Disruptive One-on-One: Doug Farndale from Silver Peak

Last week, the Disruptive Data Vendors event saw 3 players in the industry of data and storage come together to showcase disruptive technologies that may very well bury the legacy mainframe. We sat down for a one on one chat with all 3 speakers to find out more about what they think about the industry and how it should change. 

In this 3-part series, we will be talking to Desmond from Nutanix as well as Andrew from Zerto; but first, we sat down with Doug Farndale, the Vice President for Asia Pacific, Silver Peak. 
Doug is an amicable man who values new technologies as well as years of experience. Throughout the conference and the duration of our interview, he cracked jokes but also focused on the importance of having a happy medium, whether in technology or in business management. 
In his presentation, he focused on how software defined WAN solutions can provide agility and flexibility, cost savings and improve performance between datacentres. He believes that although the technology is important, ultimately companies have to take into account the demands of their customers. “I think it’s very important that the datacentre team focus on application performance and deliver consistent, predictable performance across all applications so that their customers get a great customer experience. A lot of datacentre engineers focus on the engineering purity of datacentre infrstructure when the reality is, what’s more important is the end user experience.”
Within the software defined (SD WAN) market, Silver Peak is an established leader. They are recognised for their innovation and quickly garner respect from other peers and System integrators throughout the industry. “Our ‘Path Conditioning’ offers unique performance enhancement around packet loss. Once you can fix the packet loss, you can deliver high integrity data services for a much lower cost. Something we call ‘Business-class Internet!’” 
“It’s engineered by engineers for engineers. And the whole premise is to make it user friendly and easy to use. For the last 12 years being an innovative startup we’ve been pretty successful in developing an appliance which are easy for people to pick up, and the technology is self-evident.”
Doug is very proud of Silver Peak’s achievement in the industry, and told us that Silver Peak has the most mature SD WAN solution in the industry.
“Back in March 2015 when ONUG (Open Network User Group) first released SD WAN silver peak passed 9 out of the 10 SD WAN features. We also have a path conditioning, forward error control  (FEC) feature which corrects packet loss and can recover up to 50 % of your WAN performance in a medium packet loss environment.”
Despite his enthusiasm in explaining about technologies that Silver Peak offers, he does not agree in a rip and replace strategy. “To blindly suggest throwing out your established router network is ridiculous, I think what you should do is leverage the residual value of your equipment continuing to sweat existing network assets.”
“Some competitors make bold statements about replacing your existing router networks with their SD WAN solutions. I think that is short sighted. I’m a big advocate of don’t throw out your working network assets – instead, keep your working assets and add value on top by overlaying using an abstracted virtualised solution. For example you can take an existing router (that maybe up for refresh), and instead of swapping it out, you can extend its life using a vrtualised software defined WAN. Adding 3 – 4 years’ worth of life and delivering tremendous cost savings.”
Speaking of building on the current framework, Doug believes that companies should encourage young skilled workers and experienced managers to learn from each other’s knowledge and experience to raise the competence level for old & new employees across the company.
“There is a tremendous legacy of infrastructure and hardware skill set throughout our industry. But right now there is a massive and rapid transition towards application and cloud solutions. I think existing experts need to engage quickly on re-educating themselves to stay current. You need mentorship from senior employees and managers in order to bring the youth of today up to speed very quickly. I think both parties have a lot to learn from each other. If you can harness this you’re going to be an innovator, and very successful in your business.”
It’s not just the technology and the people’s skill set. Doug thinks the mind-set of the industry and the people working it needs to change along with the technology and the new skills. “The main topic of todays event was about being disruptive. Throughout the presentations today only a few mentioned key disruptive impact & benefits. However, the principal technologies showcased are perhaps some of the most disruptive in the entire industry. In some cases there’s a big leap of faith that needs to happen for a customer to move forward, employ these disruptive technologies and to reap the benefits.” 
“In my part of the industry, a lot of customers have already made that leap and are getting significant cost savings – up to 60% cost savings. Now, there’s a strong argument to say that the longer you wait to employ a disruptive technology, the more money you’re losing.”
In the digital era, a lot more people are using applications worldwide just taking smartphones as an example. More people are PC literate than any other point in time in human history. Doug explains that as technology advances, people need to make connection between technological advancements and other aspects of their lives. Sometimes, it’s not all about technology and education. 
“I think you need to balance when you use new technology against when you don’t and not everybody needs to learn technology. I’m a strong believer in ‘if you have a challenge or an issue, look first at how you solve the problem’; if it means hardware or software (or none of the above) don’t forget to explore different innovative approaches such as commercial or partnership solutions.”
So, what’s next step for Silver Peak?
“We’re putting a lot of focus in ASEAN right now because the market is a perfect sweet spot for us. Broadly speaking, across those countries we believe there’s a lot of room for performance improvement around internet services, and we have unique patent features that address that. We have customers who have been able to run cloud services remotely over the internet that they would struggle to run over MPLS because of our optimisation techniques and pedigree solutions.”
Concluding our interview, Doug was keen to push the message of disruptive technology. And we definitely agree with him, after all change (and magic) happens when we move out of our comfort zone, and Doug not only looks forward into new technologies but also draws heavily on past experience to provide customers with the best service and most aggressive cost savings.
“People often equate ‘disruptive technologies’ to mean high risk or increased levels of concern – you shouldn’t do that! You should look at what you can achieve out of the solution, make an educated assessment of how robust and resilient the solution is. Be brave, and think about 80/20 rule and try something new! Start small, perhaps a manageable proof of concept then if that works expand it. If it doesn’t, ‘fail quickly’. Don’t be afraid of disruption, embrace it and look at how each innovative solution can bring value to your organisation.”
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