Interview: SoftIron, UK IT Industry Awards finalist

"We describe what we do as 'making the products that underpin the next evolution of IT infrastructure'."

clock • 5 min read
Kenny Van Alstyne, Chief Technology Officer, SoftIron
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Kenny Van Alstyne, Chief Technology Officer, SoftIron

IT is a major component of modern businesses. Companies rely on IT services to ensure that their operations continue to run consistently and without errors. IT teams are responsible for managing and protecting important data, which in turn promotes innovation and efficiency.

The UK IT Industry Awards are for the truly outstanding individuals, companies and projects in this important sector.

This year's winners were announced at a live awards ceremony on Wednesday, 9th November.

One of the finalists was SoftIron, in the running for the Infrastructure Innovation of the Year.

Before the awards, we caught up with Kenny Van Alstyne, Chief Technology Officer at SoftIron, to find out what makes his company different from other technology firms.

Kenny has served as CTO for SoftIron since August 2021. Previously, as Chief Cloud Architect at US government contractor Peraton, he was responsible for the invention and development of their cloud platform. In a career spanning over 20 years, he has had extensive experience developing, deploying, and managing sophisticated, often mission-critical, and highly sensitive cloud and data infrastructure for organisations including the Department of Homeland Security, Naval Research Laboratory, the Naval Oceanographic Office, the US Army and the National Coastal Data Development Center.

Kenny's mission at SoftIron is to bring everything he has learned in building secure, sophisticated and resilient clouds to the wider market in a way that radically simplifies their deployment and ownership. Van Alstyne holds several system and methodology patents and is credited for the original publication outlining the procedure for utilising US Department of Defense smartcards on Linux.

Computing: Please provide some background on your company for our readers.

Kenny Van Alstyne: Founded in 2012, with group headquarters here in the UK, we describe what we do as 'making the products that underpin the next evolution of IT infrastructure'. We launched HyperCloud just a few months back - the world's first complete technology for building and running clouds. It's designed from the ground up and manufactured in our own facilities by us; HyperCloud is an entirely new class of cloud technology that eliminates the silos of storage, network and compute. Instead it's a fully turn-key, totally integrated and supported, intelligent cloud fabric of all the hardware and software you need to build and run a cloud, including the management and service delivery layers that deliver a true cloud experience. The approach we've taken enables extremely low touch operations but still delivers the highest level of resiliency, all without requiring hyperscale-like scaling of IT staffing.

HyperCloud can be deployed in as little as half a rack, in half a day, and - and this is what is so incredible - with just generalist IT skills, yet you can also scale effectively infinitely! It's already being used in mission critical environments today, including some with very sensitive security requirements. We really believe that with HyperCloud, almost anyone can overcome the challenges of building and running cloud infrastructure.

What makes you different from other technology companies?

SoftIron is unique in that we design and manufacture everything ourselves - and that we don't build clouds by 'composition'. Over the last few decades, the IT industry has evolved into complex, discrete silos of compute, network and storage, with layers upon layers of software, all provided by a multitude of vendors, focused on ever smaller parts of the puzzle. Teams of discrete IT specialists are needed to thread it all together to compose something that's useful, secure and reliable. It's a complexity brick wall, and global IT is charging toward it. It serves the vendors, but it doesn't serve the customers. At SoftIron we're really changing all of that. Starting from scratch, we've reimagined what it is to build, deploy, and manage cloud infrastructure, eliminating the silos and subsequent complexity. Our radical approach to cloud infrastructure really frees our customers to build the hybrid and/or multi cloud strategy that meets their objectives, with the kind of reliability, availability, elasticity and serviceability previously reserved for hyperscale cloud builders, but within the capabilities of your average IT team. And, of course the fact we design and manufacture everything ourselves enables us to optimise the designs for low power, efficient operation, savings customers big time on their energy bills.

What one company achievement in the last 12 months are you most proud of?

The launch of HyperCloud in September 2022 is an achievement I'm particularly proud of. We're already starting to see traction amongst large government and enterprise customers and service providers globally, who see the potential of this game changing technology. I'm going to be cheeky and throw in one more: we officially inaugurated our brand new, Advanced Computer Manufacturing in Sydney, Australia in November. Backed by a Defence Department innovation grant, it's Australia's first-ever component-level IT infrastructure manufacturing facility, and will produce ICT componentry HyperCloud.

What are you working on this year?

We're continuing the development and go-to-market strategy for HyperCloud, working with customers and strategic partners globally to achieve success together, extending its capability while building out our company around the world to service the demand it's creating.

Why are events like the UK IT Industry Awards important to the IT industry?

Especially following the pandemic years, the awards are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the incredible ideas, innovations and efforts from our peers, and to come together to support each other. I think it's also important to recognise those companies that are actually creating the IT technologies, not just putting them into practice. There's a rich heritage of that here in the UK and we're proud to be part of that. The opportunity to reconnect with friends and partners face to face is so rewarding, and we look forward to coming back next year!

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