IT Life: From Science Fiction To Science Fact

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Sean McAvan, managing director at NaviSite Europe, a provider of managed hosting solutions and app services, swerved a life of science fiction writing to make a real technological difference

1. Tell us about your company and your areas of expertise.

NaviSite is a managed service provider that is part of Time Warner Cable – a Fortune 120 company. We’ve been in the business of managing complex infrastructure and application projects for our customers for more than16 years; our services range from colocation through managed hosting, managed application services and cloud services. NaviSite was an early adopter of virtualisation technology and then cloud; our cloud portfolio has grown from Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings to replication and disaster recovery in the cloud, delivering compliance solutions and security solutions in the cloud as well Desktop-as-a-Service and Enterprise mobility solutions.

My career in IT has spanned 20 years, with experience in telecoms, Internet service provision as well as complex IT solution provision within a managed service provider environment.

Sean McAvan2. What’s the favourite IT project that you’ve ever worked on?

My favourite recent project was the data centre move we undertook last year, moving all of the UK customers from the then existing London facilities to new sites in Woking and Redhill. It was a highly complex project for the NaviSite team; which meant communicating the move with over 200 customers, co-ordinating activities with numerous suppliers, integrating third party services as well as extended NaviSite and Time Warner Cable resources to ensure that this was a success.

The project resulted in two new data centres being designed and built, four new cloud nodes being deployed; 200 customers in upgraded facilities as well providing a base for NaviSite to provision new cloud, networking and security technologies in a premium environment. There were lots of obvious challenges with many late nights, weekend working and last minute changes to accommodate throughout the transition. However, it was exciting as we had new facilities and new technology to deploy which provides our customers with better options for their IT services, in higher grade facilities. It was especially pleasing as we managed to meet the high demands of our customers and also managed to complete the project on time and in budget.

3. What technologies were you involved with 10 years ago?

Some of the technologies which my business was involved with 10 years ago included hosting Windows 2003, Lotus notes, JD Edwards and Peoplesoft. We were also involved in the early steps into mobility by providing managed Blackberry services as well as hosting the Opera browser which was used by Blackberry’s. Although the technologies that we support has changed significantly, the quality of staff we employ and the focus on the customer has remained constant throughout.

4.What do you expect to be using in 10 years’ time?

It’s possible that technology change is now progressing so quickly as computing power increases, combined with the billions of human minds connected to the web, that predictions become near impossible…but I’m certain that whatever it is, that the new solutions will be based on cloud technology…and I’d like to believe powered mainly by green energy. It’s likely that by 2025 almost everything will be connected with the IoT far larger than today’s internet.

5. What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?

I’d say that transformation and the move to IT as a service brokerage is probably the most common and biggest challenge that I see both internally and within our customer environments. The IT department will have to start moving away from managing underlying infrastructure and applications and learn to become business managers, developing and managing relationships with their SaaS, PaaS and IaaS providers. This will enable IT to become an enabler for the business, rather than operating as a cost centre and can greatly increase business agility. It also means members of the IT team who were tied up in undertaken the day to day repetitive IT tasks can spend more time working with heads of business functions to deliver on business transformation projects. However, this transition, although absolutely key to business success, introduces the challenge of acquiring and developing a new skill set for IT staff.

6. To cloud or not to cloud?

Definitely ‘to cloud’, but exactly what, when and how to cloud depends on individual business needs and specific use cases. The business needs will also drive who you deploy with.

7. Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?

My tech hero is Tim Berners Lee, who’s best known as the inventor of the Worldwide Web. He made his ideas available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. Later the World Wide Web Consortium; which Tim founded to improve the quality of the web; decided that its standards should be based on royalty-free technology, so that they could easily be adopted by anyone. It’s thanks to Tim’s work and his passion to make the technology freely available that the internet is so ubiquitous and now provides all of us with a great base to live our lives and to operate our businesses very differently.

My tech villains are anyone who uses aggressive patent ownership to stop innovation.

8. What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?

My favourite device ever made was the Atari 800 XL which gave me thousands of hours of fun when I was kid. And the devices that I use the most right now is my iPhone and my Kindle.

9. Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?

Apart from NaviSite, I think that Kickstarter is an amazing business. Kickstarter is a global crowdfunding platform based in the US. The company’s aim is to help bring creative projects to life. It’s reportedly received more than $1.5 billion in pledges from 7.8 million backers to fund 200,000 creative projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, and food-related projects. I think that it’s great to see that level of innovation being supported and to have a platform which brings people who want to support entrepreneurship and innovation alongside the creative minds behind them.

10. What did you want to be when you were a child?

A science fiction writer or a comic illustrator!


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