Reflections on Ten Years

A look back at the long and winding road to the Cloudforce we know today... and a peek at what's ahead for our budding enterprise

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Rewind to late 2010 - I was contemplating startup ideas in my 450 square-foot studio apartment outside of Washington DC. Would I choose to go into uncharted territory with an unfamiliar area, or play it safe by sticking to one of the few things at which I was already great? Probably best to stick to what I knew like the back of my hand, I told myself.  What emerged was a little outfit called Metrolink Networks, with an intentionally ambiguous name to ensure I could pivot at the drop of a dime. 

Initially I'd figured, given my first-hand knowledge of standing up and managing datacenters, why not focus on one of the simplest aspects of building them? I soon realized the competition for network cabling work was stiff, the margins razor thin, and the work unapologetically thankless. The time to pivot came faster than I had imagined. Good thing for the vague name, I thought...

Still working in the trenches of big federal government datacenters as a consultant, I was seeing first-hand just how much excess and waste was inherent (and unavoidable) with the physical infrastructure I was managing. My light-bulb moment arrived the first time I spun up a virtual server in this new weird realm that only super-nerds inhabited - the "cloud." I knew the moment I'd gone from a thought, to a few clicks, to a working web application that this was undoubtedly the future of IT infrastructure. 

Having spent thousands of hours freezing my tail off on a ventilated datacenter floor, working late nights and weekends to build servers for critical government applications, the idea of achieving the same objective in a tiny fraction of the time, while warm in my office (or even my couch) was so compelling that I knew I had to dive into the cloud head-first.  This was to be Metrolink Networks mission, to preach the benefits of the cloud far and wide and to become the premier migration partner for both industry and government. 

Excited to share what I knew to be the future, I knocked on every CIO's door I could find... only to be told I was delusional and that no technology leader in their right mind would trust an online bookstore with all their data (AWS was the only viable game in town at this time). When one door closed, another door... closed. And closed. And slammed. I refused to give up, ever persistent and steadfast in my belief that the cloud would change the worlds of stodgy old CIOs and CTOs everywhere. Eventually I found someone who would listen and gave my one-man-band the opportunity to show them what could be done with some elbow grease and a modest cloud subscription. 

Fast forward 10 years and the "I" in Metrolink is now the "we" in Cloudforce, our newly rebranded lean, mean cloud-migration machine. Today our conversations with tech leaders are quite different than they were back then, given the cloud is no longer a question. The only questions are: How do we get there? How fast can we get there? What can Cloudforce do to help? It's an incredibly fortunate position to be in when a product is so compelling from every aspect that it sells itself... and we just so happen to be well-seasoned sherpas to help our clients to climb this proverbial Mount Everest with confidence. All we have to do is wait at the bottom of the trail...

Had I been discouraged by every decision-maker that laughed at my pitch a decade ago, it's unlikely that I'd be here blogging about it today. Or that we'd be making a tangible impact on our community through consistent charitable efforts, a difference in the lives of our amazing employees to whom we owe everything, or demonstrating measurable results to our clients’ bottom lines... and we're only getting started. 

With polls in late 2020 showing that significantly more infrastructure still exists in traditional datacenters than exists in the cloud, it’s clear our work is not nearly done. In fact, migration out of the datacenter is just the first baby-step in the cloud journey, as we've come to learn over the last decade. We all know how readily “business transformation” rolls off the tongue these days – but to take full advantage of the undoubtedly transformational cloud services springing up daily requires several evolutions of infrastructure and a forward-thinking approach that us cloud-evangelists couldn't be more excited about.

The real excitement comes from the impact we see each day working alongside our clients, witnessing first-hand as they realize just how much more competitive, efficient, secure, and innovative they can be with just a few clicks. It's precisely my dream of a better way to approach business technology, from a freezing datacenter floor a decade ago, now realized. And it's amazing.

Cheers to a decade of problem-solving, business-enabling, community-involving, lighthearted-fun-having work that's brought us to the precipice of the business+technology landscape. It's been one wild ride, and I'm thrilled to be a part of what comes next...

Husein Sharaf

Author

As fearless head-nerd and President/CTO of Cloudforce, Husein leads his eclectic team of engineers in the development of complex cloud solutions to support mission-critical systems for dozens of programs across industries and government. In addition to all things Microsoft cloud, Husein is also passionate about giving back to his Prince George’s County community and believes it is the responsibility of every business to help develop the types of communities its members and customers want to live and do business in. Husein currently serves on the board of directors of STEMship, a local non-profit aimed at creating STEM learning opportunities for under-privileged youth. Husein is also head of the Technology and Innovation Committee for the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce.

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