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An interview with R. Brooks Borcherding, CEO of NaviSite on Cloud Computing
2010-09-24

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R. Brooks Borcherding,
CEO of NaviSite

In this exclusive interview, we talk to R. Brooks Borcherding, CEO of NaviSite, about the rapid emergence and adoption of Cloud computing, current trends, the growing market of enterprise-class cloud, hosting, and application services, and much more. Enjoy!

Would you tell us a few words about yourself and your professional background? How long have you been involved in the cloud computing space?

I’m an engineer by training, but my entire professional career has involved providing IT solutions for large enterprise customers.  I consider myself a “technologist” as I’ve always been drawn to the promise evolving technologies represent for corporations to differentiate themselves in highly competitive environments.  That was really the main motivation for joining NaviSite in April 2009, as I believed the rapid emergence and adoption of Cloud Computing represented a dramatic and unique opportunity for the company.  I would say my interest and experience in the cloud computing space really evolved throughout my career dating back to concepts such as Rapid Application Development at Anderson Consulting and VoiP at Avaya, but it was really my experience with SaaS via the WebEx acquisition and integration at Cisco that opened my eyes to the potential of this new IT consumption paradigm.  Then with the launch of the Cisco Unified Compute platform and the concept of providing infrastructure-as-a-service the whole cloud computing framework came into place.

NaviSite has been in the business for over 10 years now. Can you please share with our readers how NaviSite started and how it grew to what it is today.

NaviSite has a long history of providing enterprise managed services ranging from complex hosted solutions up the stack including a complete suite of managed application services for a wide range of messaging and ERP applications from Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM.  Our company’s success is built on our breadth and depth of skills complemented by our commitment to our customers.  As a service provider, we understand the importance of a long-term customer relationship, and work closely with our customers to ensure that our service offerings exceed their enterprise requirements for security, reliability, agility, and cost. And, we use this deep understanding of enterprise requirements to shape, refine, and clearly differentiate new service offerings, most notably our leading managed cloud services. Though enterprises are quite interested in the transformational nature of cloud computing, which presents radically new – and more efficient – ways to procure and use computing resources, they are concerned about security, compliance, and reliability. We are sensitive to these concerns and have designed a unique enterprise-class managed cloud service that is backed by our proven customer service and unparalleled service level guarantees.

NaviSite has won plenty cloud computing and managed hosting awards over the years including HostReview's Best of 2009 Award. What sets you apart from the competition in this saturated market? How will NaviSite continue to differentiate itself?

Well to start I’m not sure I would agree with cloud being a saturated market as I believe we’re just experiencing the early adoption by large enterprise customers.  That’s what makes this such an exciting time for NaviSite and all our employees.  We have a unique opportunity to do something very special by seizing the early leadership position in the rapidly developing enterprise market.

Regarding our differentiation we pride ourselves on several unique qualities:  our suite of enterprise-class solutions, our quality of service, and our dynamic, entrepreneurial, customer focused culture.  Let me go into a bit of detail on each.

First, we offer innovative, enterprise-class solutions customized to meet the complex IT requirements of each customer.  Our solutions are robust, highly secure and tailor-made to exceed the performance, regulatory and compliance requirements of our customers.  For customers that want to keep some of their infrastructure and applications in-house, we provide hybrid cloud solutions that allow them to combine the cost-efficiencies of a virtual private cloud solution with their traditional dedicated implementations. We will continue to focus on enterprise customer requirements and will add new capabilities and offerings, such as premise-based private clouds, virtual desktops and automated provisioning (and deprovisioning) of resources based on application requirements.

Another differentiator is our commitment to providing customers with the highest level of support. We pride ourselves on our comprehensive monitoring and rapid response capabilities, as well as the collaborative and consultative relationships we establish and maintain with our customers. We work closely with customers to help define their requirements and implement solutions that provide immediate and measurable benefits at service levels they typically could not reach in-house.  We believe our industry leading churn (a measurement of customer turnover) is the best indicator of our success in delivering exceptional customer service.

Finally, NaviSite has a dynamic, entrepreneurial and customer focused culture that truly distinguishes us from all other companies in our space.

What do you consider progressive or unique about NaviSite’s offerings and services?

I would point to several things. First, we distinguish ourselves through our unique ability to deliver innovative, custom built solutions addressing the complex requirements of large enterprise customers.  To quote a recent customer “we never imagined service at this level…I wake up every morning thankful that we chose NaviSite.” 

With respect to our solutions, we are extremely proud of our innovation and, in particular, our leading AppCenter web-based cloud provisioning and management tool.  AppCenter provides our customers with a highly intuitive and feature-rich interface to manage their cloud environments.  For example, customers can literally spin up new services in minutes or convert test/dev environments to full production environments with a few simple point, click, and ‘drag and drop’ operations.   AppCenter is quickly becoming a “killer application” in the market, leading to significant new opportunities for NaviSite.  In addition, we complement AppCenter through our comprehensive suite of services that enable customers to invoke DR, backup, monitoring and/or management services with the click of a button.

