Interviews

Being Pulled Along In The Pandemic Cloud Trend Slip Stream

Martin Blackburn

Martin Blackburn, EMEA MD at Rackspace Technology, describes the company’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as it switched from a hosting provider to a mutlicloud technology service.

Q: Could you tell me about the company’s transition to multi-cloud?

Martin:

“Rackspace Technology was in the midst of a pivot when I joined in 2020. At its inception, it was known as a hosting provider, but we have recently undergone a major transition to become a multicloud technology partner. It is something we have been doing for some time, but we needed to communicate it to our existing customers and the wider market.

“For the last few years, we have been working extremely closely with the hyperscalers – Google Cloud, AWS and Microsoft Azure – to better support our customers throughout their entire migration journeys, both with private and public environments.

“In my previous role at IBM, there was still a very static way of serving customers. It was a square box and we had to make the customer fit. But this approach isn’t elastic enough for the business needs of today, which is why the flexibility of public cloud and multicloud is so important.

“We also have our professional services offering, which provides more hands-on support. This is particularly important given the fast pace at which the cloud world moves. The hyperscalers we work with are putting thousands of changes into the way their cloud offerings work every quarter, which is impossible for customers to keep up with.

“So, we try to provide a sort of bubble wrap, protecting them from this complexity while ensuring they have all the information they need for a successful migration and cloud strategy that meets all of their requirements.”

Q: There’s a lot of competition in the multi-cloud space, so does the company’s history help here in terms of having long-term customers from over the years?

Martin:

“Yes, I think our legacy has definitely helped us carve our path into the multicloud market. But we are also doing something quite different to others on the market, we just haven’t been communicating that well enough until now. We actually started our public cloud services very early on and have been serving some customers for around six years.

“Although Rackspace Technology of course never expected or prepared for the huge industry shift that has been sparked by the current pandemic, we are lucky in that we have ended up being very well placed to ride the wave and have helped a lot of customers to remain agile during what has been a very difficult year.”

Q: How has the business responded to and coped with the pandemic, and what impact has it had on business growth?

Martin:

“I joined the company in February 2020, and the true impacts of the pandemic on the business struck only a month later.

“We talk about a tectonic shift in technology, and I think that has really happened. This is especially true for cloud, and as a business, we have been pulled along in the slip stream. More businesses have been forced to transform, and fast, and we have been doing our best to be the technology partner helping them to do so. With this in mind, although it has been a balancing act when it comes to customers that have struggled or thrived in the past year, we have definitely seen an uptick in demand for cloud services.”

Q: Given you have customers across such a broad range of sectors, some will have struggled throughout the pandemic. Have you been able to provide any support to these businesses?

Martin:

“Indeed, we have a whole raft of customers who have found the past few months much more difficult than others, particularly across the travel, transport and hospitality sectors. As such, we have worked closely and carefully with these businesses both from a financial and operational perspective, to do what we can to keep them going during these turbulent times.

“Right at the beginning of the pandemic, we also made $10m of Open Stack cloud available to existing customers participating in the COVID-19 response efforts.

“Alongside this, our customers have seen some great success. For example, the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust’s ICT Director revealed it may have not been able to function without its migration to the cloud, as most of what the trust does is in-person healthcare. However, the team have now been able to adapt to provide many of their services remotely, for example with the use of online tests and video calls.”

Q: Once customers have made the move to multi-cloud, will there be a period of stagnation, or do you see a future of slow uptake of cloud services and businesses continuing to need Rackspace Technology’s help?

Martin:

The multicloud market is massive and according to IDC, cloud adoption and opportunities will continue to expand leading to a $1 trillion market by 2024. Ultimately, everyone will end up in the cloud. But once migrations are complete, the need for service providers doesn’t simply end.

“I have already seen evidence of the fact that once customers get into the cloud, their ability, and realisation of their ability, to innovate massively accelerates their propensity to use technology. For example, I have worked closely with banks that have experienced increased consumer demand as they put more into the cloud, because they have the ability to innovate faster.

“So, what do they do? They keep going, to meet those new demands. It’s a never-ending cycle and businesses will always need someone to help them on the journey.”

PM Today Interview Team
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