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The partner’s take: Mainland Information Systems

The partner’s take: Mainland Information Systems 

At EMC World in Las Vegas, one topic that was discussed at length was the importance of agility. In his keynote address, EMC president and CEO Joe Tucci stated that businesses need to get on board with the digital agenda.

This concept, explained Tucci, is comprised of three building blocks – going on the offensive to focus on the art of software and writing it, transforming IT to a digital-based model to lower costs while working to improve agility and innovation, and devoting more time to enhancing digital security measures.

Getting in on the ground floor with the digital agenda is just as crucial for enterprises in general as it is for EMC’s IT channel partners, as is their ability to maintain a strong sense of agility, as discussed by Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz. But how will the digital agenda affect partners, and why must they become more agile? To find out, IT in Canada spoke to Ash D’Costa, chief technology officer for Mainland Information Systems.

IT in Canada: Why did Mainland Information Systems choose to partner with EMC?
We have had a long-withstanding partnership with EMC for many years. We started off as IBM business partners, but about 15 years ago, more (enterprises) started to move over to EMC, and those businesses began to cultivate a relationship with them as a result.

Ultimately, the reason why we continue to partner with EMC today is the number of relevant technologies that they currently have in their product portfolio. They’re no longer just a storage company; they’re into software, data protection, and various other things. They produce relevant solutions for our customers, and that is relevant to us.

ITIC: How has Mainland benefited from this partnership?
One of the key benefits is the fact that they are very relevant to our customers. I personally believe that EMC currently seems to have a knack for seeing what’s around the corner, and as a result, they’ve provided us with some very strategic information about the future, what customers are thinking, and what the industry is doing.

For us, we stay front and centre with our customers regarding products, and from a partnership standpoint, they’re very easy to work with. They provide us with the appropriate margins for our products, and they have a very good partner program, and they’re very helpful from a marketing standpoint with helping us get our name out there.

ITIC: In his keynote address, Joe Tucci discussed the building of the digital agenda. How does Mainland plan to approach this?
What we are planning to do is move forward with looking at more software partners. Right now, we’re a very strong infrastructure partner, but the idea is to move higher up into this layer with platforms, and then even further into applications one day.

For us, one of the platform technologies we’re currently investigating is Splunk. It’s a relevant technology solution, and it helps drive infrastructure sales. But it also brings real value with dashboards and other solutions, and it has been endorsed by EMC for infrastructure partners who want to diversify beyond infrastructure.

One of the key enablers in transforming IT would be to look at automation orchestration and the development of a service catalog. People are buying infrastructure components by the block or pod, and these are essentially commoditized offerings. The hardware is getting less relevant; it’s the software that lies on top of it that can transform IT.

Providing a service catalog delivery model is important to us, and we’re focusing on OpenStack in an attempt to try and provide the layer of orchestration that allows IT to be responsive and agile to their end users. Part of that involves looking at how they are currently organized. We have a technology component we’re trying to apply to people in an effort to try and transform IT.

Cyber security is something that is new to us right now. We had a security practice at one point, and it was largely based on data loss prevention technologies from Symantec and (others). Unfortunately, it didn’t take off. It was hard to get customers to pay for the service, and it was very specialized within the security field.

Security is something that we are evaluating. We are looking at more of an appliance-based approach. We’re partners with Cisco on that, and we’re allowing Cisco to lead the security side of things. We haven’t done much with RSA at EMC, so that’s something that we have to look into.

ITIC: Paul Maritz mentioned that businesses have to be able to develop and innovate in agile ways for their customers. Why is this important for EMC partners?
It’s important for EMC partners because IT departments are sometimes a bit slow in adopting this kind of change. It’s important for business partners to understand this change and where it’s coming from, and then help our customers get there.

Creating an agile approach to IT services is essential for business partners because of the fact that cloud is a big, up-and-coming solution for end users. IT has shown its relevance, and I fundamentally believe that IT needs to become a broker of services.

When end users want information technology or services, they look to IT first, and IT should be able to have all kinds of solutions to the problem. This means that they would become a broker not just of on-premises capabilities, but off-premises as well.

Business partners need to understand this so that they can actually provide a realistic road map for IT to act upon that.

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