UPDATED 13:20 EDT / JUNE 09 2014

When it comes to cloud, “the biggest challenge is bandwidth” | #IBMedge

Every year, IBM recognizes their most successful partners with Winning Edge awards. This year, ProActive solutions received a Winning Edge storage award. Phil Schamberger, Director of Technical delivery at ProActive Solutions, stopped by theCUBE to talk  storage, cloud, and IBM provider-partner-client relationships with hosts John Furrier and Dave Vellante.


ProActive investments in storage garner IBM recognition



Responding to Furrier’s question about the Winning Edge award, Schamberger said ProActive Solutions was recognized for their performance as a storage partner: “We received a winning edge storage award for growth and vitality in that save. We had 700 percent year to growth.”  This growth, he explained, “is pretty significant.” He added, “We sold a lot of IBM XIV.”

Schamberger attributes his company’s rapid growth to the investments ProActive has made in storage. Schamberger says ProActive Solutions “invested a lot in our human capital, with certification and new hires,” particularly strategic hires that” really helped grow that [storage] space.” Flash storage is an important area of growth, one that ProActive Solutions wasn’t even thinking about “two or three years ago,” says Schamberger. But recently they’ve made additional investments in Flash storage, including “trial equipment where we can take that to customer’s sites, coupled with IBM SAND volume controller. [They have] had good success with our proof of concept equipment.”

  • Strong provider and client relationships 

Another aspect of ProActive Solution’s growth, commented Schamberger, is their partner relationship with IBM and their offerings to customers. On the IBM side, some of their System Engineers are “Some of them were ex-IBMers that had good relationships and we’ve leveraged that the best we can.” ProActive’s role as an IBM partner and their relationships with clients. ProActive Solutions offers “education and consoling” in addition to trusted IBM products. “We’re able to do incentives and rebates,” Schamberger added, “and bring education to the customer’s site.” A “client-oriented and customer sensitive” attitude, he said, gives ProActive Solutions “a different dynamic.”


How ProActive Solutions adjusts when IBM makes changes


Furrier was interested to learn how ProActive Solutions is handling IBM’s recent changes, particularly how the “the X86 transition to Lenovo” would affect ProActive’s footprint, customers, and their partnership with IBM. Schamberger replied that ProActive Solutions already works with Lenovo “in the laptop/desktop area” and also considers themselves a “good X86 partner.” These previous relationships, and the similarities between the two businesses — “the X86 platform is almost like the Lenovo mainframe,” Schamberger commented — mean that ProActive Solutions is not uneasy about the transition.

  • The balance between “re-tooling” and maintaining current relationships “we are re-tooling.” 

As a rapidly growing company, Dave Vellante asked, “How are you transforming?” Schamberger replied that ProActive Solutions has its sights set on some of the new and most exciting technologies, since “the hardware business isn’t quite what it was 12 months ago.”

In particular, he mentioned that ProActive Solutions is excited about IBM SoftLayer offerings and therefore “getting [their] education and certifications in that space.” Furthermore, Schamberger said, “We’re working on the storage as a service platform” and also “getting more cloud-friendly, more software-oriented.”

He pointed out, though that ProActive Solutions’ “success in the storage business isn’t a fluke.” Many of their customers “still plan on owning and will own their assets for years to come.” ProActive Solutions has to strike a careful balance. Schamberger says, “We’re going to try to continue to grow and leverage those relationships, but we’re not going to sit still and let the cloud world pass us by.”


Clients wrestle with cost when it comes to cloud


#IBMEdgeClient interest in the cloud, Schamberger says, is evident in their behavior. Many enterprise-size clients, he said, are “hiring cloud specialists,” which leads him to “believe that sooner or later they’re going to have cloud workloads.” At present, though, Schamberger believes that there hasn’t been even more wide spread adoption because of the challenges cloud presents: “I think the biggest challenge is the bandwidth […] Bandwidth and security. That’s typically been the common conversation I’ve had.” Many clients, Schamberger says, “are still on that edge […] but most of them are dabbling.”

He cited the example of a ProActive client, “a large bottler,” that has an “initiative that they’ll price every new workload, new requirement on cloud infrastructure as well as internal. So public and private. It’s a bake-off.” The results of these trials, Schamberger explained, show that “owning the assets is still a little bit cheaper than cloud.”

It’s not all necessarily about cost though. A lot of clients, Schamberger mentioned, have an attitude he sums up as, “We don’t want to be in the IT business, we want a couple really smart guys that can architect in the cloud and get our applications in the cloud, get us cloud-ready as a business.” The flexibility and agility that the cloud offers may win out in the end, especially as the difference in price gets “closer and closer between buying the assets vs. going to the cloud.” In fact, Schamberger says, “internal cloud is almost a given now.”

  • ProActive support for client’s cloud aspirations

Schamberger admits that when it comes to cloud and DevOps, he started out skeptical: a few years ago cloud was just a buzz word. But now, he says, “Even large workload like SAP, I see a lot of large database companies are still providing services in the cloud now.”

These developments have lead him to push for “a check-list or line items” that ProActive Solutions can use when communicating with clients that are trying to move to cloud. It would be one, he says, that would allow ProActive Solutions to quickly determine whether a client’s application is cloud-ready, perhaps a simple set of “five things we need to make sure it can do to be ported to the cloud — and once it’s there it should be fine, but those are the types of things we’re trying to do to adapt to those requirements that customers are coming to use with.”

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