On: 02 Sep 2019

Both on-premises and cloud-based solutions are essential in delivering digital transformation, Stephen O’Herlihy of PFH Technology Group tells Quinton O’Reilly.

Driving business results and adding value to end customers requires organisations to navigate an ever-changing digital world of disruptive technologies affecting every type of business. How can your business use artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive technologies or the internet of things – and can these technologies really transform your business? If you know the answer to these questions, give yourself a pat on the back. If you’re looking to better navigate the world of business digital transformation, stick with us.

Unfortunately, digital transformation isn’t easy. Businesses are built on years of refined processes and systems. These systems are at the core of the business, with the majority of IT resources spent on “keeping the lights on”, which is the enemy of digital transformation. Transformation must start at the heart of IT, transforming the way businesses operate, and consuming services rather than building them. This is according to Stephen O’Herlihy, chief technology officer of PFH Technology Group, which specialises in transforming IT, simplifying operations and modernising infrastructure for large national and international organisations globally.

Who adds more value to your business: the systems operator who manages data backups, or the data scientist who builds a real-time reporting engine? The latter provides insight which guides better decisions to help reduce costs, drive revenue and customer experience. Backups, on the other hand, must run every day of every year, without any holidays or sick days. It’s not a choice between them: both must happen, but one needs to be part of your business and the other doesn’t.

O’Herlihy commented: “PFH brings the best of breed technology and industry know-how to help our customers solve complex challenges, reduce operational overhead and ultimately deliver IT “as a service”. Our people can quickly deliver a simplified, validated and secure set of services and solutions, utilising services from public cloud vendors such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services with little effort, while maintaining security compliance and enabling a true hybrid cloud experience.”

While cloud can help businesses accelerate the delivery of services, it can also introduce complexities in operations, networking and security. These complexities must not hinder cloud adoption, but organisations can’t simply break their existing operating and service models. PFH’s hybrid cloud management solutions deliver consistent operations management, networking and security layers across multiple clouds and on-premises solutions. This allows their customers to transform the business using cloud services without the complexities, risks and operational burden of taking on new cloud-based platforms and services.

For many customers ‘cloud first’ or ‘cloud ready’ is policy, but if cloud is the answer, what’s the right question? No two applications and data sets are equal, so the question becomes: where is the most suitable place to host and run applications? The public cloud vendors will often offer an application or cloud migration assessment to determine if an organisation’s applications are suited to their cloud, which of course only refers to their cloud. PFH’s cloud assessment is an independent assessment of multiple cloud vendors, from both a technical feasibility and commercial perspective. With the use of a vendor-neutral tool, PFH can offer multiple options and the best platform to suit the organisation’s applications and business needs.

“PFH continue to deploy large scale enterprise infrastructure solutions hosting the majority of our customers’ workloads,” said O’Herlihy. “These solutions are highly available, scalable and secure infrastructures, often with real-time active-active data centre protection offering six nines (99.9999 per cent) of availability – that’s 32 seconds of downtime per year. Why then deploy on-premises systems, you may ask. The answer is not straightforward, but six nines of availability is a starting point. Typical public clouds offer only four nines or less, but to be honest that’s not the issue for most customers. The original reasons are still very real: compatibility, supportability, licence portability, security, data jurisdiction, data/network dependencies – and, of course, cost. So, if all things are equal, is cloud the answer? Yes, it is, but all things are not equal, so for now it’s not one or the other, it’s both, which is hybrid cloud.”

It’s often said that public cloud is so much easier, more reliable and less complex. Of course it is, when compared against your traditional five- to ten-year-old ‘storage-compute-networking’ stack. In the recent past, large traditional storage arrays were complicated and time-consuming. With the advent of all-flash and hyper-converged solutions this is no longer the case.

With the emergence of the software-defined data centre, entire ‘data-centre in a box’ solutions can be deployed in hours, offering a fully validated, integrated ‘storage-compute-networking’ software-defined data centre stack with complete intelligent life-cycle management and streamlined operations automation. You need never worry about the infrastructure layer again. Firmware, software, hypervisor upgrade, interoperability issues are all automated, you scale on demand, pay as you grow. Does this sound familiar?

The key is to compare public cloud offerings with innovative modern infrastructure solutions, not with what you currently have, calculating the TCO over five to seven years. Furthermore, manufacturers have introduced financial innovations like capacity-on-demand and pay-as-you-grow solutions, delivering an on-premises solution whereby you’re paying only for what you consume and effectively mimicking the cloud-based consumption model.

PFH employs a range of expertise in its ranks. The company has over 350 employees, with over 270 in a technical capacity and over 30 senior consultants and architects.

While some OEMs may boast larger numbers, PFH expertise is not limited to one particular technology partner. PFH has assembled a team with some of most experienced and accredited engineers in the country, across key enterprise technologies including AWS, Azure, Citrix, Commvault, Dell Technologies, HPE, Pure Storage, Splunk and VMware.Set against the tech skills shortage, PFH’s depth and experience in the area becomes invaluable.

O’Herlihy concluded: “We bring together the right multiple technologies for each customer and deliver them as a solution. For example: Commvault is a data management software provider who provides backup solutions, while Microsoft Azure is a public cloud provider who can provide cost-effective cloud storage. We bring Commvault and Azure together, wrapping them up into a backup to the cloud service.

“We’re packaging multiple manufacturers into a single seamless solution for customers. This is the modernising, simplifying, transformational effect.”