business, really needing to bootstrap resources and continue working to get your product propelled into the market.
Or if you're already a large enterprise needing to continue to bolster your infrastructure, we can suffice any which way.
That sounds like super awesome. God, we are as a company doing so much to help all sorts of businesses, but this might sound like kind of a dumb question, but when you talk about vendors, would that be the different data centers and servers?
Good question. No. So vendors, we want to think about as actual different companies offering services to businesses.
And so you might have Koffler as your load balancer.
Maybe you have different origins set up in Azure, GCP and AWS.
Maybe you have a different service, maybe using Kubernetes, so on and so forth.
And so the more different companies and brands are offering different services for your infrastructure, the more complex that makes it.
If there's any particular problem, let's say for your health monitoring services that may be used externally, just for a double check, or your secondary DNS, if anything happens to those folks, you then need to go reach out to a different company every single time.
Versus at Koffler, we have such a vast range of different products to support your infrastructure, continue building on top of.
You have a one stop shop of truth to be able to solve any issues that may come up, thus making maintainability much, much easier.
And again, having that really one stop source of truth to be able to fix any issues that may come up.
So that's why I'm kind of- That definitely clarifies that for me.
So from what I've been hearing so far, it seems like the pros of using us versus our competitors is really the ease of use, and then are able to integrate a vast variety of products, not just at Koffler, but other companies' products as well.
Is that how what you would say sets us apart from our competitors?
I think so, but actually more than that.
So load balancing is vendor agnostic, right? So whether you have your origin servers in Amazon, GCP, Azure, on -prem servers, that's fine.
Whether you have a hybrid multi-cloud setup, on-prem setup, that's all fine.
It doesn't really matter to us.
We can fit into any of those different types of architectures. But in my mind, what sets us apart from the competition is one, our massive global Anycast network.
What this does is that it allows us to load balance across every single POP, every single server in our entire network, which is one of the largest networks in the world.
And thus, we're removing any single point of failure, which is huge when you think about the reliability for your application, especially as it stretches across different geographies, if your customer base is very dispersed across the world.
Next, I would say, load balancing is one piece of the total solution for any company.
And so being able to leverage your load balancing solution, your DDoS mitigation, your rate limiting, your bot mitigation, setting up a WAF to protect your, to get rid of any illegitimate traffic, so on and so forth.
It gets very cumbersome if you have to pull these different products from different companies in the market.
And so having our load balancer, being able to integrate with our DDoS mitigation, with our WAF, our rate limiting, our bot mitigation, our encrypted tunnels, our tunnel, being able to do DDoS mitigation for layer four with our spectrum product, and our load balancer plays very nicely across all the different products in Cloudflare.
And so I think that's a huge benefit, especially, again, when we come to the frame of maintainability for different companies.
And again, also simplifying infrastructure to make sure you really have that one-stop shop of truth for any type of issues or advice as you want to continue growing your business.
Next, specific to load balancing, I would say our extremely fast and very advanced configuration options for our health monitoring services.
And so with load balancing, the origin selection and traffic steering decisions are largely and entirely based off the health monitoring services that we have within Cloudflare.
And so it's very, very strong. It's very, very configurable, adaptable.
And lastly, exceptional ease of use. I've seen customers set up their entire load balancing infrastructure, some in a matter of minutes, some just a matter of hours for some of those complex infrastructures that I've seen.
And thus, when I look at some of the competitors in the market, it can be much more cumbersome and take quite longer to be able to set up this part of your infrastructure.
And so I think Cloudflare's load balancer really gets set apart from competition for those reasons.
Okay. That sounds really cool. I really love how flexible we are and how we're able to really integrate our wide variety of products at Cloudflare as well.
So have you come across any unique solutions that people have, for example, using a spectrum and load balancing kind of unique way?
I'm curious to hear those types of stories.
Yeah. I mean, I've been at Cloudflare for a little over a year now.
I'm really trying to bolster the load balancing product.
And one thing that I've seen is that there's really no limitation, no end to different types of complexities or interesting combinations of things that customers do.
And so I've seen different setups to where you need to have your load balancer globally, and then have an on -prem load balancer, and then particularly have load balance against layer four, going down to layer three from a packet level, all the way up to layer seven.
And so again, we can suffice really any of that to really any extent of the different products we have, whether it be Imagine Transit for protecting your entire infrastructure, all the way from layer four to layer seven for your TCP, UDP traffic or HTTP, HTTPS.
And so load balancing at Cloudflare plays very nicely with the cross-span of our different products.
