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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Park Place Technologies Talks Role of Hardware for the Cloud and Artificial Intelligence

interview parkplace 

Hardware is far from dead - it's rapidly evolving.  As the future of data centers become increasingly tied to software and cloud offerings, companies that service hardware are innovating to meet the new needs of their clients.  These shifts in the industry's landscape create both tremendous opportunity and emerging risk.  To find out more, I spoke with Chris Adams, President and Chief Operating Officer at Park Place Technologies, to talk about the role of hardware for the cloud, artificial intelligence and more.  

VMblog:  First, who is Park Place Technologies, and what does their history entail?

Chris Adams:  Park Place International (PPI) was founded in 1991 as a computer hardware reseller, offering OEM-certified spare parts to customers around Ohio. As customer needs grew and technology evolved, PPI looked to evolve its business plan model. Under the guidance and determination of Ed Kenty, Park Place Technologies (PPT) was born, shifting its focus to the business of data center hardware maintenance, while Park Place International remained systems integration-focused in the healthcare vertical. Ed saw an opportunity in developing a service model that would aid companies' IT departments when their hardware was no longer supported or manufactured. Park Place services OEM equipment, including EMC, IBM, HP, NetApp, Dell, Hitachi and legacy equipment, and has built its service team of professionals directly from the field. Although one of the most successful technology companies in the Cleveland area, Park Place has overcome many obstacles, but with each obstacle comes an opportunity. In terms of globalization, Park Pace began as a regional service-based solution. As the success of the company has grown, it was able to expand throughout the U.S., North America, and now five continents around the world. In today's ever-evolving implementation of virtualization, cloud services, and artificial intelligence, Park Place has continued to develop business strategy that emphasizes the critical role of hardware and the engineering skill required to keep America's businesses thriving. Its latest innovation is ParkView, a revolutionary new remote service that proactively detects equipment hardware faults 24/7 across storage, server, and networking products. 

VMblog:  What exactly is a third-party maintenance provider, and how does Park Place differ from the rest?

Adams:  In short, third-party maintenance is an alternative to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) support for IT hardware. Depending on the level of service selected, it can include everything from phone and online technical support to component coverage and replacement, on-site engineering assistance, remote monitoring, operating system support, global multi-vendor support, and even proactive maintenance and cost-management strategies. Third party maintenance is receiving more inquiring looks from IT professionals whose responsibilities extend to data center management and systems administration. Many third-party maintenance providers aim to substitute that support with a more affordable and many times higher performing option. Clients shouldn't, however, confine their conceptions of IT hardware support to what the OEMs have traditionally supplied. Some third-party maintenance providers go much farther. Park Place Technologies, for example, has devoted itself to a highly personalized, full service version of IT maintenance that outperforms the OEMs in terms of cost-savings, uptime, systems performance, and ROI on hardware investments. Most third-party maintenance providers will promise savings of at least 30% off of the OEM support price. At Park Place, our clients' average savings fall in the 40% to 70% range - at the more affordable end of the market. We also supply all the components clients expect from a maintenance solution - 24/7 remote monitoring, online and telephone-based troubleshooting, on-site repair, full component coverage, and certified spare parts among them. But we go further by providing unparalleled access to IT hardware and O/S experts. We impose no restrictions on accessing help with any hardware, software, or firmware issue, and we integrate greater engineering resources at each stage. Park Place also offers customizable services that clients can select "a la carte" on an array-by-array, server-by-server, router-by-router basis to create the precise solution they need. 

Being able to keep IT hardware past the manufacturers' end-of-support-life (EOSL) date is becoming increasingly important to IT organizations, especially when budgets are tight or certain equipment is highly reliable but non-strategic. Park Place delivers with post-EOSL contracts that enable clients to keep paid-for equipment in service for as long as they need it, without incurring added risk of downtime, spares shortages, and other problems. In summary, Park Place provides more affordable support than the OEM and helps clients keep the hardware in service until they've squeezed maximum value from their investment. Along the way, we also maximize uptime, reduce staff time devoted to maintenance, and provide insights that enhance performance, reliability, efficiency, and processes.

VMblog:  What does the future of the data center look like, and where does predictive maintenance and artificial intelligence fit in?

Adams:  The nirvana being sought is the autonomous data center, in which AI-driven infrastructure management (DCIM) software will monitor and control IT and facilities infrastructure, as well as applications, seamlessly and holistically. Estimates put average downtime losses at nearly $900,000 per week for a company with about 10,000 employees. A 2016 data center outage at Delta airlines cost $150 million in dollars and cents and had untold impacts on its reputation and customer relationships. Data centers are looking hard at predictive maintenance to help avoid these costs. The trend is a departure from reactive maintenance, which responds only when problems arise. It's also a step above scheduled maintenance, which tries to prevent downtime with regular interventions timed based on historical lifespan data. Predictive maintenance uses real-time data to anticipate issues before they happen. In fact, a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can identify potential issues and launch trouble tickets with no user intervention. Park Place recently debuted ParkView, a remote triage service platform that enables predictive detection and identification of hardware faults that occur within a data center. ParkView, powered by BMC technology, revolutionizes visibility into data center infrastructure and operations by identifying and reporting hardware faults, as well as potential faults, enabling faster response and problem resolution. ParkView predicts data center issues, then triages the fault and identifies the proper fix, allowing quick repairs to be made through Park Place's seamless integration with hardware maintenance service plans. Predictive maintenance is having a big impact and will be copied by more cloud operators and on-premises data centers in the coming months.

VMblog:  The growth of Infrastructure as a Service is seeing large migrations from on-premises data centers to public clouds, how does this change the industry's operational landscape?

