DevOps, Software

Innovation Not Break Fix with RightBrain Networks

Jamie Begin, RBN, RightBrain Networks, Ann Arbor tech, technology, network, cloud native, cloud computing
Jamie Begin, founder of RightBrain Networks and DevOps Days Detroit. Courtesy photo.

“I guess one of our challenges is that we’ve been around so long,” Derek DeJonghe and Matt Thompson of RightBrain Networks say. “We’ve been in cloud computing from day one. It’s been 10 years. That means we [were born in the cloud]. I think people hear the name RightBrain but they don’t understand how we approach business.” That’s why we’re sitting down, to get to know the architects and engineers of RightBrain. In an era when many companies are already migrated to the cloud, how does a cloud computing consulting company like RightBrain Networks, which offers development and cloud management services, help businesses continue to improve their efficiencies? What is there left to do?

Derek DeJonghe, RBN, RightBrain Networks, Ann Arbor tech, technology, network, cloud native, cloud computing
Mugshot of Derek DeJonghe, Director of Cloud Architecture at RBN.

There’s a lot of opportunity here, still. DeJonghe, Director of Cloud Architecture at RBN, tells me that these days everybody knows what the problem is in their organization — they’re not having to convince people to migrate to the cloud anymore — but when they bring in a consultancy like RightBrain to advise, it helps the client hone in on improvements to their process and infrastructure that allow them to focus on innovation rather than break fix. In moving to the cloud or improving efficiencies once you’re there, speed is important, because downtime is huge, DeJonghe says. The effects of having multiple engineers or teams down for multiple hours ripples through an organization.

RBN is at rightbrainnetworks.com.

This is DeJonghe’s passion and the topic of a speech he’s preparing on DevOps and Amazon Web Services. RightBrain was involved in starting DevOpsDays Detroit, and DeJonghe has been writing for O’Reilly for the last 3 years. He contributed to the NGINX Cookbook, Load Balancing in the Cloud, and NGINX Unit Cookbook that is coming out in May 2019.

“We build cloud native applications, migrate and build cloud infrastructure, design cloud architecture, and provide managed services for what we build,” he says. “I oversee both the application development and the cloud operations side of things. Our cloud operations focuses on Infrastructure and configuration management, and CI/CD pipelines as code.”

DeJonghe and Thompson say that one of the things they do at RightBrain is help bigger companies find opportunities for efficiency so they can compete with smaller agile firms. “All companies are now tech. Specifically, we have a case study from a large insurance company,” DeJonghe says, “and they actually identify as a technology company even though they’re 112 years old. A lot of these [companies with] traditional ways of doing business are really afraid of being disrupted in the market. You see it in retail and finance and automotive, but things you wouldn’t think about like insurance. Being technical and trying to address business objectives by investing in technology with AWS or whatever it might be, you don’t think about that usually but a lot of them are seeing the value of being able to go to the cloud and automate.”

Jamie Begin, founder of RBN, says he started the company after being frustrated looking for work during the recession in Michigan in 2008. “I was laid off along with half of Michigan,” he says. He started RightBrain in his basement, but it quickly grew from there, and shifted from offering both software development and network engineering to the company it is today helping clients make the most of cloud-based services through AWS.

RightBrain was one of the first Amazon Web Services partners in their partner network, and Begin reiterates the well-known AWS statement that “cloud is now the new normal.”

“We don’t do mass data center migrations, generally,” Begin says. “We take a holistic approach to what DevOps is.” The RBN team comes from backgrounds in both networking and software, so they are uniquely positioned to take a high-level look at companies’ efforts to rearchitect their systems in the cloud, and make those changes as efficient and profitable as possible.

Matt Thompson, RBN, RightBrain Networks, Ann Arbor tech, technology marketing
Matt Thompson, RBN’s Director of Marketing and Partnerships. Courtesy photo.

DeJonghe says these companies are moving to the cloud to improve their business efficiencies overall. “Having us come in as a consultancy and set the table gets everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.” DeJonghe says they worked with this insurance company in their case study that worked with over 400 developers, some contract some on staff. They wanted to streamline their DevOps processes and procedures. What RBN was able to do was take a process that required 2-3 weeks to move something from development to production and get it down to a single button push in 45 minutes. “A lot of conversations we’re having right now are with larger organizations already up in the cloud. They’re focused on optimizing their time to market and developer productivity. Pre-production environments downtime can be detrimental,” DeJonghe says. “When you think of a large organization we know for a fact that at least once a month something goes wrong and developers are waiting for somebody else, that’s not one hour, that’s 300 people doing nothing for one hour, times X, so that gets pretty expensive. If you can automate, it makes a company way more profitable. It keeps them working on innovation rather than break fix.

“Heaven Is Not a Cloud.” RBN-hosted AWS Meetup with Chris Short.

“Most of these startup companies aren’t a new idea. They’re just taking an old idea and packaging it in a new way and it’s fast and agile. That scares the big companies. So they’re trying to focus more on innovation.”

All of RightBrain’s engineers, DevOps, developers, and architects work in Ann Arbor headquarters. RightBrain is currently hiring for several engineering positions. RBN also hosts AWS meetups, and broadcasts them on Youtube. Jamie Begin is the founder of DevOps Days Detroit, and says he loves playing matchmaker for companies looking to fill gaps in leadership. You can reach Derek DeJonghe to geek out about AWS optimization here.

April 24, 2019

About Author

laurakcowan Laura K. Cowan is a green tech editor and narrative journalist with 15 years’ experience promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets. She was called best copyeditor in the business by mentor and Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis, Jr.. A deep study of consciousness, nature writing, and sustainable technology topics allows Ms. Cowan to draw out meaningful stories of diverse professionals from indigenous healers to technology executives in a blend of news and literary journalism styles. She is currently co-founder and editor of tech news blog Cronicle Press, columnist and editor for Ann Arbor’s Crazy Wisdom Journal, and a contributor to local and national magazines such as The Ann Arbor Observer and Reiki News Magazine. Ms. Cowan’s writing and speaking have appeared with Automobile Quarterly, Writer Unboxed, Inhabitat, CNBC, and The National Society of Newspaper Columnists.


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