EMC World 2014: "In two years, software-defined data centres will be the norm" says Cancer Research UK

By Peter Gothard
09 May 2014 View Comments

"Software-defined data centres, that's the next big thing," states Cancer Research UK's head of infrastructure, Mick Briggs.

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"The more people that adopt the principles of that, the more it'll become the norm," he tells Computing, speaking at the EMC World 2014 conference in Las Vegas this week.

"People just need to do it. I think in the next two to three years, that will happen. You need to think about it a little bit more rather than just listening to the same old people telling you the same old thing."

Briggs says that he will now "literally throw people out of the office" if they approach him trying to sell him a hybrid cloud that is in reality "just a managed service".

"I'm done with that," he says. "I'm looking forward to some stability. That's what we need now. Stability."

As a long-term customer of EMC and its subsidiary companies, using VMware to virtualise around 600 machines since 2007, Briggs is delighted that EMC has now decided to fling open those closet doors and start being a little more honest about just how many companies it owns.

"VMware and EMC has always been much of a muchness for us, but I'm glad they finally admitted the Federation, because it's been almost awkward talking about VMware and EMC in the same sentence, especially to some of the EMC guys. It's no great secret just how much of VMware is owned by EMC," he says.

"I do understand that - obviously - VMware does business with lots of storage companies and not just EMC, so it's always going to be a difficult one."

But, reasons Briggs, even longtime customers such as himself are already waking up to EMC products they hadn't always considered now that a concerted effort is being made to portray them as part of an ecosystem.

"We use RSA, we use VMware, we use EMC, but don't use Pivotal as yet," he says.

"But the concepts [of a cloud operating system] - we're already there and ready. So I guess we'll start looking into what that does too. I'm not going to rule anything out, to be honest."

Briggs is pleased that access to all of EMC's products will follow the same kind of financial model as its hybrid cloud service.

"We hooked into the hybrid cloud, and realised there now is such a service we can actually make use of. So that then changes our thinking of the data centres again. I carry a small overhead in terms of computing storage - so it's the thought of being able to spin up in someone else's data centre, and it works, and then pull it back, and it works, and not get hooked into long-term contracts.

"If you'd asked me two years ago where we were going, and what I think now, I'd say it's evolved. It's evolving. It's all down to that hybrid cloud concept."

Briggs states that the concept of hybrid cloud could prove more impactful to the industry than its reality, forcing a change on every provider in a very short space of time.

"The impact of the concept is awesome, because it's liberating. And it's showing the old managed service providers that you can't do that anymore - we're not going to buy into a three-year contract. No way."

Briggs also explains how it's changed the way he approaches his in-house computing, too. Now that he's buying into cloud services, he can buy in more hardware again, because he can use it how he likes, when he likes. And he can do this by using Cancer Research's capital budget.

"I know if you'd asked me a couple of years ago, I wouldn't think I'd be buying so much tin. But now, why not? If you're buying the right amount of tin and there's no waste or overhead - because you can always just plug in to use short-term compute from somewhere else.

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