Vice President, EMC Corporation, Mrs. Patricia Florissi, who was in Nigeria recently, spoke with Emma Okonji on how EMC would drive technology growth in Nigeria, through cloud, big data and trust. Excerpts:
This is the first time EMC is bringing its technology forum to an emerging black African market, and it chose to hold it in Nigeria. What are the motivating factors?
EMC is a global leader in enabling businesses, providing services that transform business operations, and delivers Information Technology (IT) as a service. Fundamental to this transformation is cloud computing. We accelerate the journey to cloud computing, helping IT departments to store, manage, protect and analyse their cost valuable asset in a more agile, trusted and cost efficient way.
We have been investing in the African continent for some time now, and we have had our marketing team in Nigeria that surveyed the Nigerian market. From the report we got from the marketing team, Nigeria has untapped potential that we can leverage on to further promote business in the continent, using the Nigerian market, hence we decided to hold our first technology conference and exhibition in Nigeria, from where we can penetrate the rest of the emerging black African countries.
The Nigeria market is matured and it is in line with EMC vision, hence our presence in Nigeria.
So what is EMC all about and what solution does it offer to the public?
EMC is a trademark of EMC Corporation in the United States and other countries. We deliver leading technology to allow our customers capitalise on the three biggest opportunities that modern day technology offers, which are Cloud, Big Data and Trust. In the area of cloud, the biggest opportunity for customers today is to modernise their data centre and Information Technology (IT) infrastructure to capitalise on the economics of cloud. Cloud is not just about architectural design, but a process that teaches how investors could operate their IT environment in a different way. It gives a standardised design of the underlying architecture that will help investors operate with lesser costs. It tells you that if an investor virtualises operations, he or she will be able to maximise the investments because it will help investors move loads and have less idling time from a storage perspective. It also tells the investor that should they use a converged infrastructure, they would not need to spend time assembling parts of an IT, by putting the server together with the storage, but would rather have time developing the application because the system comes preconfigured. It will also help the investors to use less people to operate and still achieve best results. That is about cloud and how it reduces operating costs.
Again there is the element of Big Data, which also helps in increasing revenue. EMC solutions help the user to better understand its customers and what the preferences are and what kind of market segment should be focused on. The third opportunity is about trust. It is important for investors to ensure that their data is protected and their infrastructure is continuously available 99.9 per cent. It is also important for the investor to be rest assured that the infrastructure is well protected and it is not about putting a firewall to protect data, and that is what trust is all about.
You just spoke about three pillars of opportunities that EMC is bringing to the table, which are Cloud, Big Data and Trust. Now what is the significance of Big Data to the investors in Nigeria?
There is a huge benefit that more industries are emerging and if you take a look at some of the developed countries, especially those industries that have made a lot of investments in legacy technology, you will discover that they have made huge investments in data warehouses and database, but these are not adequate to support the volume of big data, and its operational speed. Those companies therefore, have need to look at all the legacy investments they have had in the past, and think of what they will do in the future by getting rid of the existing legacy investment and migrate to the big data environment.
Some will be thinking if they should co-exist or do away with big data and continue with the legacy investment. But in a country like Nigeria where certain industries are emerging, there is a huge opportunity to start right and start well, because there are no existing legacy investments, which means that in such industries, people have the opportunity in a very short period of time, to outperform other industries in the developed countries. This is because it has become a comparative advantage over developed countries because investors can capitalise on the advantages of big data without being penalised by the legacy investments that already exist. It will take some time for companies with big data to move ahead with it, while considering the legacy investments. But for the emerging markets like Nigeria, it is easier to start from a point because no much burden of legacy investments exist. Some of the young industries in America were able to outperform older nations because their starting points were not the same with the older nations that started technology development before America. So the starting point of any investor in an emerging market is a competitive advantage to do well and outperform already existing industry.
As an emerging market, big data becomes very significant because they are starting from a fresh point and will have the opportunity to start well based on their needs and the lesson they have learnt from the shortfalls of other developed nations. A nation may have started technology development 20 years ago and had been in the learning stage all through the 20 years, but the emerging nation will have a starting point that is different from the developed nation and will have opportunity to even overtake the developed nation that started long ago. These are some of the opportunities in the emerging markets like Nigeria that we are talking about.
As an emerging market, Nigeria has the opportunity to leapfrog and decide not to start from the same point where the developed nations started from, and that is the beauty of an emerging market, because it will avoid the pitfalls of developed nations, since its desire is to get the best result.
Based on your explanation, are you saying that the success level of technology adoption by any nation largely depends on the need of the country and its choice of starting point?
Absolutely yes and this depends on the kind of technology adoption the country decides to settle for. There is need for an emerging nation to adopt state-of-the-art technology that will actually boost development in that country. Emerging countries must adopt technologies that will positively impact on its growth and development, and this must be the next generation technology. For example, if an investor decides to invest in the selling of mobile devices in regions where there are no cell phones, it may benefit such investor to invest in cell phone technology that is of 10 generations ago. All that the investor is doing is to establish communication, as long as people can make and receive calls. But if an investor is looking at investing in database infrastructure, it is not okay for such investor to invest in old generation database infrastructure because it means it is starting from where other investors had started years back. The investor therefore has the advantage position to outsmart those that had already been in the business and are probably still using old generation infrastructure.
When it comes to IT development and investment, it must be state-of-the-art technology.
There have always been growing concerns over trust in technology investment. How trusted is EMC solution?
