To survive in today’s current economic climate, where short time-to-market and efficiency are paramount for the delivery of innovative products and services, companies need to build the Cloud of the future and enable a next-generation datacentre.
Cloud computing is a disruptive phenomenon with the potential to make IT organisations more responsive than ever. It is changing the way services are built, provided and consumed. It promises economic advantages, speed agility, flexibility, infinite elasticity and innovation – and it is deeply impacting the datacentre.
The datacentre is the engine room and pivotal to how it performs, how it scales and how profitable it is. Next-generation datacentres have a central role in helping customers keep their risks to a minimum, the support network tighter and reduce costs.
And everybody wants to talk about it. As such, a select group of visionary and forward-thinking attendees gathered on a rainy, blustery day in Sydney to discuss the transition to the Cloud, the datacentre of the future, and how the channel is managing customers and solution selling in the age of these disruptive technologies.
Certainly, the thought-leaders had lots to say about the diverse views in the world of Cloud. They were keen to discuss the Cloud evolution, determine the local opportunities and how the channel can better deliver customised, customer-focused, hybrid solutions-based tangible outcomes.
The datacentre itself is transforming and changing, becoming more of a ‘datacentre ecosystem’ that is being procured by organisations that are using a mix of colocation, Cloud services and on-premise. There’s no question that IT services will dominate the way people work and live in the future. JENNIFER O’BRIEN reports.
This roundtable was sponsored by NEXTDC
Evolving Cloud story
Building the Cloud of the future and a next-generation datacentre was a hot topic amongst the industry experts, who all shared insights in the area of value added services and the future of the Australian channel.
NEXTDC general manager, national channel sales and NSW sales, Steve Martin, said he was always keen to hear the diverse views of what is going on in the world of Cloud and its relationship with the datacentre. He said the Cloud story was a broad one. “I believe the reality of multiple Clouds being connected together to deliver customer outcomes, combined with legacy technologies and how we’re looking to manage all of IT for our customers – not just the Cloud One or the Cloud Two or the Cloud Three products – means it’s a broader story.”
And NEXTDC knows a thing or two about leading market trends and keeping on top of customer needs. Martin said the company’s Australia-wide network of Cloud-enabled enterprise class datacentres house a company’s critical IT infrastructure, redefining the datacentre-as-a-service (DCaaS) market. Indeed, the datacentre market has transitioned over the past year, attendees agreed. Partners at the table were eager to discuss the impact of Cloud and how partners need to embrace change in the age of Cloud computing and next-generation datacentres.
Dimension Data general manager, Cloud, David Hanrahan, who is responsible for the Cloud go-to-market and also the datacentre practice, said he’s seen enormous changes over the last 12 months. Organisations need to re-evaluate the amount of datacentre space they need. Many are realising they have over-planned their requirements and that, by taking advantage of the Cloud, can reduce their datacentre footprints by up to 50 per cent.
“We’ve seen the market over the last 12 months start to move to large-scale migration on a small scale, particularly public sector and education. I’m interested to understand how people are coping with that transition and the sorts of services that they’re doing because it’s quite challenging when you start moving out of existing on-premise datacentres to all in the Cloud.”
Channel Dynamics director, Moheb Moses, agreed many companies are going through challenges in the transition to the Cloud. “The big question is, ‘How do we transition to the Cloud and what does that mean for either our own companies or our partners?” Moses asked. He said some top transition considerations include doing a customer analysis and determining what the customers actually want. Then consider the strategic play, do partners resell the Cloud, build or collaborate. Additionally, understand the business model and determine the new revenue streams and what disappears.
Indeed, dealing with the latest disruptive technologies is multi-layered, according to Telstra general manager Cloud strategy and platforms, Timothy Otton, who is responsible for the Cloud strategy as well as the product portfolio management for the company’s platform and SaaS offerings.
“Telstra is moving away a little from building Cloud services to being an enabler. I’m interested to hear how others are adding value around Cloud services as well and really that’s not entirely Cloud but really hybrid IT. Because it’s not all Cloud.”
Optus senior product, business manager for enterprise IT, James Leitch agreed, saying there’s a big demand for hybrid IT. “It solves a lot of problems around legacy and helps customers move to Cloud services,” he said. The company’s Cloud and datacentre solutions are helping companies develop faster, more agile technology services, which is what customers are demanding, he added.
Customers are keen to go on the transitory walk towards the Cloud, according to Yoni Kirsh, managing director of Fastrack Technology, a datacentre network and infrastructure provider.