Finally, on the managed applications side of our business, we provide complete, end-to-end support for our customers, including comprehensive 7x24 technical and functional application support – a real value for companies looking to reduce both their opex and capex.

Please, share more about the company’s data centers, and about the technology behind NaviSite? How many data centers does NaviSite own and operate, and where are they located?

We operate 10 data centers located in the US and UK, including 4 SAS 70 Type II certified data centers. All of our data centers provide resilient, secure, and high performance environments for enterprise IT infrastructure, business applications and mission critical data.

In addition, our data centers have multiple levels of physical security systems, including biometric palm scanners and card access at interior and exterior doors. We employ state-of-the-art uninterrupted power, HVAC, and fire protection technologies. And, we are proud of our membership in the The Green Grid, a global consortium of leading IT organizations focused on data center efficiency.

What technologies do you think have the biggest impact on the hosting industry today? Which technologies will be "hot" in the next couple of years?

Clearly, virtualization and automation technologies have had a powerful impact – enabling more efficient usage of computing resources. Looking ahead, we see more intelligence built into applications, allowing them to really leverage the elastic nature of the cloud. We envision applications that can monitor and assess their resource requirements and automatically provision and de-provision resources as required. We also see cloud becoming a transparent extension to IT and allowing IT workloads to move intelligently and seamlessly between corporate boundaries and cloud providers.

Have advancements in Virtualization and Cloud Computing made managing an organization's IT resource inventory easier or harder?

Much, much easier, but we recognize that virtualization and cloud computing are transformational technologies, which require IT departments to adopt a different mindset with respect to the procurement of resources and delivery of services. Once IT groups accept the clear benefits of cloud computing, they can eliminate much of the time-consuming tasks of equipment procurement and inventory management. In addition to providing a true IT utility environment, virtualized, cloud-based resources allow businesses to create self-service environments for the business thus eliminating the traditional IT bottleneck.  In summary, I see Cloud facilitating true IT transformation – enabling IT organizations to be much more dynamic, efficient and responsive to changing business priorities.

Describe the opportunity for large enterprises to leverage virtualization and cloud computing. Can smaller and mid-sized businesses take advantage of these benefits as well?

Let me answer these questions in reverse. Small and medium-sized businesses are among the early adopters of cloud computing technology. Confronted with the daunting costs of maintaining in-house IT resources, SMBs have recognized – and leveraged – the cost-efficiencies of the cloud. But, while SMB interest in the cloud has been, to a great extent, driven by economic necessity, larger enterprises have a more stringent set of cloud computing requirements, which have not really been adequately addressed.

The lack of true enterprise-class cloud services has created a real market opportunity – for true IT transformation and the fulfillment of cloud’s promise of more dynamic, responsive, and efficient IT capabilities. NaviSite is, in fact, getting a lot of traction with enterprises that have been on the sidelines waiting for enterprise-class cloud services.

Our solutions portfolio has been designed with large enterprise requirements in mind. First, there is the issue of scale for large enterprises, which may manage several in-house data centers. We have the resources – multiple, geographically distributed data centers – to replicate even the most complex in-house IT environments, which often include disaster recovery and business continuity requirements. We also offer flexible cloud implementations  that include on-premise private, as well as hybrid clouds.

At the same time, our managed cloud services offer clear economic benefits – large enterprises can trade capex and the associated financial headaches associated with depreciation schedules – for opex that is more closely aligned with requirements and usage. 

We also recognize that larger enterprises have greater sensitivity to security and regulatory compliance issues – which vary from industry to industry. We work closely with our enterprise customers to customize our cloud services to meet their specific requirements.

What kind of companies comprises your main clientele?

Our services are aimed at mid-market and large enterprises. Our customer base cuts across industry verticals including financial services, healthcare, higher education, government, travel, and retail/e-commerce.

Why would customers choose NaviSite over other managed hosting providers?

Our innovative cloud and hosting solutions are differentiated by their unique enterprise focus. We understand business requirements and concerns and work closely with customers to ensure our solutions address their specific performance, security, compliance, and management requirements.

When it comes to customer support, what kind of support should NaviSite customers expect? How many staff do you have in the customer support department?

Customers have 24/7/365 access to a support team of more than 300 technical and functional experts. We take pride in our support capabilities, and consider it one of our strongest competitive differentiators.

What should be expected from NaviSite in the coming months?

We’ll continue to provide innovative, market-leading enterprise-class cloud, hosting, and application services to our customers. We anticipate greater interest in – and accelerated uptake of – cloud-based services by enterprises that feel more comfortable about moving their more critical applications to the cloud. With our enterprise-focused solutions portfolio and sensitivity to customer requirements – we strongly believe we are well-poised to capitalize on this next wave of cloud computing.

Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview!

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