We ‘Deep Dive’ with Steve Hollingsworth, Director, Covenco, who tells us about life inside and outside the office.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the data centre industry?
I’m particularly proud of the length of time I have worked in the industry, and of course how over that time I have helped grow Covenco into the company it has become today. I have been with Covenco for 32 years now and have watched the business grow from four people in a serviced office in Windsor, to a multi-faceted company with 1,500 customers over four continents.
In terms of projects, the installation of an IBM FlashSystem 5000 storage solution for the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is a key highlight for me. The trust was working with a complex SQL environment which is predominantly six corporate SQL clusters each hosting multiple SQL instances and thousands of databases. These run the Trust’s critical clinical systems and are required to be available 24/7 so a straightforward SQL migration seemed to be out of the question. The goal was to find a route to a new storage platform that didn’t require the Trust to reconfigure its legacy SQL environment, as that would potentially entail systems being offline for days at a time and this was unacceptable to the Clinical teams, as it would put patient care at risk.
What first made you think of a career in technology/data centres?
In truth, I found my career in technology through luck. Good luck though. I anticipated working in sales for a year with the view of training as a pilot thereafter. However, I found the industry so fascinating that I never left. I’ve always been attracted to problem-solving, and with data centres, you get to problem-solve on a vast scale. There are always new ways to run a data centre and the speed of development is incredible. I love that data centre technology is developing beyond the Edge all the time.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I would like to think my style of management philosophy is one of trust and empowerment. I prefer to find and nurture independent thinkers and doers as opposed to micro-managing. A strategic outlook is vital in my opinion. For example, new products, markets and new platforms into business lines is only possible if firms indulge in strategic planning.
According to numerous global studies, firms that engage in strategic management are likely to be more profitable and successful than those that don’t. At Covenco, I feel that it is important for our and our customer’s businesses to plan and evaluate their priorities carefully in the 21st Century to stay in control of the future.
What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?
Many topics are hot right now, however, I think the green agenda is the hottest from my perspective. As a full lifecycle business, we have always put great emphasis on the importance of recycling and reusing. Our refurbished solutions reduce waste, reduce the use of new raw materials, reduce carbon with delivery and in most cases are as efficient from a heating/cooling perspective. Additionally, all of our assets are fully data sanitised through our testing processes and both our suppliers and customers are risk-free and assisting their companies’ green policies.
I’m also very interested in how AI will help to design and develop new data centres, supporting lower costs and increasing performance. Additionally, in various industries, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming a key driver of modern-day technologies and the growing need for data centres to store and process this information is a consequence of the success of these AI applications.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
Having been in bands for over 30 years, music is still my primary hobby – though I did decide to stop gigging last year – so just for fun now.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Clients continuously need cybersecurity. As a Veeam VCSP and specialist in backup and recovery, we are helping clients of all sizes design modern backups to counter the current threats. The 3-2-1-1-0 mantra helps our clients stay protected against cybercriminals by vaulting their data offsite to our cloud and taking advantage of our immutable copies, tape-out services and a full suite of Disaster Recovery options to guard against the seemingly inevitable cyberattacks.
What’s more, right now many data centres will be looking closely at investment into new optical networks and interconnect solutions to increase throughput between storage, computing and security systems. As hardware gets faster and managers need increasing levels of security, the connections between devices become the bottleneck. I feel that many data centres are otherwise in danger of implementing new hardware on a slow platform.
What are the region-specific challenges you encounter in your role?
The UK is challenged by regional issues around Brexit and international trade – though having offices in Europe and US has been a significant advantage in this instance. There is no doubt that sporadic supply issues within the UK supply chain remain, despite most major vendors having recovered from the disruption of COVID-19.
Additionally, export controls are a significant factor in global trade, and we often have to guard against supplying hardware to intermediaries. Otherwise, our logistics operations can’t operate throughout Europe, the US and all friendly nations.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the coming months?
I would say the changing role for our Disaster Recovery services, from an insurance policy you did not expect to utilise, to a last line of defence against the cybercriminals that is vital to your business. Our solutions and options are evolving to stay one step ahead, and our clients are recognising the need for those services.
More specifically, several areas of change are impacting my role, which include:
- Retaining a tight rein on cloud infrastructure costs.
- Managing the productisation of company data and controlling the distribution of valuable data.
- The development of the data product manager role in operations.
- Integrating data management with our finance teams.
- Developing new workflows that allow us to control and manage data governance in line with our ISO27001 systems.