“With my customers at the moment there is a very strong focus on taking specific parts of their IT infrastructure requirements and moving them to various Cloud providers. We work very closely with Microsoft Office 365 and Azure platform and we’re seeing a lot of uptake there. We’re very interested in enabling our customers to have smooth transitions, which includes connectivity and integration with those different platforms, whether it’s at a network level, a security level or identity level.”
Hybrid Cloud services are picking up with customers, according to Microsoft Australia partner technology strategist, hosting, Philip Meyer, who said other factors come into play. “Security and issues with respect to data sovereignty, compliance issues, covenants, and where companies see themselves in terms of risk of working with overseas partners versus domestic partners are other considerations.”
Time of Transition
Meyer, who assists hosters and service providers build cost effective and efficient Cloud hosted services, said there are some interesting market shifts and trends taking shape as the industry transitions to the Cloud and next-generation datacentres.
“To my mind it is high levels of automation and self-service. Customer self-service which is to me a big factor in defining the word Cloud. So where have we come from? We’ve come from the days of Generation One, engineers standing up racks and stacks and wiring those things and waiting days for delivery of hardware,” Meyer said.
“Now customers, very much young people, want instant gratification. They want to be able to consume services immediately just like they can sign on and get a Facebook post; they want to be able to get a server, they want to get a network connection in that same vein. So that’s jumping a lot in between, but from those raw days of Gen 1 to where we are now with Gen 4, if you will, in datacentre models, it’s about automation and self-service.” Meyer described the Cloud walk as having entered the business phase.
“Cloud One was engineering-led, Cloud Two is business-led. So business is now deciding what, when and how, and it’s not disruptive anymore, it’s much more a part of my world, and this is Cloud.”
Telstra’s Otton agreed, saying customers have matured and are now willing to talk about business outcomes. He said there’s a huge amount of transformation in terms of customer expectations, and a growing realisation that Cloud offers great freedom and enablement.
“A lot of our customers want a consumption model that’s aligned, which is in line with what they’re receiving, both from an availability perspective but also from a cost perspective. A lot of customers are seeking a line to an outcome. Interestingly, people are using it as an underpinning factor for some transformation in their own business. If IT used to hold me back, now that the IT reins have been loosened, the question becomes ‘what can I really do now that I have this at my fingertips, and how do I get the most out of it?’”
New seat of power
And while evolution is taking place at the customer level, it is also happening at the purchasing and decision-making level with buying power and decision-making shifting from the IT department.
Dimension Data’s Hanrahan said the buyer of services has changed and this poses some real challenges.
“When IT was buying these services they knew to ask about the operating model and the interactions and network connectivity at the security. When the business is buying an application they think they’re getting business outcome, but they haven’t thought about the operations model. And the promise of the Cloud broker sounds great – a bit of this and a bit of that and we’ll bring it all altogether – but without a brokerage service and without it changing the operations layer underneath, you often quickly find that things that have been bought by the line of business become IT’s problem 12 months later or as they start to run into issues.”
He said the new power people are often the C-levels, who bypass IT because the provisioning times are too long.
Cloud Plus founder and CEO, Jules Rumsey, said the growing problem with confusion amongst buyers is a challenge across the board, whether dealing with SME or the enterprise.
“The fundamental challenge is the same regardless of whether you’re talking SME or enterprise. You’ve got uneducated buyers basically weighing in on purchasing decisions on things that they are just not qualified to make that decision on.
“They still need to have IT’s involvement, they need to go out and embrace people that can provide advice in terms of the different widgets they’re trying to put together and how that’s going to work and the challenges they’re going to face, things like security, things like back up, who’s going to maintain it? What’s the support model? What sort of SLAs are they going to get?
“When people go out and buy an application or they go and buy a bunch of virtual machines sitting in the Cloud somewhere without understanding how it fits into the rest of the architecture, that is dangerous.”
Fastrack Technology’s Kirsh said with the power moving away from IT, the end result meant it required the partner to be skilled up on achieving business outcomes for customers – and being able to offer customised solutions-based tangible outcomes is essential.
“With the decision points moving further away from the technical people, I’m definitely seeing more requirement to actually be solutioning for our customers as opposed to saying, ‘I can sell you rack space, I can sell you a server, I can sell you a virtual machine, I can sell you a network connection,’ he said. “Now it’s ‘you need to achieve this outcome; here are these six pieces that we need to put together to actually give you a solution’.”