Whether you want to mitigate attacks, make sure that you're using our WAF to get any traffic that shouldn't hit your infrastructure out of the way early on, make sure you're getting bots removed early on with our bot mitigation, and then making sure that when it actually gets our load balancing solution, that you're only load balancing against traffic that should actually be coming to your infrastructure and be coming to your application.
So I've seen a number of different setups, a number of different complexities, but again, there's yet to be one where we're able to solve it one way or another.
That is great to hear. So I'm kind of confused, what do you mean by the different layers?
Great question. So we have something called the OSI network stack, if folks may not be familiar with it.
And it basically covers the different layers of networking from the fiscal layer, layer one being the actual cable connections, going all the way up to layer seven, which is the application layer, which is what most of us are really familiar with, where you're actually sending an HTTP request where someone puts a URL in their URL bar in their browser that sends a request.
Largely it would be an HTTP or HTTPS request when they see little HTTP slash S if it's secure in their URL bar.
And so that's what most people are used to, but not all traffic is HTTP or HTTPS.
Some could be there for, which is TCP, UDP traffic, which is more session-based traffic.
And so we want to make sure that as different businesses, as different customers have needs for different types of traffic for their business, we want to make sure that we can support them.
And so Koffler's load balancer works very nicely across the different layers of the stack.
And we talk about the different layers because it's a way to be able to clearly identify and communicate what the needs are across different jargon that different companies might be used to.
That's what we mean by the network stack or layer four versus layer seven, or maybe just DNS only, so on and so forth.
Oh, okay. So that's kind of like what type, like how people access applications, different network layers.
Yeah, it's different types of traffic.
And again, just networking is as easy as we all want to make it. And we strive to make it for folks to ingest.
It can get a bit complicated. And so we do highly reference that network stack and the different layers of it to be able to communicate very clearly about the needs of different businesses, different customers, and make sure that we're sufficing what they need.
And again, bolster, sorry, set them up for success so they can focus on their table stakes, really growing their business, making their customers happy, provide the best experience possible.
And then we under the hood, we'll take care of everything else. That makes sense.
And then, so it seems like this year has been a very interesting and eventful year with forest fires and the pandemic going on and the whole kind of switch to be more work from home for people to attend school from home.
There's been a lot of increase in Internet traffic.
So I'm curious, like what adjustments did you have to make as a product manager for load balancing?
Yeah. I think we'd all have different answers to this, but 2020 has been a very unexpected year.
Like you said, there's been a lot of tumultuous times, whether it be with COVID -19, really changing the way that we kind of live our lives day to day, how we work day to day, really affecting different industries across the world.
And so at Cloudflare, we've been moving full steam ahead.
We're really lucky that we work in an industry in which we can still work at home.
We can still collaborate across different geographies. And my shameless plug is Cloudflare is a fantastic place to work.
And so we've been able to really support all the folks in the company to really ensure any troubles or issues that they may be having from working from home that we accommodate.
And again, Cloudflare has been a great partner, at least to me, to make sure that we can be as productive as possible.
And so from a product standpoint, again, we've been moving full steam ahead.
We have a very, very packed roadmap for 2020, always stretching past 2021 for load balancing.
And so we've been shipping just as fast as we have in the past, but definitely, as you had mentioned, we've seen a huge, massive shift, the likes of that we really never have seen before from in-person brick and mortar traffic for regular stores, all shifting to be digital online traffic.
And so this lends to a huge surge in spikes of traffic, either unexpected or expected based on different marketing campaigns, or people just wanting to go to your site and purchase or experience whatever you have to offer.
And so this has really taken a lot of companies by surprise.
And that's, a lot of people have had to kind of panic a little bit thinking, how is my infrastructure, how are my resources going to be able to accommodate this massive increase of traffic to their infrastructure?
And so we definitely have, as we're moving full steam ahead, we've definitely reprioritized what we're going to be working on and what the needs of our customers were, because this absolutely has changed from the end of 2019 coming into 2020 since March.
And as we continue to learn more about what's happening through the pandemic, with politics and so on and so forth, the needs of our businesses have changed.
And so we have reprioritized and reset what folks will want, what we need to deliver to set them up for success.
And again, we want to take care of as much as possible behind the scenes and allow businesses to focus on their table stakes.
And so we're really excited to continue shipping new features for our customers.
And again, be able to support them, make sure their applications are as reliable, as robust as possible, and make sure they have the tools needed to continue giving great experiences to their customers.
That's great. Okay. So I think we learned a lot about what load balancing is and how customers can use it.
And then so let's kind of shift it kind of towards learning more about you, Brian.
I'm curious how you got started as a product manager or some experiences you had growing up, or was it something you came across when you were in college, or was it later on, you did a career change?
I'm curious to learn more about your kind of path to product management.
