Simplifying Complexity Interview with BlueCat CEO Michael Harris

Michael Harris - BlueCat CEO

DSA caught up with BlueCat CEO Michael Harris during the Malaysia leg of his recent trip to Asia. BlueCat is a company that builds solutions that sit within networking infrastructure. A major player in the DDI space (DNS, DCHP and IPAM) on the surface requiring a technical mind-set to understand, market and sell so we were interested to note that whilst Michael’s pre BlueCat experience is impressive he does not have a lot of “network” company experience.

Michael explained that at the time he reached agreement to join BlueCat they were looking for someone from a software solutions background to take the helm. In our view this was a smart decision. Whilst BlueCat’s product offerings may not have drastically changed in recent years. The landscape of the market they serve has transformed. Software defined networking, IPv6, Virtualisation, Cloud and IoT are all transforming the traditional datacentre where BlueCat “plays”. With these huge changes some companies have found their technologies losing relevance. That is not the case for BlueCat. Harris explained that the changing landscape is actually increasing the opportunity for BlueCat.

As networks and the connections to those networks become more complex, the opportunity for BlueCat to solve problems is increasing. For Michael, he sees the key for BlueCat being to capitalise on the opportunity and that’s where his software solutions pedigree comes in. He explained that for BlueCat the technology is not what engages their customers it is the problems that BlueCat solves and the possibilities they enable that is exciting.

He is evolving the company so that it becomes more articulate in how it messages BlueCat’s value proposition. Messaging such as how BlueCat is an enabler for modern challenges such as transforming to software defined data centres that are not limited by physical boundaries. Also helping manage an increasingly mobile workforce that is connected with an ever increasing array of devices. According to Michael, people are not so interested in the features and benefits of their DDI solutions, the interest is in what they can achieve by using the technology.

Harris is obviously a clear thinker, he refers to believing in focus to achieve aims and used the term of “being brutal” in that focus. The semantics used resonated with us at DSA. All too often we see companies falter simply because they cannot set a clear direction that their staff can follow and their customers can understand. With Harris at the helm we do not believe that is a problem that BlueCat will face. However focus without foundation can be dangerous, and we suspect Michael Harris is on the right track here also.

His visit to Malaysia and the region in general whilst driven by customer visits was clearly also a chance for him to listen, learn and assess the nuances that are peculiar to the south Asean market. When it comes to BlueCat’s focus, Michael is absolutely clear. BlueCat’s focus is the enterprise across every vertical. Enterprise IT faces complexities that were unthinkable just a few years ago. Michael gave examples including one client that “spins up” as many as 180,000 VMS an hour and another with over 11,000 mobile users with multiple devices that connect to the network.

The challenges and issues that come with this ever increasing complexity are significant. Just understanding who or what is connected to your network becomes impossible, these are the kind of problems that BlueCat are solving for their customers every day.

BlueCat’s approach to DDI is about scale. The solution is designed to accommodate network growth without ever having to be re-architected. Testament to this claim is that whilst BlueCat product sales have tripled the service revenue has remained flat, suggesting the complexity of technical engagement for BlueCat does not significantly increases even as the size and complexity of the networks they serve grows.

Michael sees huge opportunity for BlueCat Globally. He also believes that opportunity extends to partners, but he sees the channel landscape changing. SI that are grasping that network infrastructure is no longer isolated it is now integrated into lines of business will be able to grasp the opportunity.

Whilst Michael acknowledges South East Asia will never be a huge percentage of BlueCat’s total revenue, it is still important enough that he made the trip to help promote BlueCat into this market. Aided by Asia veteran Fred Rees BlueCat’s Vice President for APJ the company is rapidly expanding across Asia including in the ASEAN region. Michael noted a couple of specific challenges BlueCat faces as they try to expand their foot print into countries like Singapore, Malaysia Philippines and Indonesia.

In Malaysia BlueCat has been “pigeon holed” as a solution for Government and Telco. Michael wants to get the message out that BlueCat can and does play at the enterprise level no matter what vertical, something that people understand in his core markets in the US and Europe.

The other challenge Michael identified is the fact that the ASEAN region is full of what the industry describes as “emerging markets”. This is interesting as for many vendors emerging markets are seen as green fields that they want to target as they grow. Michael explained that for BlueCat emerging markets can be tougher than mature markets. The reason being that the complexity that BlueCat solves tend to become more problematic over time as networks grow. Michael explained that best practice would be to work with BlueCat in the early stages before network complexity causes manageability issues. In reality most companies wait for the problem to hit before they look for the solution.

The issue for team in South East Asia is to encourage CIOs and Network Managers to be forward looking and prepare early for the complexities they will face as they grow. This resonates with BlueCat’s strapline “Do you know what your network look like in five years”, although in the opinion of DSA at the rate things are moving BlueCat may want to change that to “Do you know what your network will look like in five months?”

Michael Harris is a clearly determined and focused leader. We have no doubt he will do everything to enable the BlueCat team in Asia to get this messaging out to market.

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