Sunday, December 3, 2023

AITech365 Interview with Sasha Gilenson, Founder And CEO at Evolven Software

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The biggest lesson I learned from observing the enterprises is that it’s crucial to identify real gaps or opportunities and then look for technologies that align clearly with the organization’s business goals.

Sasha, can you tell us about your professional background and your current role at Evolven Software?

I have a master’s degree in computer science from Latvian University and an MBA from London Business School (LBS). Before starting Evolven, I worked for over 13 years for Mercury Interactive, which developed technology, becoming a de-facto standard in IT automation and management. There, I had an opportunity to experience a variety of roles, from leading a testing team to building new business units, selling new products to enterprise IT, and developing the company’s strategy. Throughout my entire time with the company, independently of my title, I also served as an advisor to the largest IT organizations, consulting them on optimizing their practices, automating their operational processes, and effective governance and control.

Being continuously engaged in the design and implementation of innovative technologies while, at the same time, learning the challenges and needs of enterprise IT, I felt that the right next step would be building my own company, focusing on one of the biggest gaps that I did not see being addressed by any vendor – the impact of configurations and changes on stability, performance, and resiliency. Getting an MBA at LBS gave me the additional tools to follow my dream. Similarly to my experience with Mercury, I remain a jack of all trades in Evolven. I continue to be deeply involved in the product roadmap, product design, sales, partner programs, and customer success activities.

What sets Evolven Software apart from other companies in the same space?

Delivering configurations and making changes to address evolving business requirements and keep the lights on are core tasks of any IT organization. At the same time, misconfigurations, unplanned changes, and changes producing unexpected results are some of the key reasons for outages and security breaches in enterprise systems. Our mission is to ensure that companies relying on technology to serve their customers and drive their business succeed in their digital transformation journey, increasing the pace of change while keeping their IT environments stable, secure, and compliant. This is a very challenging objective that many vendors have tried to resolve but failed. We spent 10 years developing a unique technology that overcomes complexity, scale, and speed of change for IT organizations in the world’s largest enterprises. What sets us apart is the combination of extremely powerful and flexible data collection across the end-to-end hybrid cloud with a patented AI-based analytics engine that automatically assesses risks and prioritizes misconfigurations and changes, making the data actionable, helping our customers to mitigate IT stability, compliance and security risks effectively. I have to mention another critical element differentiating Evolven. It’s my team absolutely focused on making the customers successful. We constantly listen to our customers. If they have important requests, if they have good ideas, or if they experience issues, we give them solutions in a matter of hours. We hear from our customers that our partnership with them is unique.

Sasha, can you provide an overview of your extensive experience in developing, marketing, selling, and delivering software and services within the IT sector, emphasizing the most significant accomplishments and contributions?

I started working as a software developer in IT at a large manufacturer when I was 17. Almost immediately after getting my master’s in computer science, I joined Mercury Interactive, which became a de-facto leader in automated and performance testing, system and application performance monitoring, and IT governance. During this time, I was personally involved in selling and delivering software solutions to the largest enterprises in the world, learning and addressing their core IT challenges. I participated in designing and implementing new technology solutions that significantly affected the IT industry, new delivery models such as SaaS, and the overall technology strategy. Since founding Evolven, our platform has been used by the largest enterprises in the world, successfully running Evolven on hundreds of thousands of servers, devices, and Kubernetes nodes, each on-premises and in the cloud. I see these organizations relying on our solution to protect their business as my most significant achievement.

What specific purposes or benefits does Evolven’s Configuration Risk Intelligence Platform serve for organizations?

Our platform helps enterprises to mitigate stability, compliance, and security risks triggered by misconfigurations and changes. Even today, one of the first questions asked on a major incident bridge is if anyone changed anything before the incident occurred. Evolven creates a single pane of glass into configurations and changes of the entire enterprise IT environment from application to infrastructure, from on-premises data center to the public cloud. However, it is not enough to bring the data. The data should be actionable to address specific organization’s challenges and help the organization. Patented AI-based analytics, a crucial part of our platform, assesses all the configurations and changes we detect and prioritizes them based on their potential risk or likelihood of being a root cause of investigated issues. If you understand the risk and its context, you know what action to take. I will give you a few specific examples of how we helped our customers:

  • A large financial institution spent much effort on its disaster recovery testing as it was initially failing each time the testing was scheduled. With Evolven, the customer was able to automatically verify configuration consistency between the production and disaster recovery environments. They have not had a single test failure since they started using Evolven.
  • Another example is a healthcare organization that used Evolven to detect and act on unauthorized changes (another example of risk). The organization successfully passed internal and external audits that confirmed compliance with its change controls and even complimented the customer on the highest quality of their change processes.

