The five minute CIO: Mark Carragher, Qualcom

5 Dec 2014

Mark Carragher, technical director, Qualcom

“The common perception is that cloud is always available and that it is easy to become cloud-aligned,” says Mark Carragher, technical director, Qualcom. “The reality can be different to this.”

It emerged in recent weeks that IT and data management solutions company Qualcom is to create 40 new jobs after winning 15 deals since the beginning of 2014 at a combined value of more than €750,000.

Qualcom’s clients include Zurich Insurance and more than 50pc of Qualcom’s StaaS team has subsequently been employed by the company on a full-time basis. 

Qualcom said it has seen a huge increase in demand for the StaaS service and is now forecasting a total of €1.5m in deals by 2015.

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology rollout across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

We have invested heavily in cloud technologies for running the core business which allows the team to focus on solutions and innovations without dealing with system infrastructure costing and capacity. Flexibility and agility is key as we deliver this for our customers, therefore our technology platform must deliver that for us. Products like Office365, Autotask and Kaseya have given us a highly available range of solutions without the skill set or daily overhead required to maintain them, as was previously the case when we hosted systems onsite.

What are the main points of your companys IT strategy?

Our IT strategy is to maintain security in all areas of our dealings with internal and external clients, while retaining the flexibility and scalability in our offerings. We are currently focused on getting dynamic and in-depth data from our daily business units using metrics from key systems to help find gaps and improve processes. The advent of cloud solutions makes this more practical and affordable. ISO implementation is a key part of this objective.

Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?

Our IT Infrastructure is a hybrid solution which spans from our head office in Dublin, into two Tier 1 data centres in Ireland, and leverages public cloud solutions hosted in EMEA.

Our server footprint is over 120 virtual machines and 20 hosts, as well as eight standalone servers, along with five in house applications and the use of over 10 external public hosted solutions. This model allows us to test and build solutions to meet all business and customer demands. Scalability was a key factor in the design of the infrastructure.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

Managing budgets is fundamentally changing as solutions and products are adopting to an operational expenditure model compared to traditional capital expenditure.

Growth management of systems and staff is a key area of focus. As cloud is adopted in the business the staff requirement for legacy management is reduced, so budget focus on training and upskilling is a key factor to think about going forward.

How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

The configuration is complex, but as it’s built on a consistent platform across the in-house and hosted solutions, the management is easier to maintain and doesn’t require multiple skill sets.

VMware was our chosen solution for infrastructure along with NSX (the network virtualisation platform) for networking. We adopt a Software Defined Data Centre model which reduces hardware, management and risk of failures to the business.

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

We are an IT managed services company so we have a large IT team who are extremely skilled across a number of IT specialisms. For this reason we are fortunate not to need any outsourced or third parties.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

The main areas are managing the technical direction of the company along with the management of technical staff, training and products solution approvals.

My role is divided almost 50/50 between working on technical issues and projects for our clients, and also maintaining my role as CIO for Qualcom’s own strategic development.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

Cloud is becoming a big trend and trends can often present new challenges. The common perception is that cloud is always available and that it is easy to become cloud-aligned. The reality can be different to this. To explain the reality, we use IT models and remote presentations to help customers better understand the benefits and challenges of the platform. We basically use cloud to educate people on the cloud.

Hybrid storage has also gained considerable growth and has fast become a trend among all sectors. The demand for more storage has always been a requirement. Now however there is a new movement toward people wanting intelligent storage, and ways to manage their data as well as managing the delivery of data to their customer base.

Hybrid storage has allowed departments to see their data trends, prioritise the delivery, and ultimately grow without the performance loss. Various vendors such as Tintri are established in this space. The days of buying disks and storing data are gone. We want to store, analyse, prioritise and also maximise the data using hybrid platforms which offer deduplication, compression, caching and SSD levels of performance with the data capacity and growth of traditional HDD.

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?

We follow key sources such as online forums, magazines and seminars to help us predict and follow trends in the industry.

Key product sales are a good metric for predicting trends in certain areas by showing demand over time. Events like VMworld and Microsoft Ignite are a good way to measure industry interest in certain technology.

Are there any areas youve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

IT is becoming more of an “app”. We are finding that users are expecting an always on, always available and instant service from IT.

This brings up many issues that need to be addressed. One of the main issues is the connection to the service. In the coming years, the connection to the service, speed and reliability all need to be improved.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

We have migration projects lined up for consolidation of customers’ datacentres with new smarter infrastructure like Tintri and Unitrends, and also cloud with Office365 and Azure. Backup and hosted disaster recovery are also projects which are a big part of our work schedule. 

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years