On a roll

During a recent visit to the region, Ken Willett, VP and managing director for Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa at HP spoke to NME on the growth of datacentres in the region and how HP is tapping into the market.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  November 14, 2007

During a recent visit to the region, Ken Willett, VP and managing director for Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa at HP spoke to NME on the growth of datacentres in the region and how HP is tapping into the market.

How has HP changed in the region recently and where is it heading as far as targeting enterprises are concerned?

HP in the region has a long history. The last couple of years have been fairly exciting times. In terms of the marketplace, obviously with the amount of investments going on in the Middle East and Gulf region, it represents an immense opportunity for companies like HP to really bring our portfolio to bear. We look at the Middle East marketplace and we try to break it down into various constituents - either geographically or market segment wise - and decide best where we can prioritise and apply our efforts. From an enterprise perspective, we are going certainly in the direction of communications, media, entertainment, telcos. There has always been a very strong presence of HP in that marketplace and now we are seeing both the consolidation and expansion of Middle East players and worldwide players coming into the region. This I think, in terms of dynamics of the marketplace, presents a great opportunity for us since we are very well positioned with our solutions and platforms. That's clearly an area of focus for us.

The challenge is to dramatically consolidate the number of datacentres, apps etc that HP has and ultimately save money and make the organisation a lot more efficient.

The banking area has traditionally not been an area of HP's primary strength. But we see apps now with the growth of banks around the region and we are already engaged with several large customers here. The overall investment happening in the region and the growth of banking is another opportunity for HP.

There is also a very important fast growing segment called small and medium businesses. Around the region more and more of our focus is going to be around how are we going to increase our geographic coverage - our presence in various countries - so that we can be closer to and take advantage of some of the activities in the SMB space.

That is one area - we have been traditionally in the enterprise space - but it is certainly one of the focus areas - to offer solutions to the marketplace in the Middle East in general since the markets are expanding in growth and supporting and helping SMBs to be also able to contribute to growth at the same rate.

How is HP tapping into demand related to datacentres? What are you doing to address it in terms of products and personnel?

I was having a discussion with John our new MD last week on the topic and you can actually expand that to a strategy relative to what HP defines as outsourcing or managed services. But as you point out given the tremendous growth companies - primarily its a phenomenon in the region and the Emirates especially - where it is not so much a question of HP or any other multinational going in and operating someone's datacentre for them but really greenfield opportunities. This is certainly important for HP and an advantage for us because if you look at our core strategy within TSG a major element - the buzzword - is the lights out datacentre. We call it the next-gen datacentre, building blocks enhanced by software capability and the BTO (business technology optimisation). So we have a whole strategy and a team of specialists whose role in life is to into a customer's environment, understand their requirements and design next-gen datacentres. And that can be done through the path of virtualisation systems management software, but some of the capabilities that HP has today in areas like blades goes back to the actual physical layout of the datacentre, around core elements of cooling. These are obviously very important topics here in the ME. It is not just the right IT configuration for the datacentre or even physical requirements and capabilities, and HP can play a role in both areas.

Getting back to outsourcing, at HP we combine our datacentre design and implementation skill sets, put the greenfields in place and then meet this high level interest in not just design datacentres for customer but ultimately to operate it. So you have not just the design and implementation but ultimately the operational bit. And that's an area where in the outsourcing perspective the ME is a bit different from other parts of the region and western Europe where the drift in the model is you go in and you take over somebody's datacentre. We also do transformational exercises where we take over a number of customer datacentres consolidate them, transform them and then provide better services at lower costs.

In the ME it's not just a question of taking over the datacentres because in many cases they don't exist here. So you design and build it for them and then work the management piece. That is quite interesting. We are seeing that with immense investment happening in the ME, companies are saying design this datacentre for me and by the way, I don't have an IT department today so why don't you just be my IT department? You make that leapfrog from not just design and implementation but into the managed services piece, which is a very attractive market for us not only since it ties to our core elements in designing datacentres and managing and outsourcing but also because we have to look at how to establish that capability sooner rather than later.

How much success have you had with your managed services offering in the region?

I am not sure about the ME but certainly we have had some success in Western Europe (WE) and in South Africa. Here in the ME we are in discussions with a number of customers - not at liberty to name them right now - we have been contacted by a number of large ME or Emirates, Saudi Arabian customers to explore HP's capability to do exactly what we were talking about. And I would hope in the next six to nine months we will see the first fruits of success.

Will you be partnering to offer managed services?

That will depend on the country, time and opportunity. Part of the reason for HP's success in the services space is that we find and work with major local partners who can complement our capabilities. I think when it comes to managed services or outsourcing around the region we will pursue a strategy that increases our own capabilities. We will put up our infrastructure to support multinational customers where we have taken over some of their IT capabilities. Another one is to partner with somebody here locally - specifically in the Middle East over the next 12 to 18 months. We will increase our capabilities either through a lot more partnerships with companies or by increasing the company's own footprint capabilities.

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