Also Read: AITech365 Interview with Hanjo Kim, SVP of Strategic Planning at Standigm

In what ways can Evolven’s platform enhance the overall customer experience for organizations?

With the advance of digital transformation in the last few years, most enterprises significantly increased the role of business systems in the customer journey and their impact on the customer experience. Helping enterprises to keep these systems stable, performing, and secured by preventing issues and accelerating their resolution, Evolven contributes to the optimal customer experience.

How can Configuration Risk Intelligence be effectively integrated into the CloudOps workflow to promote proactive risk reduction through best practices?

Evolven tracks configurations and changes from their inception (commit for the code changes, deployment for the manual changes), analyzing their risk or likelihood of negative impact on the hybrid cloud environments. Evolven integrates into CI/CD pipelines and automated deployments while also tracking manual drift bypassing the approved processes. Whenever a risky configuration or change is detected (whether before a production deployment or after), Evolven will alert the relevant stakeholders of the detected risks. The alert can stop a CI/CD pipeline, raise a ticket in a service desk (e.g., Jira or ServiceNow), or even trigger automatic remediation.

What, in your perspective, are the predominant trends or emerging technologies that are currently reshaping the IT industry, and what strategies should businesses employ to effectively respond to and integrate these transformative shifts?

Most enterprise organizations I see are still digesting technologies powering digital transformation – cloud, containerization, automation, ML/AI. Adopting and making these technologies productive requires a massive change in the organizational structure, processes, and employees’ skill sets. The biggest lesson I learned from observing the enterprises is that it’s crucial to identify real gaps or opportunities and then look for technologies that align clearly with the organization’s business goals.

At the same time, more advanced companies have started looking into generative adaptive AI, hyper-automation, quantum computing, and other revolutionary technologies, enabling breakthroughs in IT and business capabilities. Organizations must acquire skills and build partnerships to understand these new technologies, incorporate new opportunities in the organization’s business and IT strategy, and further support them in order to stay competitive and effectively respond to transformative shifts.

How do you see the role of AI evolving in ITOps and DevSecOps over the next 5-10 years? What emerging technologies or trends do you anticipate?

We already see AI having a tremendous impact on the productivity and effectiveness of IT organizations, starting from virtual support engineers to coding assistants and decision-making functions. I expect organizations to incorporate AI in every process to completely automate repetitive tasks, to self-diagnose and self-heal IT environments, and to allow IT staff to focus on creative activities, which AI will make more impactful, too.

There is a plethora of technologies emerging in the market that can revolutionize IT over the next 5-10 years. To list a few, quantum computing, digital twins, cybersecurity mesh, and immersive interfaces. These technologies can completely change how we work and the capabilities we can provide to the business.

What is the biggest problem you or your team are solving this year?

Rather than calling it a problem, I would call this the biggest opportunity – Generative AI. We already have an extensive, unique data set and a range of analytics algorithms calculating valuable insights. Integrating generative AI into the Evolven platform can take our technology to the next level of data summarization, interpretation, and overall automation of change and configuration controls. Imagine that you simply ask Evolven what caused a particular incident. Evolven will tell you about the most relevant configurations and changes that could cause it, how you can fix them, and even, if you want, fix them for you.

Is there anything you’re currently reading or any favorite books you’d recommend?

I am more of a science fiction fan (I have many recommendations for this genre). However, if I think about great books focusing on the business perspective, I loved “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz.

Thanks Sasha!

Sasha Gilenson is the Seasoned executive with diverse experience in developing, positioning, selling and delivering software and services to IT industry. Thought leader and entrepreneur spearheading technology innovation, currently focused on digital transformation and cloud.

Evolven Software, automates configuration and change controls across the hybrid cloud. Using AI-based analytics, Evolven detects and prioritizes risks triggered by actual, granular changes in configuration, application, infrastructure, and data, to help prevent and rapidly resolve stability, compliance, and security issues. With Evolven, DevSecOps, CloudOps, and ITOps teams experience greater visibility into your environments resulting in greater productivity, fewer incidents, and faster MTTR.

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