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Exclusive interview: Oracle’s Rob Willis on digital transformation and the future of data centres

By Patrick Martlew, Fri 11 Aug 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

IT is at a fascinating period at the moment, as we experience an considerable explosion of rapid change in just about all facets of everyday life and business operation.

The burst of digital transformation practices that businesses are undergoing is a prime example of this, as people adopt cloud based operations and services in order to keep up with the pace.

At this years Red Rock leadership forum, we sat down with Rob Willis, Oracle Managing director for Australia and New Zealand.

Willis discussed how his company has seen the scope of digital transformation, how it has affected business and what the future will hold for data centres in varying capacities.

We’ve been talking about ERP in our discussions today, and that it is no longer a differentiator. If this is true, how can companies differentiate themselves in the market when making these digital transitions?  

The key thing there is that if you don’t have ERP today, or if you don’t have great financial planning tools, then you’re missing out that most other people have, so in that sense, if you don’t have it, it’s a definite differentiator.

Once you’ve got it, and you’ve embedded it and you’ve been working on it for a while, typically you have a whole range of data available to you. Whether it’s customer, employee or transaction data, it allows organisations to understand their business in new ways.

An example is when our Coffee Club customer representative was talking about how they were pulling data out, putting it on iPad and giving it to their franchisees. I think that's the differentiator, so instead of just letting it sit there running along, you’re actually pulling information out of it and presenting to people who can make a difference in way that’s very simple.

While the franchisees had no idea where the data was coming from, they’re able to see things that they hadn’t seen before, and they were able to make a difference.

You’ve mentioned in your predictions during the keynote that by 2025,  80% of IT budgets will be spent on the cloud and that corporate data centres will reduce by 80%. What does that mean for the future of data centres overall going forward?

Enterprises are definitely going to have fewer and fewer data centres, and they’re going to rely on these really huge cloud type data centres to do more and more, so those data centres keep growing.

If you go to the Equinix data centre in Alexandria for example, at that site they just keep adding more buildings, and when you go through it, you can see how sophisticated those data centres are and how much investment is put into making it secure and work efficiently. The amount of effort it takes to do that is huge.

So there's going to be more investment in those types of data centres, but certainly fewer situations where a company will decide to run it’s own private data centres. Looking forward, It’s not viable for a business owner with a few thousand employees to run their own data centre, I think we’ll be looking at a situation where almost no one will opt to do that.

A lot of the time there is that discussion about the security aspect of these cloud-based data centre offerings, as you’ve said the security measures are immense in these large scale data centres, so is that not an issue anymore?

In terms of that, there are lots of different types of security. There are things like biometrics, cages, and constant surveillance amongst other things that are going to prevent anyone from accessing things physically.

Then there are the different layers of security within the technology itself, because there are so many things you can put in place, like sophisticated threat protection, firewalls and a lot of other layers. The amount of money it takes to put those things in place, and keep running them is significant, quite difficult for an individual company to accomplish.

It’s much more efficient for cloud providers like ourselves to provide these services, having dozens of data centres around the world, with the ability to develop that sophisticated multi-layered security approach and manage it 24/7.

Delivery methods like Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Software-as-a-Service or Platform-as-a-Service are all important for different reasons, although would you say the value for customers lies in a combination of all of them?

It certainly depends on the customer, because every journey is unique. I think of the delivery method in terms of those services just coming out of a data centre, or sitting at a data centre and you use them depending on your situation. So you have to decide what you want, for example do you want compute, networking, ERP, analytics or Java? It’s all down what you’re specifically trying to do. Customers typically find that it is a combination of those things that they want to use, so they do  end up with a mix of delivery methods.

Although they might not even call it IaaS or PaaS, they might just say they have some ERP, or some Devtest sitting on compute over there or they have some BI or something else sitting here. Sometimes, they don’t think of it in the same ways that we talk about it, they just think about the pieces that they need.

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