Three years ago, Infront managing director, Allan King, stepped out of the spotlight.
Throwing himself into nine months of offline customer engagements, the entrepreneur sought counsel in the wake of a dramatic upswing in cloud adoption.
Following consultations, research and analysis of the Australian market, the Infront of today differs dramatically to the one first established in 1998, with cloud shaping a deepened customer-centric strategy.
“There’s still a lot of confusion out there,” observed King, fresh from launching the company’s new-look hybrid cloud solutions.
“The market and conversations are different because of cloud, which means the ability to be relevant for a customer is more difficult.”
Consequently, King acknowledged that the channel must now go “above and beyond” the traditionally accepted level of customer service, as end-users seek end-game clarity in the cloud.
“You’ve got to paint a strategic picture because organisations are under pressure,” he said. “Most CIOs are reluctant or down right obstinate about going back and asking for the same capital to run IT as last year.
“Is this rational? No, but they just don’t want to do it.”
For partners circumnavigating the Australian market, a drive along Highway 1 presents checkpoints crammed with cloud adopters, as local organisations across the country move edge in the direction of hybrid models.
Such adoption is playing out in the numbers, with 67 per cent of local businesses embracing cloud in the form of either public or private, despite only 13 per cent having an “optimised" strategy in place.
Rewinding back to 2013 however, similar IDC research findings highlighted a “steady increase” in the adoption of cloud services in Australia, emphasising a dramatic upsurge nationwide in the years that have followed.
“Three years ago represented the beginning of our journey as a company,” recalled King, an ARN Hall of Fame inductee.
“From our perspective, we had to first acknowledge the disruptive nature of cloud because as a data centre specialist, it’s imperative to be aware of exactly what the market place is demanding.”
During those 1,000 days, Infront has fundamentally flipped its focus, engineering a new vehicle of growth through the hybrid cloud.
Pivoting with the customer at its core, the Canberra-based technology provider has emerged from the transformation tunnel with a refreshed strategy built on the new demands of the end-user.
“We worked directly with customers to understand their expectations and opinions of the cloud,” he explained. “We wanted to know what cloud meant to our customer base and the concerns they had, and this called for a very rational and considered approach.
“We’ve always talked to our customers because we’ve always had something to sell, but this was about resetting our strategy.
“After nine months of customer development and learning, we uncovered a need to address the gap emerging when organisations transition to the hybrid cloud.”
In subscribing to the view that change is the one true constant in business, King said Infront’s cloud blueprint is built on three core pillars – Insight, Unity and Prime – and is now ready for mass customer consumption.
As IT struggles to cope with delivering more with less, the overwhelming appetite for business innovation prompted the creation of Insight, a cloud advisory services arm of Infront, built on the premise of aligning corporate objectives with IT direction.
“There’s more questions than answers in the cloud which is why we created Insight,” King explained. “Given the complex state of the hybrid cloud, we are now better positioned to understand the pitfalls and errors that can be made during the transition process.
“Our role as a strategic partner is utilise this intellectual property to help our customers avoid the common mistakes along the way.”
Encapsulating strategy, architecture and transformation in a cloud context, King said the Insight team advises organisations on the workloads better suited for on-premise or cloud, moving applications and operations without the business noticing change.
Delving deeper into the heart of Infront’s revamped cloud strategy is Unity, a hybrid cloud solution engineered for operational simplicity and business agility.
“By integrating best-in-class technologies with native cloud services, we are providing the choice and control an organisation requires to innovate in cloud and grow,” King said.
“The foundation for Unity is a reference architecture designed specifically for the customer, based on end-user feedback. Organisations want hybrid cloud because business expectation is exceeding the ability of IT to respond.”
In short, Unity enables the transformation of IT organisations through the automated delivery of hybrid cloud services, in a bid to modernise data centre infrastructure and lower operating costs.
Coupled with intelligent machine learning to ensure cloud security, Unity blends together infrastructure, applications, data integration, governance and data protection, allowing customers to embark on a hybrid cloud journey without forgoing the legacy investments of the past.
Spurred by declining budgets, King said many organisations now have “ambitious plans” to consolidate IT infrastructure and operations, eliminate unnecessary data centres, migrate data and applications to the cloud, and centralise services to save money and streamline operations.
Yet while a unified hybrid cloud offers “enormous promise” for achieving these goals, particularly in addressing fiscal pressures, King acknowledges that it also presents significant challenges.
“Skilled resources are limited and IT must still manage the day-to-day operations while trying to transform IT from a technology builder to a service broker,” he explained.
“Prime is a cloud centre of excellence which provides managed services around Office 365, Microsoft Azure and AWS. We provide expertise across integration, API development and support, focusing on security and compliance, data protection and SIAM support.”
At Infront, King has been constructing cloud solutions from the beginning.
In starting out building private clouds, the leading VMware and EMC partner is now focused on delivering customer outcomes which leverage the “unique value proposition” that leading cloud providers such as AWS and Azure provide.
“We run our businesses only for our customers and we have to go where we have to go to achieve the right outcomes on behalf of them,” he added.
With customers including the Australian Government Department of Finance, the National Museum Australia and Fuji Xerox among others, Infront is already reaping the rewards of a reworked cloud strategy.
In heading the regional infrastructure and operations at American real estate giant CBRE Group, Darren Warner, outlined the criteria required for channel success in a changing customer world.
“Infront is not a commodity reseller,” he said. “They are a strategic partner that understand our business and help us achieve outcomes.”
For King and Infront, such appraisal validates three years of hard-work, both on-premise and in the cloud.
This article originally appeared in the September issue of ARN magazine - to subscribe, please click here