I simply say that the best way to maintain trust is to learn from other people, and what makes them successful. In the September 2011 attack on United State, all organisations that trusted in EMC and had their data kept with EMC, did not suffer loss of data from that attack, where so many lives and data were lost. The reason was that we were not envisaging the attacks, but when they came, all our data were well protected because of the continuous availability and high resilience in our technology, in terms of data recovery solution that EMC has. For us at EMC, trust is a combination of three components, which include continuous availability, which means that when data is saved in a particular location, it is automatically saved in other locations. The second is advanced backup. People that still do backup in tapes are likely to face challenges because it is no longer safe to do so. We do backup automatically in other locations, and the third part is the advanced security. Our defence security does not stop at building firewalls, but we also ensure that we monitor the security of the investments in three parts, namely building firewalls for protection, monitoring the behaviour in the data and the third is to respond quickly in order to address unforeseen situations as they happen. That is the best way to develop trust, when data is safe always.
How will you address investors’ fear of insecurity over storage of big data in the cloud?
I will like to differ here that cloud is same thing as public cloud. This is not true because there are cloud solutions and there are cloud solutions. The first thing that we at EMC believed was that there is always a data that big organisations will always want to maintain in their private cloud. A private cloud simply means that when the investor builds a data centre, it mirrors the functionality of a cloud. So EMC actually built its own cloud in South Carolina, where all our data centres sit. We did that because we needed to gain the economics of the cloud. These are principles that any investor has to follow in order to get the most out of infrastructure. Our cloud infrastructure is 100 per cent virtualised and secured and the investors do not need to worry about insecurity.
How will you advise investors to avoid different silos of operations in order to save cost?
That is where the difference in the starting point of a business comes into play. For those that started many years ago, they are likely to have many silos of operations in their organisations. The best option for new and old investors, is to think of virtualisation and for the older investors, they will begin migration of their different silos of operations into a virtualised infrastructure that is transparent.
You spoke about flash innovation as a way forward for new and existing investors. Could you shed more light on what you mean by flash innovation?
EMC is one of the leaders in technology innovation that recognised how innovation would be in the whole idea of data storage. The truth is that, traditionally speaking, all the algorithm and operations in data storage have been done to minimise the number of rotations that are carried out on daily basis. For example, when you have a disc driver, and when you have to locate information, you have to rotate disc to find the right track.
So people spend generations putting the data in the right way and if they have rows in the database, it means they will store the rows one after the other, and the truth is that they will keep accessing information from one row to another. Flash innovation is therefore the technology that addresses the rigorous process of accessing stored information.
In Nigeria, we have inadequacy in broadband distribution because most of the broadband capacities are lying at the shores of the country. Will this inadequacy affect your solution?
When I was in the university in Brazil, we had issue with constant power outage, so we were thought how to save our files as often as possible as the first step to address the challenge. Similarly, if there are limited bandwidth capacities at the last-mile, the best thing to do as an IT company is to work around the situation. In EMC, we can create a content delivery network that will address the inadequacy of broadband capacities in the hinterlands. It is not my core competence to fix the inadequacy of broadband capacities in the hinterland, but it is my core competence to create measures through which I could deliver my services.
EMC is working on the idea of software defined storage and software defined data centre to allow the investor to work very closely with telecoms operating companies, to push data closer to the hinterlands, so that data could be accessed faster and easier.
Many investors believe in good technology, but they are often scared with its huge cost. How affordable is the solution that EMC is bringing to the table?
Affordability here is relative because it all depends on the return on investment.
In Nigeria, we have insecurity issues that are giving the government and its citizen sleepless nights. How will big data solution address the insecurity situation?
I see big data as a technology that can be used to analyse many aspects of businesses, one of them being related to human breaches and vulnerability. Big data is not a solution to insecurity situation in any country.
What is your assessment of the technology forum you just had in Nigeria?
First of all, it was wonderful because the Nigerian people welcomed us warmly and showed a lot of interests in our solution. We organise this kind of conference annually across 56 countries of the world and with the addition of Nigeria, it has become 57 countries across the globe, where we hold our annual technology conferences and exhibitions.
It is a standard forum where EMC treats its customers the same way.
What is your message for Nigeria?
I will want to say that EMC is serious about developing Nigeria technologically, and our focus on cloud, big data and trust, will be well exhibited in Nigeria, just the same way we do in other regions of the world where we have our presence registered. A lot of people have lived in boring times in the past, but today we are in the middle of technology innovation and that is what EMC is driving with big data, cloud and trust. One thing that we cannot complain in this our generation, is about being bored, because the technology for innovation and transformation is here with us.
Patricia Florissi is the Vice President of EMC Corporation, a global information technology (IT) company that is enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver IT as a service.
Her responsibilities include defining mid and long term initiatives that strengthen and expand EMC’s technical strategic positioning in the IT market.
Patricia also acts as a liaison between EMC and its numerous customers.
She joined EMC in February 2005 via the System Management Arts (SMARTS) acquisition as a distinguished technologist Ionix Business Unit, and rose to the position of Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for Ionix in November 2005. She was appointed Strategic Initiative Leader for Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) in August 2008, where she was responsible for leading the research, design, execution, and communication of EMC’s GRC vision and strategy. Patricia was appointed Americas CTO in 2010, Americas and Europe, Middle and East Africa (EMEA) CTO in 2011, and the Global CTO in 2012.
Before joining EMC, Patricia was the Vice President of Advanced Solutions at Smarts in White Plains in New York. She holds a Ph. D in Computer Science from Columbia University in New York; an MBA at the Stern Business School in New York University; a Master’s and Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Science from Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Brazil.