Glance at Colin Cochrane’s LinkedIn profile and you will see that he can jump through fire. This skill – or hobby – must help him with his current business challenges. Against a background of maturing public cloud solutions, Cochrane is a leading advocate of hyper convergence as the IT choice for Mid market companies.
Cochrane is concerned with what is going on in the market. “It is a difficult time, to be honest. The market is pretty flat for refreshing infrastructure and poor, frankly, for new orders. It is the same across the board. Brexit, Trump and even the possibility of ‘IndyRef2’ means that companies are sitting on their hands. There is so much uncertainty about the pound – will there even be one before long – plus our vendors work in dollars, so, for the moment uncertainty is the way of the world. In fact, we found we became educators in this space, facilitating brainstorming sessions, white boarding with customers, doing demos, and slowly this approach turned into business and we found ourselves taking racks and racks of servers out of companies”.
Cochrane is enthusiastic nevertheless, and sees the medium-term prospects as good. This optimism is shared by research house IDC who predict that the market for hyper convergent infrastructure will be worth $4 billion by 2019.
Meanwhile, hyper convergence is a reality and happening across almost all sectors of IT based companies. Telecoms companies are busy replacing legacy with virtualised environments in order to become agile and leaner. “The benefits are hard to argue against, whatever the sector”, says Cochrane, who sees HP’s purchase of Simplivity as opening up enterprise opportunities, as they bring their R&D and market power to bear.
“It is easy enough to persuade people of the benefits of hyper convergence”, he says, “the ability to consolidate silos is compelling, taking control of compute, storage, disaster recovery, back up, you name it, back to one control point. And with that flexibility providing local performance and services with no loss of performance is hard to ignore. And like other sectors, it is all on industry standard hardware, the differentiation is in the functionality”.
One issue, which Cochrane sees as an opportunity, is that many of the players, such as Dell, Cisco, EMC end up as niche players, as defined by one of Gartner’s famous Magic Quadrants. This plays into HP’s hands, as they provide the power to take solutions into the enterprise market.
Against the grain of some sectors, Cochrane still finds himself selling into IT. “We haven’t needed to sell to the Finance Team – yet”, he says, “IT is under pressure to take cost out of the business, just as anyone is, we can make those business cases pretty easily, and the result is that people are bringing things back in-house”.
Cochrane is, of course, in the middle of the hyper convergence/public cloud debate. But, again, he is confident that hyper convergence is where he wants to be. “If you look at a survey that Simplivity carried out, 42% of respondents said that their current data centre infrastructure is out of date compared to what is out there in the market. That in itself is pretty encouraging for the market potential. The majority of respondents also said they would use hyper convergent technology to add infrastructure more quickly, that it would simplify IT management and they would certainly use it for analytics”.
The cloud has definitely matured and made a lot of headway
Although Cochrane is convinced that hyper convergence is the way to manage IT, he does see where the cloud can fit. “The cloud has definitely matured and made a lot of headway, but there are issues. One is ‘cloud creep’ where a business will start small and then add a little bit more storage and a little more, and then he finds his costs have spiralled. As my colleague says, ‘it is rather like staying in a hotel. It is very nice, but you couldn’t afford to do it for a year’”.
“Many companies opt for a hybrid solution and end up putting their less sensitive data in the cloud. And even though some believe that it is as secure as it needs to be there are serious data breaches that say otherwise. Take Tesco Bank and others, and some of those breaches are not even discovered until some time after the event. This will have to change.”
“There is another issue which will get bigger over the coming months. And that is ‘where is your data’? For a while the goal was to find the cheapest place to store your data, but with Brexit and other regulations that has changed. We have a client who is a UK company with European branches, and is now trying to get his data back out of UK based data centres. And if there is a Frexit or Nexit, what happens then? The new regulations such as GDPR are tightening up these rules at exactly the time when it is becoming more difficult to decide what to do. And getting your data back out of the cloud is definitely not a simple task. Getting it into the cloud is easy by comparison. Companies really need to ask themselves whether it makes more sense to have local control of their data, or run the risk of having to extract it from the cloud.”
companies are drowning in data lakes
“The other problem is that companies are drowning in data lakes. They need to get into data discovery, either via a service or a solution. There is a sea of pertinent data out there and companies need to get in, add meta tags, decide its relevance, and make sure that they can use it. Analytics is going to be huge and it will help find the right needles in the right haystacks if it used effectively”.
The arguments for and against hyper convergence and the cloud will continue, but Cochrane is convinced that the HP, Simplivity deal and the need to keep your data close and under control will tip the balance.
Hopefully soon we will get some clarity around the impact of Brexit, Trump and other potential referendums.
Then Colin Cochrane can really get to work.