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Investing in the data centre footprint for successful future innovation

Investing in the data centre footprint for successful future innovation

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As data centre leaders aim to keep up with industry transformation, it is important they have an understanding of how things are expected to develop and that they evolve with innovation in mind. Hiren Parekh, VP for Northern Europe for OVHcloud, discusses the organisation’s vision as a leader in the field and what it hopes to achieve moving forward.

Can you tell us about your role and the scope of your responsibility?

I’ve been with the business for over six years now and I’m responsible for operations within the UK, Ireland and the Nordic regions. I work closely with the teams here on sales, marketing functions and developing the business dynamic, locally or regionally.

As one of the leading data centre providers in Europe, what trends do you see developing in the region and how do these differ from other areas across the globe?

There’s a big focus on sustainability. There’s also a focus around how you unlock the power and value of data and how businesses are having the correct IT strategy solutions or platforms and infrastructure in place to keep pace with this. There’s a significant shift to multi-cloud and a big focus on cost control post-pandemic. During the pandemic, everyone had to scale fast and it didn’t matter where it came from, but I think that as we move forward, people are more conscious of the security aspects surrounding the cloud, the cost control of cloud and how we can move forward as well. There are also some other initiatives happening like the use of open data and security of data.

What specific challenges do you come across in the data centre space and how do you suggest industry leaders should adapt?

I think that’s the big question – how businesses tackle some of the issues. These are predominantly around data protection, regulatory industries, security and compliance issues. I think one of the ways OVHcloud is responding to these issues is ensuring that customers can utilise large volumes of data without having storage issues and unlocking the value of that through the business intelligence or Machine Learning – gaining valuable insights. I think sometimes there can be a lack of digital skills in organisations to implement those IT strategies or policies and it’s important that we see more and more partnerships that people are specialising in the areas they know best and partnering with others to ensure they can achieve their business goals. As previously mentioned, there’s an element of cost control too and people are looking at multi-cloud or hybrid cloud strategies in order to best manage workloads.

How important are sustainable operations and how do you ensure this?

OVHcloud has deployed a strong sustainable strategy since the inception of water cooling 15 years ago – we have a Circular Economy through second and third life of service. So there is a reuse of buildings, or data centres and when we look at energy, water and carbon efficiency. We have a power usage effective rating (PUE) ranging between 1.1 to 1.3, and a water usage efficiency of 0.24-0.29 L/kWh IT. Our carbon usage effectiveness is 0.15 – 0.18 T (CO2e/MWh) all of which is certainly industry-leading. We have a sustainability strategy to become carbon neutral on operations by 2025 and net zero by 2030 – and 100% of high-quality renewable energy by 2025 and 0% waste to landfills. We have six key levers to sustainability; one is to monitor the consumption, second is how optimising that and leveraging renewable energy sources, maximising component life cycle and also reducing supply chain impact. And finally, how do we embark on the ecosystem journey working with partners. We have a partnership with Inria – National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology – to enhance sustainability monitoring and turn it into a customer-facing asset. This partnership helps OVHcloud customers to address their sustainability challenges by providing real-time energy consumption and their carbon footprint, through an API or web portal.

Can you tell us more about OVHcloud’s vision as a leader in the field – what do you hope to achieve?

I think in a world where data is at the heart of all aspects of our private, social and professional lives, we want to be the trusted cloud provider – which enables each person to create and do business, freely. We want to offer an open, reversible and interoperable cloud, which is a fair and a responsible alternative. We want to put innovation to work for the empowerment of everybody and to empower people with the freedom to achieve their ambitions. Through our commitment to creating an alternative cloud, we provide the freedom to build and the localisation which is required to solve some of those data privacy challenges by having a local data centre footprint. We also work on developing an open ecosystem community by working with partners in different areas to ensure that we can have this collaboration and help develop a sustainable industry, this is reflected in our participation in the Climate Neutral Data Centre pact.

OVHcloud’s Strasbourg data centre caught fire not too long ago, how do you overcome such an event and how important is having a resilient infrastructure in place?

I think one of the key takeaways here is that the team worked day and night for weeks and our top priority was to restore the services that had been impacted. The resilience of our model and the extreme mobilisation of our teams were decisive – this is how we were able to restore more than 98% of services in 50 days. And we’re not going to stop here; we are finalising a hyper-resilience plan that will challenge the standards and protect customers even more. The key is about investing in the data centre footprint, and Disaster Recovery strategy and plans are integral to evolving in the future.

What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve been given in your career and how do you apply this to your role?

When I first joined OVHcloud, I was invited to read a book called The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and I think the very concept is the heart of where OVHcloud’s success lies in the way of using the principles of zero to one, one to 10, 10 to 100. And I think this is what you see every day with the teams working locally – you could have the best idea but if it’s not what the market wants, then you’ve already lost time going to market. So, let’s try and see how it works and evolve as we go to build the best go-to-market for a product function, or whatever it might be, even if it’s an internal project. I think it’s always about the balance between strategy and execution and I think while you have a vision and a strategy that you can start, it’s important to also in parallel start executing so you can see the results and know when to pivot and adapt.

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