Embrace the Journey of Technological Transformation

Yony Feng, Co-founder, CTO & CIO, Peloton Interactive
Yony Feng, Co-founder, CTO & CIO, Peloton Interactive

Yony Feng, Co-founder, CTO & CIO, Peloton Interactive

Yony Feng is Co-founder, and Chief Technology Officer at Peloton. After graduating from the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech with an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Yony moved to the bay area to work for Silicon Valley’s hottest companies such as Cisco, Skype, and Ticketfly. He was a key contributor and pioneer in event driven distributed systems, using asynchronous communication.

Today, Yony runs a processing platform that transcodes more than 600 hours of video a month as well as applications and services that power its real-time leaderboard serving more than 20,000 users competing simultaneously.

In the light of your experience, what are the trends and challenges you’ve witnessed in the AWS space?

Over the past decade, cloud hosting has evolved from providing a bare minimum service of hosting our process or posting our data in our own data center on a cloud platform to an increased focus on higher level of services, such as distributed data storage, distributed caching, and serverless processing. The focus is more on these value-added services, whether it’s for managing machines or implementing frameworks to run data pipeline on a cloud platform. Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, now offers serverless offerings, such as AWS Lambda and AWS Glue, which enables data to be migrated and processed from one service to another more seamlessly.

With a large number of high-level abstract services being offered by AWS, one trend that is gaining momentum is complete end-to-end serverless tooling, such as AWS Lambda, application load balancing, and Dynamo DB. These services can be horizontally scaled and integrated with many other AWS high-level services. This abstracts away many of the complexities of managing virtual machines on the cloud platform. It simplifies standard hardware resource management, such as networking and hard-drive IOPS, and memory management as well. A word of caution, before migrating existing services into new AWS offerings, always be sure to understand the characteristics, limitations, and strengths of these high-level services.

  The journey of technological transformation is not a sprint but a marathon, so I advise any aspirants in this industry to just pace themselves and absorb the technical journey before we actually embark on creating new technologies  

Could you talk about your approach to identifying the right partnership providers from the lot?

To identify which partners to use or engage with, we need to have a clear understanding of what member-facing value-add the intended partnership is going to provide. There’s a due diligence phase of assessing a newly proposed partnership, versus an existing partnership, to provide us with the same incremental value-add for our members at home. Once this assessment phase is conducted, the gap in assessing the current coverage of our needs, any new initiatives, or evaluating different partners comes down to understanding how much more complexity we are adding to our architecture. This phase drives towards an ROI analysis of whether the benefits given to our members through the partnership are actually worth investing in. It also helps us keep the partnership solution simple and drive direct member benefits.

Could you elaborate on some interesting and impactful project/initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?

We recently launched a new home screen for the Peloton Bike and Tread that revamped how we deliver the log in experience for our members at home. We leveraged the high-level services capabilities on AWS, driving towards personalized experiences for members. Enabled by data portability capability of AWS, this project allows our members to view personalized recommendations on a per-member basis.

How do you see the evolution of the AWS arena a few years from now concerning some of its potential disruptions and transformations?

Given the unique position of AWS in how involved it is in managing the compute, data, and process of transporting and accessing data, I think there’s a massive opportunity for them to focus on a platform-wide security insight. It’s a world of opportunity for AWS to change the landscape by focusing on the aspect of security and intelligence within the detection, monitoring, and reaction against any unintended data access and transport.

What are some of the key strategic points you adapt to steer the company ahead of the competition, and can you also draw an analogy between your hobbies and how they reflect on your leadership strategy?

I’m an engineer at heart, so driving the passion for technology as a hobby at work and outside is vital to steering ahead of the competition. I’m always exploring new systems, framework, language, or database and, hopefully, I inject the same passion and excitement for technology to my leadership team as well. I always warn my team to be open-minded to new technology and be objective in assessing how new technology can be a value-add to the company.

The core of how we drive our technology and business goals roadmap is to look at where the technology landscape is developing and evolving, find opportunities that are different from current architecture and then make the incremental drive towards becoming better. Besides, one of the critical aspects of aligning our technology in IT roadmap is being onboard with the whole notion of the members-first and deliver member value-added functionality enabled by technology. Although it’s not just about learning the current and future technology ecosystem but filtering the component of evolution that can be absorbed into the Peloton technology stack and have a meaningful impact on our members at home.

Do you have any suggestions or advice for budding entrepreneurs looking to embark on a similar professional journey along the lines of your service and area of expertise?

In the years I’ve experienced in the technology industry, I have learned that there’s more uncertainty, especially when we open our mind to the horizon of possibilities and product offerings. Both with new technology and strategy on the evolving technology landscape, one needs to look for trade-offs in new pieces of technology, be connected to what value it is offering to customers, and not just sprint or fad in it. The journey of technology transformation is not a sprint but a marathon, so I advise aspirants in this landscape to pace themselves and absorb the technical journey before embarking on creating new technologies.

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