Edge Women of the Year Interview – Prajakta Joshi, Google
In the lead-up to Edge Computing World, we’re taking some time to speak to this year’s finalist of the Edge Women of the Year award. Today we’re talking to Prajakta Joshi, Product Manager, Youtube at Google.
Tell us a bit about yourself – what led you to get involved in the edge computing market?
I am Group Product Manager at Google in the Youtube Music team with industry experience that spans enterprise, telecom and, now, consumer. Over the last two plus years, I helped establish Google’s Telecom and Edge Cloud initiatives ground up as Group PM in Google Cloud. I have also led Google Cloud’s Networking portfolio in the areas of Cloud Load Balancing, Content Delivery, Service Mesh, gRPC, Application security and more. Before Google, I was Director of Product at ONF (previously ON.Lab) where I helped launch two telecom open source projects, ONOS and Central Office Re-architected as Datacenter (CORD). I started my career in engineering roles at Brocade, Foundry Networks and Cisco.
Our “Edge” journey in Google Cloud began a few years ago where our customers started asking us to “bring Google Cloud” wherever their workloads were deployed, often for compliance or latency reasons, or, because they expected their migration to be phased over multiple years with some workloads continuing to stay on their premises. The industry refers to this model as “distributed cloud” where a cloud provider like Google Cloud extends out their offerings, including hardware, software and services to their own edge Points of Presence (POPs), customer facilities, and other locations. Many of our enterprise customers also wanted a “low-latency” cloud, for example, to run media and gaming applications. In the telecom world, telcos were ramping up build out of cloud-native 5G networks. In parallel, they were also looking at building out an enterprise business around the 5G-connected edge in partnership with cloud providers like Google Cloud.
We built an Edge strategy for addressing the above use cases by taking inspiration from our success with Android. When Google entered the mobile market with Android in 2007, it reshaped the industry in a fundamental way. Android became the world’s largest mobile platform. Google did this by envisioning and building an open platform that benefited not just itself but also Telcos, device manufacturers, application developers and end customers. Android became successful because it offered 3 key elements: Android as the common platform with open interfaces, its ability to run on a variety of devices and form factors ranging from cell phones to laptops to TVs and most importantly, monetization for the entire Android ecosystem through apps built on android and run on a variety of devices. We emulated this strategy for edge by focusing on building a portfolio of Edge and 5G Applications and Solutions we are building with the edge ecosystem, an open, cloud-native integrated edge platform to run them in a global distributed edge we enable spanning Telco Edge, Google Edge and Customer Edge.
How does diversity benefit the edge environment?
Edge for us is an ecosystem play with the key stakeholders being enterprises, telcos, public cloud providers like Google Cloud, vendors, systems integrators, open source organizations and others. So there’s the notion of diversity inherently built in.
More specifically, three types of diversity are key to the success of “edge”: Diversity of use cases and solutions, diversity of edge consumption and go-to-market models , and diversity of leaders who are driving these edge initiatives in organizations as end users and solution providers. As an industry, we need to look at and address a broad set of use cases across enterprise and telecom; this will also help in building the right paradigms, platforms and services to support use cases and deliver edge’s full potential as a business services platform. To serve the largest set of end users and build a viable business around edge, we should assume a global distributed edge and multiple routes to take edge solutions to market. Most importantly, given this may not happen organically, we need to prioritize building diversity in the leadership that is driving edge initiatives in our orgs. Enabling diverse voices will ensure that we take into account a broad swathe of use cases and think differently which is a great recipe for innovation.
Tell us what is one lesson you’ve learned that’s unique to being a female leader in the Edge space?
Edge is increasingly one of the most strategic initiatives of our time in most cloud, telecom and enterprise organizations, but it is also a new and emerging area. Whenever there is a disruption in the market with a new area like edge, it’s a great time for women and other under-represented groups to enter these areas in leadership positions.
In my own case, I helped build out the Telecom and Edge Cloud initiatives ground up in Google Cloud starting in 2019, punching far above my role and scope at the time, which helped me move ahead in my career at Google in a big way. One of the biggest reasons I was able to do this was sponsorship, starting all the way at the top with Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud. As an industry, it’s really important we provide this type of sponsorship to women and others in our orgs, based not only on their current role and level, but on the strength of ideas, business value and innovation they are bringing to the table.
How do you see the edge market developing over the next few years?
Over the next few years, three key areas are likely to drive growth of the edge market: Distributed cloud, 5G-connected edge solutions for industry verticals, and the cloud-native Telecom Network including 5G.
