Exclusive Interview: Paul Lidsky, CEO of Datalink

Can you please provide a little bit of background on who you are and what Datalink does?

As president and CEO of Datalink, I am responsible for the company’s strategic direction, overall growth, operational planning and business plan implementation. I have more than 20 years of experience in the technology and communications industries and a strong track record of developing and executing growth strategies through acquisitions and sustained organic growth, as well as enhancing shareholder value. I was elected to the Datalink board of directors in 1998 and served in that capacity until 2009, when I then became president and CEO.

“I think the security of the public cloud is still a major issue for businesses”

Datalink provides end-to-end data center infrastructure and services for middle market and Fortune 500 companies. Over the years, we have evolved from our beginnings as a storage solutions and services provider to become a full-service data center provider and consultant on everything from storage, server, and network architectures to cloud enablement and the journey to IT as a Service (ITaaS). We not only provide all the core technologies, including advanced solutions like virtualization and converged data center infrastructures that are fundamentally changing the data center, but we also design, implement, manage and support those technologies. We also have an Advanced Services practice that assists customers with initiatives such as private and hybrid cloud strategy, data center relocation, system and application migration, and business continuity/disaster recovery planning. We are 100% focused on helping our customers transform their data center infrastructure and processes to gain efficiency, agility and business value.

What do you feel is the biggest threat faced by data security today?

This is a broad topic that encompasses everything from hackers stealing credit card information to the vulnerability of corporate data on mobile devices, but from a cloud perspective, I think the security of the public cloud is still a major issue for businesses. It’s one thing to build defenses inside your own firewall, and another to expect a public cloud provider to meet your organization’s compliance and governance standards. For many companies, that is an unrealistic expectation and a key reason to choose private or hybrid cloud services instead.

What do you feel are the benefits of cloud or a hybrid solution over on-premise for Enterpises?

One of the key benefits is in the power to “own the base and rent the peak” – that is, size your infrastructure for your typical workload and burst to the cloud for exceptional periods. That way, you’re not paying for capacity that you need only on an occasional basis.  A cloud or hybrid solution also makes sense when you’re doing application development or prototyping. If you have 10 different initiatives, you don’t want to build a production-ready infrastructure for the nine that might fail, so the cloud gives you the flexibility to experiment without a large capital investment. But there are still a lot of valid reasons for on-premise solutions, including more control over security and service levels. It’s a matter of what’s best for your specific organization and IT environment. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.  As organizations migrate to ITaaS models, internal IT teams will evolve into service brokers who define which cloud approach (private or public) is best based on business goals and needs such as compliance and governance standards.

How has the transition from a storage reseller to a full-service provider of data center products shaped your approach to the cloud?

“The cloud has given us new opportunities to assist our customers”

The cloud has given us new opportunities to assist our customers in optimizing their infrastructure and responding to the needs of their business units. Even the largest organizations struggle with their journey to the cloud. They need a roadmap, including an assessment of their current technology environment and business needs, to determine their cloud strategy and align it with their workloads.  They need to understand the pros and cons of public, private and hybrid cloud, and where each of those options might fit into their environment. They need a plan for reclaiming rogue IT workloads from the public cloud and bringing them back in-house, including service catalog design and deployment allowing business users to request the IT services they need and get them quickly. They need to automate provisioning of those services – typically through a private or hybrid cloud – as well as new processes to support their new service broker role. Datalink has an active cloud service management practice that addresses these needs, plus a fully functional cloud demonstration environment called Datalink on Demand Labs that allows customers to explore common cloud use cases before they invest and implement.  In short, the cloud is central to a lot of the newer services we are providing to help our customers take advantage of today’s data center transformation movement.

As the cloud industry is rapidly evolving, what are your plans for Datalink for the next 5-10 years?

The migration to cloud and ITaaS has implications spanning multiple fronts, including people, process, and technology. Transformations of this nature are no small feat for IT organizations that still need to address day-to-day business and operational needs. Datalink has expanded its consulting services organization, as well as its cloud and ITaaS portfolio, to help organizations make a smooth transition. Beyond expanding its consulting services organization, Datalink has also expanded its portfolio of services and solutions. By doing so, Datalink is positioned to help organizations plan, execute, and monitor their transformation process and offload some of the level of effort from IT organizations.  Our role in cloud service management is going to grow. Gartner has predicted that there will be a whole industry of cloud service brokers, including third-party companies that will help enterprises navigate, integrate, consume and extend their cloud services As the industry landscape continues to evolve and shift Datalink will continue to advise our customers on the best strategies, practices, and solutions for their organizations.

In such a crowded market, what sets you apart from the competition?

Depth, breadth and service. We can meet our customers’ infrastructure and service needs at every stage of the data center lifecycle from strategic planning through implementation and support. That means our customers don’t need to go to multiple providers, and it also ensures that our consultants and infrastructure and deployment specialists work hand in hand to deliver and implement the best solutions for the customer’s environment. We have dedicated teams focused on professional, managed, support and advanced services, including data center relocation, migration services, business continuity/disaster recovery, and cloud service management such as service catalog development, cloud readiness assessment and overall cloud strategy. We are truly full-service. Very few other providers are.

Gartner often talks about the ‘hype cycle’ of big data. Do you agree that this is applicable or is there more to the story?

Placing big data in Gartner’s hype cycle is absolutely valid. There is no question that big data is going to have tremendous value, but the market is young and it needs to shake out before enterprises can take full advantage of it. Datalink continues to help organizations scale and optimize their storage and disaster recovery infrastructures to support big data initiatives. Our portfolio will evolve as the market evolves.