We ‘Deep Dive’ with Eran Brown, EMEA CTO, Infinidat, who tells us about life inside and outside the office.
What first made you think of a career in technology/data centres?
I grew up with dial up modems and BBS and experienced first-hand the evolution of the web from text-only to its interactive, engaged format today. I was a programmer for a relatively short period of time but always wanted to work with ‘bleeding edge technology’. I enjoyed customer interaction, so started to shift focus towards professional services and consulting roles.
The deeper discussion about what the customer’s business motivation was and the need to better understand it and then tailor the solution accordingly, became very interesting to me. I moved closer to the business conversation; pre-sales. My next goal became a product focused position. The four years in that role saw some of the most interesting discussions that I’ve ever had in my professional career.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I consider myself to be an enabler within the company – ensuring a smooth flow of information and ideas between team members, the customers and the wider business teams. I have found that this allows me to work more closely, in more detail, with our customers who are facing unique challenges. I believe that collaboration is critical when you’re working to design tailored solutions that help businesses capitalise on their data infrastructure and deliver the expected results.
What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?
There are two. Transforming IT to be agile/cloud like and protection from the ever-growing risk of hackers.
Businesses expect their IT to be ready to deploy new business services instantly and effectively aligning to the public cloud experience. However, few organisations are willing to pay for the infrastructure required in advance. IT is being asked to achieve something without the proper funding.
When funded, IT ends up being cheaper than the cloud (for large organisations). IT people are looking for elasticity in the infrastructure they buy. We see many customers adopting our Capacity on Demand model to be able to provision new data-rich services instantly without waiting for long procurement processes. Without these accelerated deployments these workloads will go into the public cloud adding to an already strained IT budget.
At the same time, there is no doubt that cybercriminals are increasingly sophisticated. While perimeter defences can be enforced, attackers will eventually find other ways to get in. The battlefront has instead moved to managing ‘the day after the breach’ and organisations need to prepare accordingly. I believe the answer lies in end-to-end data encryption.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
I am hyperactive. Sitting in meeting rooms half of the time is like charging my personal batteries to 150%. So, when I get out of the office, I need to release this excess energy. I spend my free time destressing in the gym, playing volleyball, cycling with friends or ‘bouldering’ which is along the rock-climbing theme. They all serve to clear the mind, creating space for some of my best ideas to present themselves.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Everybody is talking about agility, from the business level down to the enabling IT technologies. However, agility can only be achieved if the business decision (for example – launching a new business service) can be executed quickly. Perhaps the biggest obstacle today is old and slow procurement processes that delay the execution of business initiatives by months. We have to change the way we procure the technology that enables the business units.
To overcome this, many large organisations are going to public cloud (where procurement/payment happens after the business service is already running) and are paying a high premium to do so, as their IT already has the economy of scale to make it more cost effective than the cloud.
What they lack is the ability to gain the agility of a public cloud within their private cloud. To do that you have to revolutionise the cost of data infrastructure and its procurement models. Customers able to achieve both are able to ask the critical question: ‘What should be the demarcation line between my private and public cloud instances?’ instead of just putting everything that needs to be deployed quickly into the public cloud at a premium.
What are the region-specific challenges you encounter in your role?
Unlike the US, where the single language/single culture makes business easier, the EU is clearly federated into separate states. In many cases, organisations in one country will not accept a customer reference from another country despite the fact that the companies might be in the same vertical.
A theoretical customer in Strasbourg, France, will often prefer a Paris-based reference from a customer in another vertical that is 400km away, rather than a customer in the same vertical 50km across the German border.
That makes spreading innovation harder in the EU and slows down adoption of tools that enable the business to move faster.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
Most IT organisations are focusing more on automation. This is reflected in RFPs as well as in the demonstrations customers ask for. I think this is becoming a huge differentiator for companies who really invested in developing automation tools. IT departments don’t often have in-house developers, so they need their vendors to provide enterprise-grade off-the-shelf tools that enable them to automate without the need to get an advanced computer science degree. I think this trend will accelerate and we will see infrastructure specialists developing an ‘automate from day one’ approach more often.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a senior position in the industry?
I think the need to automate and become more agile dictates that we move away from thinking about each part of IT separately and start looking at business processes with a wholistic approach.
That means people can’t focus on one area only (network/storage/virtualisation) – we all need a wider understanding of our working environment that allows us to serve our business units better.
People failing to develop this wider perspective will have a lower value for their organisations over time.