Oh, great. Yeah. Great question. So when I was a really young child, I always had this kind of curiosity for technical items and for technology.
And so I was always, you know, as my parents would say, I was always breaking stuff and taking things apart back together, really trying to understand how everything worked.
And so I always had this affinity towards just wanting to understand how things worked, the more technical nature of them, and see how I can, you know, myself make it better.
And so as I went through school, continued to kind of hone those skills.
And then I went into college, I took some networking classes.
I took some more computer science based classes, then finding, as we're all trying to figure out what we're doing in college, I settled on a business management information systems major.
Graduated, and during that time, you know, I worked multiple jobs in college.
And so I worked as a product technician at Apple, really trying to help customers one-on -one, make sure their IT kind of lane from there, but always took a more product centric type of scope towards a lot of my work.
And then really got kind of my big break when I worked at this company a few years ago called Zenefits, which is an HR management benefits and payroll company.
And so I built out their product quality and quality engineering groups at that company, and, you know, continue to really, really reaffirm that I really love that type of work.
I love being able to take the concept and idea of a product after hearing and talking to customers, see what really matters to them, what they need, and try and think of a, you know, what stereotypically most PMs would say is a very elegant and simple solution to solve a really large and complex problem.
And so I saw what I thought, I was pretty good at it, and I continued again to hone in those skills, really trying to raise my technical abilities.
And so after going through that, you know, I had my time at Zenefits, moved to another company where a very smaller startup, you know, I was, I think, in the seed stage, I think I was maybe employee 30, 30, somewhere around there, very, very early, early stage.
And, you know, again, continue to build out their product org there.
You know, I just kind of continue to kind of push on that.
And I really enjoy, you know, being very solution oriented, really dissecting the really, really nitty gritty of any type of problem, and really trying to see how we can make a solution for it that works well, not only for one cohort or one persona of folks, but really for everybody.
And I very much take that into my own life. I really can't turn it off. And so whether it be how I can improve cooking a particular dish, or if I need to build a shelf or like some type of home improvement, I always try and take a, you know, a very PM type of approach to see how I can solve that and make it really, really nice and look well and look good.
So that's how it kind of started. And then, you know, I was lucky enough to be able to come here to Cal Flair and continue to grow with great mentorship and great opportunities.
So, yeah, I think we definitely have a lot of amazing PMs here as well.
So I'm like curious, like as a product manager, is it common for you guys to switch products every couple of years?
Or do you kind of like stay the same product and really develop that and scale that as time goes on?
I think that's a fantastic question. I think it will absolutely differ company to company.
I think some companies, especially large enterprises, they're at such large scale and some of the products they have reach so many different people that wouldn't necessarily be fair to give folks multiple of those types of products.
But I think it really does span down to what type of product it is, how large is the product, how many people are consuming it, how much revenue does it really bring on, what is the complexity of that product and what stage it's at.
You know, I think if you have a very developed product that is really kind of smooth sailing, has the majority of features and functionality as required, it's very stable, and you can kind of set it to be, you know, self -operating at that point.
I think that's definitely a time that you would come in and switch to get another product.
You know, I think as PMs, we're generally quite hungry and gritty to try and get more under our wing and continue to learn.
So I think it really depends on the size of the company, what products you're using, but I, myself, have every few years, you know, just to keep things interesting for myself and also develop my own skills and hone my career.
And again, just to continue learning and just being very hungry for it.
I've, you know, taken some switches, but, you know, here at Cloudflare, very much and very focused on continuing to grow the load balancing business and, again, be able to support our customers, make sure that they're set up for success.
And I think, you know, we have a very, very strong foothold in the market.
I think our load balancing solution really does work well with a lot of our customers.
They seem all to be very, very happy.
We get great, great reviews, and we're very excited to kind of close out the last, I would say, 15, 20 percent of functionality that is required across the market to make sure that we are a force to be reckoned with, as we already are.
And so I think some people will give you different answers, but yeah, I think largely those are the factors that you would juggle to determine, you know, what products you would take on or not.
So it seems like a lot of product managers really like taking kind of like an idea from scratch and really throwing out and really scaling that to where it's kind of like maintainable by itself, and before you kind of hop onto something and then scale that the same way.
It seems like you guys are really into that kind of like creating and really driving all the growth, right?
I think it's a really good balance between one, really taking ownership.
You know, a lot of a product manager's job is to take ownership to really set that vision of what we want to do and then really digesting that down to iterative steps and milestones of we're going to do A, B, and C.
We're doing A for reason one, we're doing B for reason two, C for reason three.
That then unlocks this next cohort of items that we want to do that then again relates directly back to the mission of the company and again relates back to supporting our customers.