Adams:  The cloud services market is a tough one. The dominance of a few hyperscale providers, the likes of AWS, has left other companies competing hard for the 20% or so of remaining market share that hasn't been gobbled up by the biggest of the big names. The search for any advantage in cost, efficiency, or reliability is on as these cloud service providers (CSPs) eke out a better position for their products. Increasingly, third party maintenance providers are becoming a resource for CSPs. There are several reasons why. 

A reputation for reliability is essential in the CSP market. Even minor downtime can lead to customer complaints and, if it's not fixed quickly, customer flight. Data center design, multiple redundant internet connections, hardware choices, and facilities management all have their role to play. The right third party maintenance provider can also contribute to greater success. Additionally, 24/7 remote monitoring tracks systems performance and identifies issues at the first sign. Finally, direct access to Level 3 engineering support means a fix is in the works immediately, without needing to pull internal staff away from other responsibilities.

A robust job market and a limited workforce trained in STEM fields, let alone the specifics of data center management and systems administration, has CSPs scrambling to find the employees they need. Third party maintenance providers can supplement internal staff and take the heat off HR's recruitment efforts. A company like Park Place Technologies maintains a deep bench of individuals with expertise in networking, storage systems, servers, even mainframes, and we have engineers with experience with the specifics of various OEM equipment, from Cisco and Juniper Networks to IBM and Dell-EMC.

VMblog:  How does hardware support cloud service provider initiatives as digital transformations continue to develop new virtual experiences for businesses in today's market?

Adams:  IT is in a position of trying to have it both ways, using the Cloud but keeping on-premises technology as well. In fact, a recent survey found such a hybrid approach characterizes 58% of organizations, with a remaining third of enterprises relying on 100% in-house technology. 

Although few businesses expect to ever move Cloud apps back to the data center, reservations about the Cloud mean they aren't rushing everything off-premises, either. In the "long live the data center" camp, some industry insiders point to declining costs of IT hardware as a key factor in increasing comfort with running strategic software assets on fully owned equipment. The trickle down of commodity servers, they say, is making data centers cheaper. We'd mention third party maintenance, which can save customers on hardware support, as another factor making on-premises technology more affordable as well.

On the whole, these savings are frequently Cloud-positive, freeing resources for innovation, much of which will happen in the Cloud. Thus, contrary to claims by some "Cloud only" advocates, IT executives who see the value in on-premises are not all "server huggers" who can't let go. The vast majority are realists who compare technologies on their merits and costs and are perfectly happy to select the right one for the job. Cautious or not, that's just smart thinking and we expect it to continue in 2018 and beyond.

VMblog:  Change means both new risks and new opportunities - what do these look like for Park Place and its customers?

Adams:  The warnings have been out there: Mobile and social accelerating customer interactions. Big data providing deep lakes of potential knowledge. Billions of connected gadgets bringing forth a global Internet of Things (IoT). The pressure is on as IT leaders compete to harness this incredible onslaught of information most rapidly and to the greatest advantage. As such a data-laden asteroid nears, the executives most comfortable within the traditional confines of core IT can be forgiven for wondering: Is this an evolution, a revolution, or an extinction-level event? That's because huge, laborious IT projects have become dinosaurs in this environment. They take too long and entail too much risk. Instead, IT is being urged to "fail fast and fix it." CIOs have realized they need to be the gateway to technology consumption and trusted advisors to the lines of business when it comes to their digital aspirations. But to achieve that position, the IT organizations they oversee must go faster. 

CIOs are looking in many directions in their quest to accelerate: agile, cloud, DevOps, and nearly everything as-a-Service (XaaS). Cisco put the entire trend under the helpful shorthand, Fast IT.

The tactics aside, there is a fundamental shift from owning the IT function to being a technology broker capable of giving the lines of business what the need, when and how they need it. IT itself must operate like a business and provide competitively priced services and insight to internal customers. A consistent infrastructure, software and automation, and a flexible, scaleable consumption model are required. Bringing these elements together in a secure, efficient architecture is a challenge. Too bad most CIOs struggle to marshal the necessary resources or even the corporate attention to define how much speed they need.

To operate at the velocity of today's business will require CIOs to carefully manage core IT, root out unnecessary customization, account for it in a manner that leaves room for innovation projects, and hand off some maintenance tasks to partners who can increase budget predictability, service quality, and uptime. The best part, once these adjustments are made, CIOs can spend more time in the fast lane on exciting projects that will define their companies and their careers. That's where Park Place comes in.


Chris brings over 20 years of experience to Park Place Technologies. As President & COO, Chris works side-by-side with other key leaders throughout the company managing day-to-day operations of Park Place. His key objectives include streamlining work processes and ensuring that all business initiatives and objectives are in sync. Chris focuses on key growth strategies and initiatives to improve profitability for Park Place, and is responsible for European and Asia-Pacific sales and service operations. Some of Chris' key accomplishments have been a reorganization of the Park Place delivery operations, developing strategies for hardware support in the storage space, completing multiple acquisitions both domestic and international, and launching Park Place's European and Asia-Pacific business units.

Prior to his work at Park Place Technologies, Chris worked for OnX Enterprise Solutions as the Vice President of U.S. Finance and Operations. Here, he helped acquire and integrate the technology services division of Agilysys. He also worked for CBIZ as the Vice President of Shared Services. He has also held various roles in accounting, finance, operations and business integration. With two active daughters, Chris spends most of his time at their extracurricular activities. He also enjoys playing golf and skiing. Chris received his BBA in Accounting from the University of Toledo and his MBA in Entrepreneurship from Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. He is a Certified Public Accountant and a winner of the Crain's Cleveland 40 Under Forty award in 2011. 

Published Monday, March 19, 2018 7:45 AM by David Marshall
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