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On this episode of IT Visionaries, we sat down with Paul Scott Murphy, VP of Product Management, Big Data/Cloud at WANdisco, a provider of enterprise-ready, non-stop software solutions that enable globally-distributed organizations to meet today’s data challenges of secure storage, scalability, and availability.
Throughout his career, Paul has focused on leadership, strategy, consulting, and product development for major Australian and international organizations. Today, Paul digs deeper into the principals of cloud technology, customer experience, and business strategies.
Advice for CIO and CTOs moving to the cloud “Focus on the fundamental business outcomes that you are trying to achieve. Everything that is done in IT has to be aligned with business strategy in order to get value out of it. If the business strategy is one of efficiency, understand where inefficiencies lie, how your systems are constrained today, and what opportunities are presented with the advent of cloud infrastructure underpinning some of your existing systems.”
- The impact of the cloud
- WANdisco’s approach to working with customers
- The role table stakes play in business
- Moving into the IoT and onto the edge
The cloud’s Impact
The rise of the cloud has allowed people around the world to have easy access to pictures, documents, files, etc. that they wouldn’t have had before. Cloud computing has dramatically changed, and the availability is entirely different for distributed organizations, which are moving away from on-prem systems. Those organizations that have adopted the cloud have started to utilize it from the outset as they are building new stacks.
“There is no doubt that the cloud is one of the most fundamental shifts in information technology over the last decade. It’s going to continue to be a fundamental shift and driver behind a lot of the change that we’re seeing.”
“The emergence of the cloud means that a lot of the things done in the past can be addressed and challenged by the differences in how readily IT infrastructure can be acquired. The wealth of services and the opportunities that they bring forward to process data differently to generate different outcomes is fundamentally different today than it was going back five or 10 years. The cloud has been a significant driver for that and shows no signs of stopping. It’s going to change the IT industry going forward.”
The cloud in the market
People often assume they are further along with their digital transformations than they actually are. Many organizations are looking to move to the cloud as it is a deployment platform for anything in technology. According to Paul, that’s not the case. The cloud has emerged over time, and organizations that can use the cloud today have adopted it at the outset for building new systems.
“The market overall is in an interim stage, where early adoption means that the cloud has seen dramatic success and there has been a real shift in IT spending. For a variety of reasons, organizations aren’t able to fully take advantage of that. That’s part of the reason why WANdisco exists. It is to eliminate some of those challenges and reduce the risk of migrating applications to the cloud, particularly where those applications are at scale and using vast volumes of data.”
How WANdisco works with customers
At WANdisco, customer centricity is critical. Paul estimates that 50% of his time is devoted to direct contact with customers, many of whom are channel partners. That sets up a situation where WANDisco’s technology is often being used by organizations that don’t even realize it’s WANdisco behind their systems. However, WANdisco does also sell directly to the end-user, so Paul and his team have a broad view of the way its technology is being used. One of the main products WANdisco offers is the Fusion Platform, which was designed to allow companies to bring their data at scale to the cloud.
“You might think it’s difficult to get a sense of how a customer is actually using our technology without direct interaction with them, which is certainly true in some cases. The flip side of that is that we get the benefit of seeing a broad range of ways in which our technology is used because you can aggregate that through our partners that embed our technology OEM or on-cellar. And having that type of view gives us the opportunity to get a broader view of where the opportunities lie going forward. Perhaps some of the challenges that the actual end-users are facing they can’t communicate directly themselves. But because our partners have the opportunity to see that, to get visibility of that, they can communicate with WANdisco about what it is that those end-users are faced with and discuss with us, and work jointly on ways in which we can solve some of those problems by looking at them in a slightly different way or improving what it is that we provide as a platform”.
What is Hadoop?
Hadoop is an open-source distributed processing framework used for storing data and running applications in clustered systems. It provides massive storage for any kind of data, tons of processing power, and the ability to handle unlimited tasks. Apache Hadoop controls costs by storing data more affordably per terabyte than other platforms. Instead of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per terabyte, Hadoop delivers compute and storage for hundreds of dollars per terabyte. Hadoop has moved far beyond its beginnings in web indexing and is now used in many industries for a huge variety of tasks that all share the common theme of high variety, volume, and velocity of data – both structured and unstructured. Hadoop’s file system is designed to store very large data sets reliably and to stream those data sets at high bandwidth to user applications.
“Hadoop is a technical term that’s all-encompassing these days. It is a broad ecosystem of underlying technologies and systems that most organizations are using. Hadoop itself spans a variety of technologies from an open-source environment like the Apache ecosystem. However, it’s broad aspect is to cover storage at scale and compute at scale. The storage platform that underlies Hadoop was designed in the early days to be an extensible storage system with multiple implementations of what’s called the “Hadoop file system.” Our Hadoop compatible file system can be used within these environments. The ability to extend how organizations use a broad set of technologies in a very flexible way was their key to success.”
The role of table stakes in business
Table stakes is a rule used in poker: a player may bet no more money than they had on the table at the beginning, or else he simply can’t compete. This concept is often used in the business world too, especially when the business strategy incorporates an element of cost control. Paul believes the cloud is a great way to control the cost of doing business, but if working in the cloud does not provide a good return on the money spent on cloud services, what’s the point? Technology is constantly changing. Businesses shouldn’t hesitate to invest in cloud technology simply because it wasn’t in their plan at the beginning. In other words, they should not let the table stakes hold them back from betting on something new, different or big.
“For bigger businesses, there is an opportunity to experiment and keep a hand in various aspects of what’s emerging in the cloud. What forms a part of their business strategy is the ability to remain aware and keep agile in an environment that’s undergoing change. In terms of cloud investment, table stakes play a role in some organizations thinking but, you need to look at this from a broader view — what’s being achieved around the increasing ubiquity of information technology for every type of organization.”
IoT thinking and edge computing
There is a trend in the industry of moving toward even more data being accumulated and creating a need to store it and use it somehow. This is where edge processing can help, and Paul sees that happening in various use cases, such as in autonomous cars, online gaming, and other areas where the IoT will play a role. In order to have success with all these new technologies and data sets, companies need to always be adapting and improving.
“The volume of data being generated by systems that are increasingly enabled through technology is only going to accelerate. This is not slowing down. We work with some customers particularly in the automotive industry where IoT devices embedded into vehicles are collecting volumes of data vastly beyond what they’re capable of storing or processing and the types of architectures that they build in response to that needs to be multilayered with edge processing to filter and aggregate data before they replicate and bring that into a central location for subsequent processing and storage. And the uses to which they want to apply it to build out autonomous vehicles or improve the maintenance schedules on their fleets of vehicles across the customer base in general. That’s just one example of the types of information processing and storage that IoT thinking has generated. This is going to be prevalent across all sorts of industries where it hasn’t in the past.”
“[Businesses] are operating in environments where every piece of information they have access to is of importance to them growing their business going forward. They need to understand their customers. They need to respond to changes in the real world quickly. Fortnite is a great example of that. The speed with which Epic Games has responded to changes in their players’ behavior has been really one of the drivers for the success behind that game. And, you’ll see that continue with other games that emerge going forward.”
“The sorts of organizations that are going to win business going forward are those that are going to adapt quickly to those customer demands, anticipate what’s coming forward and respond to them as quickly as possible.”