How Servecentric is addressing challenges facing the data centre industry

15 Jun 2023

Brian Roe. Image: John Ohle Photography

Brian Roe of Servecentric discusses his role as CEO and how the company is addressing various issues of the data centre industry.

Brian Roe is the CEO of Servecentric, a Dublin-based provider of cloud, connectivity and data centre colocation services. Roe has worked in the Irish IT industry for almost 30 years.

Starting out in sales, providing Apple-based solutions to the design and print market, Roe’s interest in IT and networking led him to ultimately run an IT managed services division in Typetec, an Irish managed services provider.

Roe joined Servecentric in 2016 and was appointed as the company’s CEO in 2021, with his main responsibilities consisting of driving business growth and creating opportunities.

“It’s an enjoyable and rewarding role in a relatively small organisation for this sector, but that has also allowed me to remain client-facing in my day-to-day work and that has always been the most fulfilling aspect of my career.”

‘The IT industry in Ireland has matured greatly in the past 20 years – we are moving towards much more diverse and inclusive workplaces’

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

There are a number of challenges facing the sector at the moment, including public perception relating to the industry as a whole. For us, high power consumption costs and adoption of ‘cloud only’ hyperscale cloud migration strategies are factors we have to deal with. To this end, we now run a public cloud service that provides a genuine alternative to hyperscale with some distinct advantages (including zero latency hybrid options and complete cost control).

Additionally, we work with our clients to improve efficiency in our colocation solutions to keep power consumption to a minimum. Importantly, our cost model separates power provisioning and consumption to ensure that our clients only pay for the power they use. Our aim is to make their lives easier and deliver the best possible customer experience, with an agile, ultra-responsive service.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Despite the global success of hyperscale cloud offerings, there is a market realisation that these services are not a panacea and there is a significant (and growing) cloud repatriation market where organisations are migrating part, or all, of their IT services back to the data centre. There are a number of reasons for this, but consistency of performance and cost reduction are two of the main drivers.

There are also a growing number of business enablement solutions, particularly in the areas of security and software as a service, which are being delivered from data centres. We have increasingly tapped into this market over the past three or four years.

Finally, enterprises are seeing more value from migrating their core on-premise workloads from office locations into highly connected, resilient data centre facilities. That value includes increased security, greater connectivity and better compliance standards.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I had a fundamental interest in IT from a young age. I had my first computer, a Sinclair ZX81, at the age of 10 and was hooked from there. I studied computer science in UCD and after a few years abroad, I ended up in a sales role with an Apple reseller. Over the years, I have had end-to-end experience across the areas of networking, security, infrastructure, connectivity and cloud, so the transition into the data centre environment was reasonably straightforward when the opportunity arose.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

From a business perspective, I’m generally not a great risk taker. However, I did set up and run my own website development business from scratch in the early noughties. I ran the company for four years and the experience proved to be hugely invaluable to me in terms of my career. In my subsequent leadership roles, I was able to draw on the mistakes, successes and learnings from that time.

What one work skill do you wish you had?

I often find myself studying the delivery skills, story-telling capability and lack of self-awareness of great public speakers – usually with a tinge of envy as it’s not something that comes easily to me. I have these skills in my interpersonal work relationships, but addressing a larger audience is a different kettle of fish. Maybe I simply prefer an interactive forum rather than one-way communication.

How do you get the best out of your team?

There are a number of factors that fall into what I believe is a good leadership style.

Clarity in terms of the company vision, getting the message across as to what this vision means, and of course, what you expect from your team in order to deliver success.

Trust the people around you to deliver and provide supports for those who are struggling in their roles, but genuinely trying to achieve what needs to be done.

Providing an open environment where the team can bring new ideas and initiatives to the business. If your people are part of creating the strategy, they are far more likely to buy into it.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

I believe that the sector has come a long way and that barriers relating to gender, race, sexuality or social background are starting to come down. The IT industry in Ireland has matured greatly in the past 20 years, and with significant and sustained job creation levels in the sector during that period, we are moving towards much more diverse and inclusive workplaces – which will greatly benefit the industry as a whole.

From our perspective, we are a smaller organisation but our management team has an even gender split and our team is made up of people with different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. This has created a very inclusive and collaborative culture within Servecentric and will help us as we deliver on our growth plans over the coming years.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

Judge people by what they do, not by what they say. I can imagine this sounds very uncomplicated and obvious, but I have learned to actively employ this truism in my work and personal life. I’ve found that people are largely consistent in their actual behaviour patterns, and I’ve learned to move on quickly from people who repeatedly display inconsistencies between their words and actions.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I’m usually underwhelmed by self-help, personal growth and leadership books and generally read more about historical events and the sciences (I’m fascinated by the physics of the very large and very small!). Having said all that, a must-read for any technophile is Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. It’s just an amazing insight into the complicated personality and life journey of the greatest visionary of our lifetime.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

I have a pretty straightforward approach. For the normal working week, I only need to have access to the right information and be able to communicate freely, no matter where I am. Where I go, my laptop goes and I predominantly rely on the Microsoft productivity stack, with a little help from our service desk management and enterprise resource planning tools for specific information.

Our colocation and connectivity services are built on termed contracts and don’t change from day to day, whereas our public cloud platform has a management interface that I can access at any time for real-time information relating to customer interaction, consumption, revenue and capacity planning. It’s got all the information I need to do my job in one place.

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