By Sramana Mitra and guest author Siddharth Garg
Sramana Mitra: In your industry, what is available today as infrastructure as a service? Obviously, storage was one of the first value propositions to be adopted as an infrastructure as a service, but is there something beyond that that is specific to your industry that you are able to leverage?
Mandy Edwards: Once opportunities to leverage the cloud from a telephony switch stand point are available, provided they can scale and they’ve got security, we can do that. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t take advantage of that, because we are still interested in reducing our capital expense if we can. I think that the more that we can move into the cloud, the more it offsets a lot of current capital expenses. If you take just the simple example of desktop computers, we have a thin client strategy that we are deploying as we speak, which will basically reduce our capital investment to desktops and, arguably, at least be cut in half by moving to thin clients. Now, you can’t move to a thin client environment without having the capabilities built into infrastructure as a service, whether you are providing that internally to your customers or whether you are providing it as a service to your customers. But that is an example of where we would be offsetting the capital expense and looking to move toward more of a managed service model.
Sramana: And what is the thin client strategy? What are you putting on the desktop of your agents now that is different from before?
Mandy: Well, thin client devices, all the OEMs offer them. So, it’s pick one or pick multiple ones. They have different devices that can do things slightly differently, but the concept is you are just having a dumb device at the agent level and leveraging connectivity in everything back in the cloud.
Sramana: Right. And how much are you able to drop the cost of the dumb device? How low can you go?
Mandy: It varies anywhere from half down to a quarter of the cost of a desktop.
Sramana: Okay, that is a very good benchmark. And what about security; what are your hot buttons in terms of security? And what is the strategy?
Mandy: Security is is a career for IT people now, whereas it wasn’t 10 to 15 years ago. When we were all using mainframe computers, there wasn’t the need for it like there is today. The more open we become and the more transparent we become with services, the more important security becomes. We all read in the news over the weekend about the breach of security with Epsilon, for example. Their marketing database has been compromised, and it serviced many large Fortune 100 companies.
That is everybody’s nightmare. As with any technology, one of the things that we pride ourselves on is our processes and procedures around security and what we do to ensure security and awareness training with customers as well as making recommendations to our customers about security. Security is the funny thing that nobody likes to care about until something goes wrong, and it is often too late.
From a CIO perspective, my job is to make sure that my security team is constantly aware of changes. As we look at these new services and capabilities, how do we make sure that we build security in right from the very beginning? Unfortunately, we all rely on third parties to deliver client appliances as well as security software. Those companies that provide those services have to maintain currency with the advent of new technologies. People are very leery today, more so than they were before the Epsilon breach was announced.
Sramana: You are plugging into 300 customers’ IT systems, and with valuable customer data, which is some of the most valuable data that your customers care about, and I have to believe that they are extremely sensitive about where that data resides and how you interface with that data to make sure that there are no loopholes and vulnerabilities, right?
Mandy: Absolutely. We go through exhaustive security analysis and audits to make sure that those things don’t happen.