In the short term, the focus will be on “defining” the Edge market. We need to unlock the edge along with Cloud and 5G as a business services platform and build out the edge market itself. If you think about it, unlocking the edge market is really about solving business problems and transforming the end user experience for industry verticals like retail, manufacturing, oil and gas, healthcare and delivering a cloud-native, optimized, automated, and agile telecom network. A key area of focus to enable these solutions will be Edge Platforms and services including hardware, accelerators, fleet management software, compute and service orchestration, management and automation, and services like Storage, Networking, Security, AI/ML, Data and Analytics.
Another key area of focus for “edge” will be edge deployment models, both for a single customer in their own location and in a multi-customer edge. An example of a single customer edge is when you deploy, say, a worker safety app on an edge platform in a factory. An example of a multi-customer edge is where a cloud provider like Google Cloud deploys an edge platform in their own POPs or in collaboration with a telco in that telco’s network edge, and multiple customers deploy their workloads on this edge, just like they do in Google Cloud. In the near future, we can also expect solutions to stretch across customer and provider edges or leverage multiple edges. Expect to see lot’s of real world testing of solutions with end customers, both telecom and enterprise, coupled with creation of new Go-To-Market and monetization strategies to drive a thriving “edge business”.
Longer term, as the edge market matures, I expect the focus to shift to “re-defining” the 3 E’s – economics, experience, and ease – for the Edge market. Let’s take Private/dedicated 5G as an example. Initially the emphasis will be on building out use cases like smart factory and connected mining with Private 5G, but as network slicing at scale becomes a reality, we can expect to redefine the economics and reduce the onus on the enterprises by using a mix of Private 5G in customer locations where necessary, and network slices offered by provider(s) to deliver these use cases. Experience-wise, in this example, provisioning of “slices” could now be via a more gamified interface in contrast to the UI and console/dashboard based experiences we can expect to see in the near term. My hope is that longer term, end users will not need to know whether their workload should be deployed at the “edge” or in “core cloud” in that we seamlessly handle placement and management of these workloads based on outcomes specified by these customers and also provide them single-click deployment for packaged edge solutions.
What advice would you give to other women entering the edge space, and/or what are some ways in which you have helped to support and lift other women in the space up?
As an industry, we are in a very interesting time where the silos that have traditionally existed between Cloud, Enterprise and Telecom are breaking down. For example, Telecom IT workloads are beginning to look a lot like Enterprise IT workloads, or, that one of the key new business areas telcos are looking at in conjunction with Cloud providers like Google Cloud and partners, is how to solve for Enterprise with 5G-connected edge solutions. So there is a perfect storm of Cloud, Edge, Enterprise and Telecom. In the future, as we uplevel from infrastructure to services and make the underlying complexity invisible, I expect the boundaries between all of these and the consumer market to start dissolving as well.
If you are a woman looking to enter this space, first of all look at the space holistically putting aside traditional segmentation and silos that have existed. This will help you enter the space from a myriad of starting points. Then decide which segment(s) you want or are best suited to solve for and understand their pain points and what business value you can deliver to them through edge.
Second is to get deep into key technologies for “Edge” such as Cloud IaaS, cloud native technologies like Kubernetes and service mesh, newer edge computing platforms emerging from providers like Google Cloud, Edge Services from cloud providers, vendors and open source and AI/ML processing at the edge, and gaps or new needs that have not yet been addressed by anyone.
Third is to really focus on the edge-powered use cases and solutions and build a deep understanding of the technologies and ecosystem needed to build these solutions. For solutions already in the market, dissect which technologies and services the solution provider has integrated together to solve which business problems and for which vertical or customer segment.
As an industry, we are just getting started with “edge” and 5G, and there is a massive opportunity to define these technologies, markets and solutions. Those who will help connect the dots between edge, cloud and 5G technologies and business value to end customers will be the most successful in this space. The most important prerequisite though is to raise your hand where there is an opportunity to lead an edge initiatives.If none exist yet in your org, build out the opportunities yourself. Personally, I am trying to pay it forward with Aurora, a community of senior women leaders in Google Cloud, I helped co-found, and by serving on Google Cloud’s diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) council. I also mentor several high performing emerging women leaders in Google Cloud. One other simple thing I do when I am invited to speak or deliver keynotes at Edge, Telecom or Cloud conferences and events, is to intentionally accept a mix of technical and product, general leadership, and, DEI/growing women in tech sessions. At the end of the day though, the most important step forward is to take ownership of steering and accelerating our own careers, in edge and in tech in general.
Thanks Prajakta !