At the end of the day, you know, it's the customers that are the most important and making sure that they have the best experience possible.
And so trying not to lose sight of that and get a little tunnel vision to how you think it should work can be a little difficult.
But to your point, really balancing the creative side of there is a problem, how do I solve it?
And then really like bringing that into the world, into reality.
There's something, you know, I think really special about that.
And so that's one of the reasons why I really love being a PM and especially here at Klaffler as we get so much ownership and we really get to, you know, kind of move things forward as we view it, being kind of the subject matter experts in that field.
Yeah, I can definitely relate. Like Klaffler started like so small and now we're like right now this year I think we're like doubling, tripling like our headcount and it's crazy to see how much we've grown as a company and we've grown in the kind of product space as well.
So I think we have around like five minutes left.
So I think there's two more things I want to get through before we go to any audience questions.
So is there anything else you'd like to share with the audience, any new features, what is the future of the product?
So there's one thing that's coming out quite soon that I personally am exceptionally excited for.
And so one thing that we have today is, you know, we have a very, I think a very elegant and very good, you know, load balancing solution for our customers.
One thing is, you know, sometimes there might be this really small item that a customer wants that impacts them in a really big way that we may not have built yet.
And so, you know, we have a very high quality bar that people expect, not only from load balancing, from Klaffler overall as a company and brand.
And so sometimes it can take a little bit of time to really develop those new features to make sure that each customer is set up for success for their specific types of needs.
So one thing that we're going to release soon as a closed beta later this year and coming into early January is something called load balancing rules.
And this will allow customers to implement their own custom logic onto their traffic for their origin selection or traffic steering decisions.
And so for example, if you want to do load balancing by path or potentially you want to implement a particular header for different types of traffic, or maybe load balance for different times of the day, where you see the dips or increases based on when different geographies of the world are going, waking up and going to bed for their work day.
We may not have all that fully built out as First Class Citizens features today, but with load balancing rules, you'll very, very easily be able to create these different rules as intense complexity, different and or statements as you see it, and also fit into different workflows, whether you want to use our rule builder, which is incredibly intuitive and very easy access of use, or you want to use our expression builder, that's a more code-like workflow, you'll be able to support both.
And so I'm exceptionally excited to get this into our customers' hands, and again, continue to be able to support them for the different needs that they have.
And so again, we are going to be releasing this as a closed beta sometime in December and going into early January, and then again, we'll go generally available sometime in the first half of next year.
That sounds like super exciting.
I can't wait to kind of play around with that on my own website too, just like tinkering with the different features.
And then so I think closing off, I know we have probably like many young aspiring product managers or engineers that are watching, your team you'd like to promote and share.
I'm sorry, I cut off for just one second.
Can you repeat the last question? Is there any like openings on your team you would like to share and promote?
Openings on my team right now?
As of now, my team specifically, I believe we are at full headcount, but I know there are a number of open positions out there.
We are hiring quite aggressively, and so I do urge folks, whether you're interested in product engineering or any other type of position across the board, I know we have many positions open across different geos for our business, and so I highly recommend going to our career site, looking at the different open positions and then applying.
My shameless plug, and I promise no one's told me to say this, I love working at Koffler.
It's the best company that I ever worked at in my career, and package some of the smartest people that I've ever met, and we're working on amazing cutting edge technology that really makes the Internet a better place.
And lastly, I feel so strongly that Koffler sticks very close to their mission, and they don't just say things to the market and then change it up internally.
It's all consistent, very transparent across the board, and that's something that was very important to me.
And so if you're interested in Koffler, you're interested in making a difference of how the Internet will work and be viewed for many years to come, I highly, highly recommend you come and apply.
Yeah, I would do.
I think that to me speaks a lot to me as well. I love it here at Koffler, and just the fact that, you mentioned, we're such a mission-driven company.
I think it's when I graduated from college, I was looking at different, interviewing at different places.
I don't think I've ever met a company that everyone was like, this is our mission, and this is what we're working towards.
That's so strictly follow that.
And I think at Koffler, we're here to help make the Internet better.
That is our main goal, and there's no hidden meaning or whatever in it.
We're just here to really help make the Internet something everyone goes on every single day, just safer, faster, just for everyone.
So if anyone's out there interested, I would definitely reach out and then apply online.
Yeah, and I think we're at 46 seconds left, so I just want to thank you everyone for being on our show today.
Thank you, Brian. Thank you everyone for watching, and I hope you guys tune in for the next episode that is to be decided.
Thanks so much, Rochelle. It was a great time being here today, and again, hope everyone enjoyed watching, and stay safe, and have some happy holidays coming up.