Andrew Stern, CEO, Sungard Availability Services
Andrew Stern was appointed CEO of Sungard Availability Services – which provides disaster-recovery and business-continuity services – in June this year. Here I talk to him about his vision for the business and where availability services and cloud computing overlap. There’s also more background on our recent exclusive that Sungard will soon do public cloud services for all organisations.
Q. Why do you think you were picked for this job?
A. I was chairman and CEO of US Internetworking, which was the very first ASP [application service provider]. The term ASP was actually coined to describe US Internetworking. I sold that company to AT&T in 2006 and then ran their hosting business before I came here.
Q. So what’s your vision for Sungard Availability Services?
A. As you might imagine we have some plans around cloud. We’ve been doing private cloud type services for about a year but our public cloud offering has really been more SME focused. We’re now working on an enterprise cloud for real, for all enterprises, which actually gives them all the things they need, so it’s truly expandable, has all the security and auditability and so on.
Q. You’re saying public cloud providers don’t offer these things today?
A. I think it’s in a state of flux. Different folks have different levels of capability. But with Sarbanes Oxley and other compliance requirements there are things I need to be able to do in the cloud, and many organisations don’t yet feel comfortable with what they are being offered. The level of auditability, the change control auditability, certification – these things are not quite there yet.
Q. You think that companies perceive these to be failings with current cloud providers – that their reputation is for less than enterprise-grade security, auditability?
A. Oh no, that’s not quite what I’m saying. Amazon has been very successful doing this but they have mostly been selling to smaller companies, development shops and so on. Only in the last few months are you starting to see serious applications being delivered for this environment. I don’t want to denigrate what Google or Amazon have done [with cloud] because they have done a great job, mostly for smaller companies or for development organisations in larger firms. But I don’t think it is purely reputational, I think it’s real. This technology has got to mature.
Q. And as well as adding better auditability and the like, what do you see Sungard Availability Services bringing to the table?
A. As well as those sorts of things we think the other key thing is integration. We think very few organisations will move exclusively to the cloud, so there will be a need to accommodate cloud that integrates with the owned infrastructure. Companies are not doing big bang, they are doing things incrementally.
Q. OK you’ve said that you are making a bigger push in public cloud services for all sizes of organisations. When? Will we start to see some of these services in the next week, next quarter, or in the next 12 months?
A. You’ll see a set of services from us inside of 12 months. I can’t be more specific than that just yet.
Q. OK. But why do you think you can get these services right where others haven’t?
A. Think about our heritage. We have all the technologies known to man because our heritage has been that we will recover whatever you have to keep you running in the event of a disaster. We’ve been dealing with that complexity for 30 years.
Q. What about your more traditional disaster recovery and business continuity services – is there anything new and interesting happening there?
A. Actually there is. We want to be involved earlier in the discussion, to help companies understand their needs with regards continuity, not only start the conversation when they are looking at their recovery plans. We’ll have more people doing consultancy to help start that discussion earlier.
Q. You’ll be hiring more consultants then?
A. We will in the UK, certainly. I don’t want to be the next IBM or Accenture. But more and more organisations are realising that what’s key is not disaster recovery but availability. It might be that the key for a CIO is keeping shelves stocked, or keeping a website live. Whatever it is, we want to be in the discussion that helps to ensure round-the-clock availability of the most important elements in that business, whatever they may be. We have 10,000 customers, one third of them in Europe. Disaster recovery is pretty much a given (though it’s scary how few ever test it). But we need to move the focus from infrastructure to services, and from recovery to availability. Insurance gives you cash back; our services give you customers back.