Selling the benefits of the software-defined data centre

Selling the benefits of the software-defined data centre

In looking ahead to the future of the data centre, a software-defined reality is emerging

Nathan Knight (Lenovo); Julie Barbieri (NTT Communications ICT Solutions); Denis Maguire (Cisco); Phil Jones (Focus Group Technologies); David Hanrahan (Dimension Data); Joe Tasevski (AdventOne); Hafizah Osman (ARN); Andrew Sylvester (APC by Schneider Electric); Dean Riach (Veritas); Sean Murphy (Nexus IT); Patrick Devlin (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and JP Clemence (Sententia)

Nathan Knight (Lenovo); Julie Barbieri (NTT Communications ICT Solutions); Denis Maguire (Cisco); Phil Jones (Focus Group Technologies); David Hanrahan (Dimension Data); Joe Tasevski (AdventOne); Hafizah Osman (ARN); Andrew Sylvester (APC by Schneider Electric); Dean Riach (Veritas); Sean Murphy (Nexus IT); Patrick Devlin (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and JP Clemence (Sententia)

“We’ve got to determine what this skills gap means because graduates haven’t learnt the intricacies of what machines are doing,” Hanrahan added.

“The same goes for security; there are parts of the industry investing in these technologies but we’ve got to make sure that the talent comes through in the next few years.”

In addition, Maguire said partners must help customers advance talent both internally and externally, to help move organisations forward in the years to come.

“What they should be looking to is a balance between run the business and innovate the business,” Maguire added.

“Having the wrong mentality can also get in the way so this is a conversation that we need to have more with customers.”

Future plans

By 2020, however, Gartner predicts the programmatic capabilities of an SDDC will be considered a requirement for 75 per cent of Global 2000 enterprises that seek to implement a DevOps approach and a hybrid cloud model.

But business leaders can’t just buy a ready-made SDDC from a vendor. First, they need to understand why they need it for the business.

Second, they need to deploy, orchestrate and integrate numerous parts, probably from different vendors.

Moreover, aside from a lot of deployment work — new skills and a cultural shift in the IT organisation are needed to ensure this approach delivers results for the business.

Phil Jones (Focus Group Technologies)
Phil Jones (Focus Group Technologies)

As a result, partners must advise leaders to adopt a “realistic view” of the risks and benefits, and make plans to mitigate the top risks of an SDDC project failure.

Furthermore, Knight said vendors can support partners by de-risking pricing models and technology adoption, especially across the SMB market.

“As technologies are emerging, we need to de-risk our pricing models and technology adoption, so moving towards consumption based models,” Knight said.

“It is easy in the enterprise because you’ve got scale but for SMB, more can be done to help partners for them to roll out.”

According to Jones, success in the market always comes down to the relationship between a vendor and a partner.

“A lot of vendors say that they work with the channel, but it’s that engagement with the partner that matters,” Jones added.

“Software- defined is not a single product and it’s not a single stack — the benefit is that it’s multi-faceted. And the system integrator brings it all together.”

For Murphy, the role of the vendor comprises of added support around end-user education, alongside technical support and enablement.

“Customers want a good story that is well told,” Murphy said. “I find that if I take decisions to them, it doesn’t work.

JP Clemence (Sententia) and Dean Riach (Veritas)
JP Clemence (Sententia) and Dean Riach (Veritas)

“There needs to be constructive conversations in the boardroom about what works best for them. And the vendors can support us in this by offering us partners with staff smarts.”

In echoing Murphy’s comments, Clemence said vendors must now treat partners as a customer also, in reflection of the changing dynamics of the industry.

“A true partner is a combination of both a partner and a customer, and not all vendors get that. We want to know the good and the bad,” Clemence added.

Specific to new and emerging technologies, Sylvester believes artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will disrupt the SDDC market in the years ahead, with the explosion of applications set to also continue.

“The app is going to be king,” Sylvester said. “It is going to define what it needs and infrastructure will have to simply react. AI and more software-defined connectivity will further drive this space.

“As these technologies develop further, they will start to collect data from individual devices and aggregate these things together. Why have software-defined when you can have AI correlate and consolidate?”

Despite the rise in AI and IoT solutions however, Murphy said software-defined is here to stay.

“Otherwise, the AI has nothing to talk to,” he said. “AI is going to demand a lot more from commodity infrastructure, resulting in the need for more software-defined.

“That’s the next generation; it’s the next building block for IoT and AI. You’ve got to determine the actual value and what you are trying to achieve.”

This roundtable was sponsored by APC by Schneider Electric, Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lenovo and Veritas. Photos by Maria Stefina.

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