Welcome to the latest in a series of exclusive interviews on Siliconrepublic.com, where IT leaders share their thoughts on technology trends and strategy. Joe Brady, is head of IT at Digital Planet.
An Irish-owned cloud services provider, Digital Planet is an independent subsidiary of the HiberniaEvros Technology group, focusing on infrastructure as a service and computing-on-demand.
Can you give a sense of the scale at Digital Planet from an IT standpoint: how would you sum up your IT infrastructure?
We’re very happy with what we have built out. We have built out an enterprise platform using tier 1 providers, primarily HP. We’ve invested approximately €2m but there’s a lot of spare capacity – we’ve just passed a little more than 20pc of our capacity. We focused on building an environment that would be smoothly scalable and that could grow as we do.
Would you describe your own role primarily as a technical one, or a business one?
As CTO of Digital Planet, I’m responsible for designing and developing our environment, so primarily it’s a technical role. However, there is a definite crossover, because in an IT services company, there can’t be a total separation of the business and technical responsibility: I find I’m having more and more business discussions with customers, so there is crossover. As I consult with clients around their requirements it’s equally important to understand their business needs.
Digital Planet recently announced increased revenues by €1m, reduced cost of operations by 46pc and achieved a high return on investment – how did you do this?
We’ve experienced large growth over the last 12 months, and this has come about without a dedicated sales and marketing effort. A lot of this growth has been business that has come to us, so in terms of return on investment and reduced cost of operations, a lot of that would be due to automation in systems and processes. The HP CloudSystem Matrix allows a lot of efficiencies in rolling out and management of those systems.
As a cloud service provider, you live or die by service level agreements and 99.999pc uptime – how do you handle that pressure and ensure quality of delivery?
It definitely puts a lot of pressure on you. We have a lot of customers that live online: they can’t handle any downtime. Even the five minutes a year downtime that you get with five nines is not allowable. It’s a case of making sure you build the infrastructure from the ground up in a resilient way. I’m quite confident we’ve left no stone unturned in creating a very resilient environment.
Are you seeing any trends towards public or private cloud among your customers?
We’re seeing more people trust their production environments to the cloud than when we started a year and a half ago. We’re seeing quite a mix – it’s hard to see a specific trend. We’re not seeing a really strong push in one direction. There’s quite a variance depending on the business case.
What technology trends are of most interest to you personally and to your own organisation?
I definitely get excited about new technologies, or technology that’s been there awhile but it becomes apparent something new can be done with that. (But) if we started providing every new technology that I found interesting, we’d do 100 things and none of them well, so there has to be a business element to it.
They must be technically relevant, make business sense and be what our customers want. It’s great to be on the cutting edge but nobody wants to be on the bleeding edge.
Is there any technology in particular that you’re really enthusiastic about?
I’m very interested in ways that different technologies can be delivered. Currently our core business is infrastructure as a service and I’m very interested in technologies that allow us to move up the stack to software as a service and online service delivery for a range of applications.
We’re developing some exciting new products but obviously I need to keep my cards close to my chest until we’re ready to launch.
As more companies start to use cloud services, what are the implications for people working in IT roles: is there a danger they’ll be made obsolete by outsourcing to external providers?
I think in-house jobs in IT are likely to change rather than be made obsolete. I think they will evolve into a different skill set. Ten years ago, HiberniaEvros’ entire technical workforce was field engineers; now only 20pc of our support staff are field engineers.
I see internal IT staff being focused on strategic IT projects rather than day-to-day support of systems.
What effect do you think trends like cloud will have on IT roles? What do current incumbents need to be thinking about now to prepare?
From a service provider point of view, we’re seeing a lot of demand for virtualisation skills. From an internal IT point of view, what we’re finding is that as people move their infrastructure to a cloud platform, their staff focus more on applications and how to make their internal systems more efficient.
Do you think computer science courses should include elements about business analysis, instead of just focusing purely on technical aspects?
I think it’s good to have an awareness of the business case … Some purely technical courses suit certain people but some courses now focus on the system management side plus the business side.
I get the impression now there are more and more opportunities for students in IT courses to avail of internships and work experience, and get a feel for how IT works in the real world.
Definitely it’s a good idea for having a feel for how IT fits into a business rather than just knowing how a computer works or knowing how to programme it.