The Final Frontier

A journey into digital transformation with Dan Pickett.

To learn more about the history and trajectory of hybrid IT, the editor of Solutions by Zones magazine recently sat down with Dan Pickett, CEO of Zones nfrastructure™, the Services Company of Zones. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

Editor: Getting right into it, we’re seeing more hybrid situations – mixtures between on-prem and the cloud. Talk to me about how data, storage, security, and hybrid IT have evolved over time.

Pickett: Today, there are legacy companies that have been in business for a long time, and there are companies that are “born digital,” meaning they started after the digital revolution. The difference between those two methodologies is typically that older companies have invested significantly more money into their own infrastructure – their own private clouds – because there was no other choice.

When public cloud gained in performance, security, and steam, enterprises suddenly had alternatives: they could run workloads in their own data centers, private clouds, etc., or they could run workloads in the public cloud with a provider like Azure, AWS, or Google.

What we’ve seen from these digital initiatives is an overall increase in both enterprise workloads and the amount of thought that went into deciding where to run and maintain those workloads. And that’s how we end up with hybrid cloud. We’re now seeing increased investment in the ability to manage your hybrid cloud through a single pane of glass too – letting businesses focus on their workloads while managing it all in more efficient ways.

Editor: On the topic of legacy businesses versus today’s more modern startups, what are the newer businesses using? And do they differ from their predecessors?

Pickett: Thinking about it now, there really aren’t any exclusively private cloud enterprises left – everything has evolved into a hybrid of some sort.

To learn how that evolution starts, you need to take a look at it from an enterprise perspective. When a company has a business need or problem, the leaders investigate potential solutions – specifically, compute and the ways they can use that technology to address their workloads. Today, you’ll see analysis beyond just workload – performance, capacity, security, budgetary, scalability, etc. All of those things are going to determine which solution the company selects to run their business.

Editor: What are some of the additional benefits that a hybrid cloud workplace has to offer?

Pickett: One of public cloud’s benefits is the ease with which it can turn up environments for a large scope of work. The cloud lets you turn up massive environments very quickly for a team of one to a thousand and one to develop and test applications – all without CapEx. Best of all, you can turn it all off when it’s not in use.

Business intelligence is another example of how it’s improving the way we work. If you want to perform BI on a significant amount of data, you can turn up an environment and do all the analysis and modeling you need, form your conclusions, and then turn the environment back down at the end of any job.

Editor: Sounds great for staging – get in, and get out fast.

Pickett: Right. Another benefit is the variety of features providers are building into their public clouds. They’re finding common functions and offering them as incentives for moving workloads. These services can be huge time-savers for development teams, who’d otherwise need to write their own code.

Editor: So, what role do service providers like Zones nfrastructure play in this evolution?

Pickett: For all these new apps to run, businesses require a sound and secure infrastructure – servers, storage, data center, network, workplace, and tight technologies. Zones nfrastructure focuses all our efforts on being the first choice when it comes to designing, building, and running all of that for our customers. If we think about all of this in terms of the “assess, design, implement, manage” process, our first step involves understanding what the customer’s business drivers and requirements are. From there, we work through the available product and service options before making any kind of recommendation.

The second thing Zones nfrastructure focuses on is implementation. Thanks to our worldwide, certified integration centers, we can implement all of the infrastructure we design for our customers anywhere on the planet. We can source the required technology products from top OEMs; configure and tailor that technology for a customer’s specific environment locally; and set it all up, test it, and train entire workforces on its use. And thanks to our nterprise™ platform, every stakeholder has total visibility into every step of the implementation process.

When you want new technology up and running in your organization as fast as possible, nobody’s better at doing that globally than Zones nfrastructure.

Editor: And what happens after implementation?

Pickett: Well, companies need to be able to support the new digital infrastructure on day one. Our high-availability command centers proactively monitor customers’ systems and networks immediately. If we have someone like a retailer with a thousand locations, we can use our command center to measure performance, security, and more across those thousand locations in real time. Proactive management aims to be as predictive and preventative as possible up front so there’s never an outage or interruption in workflow. All the utility you never think about is always there, always performing, always secure – so you can execute your business strategy seamlessly.

The second part of our managed services deals with outages themselves. Our help desk has the availability and architecture to handle a million interactions a year across the globe. When a problem is identified, we have a concierge to help the customer work through it. And if we realize that we need an engineer to help fix something or that we need equipment shipped to support that repair, our global capabilities come into play once again. Zones can get smarts and parts to customers anywhere in the world.

Editor: Whatever it takes, right? Clearly, our service doesn’t end at the point of sale.

Pickett: That’s very true. And well said.

Editor: It’s all about that ongoing relationship. It sounds like we don’t reactively rush into a situation. We take our time to develop a thoughtful plan that fits our customer’s needs first. Then, we jump into action.

Pickett: Absolutely. And our goal with customers is to create an increasing returns model – the more work we do together, the more best practices and scale we can put in place, and the more we get that practice into nterprise™ to manage it across all stakeholders, the more efficient every subsequent project becomes.

Editor: Some of our partners still function predominantly in data center racks. As someone on the leading edge of IT, where do you see the technology headed in the future? What should we keep our eyes on?

Pickett: I think we’re going to see continued exponential growth driven by a couple of really specific things.

The first driver will be greater adoption of technologies already available today. There’s far more technology available than what enterprises have embraced so far. Embracing it requires you to go through the process we discussed earlier – assess, design, implement, manage, and trust. That takes time and talent, and there’s always a shortage of both. This is where someone like Zones can help.

The second driver will be the embrace of emerging technologies. We need to be thinking about IoT growing more mainstream, about machine learning and AI and robotics. As more of those technologies become readily available, that’s where we’re going to see linear market growth turn exponential.

Editor: At what rate do you foresee all of that happening?

Pickett: I think Moore’s Law is alive and well. If you look at technologies that are out there today and how they can be used – whether they’re autonomous vehicles, big data, or anything else – the growth rate is impressive, and it shows no signs of slowing. It also involves the dynamic nature of the field.

No enterprise is static, and the X.0 enterprise is less static than anything prior. That means leaders need to be flexible in their ability to support their own infrastructure and be able to quickly handle moves, adds, and changes.

Our nterprise™ platform is perfectly suited for this – it’s tailored to deliver complex IT solutions simply, and it gives all the stakeholders total visibility throughout the entire digital transformation. Everybody from the IT group to the audit group gets transparency into everything happening throughout implementation.

Editor: I heard an interesting quote the other day: “It’s so weird that we’re actually living in the future – the future’s here and now.” So much of this seems like the stuff. we were dreaming about five years ago.

Pickett: The pace of progress is definitely exciting. I always wonder if innovation can continue at the pace it has, but history hasn’t let me down so far.

Editor: Thank you so much for your time, Dan. This has certainly been insightful.

Pickett: My pleasure. Looking forward to where the future takes us next.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Solutions by Zones magazine.

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