How to manage data across different environments

Monday, May 8, 2017

Digital transformation is the buzzword in every industry today and every CIO faces the dilemma of which workloads to move to the cloud. They are also under pressure to prove to management why all this makes business sense and that can be difficult to explain to the non-technical minded.

As a systems integrator, Dimension Data can see across the worlds of the IT vendor, the services provider and the end-client. Speaking to BNamericas in a recent visit to Santiago, CEO Jason Goodall explained how, behind the hype of digital transformation, is a very complex transition process that companies are often not given credit for. It's also not all about rip-and-replace and go to the cloud, but rather a gradual process of marrying old and new technology.

BNamericas: How can Dimension Data help industries cope with digital transformation?

Goodall: Dimension Data is positioning itself to help clients in their individual digital journeys. It's not about bits and bytes, but rather bringing about business outcomes. That can go from cost cutting to revenue growth to transforming the way they interact with their own clients. Our clients are battling with change happening at an incredible pace.

BNamericas: How do clients marry cloud-based environments with their legacy infrastructure?

Goodall: As much as things are moving to the cloud, we believe that clients still want choice and a multiple vendor community, be that Amazon Web Services, Google or Azure.

We believe there are also natural homes for certain workloads and different data and applications to sit. You might want some of your data on premise for latency reasons, some in a hosted environment and some out there on a low-cost shared cloud infrastructure.

The challenge is how you manage having your data spread across so many environments. It can be amazing from a cost-efficiency perspective but a nightmare from a management and security perspective.

Our services lab allows you to automate workloads and manage your data both on your own infrastructure and in a cloud environment. We believe that is the stepping stone to hybrid IT.

BNamericas: How important is the automation of workloads for companies?

Goodall: I think the future is automation on every platform, but more importantly is how you tie this into machine learning. How do you leverage artificial intelligence and big data analytics to predict business outcomes?

BNamericas: Which verticals are jumping on the digital transformation bandwagon fastest?

Goodall: Financial services have traditionally been our biggest vertical because they spend most on technology. And we're seeing a second wave of IT spending from banks because of the challenge from fintechs.

But we're also seeing adoption from at least three non-traditional sectors.

In healthcare the big challenge is there are there not enough medical specialists. We're using technology to map and match the information between the right doctor and patients in remote places.

In education, the challenge is how to make learning more interactive. We've been partnering with universities to help deliver world-class content to support home schooling and students in remote places.

The third area is automotive. There are big opportunities as cars increasingly become moving computers and we're playing a role through our parent company NTT.

Networking is our core and IoT is an extension of that. We've been working with the Tour de France placing monitors on every bicycle and transmitting that to our mobile datacenter, which then analyzes big data about the performance of the cyclists.

BNamericas: What are the biggest challenges in security?

Goodall: Security is a major part of our business, worth just under US$1bn. Over 40% of internet traffic globally goes over NTT infrastructure so as soon as there is a cyberattack we pick it up.

I see three main trends. First, people have realized you can never build an impenetrable wall. You also need security inside your firewall to detect attacks that have already penetrated your core.

Second, you need to protect the actual data, not just the device or the environment or server or file.

Thirdly, cybersecurity is here to stay. As e-commerce grows, there is going to be more information for people to target. It is also becoming a political tool. Directors of companies can now be held personally responsible for a data breach if they don't take the necessary steps to protect it. The challenge is also how to run your business smoothly while securely. It is not possible to run a business if everyone has a million passwords. Another big challenge is the shortage of people with top security skills.

BNamericas: How is Dimension Data tailoring its collaboration strategy to fit the needs of the new generation of workers?

Goodall: The workspace of tomorrow brings together lots of components. The network, and how to move seamlessly between mobile, fixed wireless and Wi-Fi while talking securely to the data, which is sitting across different environments. More importantly, how do you manage a hierarchical structure as to who has access to what data and at what time.

And in terms of the legacy technology that companies have built and invested in over time, it's not practical to just throw that away.

You have to marry a combination of technology sets from the network, such as a router and a desktop environment like Microsoft. It's not a choice of one or the other. But in order to do that you have to upgrade your apps to a data environment to make sure your policies match what you're trying to achieve.

What people often don't think about is how this affects company policies and processes, the hierarchy of users. How do you manage an employee joining or leaving a company? And how do you adopt your architecture to enable a millennial to work in the way they want to?

BNamericas: How has that impacted the bring-your-own-device trend?

Goodall: I think the device driven trend from three, four years ago is changing to a security driven one. Companies have realized it's too complex and too costly to try and manage everyone's preferred device back to the network. I think that is going away. I see a lot more companies going to a single or limited number of devices.

BNamericas: Is everything moving towards managed services?

Goodall: Yes. It's not just about where to move your data. It's about providing a business outcome. And digital transformation is a much more complicated transition than people give it credit for. Clients need hand holding and service level agreements to guarantee outcomes. In the end, it's less about technology and more about changing your mindset.

About Jason Goodall

Jason Goodall was appointed CEO of Dimension Data Holdings in June 2016.
He has served in a number of strategic roles since he joined the Group in 1998 including COO  and was been responsible for sales, marketing, Group Information Services (GIS), HR and commercial finance in the Asia, Australia, Europe, Americas and Middle East & Africa regions.

From 1998 to 2001, Goodall was CFO of OmniLink, a Dimension Data subsidiary, which later merged with Internet Solutions. Goodall sits on the board of Britehouse Technologies

About the company

Dimension Data is an IT services company founded in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1983. It focuses on network integration, security and data centers. In 2010 Dimension Data was acquired by Japan's Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) for US$3.2bn. The company is present in 49 countries, has 30,000 employees and annual revenue of US$8bn.